Commons News

Stop U.S. legislation that would block public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 6th, 2012

In December 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives introduced The Research Works Act (H.R.3699), a bill that will ban public access to publicly funded research. SPARC says, “Essentially, the bill seeks to prohibit federal agencies from conditioning their grants to require that articles reporting on publicly funded research be made accessible to the public online.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). The sponsorship by Issa is odd considering his strong support for OPEN Act, the tolerable alternative to the SOPA/PIPA legislation. The bill stands in stark contrast to OSTP’s recent request for ideas about how the U.S. government can support public access to federally funded research articles and digital data (note: you can still submit comments until January 12 to the OSTP call). One of the primary proponents of the The Research Works Act is The Association of American Publishers, who describe the bill in a press release:

The Research Works Act will prohibit federal agencies from unauthorized free public dissemination of journal articles that report on research which, to some degree, has been federally-funded but is produced and published by private sector publishers receiving no such funding. It would also prevent non-government authors from being required to agree to such free distribution of these works. Additionally, it would preempt federal agencies’ planned funding, development and back-office administration of their own electronic repositories for such works, which would duplicate existing copyright-protected systems and unfairly compete with established university, society and commercial publishers.

The legislation would be toxic for progressive initiatives such as the NIH’s Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the PubMed Central digital archive. PubMed Central provides free public access to research the public pays for. SPARC’s Alliance for Taxpayer Access website has outlined specific ways that supporters of public access can speak out against this proposed legislation. Especially helpful is contacting the Congressional offices listed below. Please voice your support for public access to publicly funded research.

Representative Issa
Fax: (202) 225-3303

Representative Maloney
@RepMaloney (Using zip code 10128-3679)
Fax: (202) 225-4709

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – especially if you’re a constituent.

Your representative – through the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Action Center:

Comments Off

Ugandan 3.0 Licenses now open for public discussion

Aurelia J. Schultz, January 4th, 2012

Many who follow Creative Commons and its work already know that we have begun working on the next version of licenses, the 4.0 suite. Even while this process has begun, we are finishing a few remaining, important 3.0 ports.

One of these is the Uganda 3.0 license suite, which we are pleased to announce is now open for public discussion. This is particularly noteworthy, as the Ugandan license suite is only the second tailored suite from the Sub-Saharan Africa region to reach the public discussion stage (after South Africa). These new licenses will be useful to many Anglophone African countries that share similar copyright laws and legal histories.

We welcome all those who are interested to view the Uganda BY-NC-SA draft and contribute their comments this month. The next step for the Ugandan team will be to incorporate changes from the public discussion and to prepare the remaining five licenses for a complete Uganda 3.0 license suite.

A huge thank you to CC’s Ugandan Affiliate, the National Book Trust of Uganda (NABOTU) and the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), and the large CC Uganda Team led by Moses Mulumba for all their hard work!

Comments Off

CC and the 3D Printing Community

Jonathan Palecek, January 4th, 2012

Time-Lapse of a RepRap Printing Interlocking Rings by Jonathan Palecek / CC BY.

With the exception of CC0, the Creative Commons licenses are only for granting permissions to use non-software works. The worlds of software and engineering have additional concerns outside of the scope of what is addressed by the CC licenses. 3D printing is a new medium which encompasses both the creative domains of culture and engineering, and often 3D printed works do not fall neatly into either category. The purpose of this article is to explore the similarities between the community that has grown around 3D printing and that of the commons which CC strives to empower. A later article will explore problems with adopting CC in the 3D printing community.

3D printing is still very much a niche, and so a brief explanation is in order before discussing the culture behind it. 3D fabrication technologies are essential in contemporary manufacturing, and a wide variety exist. 3D printing generally speaks of what is called an “additive” process; in which an object is realized by building up layers of solid material. RepRaps and Makerbots – two types of 3D printers discussed in this article – are additive printers that typically print in plastic.

The role of 3D fabrication in our society is wide reaching, from being an essential stage in developing molds of parts for mass production, to enabling contemporary architects to produce novel designs that would have been impossible to construct only a few decades ago. It is a process that is so pervasive behind the scenes of every day life, yet entirely invisible to most individuals. Up until recently the cost of the machinery involved had limited the use of the technology. And so despite the incredible flexibility of the medium, it remains to be fairly obscure.

In 2004, the RepRap project set out to produce a low cost design for a 3D printer capable of printing all of its own parts. While the current designs are able to print some of their own parts – about 40% for the Prusa Mendel – the rest of the parts consist of generic standard hardware, most of which is available at local stores. The project has been successful in accomplishing the low cost goal – a RepRap costs about $700 or so to build. A large portion of why the RepRap is so interesting is that the schematics are released under the GNU GPL copyleft license. This means that anyone can copy and improve the project as long as they share alike their modifications, just as one must with GPL’ed free and open source software.

RepRaps are notorious for requiring some technical skill – and a good deal of patience – to build and operate. This is especially true with the project’s earlier designs. Makerbots were derived from the early RepRap designs, but were refined to be more accessible. Makerbot kits are available for about $1300 and are said to be only as complex as an Ikea furniture set. One can purchase a fully assembled Makerbot for about $2500. Widespread home adoption is still unlikely in the near future due to cost. However, these printers are affordable for small businesses and schools, potentially giving them a much greater social impact than their significantly more expensive ancestors.

Makerbot – the company that produces Makerbots – is a wonderful example of open hardware done right in a business. The free and open hardware designs from the early RepRap project made Makerbots as we know them possible. In turn, the accessibility of Makerbots allowed the low cost 3D printing community to grow rapidly in numbers. Because the designs for the printers were released under an open license, individuals in the community were free to design their own upgrades. Many of these upgrades were adopted back into the standard product design. Perhaps the single greatest contribution by Makerbot to the RepRap project was developing a stronger 3D printing community, bringing in new talent to the RepRap project.

If Makerbot were ran like an old-school business – one with clandestine trade secrets and which considers its customers to be consumers and not kin – the community could not have grown as it did. Makerbot’s customer base would have been severely limited. Similarly, if the RepRap project had chosen a non-commercial approach to licensing, it would not have been able to empower Makerbot to bootstrap the community as it did. This feedback loop between community and commerce is what powers this new medium’s ability to change the world as we know it. The phenomena observed here is not unique to open hardware; it is often seen at work in the free software realm, and can work well with free culture.

Thingiverse – a social site run by Makerbot – provides a basic framework for tracking derivative work from project to project. Some works on the site see little interest from other members. Other works spawn an endless tree of variations. “Screwless Heart Gears” by [Emmett] is a popular model on thingiverse which exists in one of the branches of such a tree of derivative works. Thingiverse’s framework assumes that a derivative work only has one ancestor, which is not always accurate. And some times the ancestor is off site. Judging from the comments, the root of this tree would be this video. From this inspiration, [Greg Frost] created a program – released under the GNU LGPL license – that generates similar gears, and his own version of the “Broken Heart” model, also released under the LGPL license. [Emmett] used this program to generate the “Cube Gears” model (released under the CC-BY-SA license), from which there are many derivatives by a variety of individuals. The broken heart model ended up going through a variety of revisions just as well as it spawned many interesting variations.

The broken heart model illustrates both the new potential for incredible works to be produced. Artists and engineers are able to collaborate to produce objects with both cultural value and dynamic mechanical aspects. The variations of the broken heart model happened candidly – people worked on it for the fun of it. The broken heart model also illuminates legal gray area. The legal dangers of this sort of gray are very well covered by the paper “It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology“, written by Micheal Weinberg.

3D printing is an incredible new medium which has great potential to change the world as we know it. The ways it can empower us are in line with the philosophy of the read/write culture that Creative Commons works to support, and we should all be very excited about this.


Mozilla Public License 2.0

Mike Linksvayer, January 3rd, 2012

Congratulations to Mozilla on the release of the Mozilla Public License 2.0 after a two year versioning process. As Mozilla chair Mitchell Baker writes “Version 2.0 is similar in spirit to the previous versions, but shorter, better, and more compatible with other Free Software and Open Source Licenses.”

MPL 1.1 is one of the more popular free and open source software licenses, most famously used for Mozilla’s own Firefox browser. That MPL 2.0 is now compatible with the GPL, the most popular free and open source software license, is a big step forward for software. Why? Read Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else. which we link to in our FAQ explaining why CC licenses shouldn’t be used for software (except CC0). But the principle of lessening incompatibility among licenses is a general one, and applies to licenses used for cultural and scientific works, public sector information, databases, and more, as well as software. Thus one of our highlighted goals for version 4.0 of the CC license suite:

Interoperability – maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;

This is a difficult goal, requiring long-term thinking and collaboration with other license stewards. We have a number of other goals for version 4.0 of the CC license suite as all; we hope the cumulative effect will make for a much better license suite than 3.0. Of course each license (e.g., BY-SA) will also remain similar in spirit. Shorter? We’ll see, balanced with everything else.

As the MPL 2.0 announcement notes, numerous people made valuable contributions to the development of that license. Possibly a first for a software license, even making the license look nice was addressed — something CC thinks is important, and another opportunity for people with different skills to help make licenses more useful. With a far greater diversity of projects using CC licenses, our need for community-wide feedback is even greater. We urge you to get involved in the CC 4.0 process.


Mozilla releases Learning, Freedom & the Web (e)book

Timothy Vollmer, December 23rd, 2011

Anya Kamenetz and Mozilla have released a great book called Learning, Freedom & the Web. It details many of the activities and ideas generated at Mozilla’s eponymous festival held last year, “a 500 person meta-hackfest that took place in a Barcelona city square,” says Ben Moskowitz from Mozilla. The book features participant interviews, project highlights, photographs and blog posts from the festival, as well as related content from across the Web reflecting on ideas around learning, freedom and the Web. One CC-related project conceptualized at the Festival is OpenAttribute, a browser plugin that makes it simple for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC licensed work. Learning, Freedom & the Web is available as PDF download, HTML5 web version, or printed book. The book is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license.


Kazakhstan and Rwanda: Two more CC Affiliates for 2011

Jessica Coates, December 23rd, 2011

Early morning in Almaty by Irene2005 / CC BY (resized) Volcano by johncooke / CC BY (resized)

As CC headquarters starts to wind down for the end of the year, it gives me great pleasure to announce two new CC Affiliates from Kazakhstan and Rwanda.

Led by Rauan Kenzhekhanuly and including Almas Nurbakytov, Nartay Ashim and Balashov Talgat, the Kazakhstan team is supported by Wikibilim, a non-profit organisation which is devoted to expanding the availability of free knowledge in the Kazakh language, focusing on forums such as the Kazakh Wikipedia. Wikibilim is supported by the Government of Kazakhstan and personally by the Prime-Minister Mr. Karim Masimov. The members of Wikibilim have a great deal of experience in the open community, and are working actively to promote open knowledge and free culture values in Kazakhstan, with a particular focus on increasing the quantity of Kazakh-language material available under open licences. Those who attended the recent Global Summit in Warsaw may have met Rauan and Almas, who were enthusiastic participants on behalf of their team.

The Rwanda team, led by Jacques Murinda and including Fred Byabagabo and Prosper Birama, is working in conjunction with the Open Learning Exchange (OLE), an NGO supported by the Rwandan Ministry of Education, which aims to provide universal access to basic education by 2015. The Rwandan team has been active in the CC Africa community for some time and is particularly focused on promoting open educational resources (OER) and open courseware (OCW) initiatives in the region.

We welcome both these teams to our affiliate network, and look forward to working with them as they develop the CC community in their regions.

This brings the total number of official CC affiliates at the end of 2011 to 72, the highest level since the project launched in 2002. A good start for our tenth birthday celebrations next year — see you all there!

Note – This article had previously incorrectly identified Wikibilim as the official representative of Wikimedia in Kazakhstan.

1 Comment »

9th birthday of the CC license suite!

Jane Park, December 16th, 2011

Get Creative! (video)

Happy Birthday CC! Today marks the 9th birthday of the CC license suite, as Version 1.0 was launched in 2002. Since then, more than 500 million works on the web have been made available under one of the CC licenses, free for the public to reuse, remix, or redistribute.

This year we saw CC adoption or policy integration by some major organizations, including Europeana, YouTube,, the U.S. Department of Labor, national and local governments in Brazil, in addition to many others. We also published The Power of Open, a book featuring successful stories of CC creators sharing knowledge, art, and data using Creative Commons, and held a global summit for CC affiliates and community members from around the world in Warsaw. There, we kicked off the initial Version 4.0 discussion for the CC license suite, the public discussion for which was announced last week and is now underway. Currently, we are joining efforts with many other open organizations to prevent SOPA from passing.

I could go on, but I’ll stop here to say, Happy Birthday CC! To celebrate, watch the video we launched with our license suite in 2002: Get Creative! — and consider donating to our Annual Campaign, going on now! Remember: Your CC donation will be matched through December 25.

1 Comment »

Creative Commons at an International Seminar and Expert Meeting in Moscow

Jonas Öberg, December 16th, 2011

Picture of Светлана Князева, Дендев Бадарч and Юрий Хохлов during the opening of the seminar / Михаил Федин / CC BY-SA

Creative Commons’ Russian affiliate Institute of the Information Society (IIS), in collaboration with the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies, organized an international seminar and expert meeting on the 6th of December in Moscow. As the CC Regional Project Manager for Europe, I participated in the event together with representatives from Creative Commons in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The seminar was attended by industry participants, organizations and representatives from Russian governments and federal agencies, including the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, Ministry of Education and Science, Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, Federal Antimonopoly Service, State Duma of the Russian Federation, Research Center of Private Law at the President of the RF and the Chamber of Commerce.

IIS legal experts have prepared an analytical report, Use of Creative Commons Licenses in the Russian Federation (pdf), which was presented at the seminar. It contains conclusions and recommendations for future activities aimed at introducing Creative Commons in Russia, including discussion of potential legislative changes aimed at enabling the licence locally. It also contains an annex with information and results from the CC Global Summit 2011 in Warsaw in September 2011.

Other sessions at the seminar included presentations by representatives of each of the CC jurisdiction teams present, as well as critiques of the CC licences by local academics and the local Wikimedia chapter, with much of the discussion focusing on 4.0. The day finished with a special UNESCO-hosted session on OER.

For Creative Commons, the seminar was an excellent starting point for our future work in Russia, and the participation of Creative Commons affiliates from the CIS countries shows that there is a clear interest in working together in the regions. As part of its work, IIS will now start providing input to the recently launched Version 4.0 process, as well as continuing its work to raise awareness of Creative Commons with Russian authorities.

It’s very exciting to see this region grow; I’m very happy to see that there’s now a discussion around the upcoming Version 4.0, its relevance for Russia and the possibility for Russia to participate in the shaping of this important license suite for sharing culture globally!

Comments Off

Report from the 2011 Annual Creative Commons board meeting

Joi Ito, December 16th, 2011

The Creative Commons Board of Directors held its annual board meeting on 9 December 2011. Board members appointed for additional terms were Glenn Brown (Director, Business Development, Media at Twitter), Prof. Michael Carroll (Director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law, American University), Davis Guggenheim (film director and producer), Esther Wojcicki (journalist and educator), and Annette Thomas (CEO of Macmillian Publishing). Officers for the coming year were also appointed: Catherine M. Casserly (President and CEO), Mike Linksvayer (Vice President), Diane Cabell (Secretary), Ted Rose (Treasurer), and Diane Peters (General Counsel).

Due to the expansion and geographical distribution of the Board members, it has become increasingly difficult to schedule meetings; therefore, a smaller Executive Committee has been established to convene on a more frequent basis and the quorum for full Board meetings was reduced. One of the Executive Committee’s first agenda items will be a review of CC’s new strategic plan.

To bring more expertise to the Board’s activities, an Executive Advisory Council has also been formed that will be chaired by the CEO. The Council will include both Board members and non-Board members in order to acquire the strongest possible input for CC decision-making. The Council will also be able to establish Task Forces that can tap into the wider CC community to help address issues of specific interest.

The 2012 preliminary budget was also approved.

Comments Off

Urgent: more action needed to stop SOPA

Mike Linksvayer, December 14th, 2011

Update 12/16

The hearings are still going on; please keep calling, emailing, and otherwise spreading the word!

Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will debate and potentially vote on SOPA, the Internet Blacklist bill that would break the Internet.

Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have compiled a list of 12 actions you can take now to stop SOPA.

Do them.

Soon you’ll find a huge banner at the top of every page on the CC site protesting SOPA. The Wikimedia community is considering a blackout to bring massive attention to the danger posed by SOPA. Many others are taking action. What are you doing?

For background on the bill, why it would be especially bad for the commons, and links for news, check out our previous post calling for action against SOPA and a detailed post from Wikimedia’s General Counsel.

Finally, remember that CC is crucial to keeping the Internet non-broken in the long term. The more free culture is, the less culture has an allergy to and deathwish for the Internet. We need your help too. Thanks!


Page 54 of 401« First...1020...525354555657...7080...Last »