We are thrilled to announce a limited edition shirt designed by the creative folks at Imaginary Foundation. The shirt speaks to the power of shared knowledge and creativity, and can be yours for $30 in the CC Store.
This is a great way to show your support for CC’s mission to realize the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research, education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
Imaginary Foundation already believes in the power of the Internet and a more participatory culture:
“Sharing is the mechanism that propels culture forward. Cultural evolution, like its biological counterpart, is driven by random mutation. This process of recombination, iteration and sharing enables the stickiest ideas to survive. When we share, it is as though the global imagination is breathing. To inhale is to be nourished by inspiration–to exhale is to evoke it.” – The Director, Imaginary Foundation
Join Imaginary Foundation and Creative Commons in showing how much we can accomplish when we share! Get your limited edition shirt today.Comments Off
CC heads into February with exciting new developments in policy, science, and journalism.
A new U.S. education fund makes available $2 billion to create open educational resources in community colleges
The U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Education announced a new education fund that will grant $2 billion to create open educational resources (OER) materials for career training programs in community colleges. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) will invest $2 billion over the next four years into grants that will “provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs.” What’s more, the full program announcement (PDF) states that all the resources created using these funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. The first round of funding will be $500 million over the next year. Applications to the solicitation are now open, and will be due April 21, 2011. Read what our incoming CEO, Cathy Casserly, has to say at the full post.
Nature Publishing Group announces a new open access journal and support for CC
Nature Publishing Group has long been a leader in scientific and medical publishing. Last month, the company announced a brand new online open access journal called Scientific Reports. With this launch, a full 80% of NPG academic and society journals and 50% of all journals the company publishes offer open access options to authors. Additionally, NPG is going to make a donation to Creative Commons for every publication in Scientific Reports. We are thrilled to have this financial support that will help us continue to provide the legal and technical infrastructure of open systems. Read more.
Al Jazeera adds Egypt and Tunisia coverage to its CC video repository
Since the beginning of the Egyptian uprising on January 25th, Qatar-based all-news Arabic channel Al Jazeera has been feeding its repository of CC-licensed video with up-to-date footage from Egypt and Tunisia. With a powerful network of journalists and reporters on the ground who can provide footage that is sometimes very difficult to obtain, “Al Jazeera has decided to make its content available for other news sources to use through their Creative Commons website” (Wired). The footage released on Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons repository is under the CC BY license, which makes it legally available to be downloaded, shared, re-mixed, translated and even re-broadcast without asking for further permission as long as the original source is credited. Read more.
In other news:
- Open data is huge this year. Read about CC’s open data strategy and what you can do to help.
- Belgian and Israeli Courts granted remedies to CC licensors.
- Director Vincent Moon (of the Take-Away Shows) announced public-private screenings for his new film, “An Island.” The film, like all his work, is available under CC BY-NC-SA.
- We launched a new blog series on Creative Commons and Public Sector Information for the ePSIplatform.
- We talked with Nick Shockey of the Right to Research Coalition (R2RC) about the benefits of adopting CC tools for open access literature, and the similarities between the open access and open education movements.
- We changed our website!
- We also created CC REL by Example in an effort to make CC license metadata much easier to implement. It includes many example HTML pages, as well as explanations and links to more information.
- Finally, we rounded out the month by holding our first board meeting of 2011 and completing three CC license 3.0 localizations in Estonia, Costa Rica, and Chile.
Legal experts working with Creative Commons have crafted license suites adapted to the languages and laws of over 50 jurisdictions. These localized legal tools have seen major adoption, from governments at all levels to galleries, libraries, museums, and archives, as well as innumerable artists, scientists, and educators.
Over the last few weeks, we are pleased to announce three new 3.0 license localizations: Estonia, Costa Rica, and Chile. Following our recent language harmonization initiative, the Costa Rican and Chilean licenses deploy unified translations that match most other Spanish-speaking jurisdictions. We see this as an important step to making our legal tools even more user-friendly.
Community Building and Roadmaps
Importantly, we’re also recognizing the need to focus more on license adoption, user education, and community building. Without a vibrant and informed user base, the licenses will not have much impact.
For this reason, the role of the CC Affiliate Network has never been more vital. Teams in over 70 jurisdictions lead efforts in outreach, education, training, and major license adoption. With the CC Global Meeting on the horizon, we’ll be kicking off discussion about version 4.0, much of which will be guided and informed by CC Affiliates and key stakeholders from their jurisdictions.
Localization will remain an essential aspect of Creative Commons and our tools. Affiliates and other community members can contribute to translations of the human-readable layer of our licenses, the deeds, as well as important documentation and soon through linguistic translations of the Unported licenses.
If you’re interested in other activities planned in your area, visit our Jurisdiction Database and click through to see jurisdiction roadmaps outlining projects ahead. As more and more roadmaps go online each day, we welcome your input to improve and partake in these ambitious plans.
Localization in Estonia, Costa Rica, and Chile
For their recent contributions to license localization, we are indebted to the following individuals and institutions. Congratulations and thanks to:
- Estonia: Project Lead Ene Koitla from Estonian Information Technology Foundation (EITF) with Legal Team including Hele Karja, Heiki Pisuke, Priit Lätt, and Triin Tuulik ja Merit Lind of Glimstedt Straus & Partners, and Mario Rosentau from the University of Tartu, Peeter P. Mõtsküla and Kaido Kikkas from Estonian Information Technology College.
- Costa Rica: Project Leads Rolando Coto Solano and Carlos Saborío from the University of Costa Rica with Legal Leads Dr. Andrés Guadamuz and Lic. Denis Campos MBMC.
- Chile: Project Leads Prof. Alberto Cerda Silva, Claudio Ruiz, and Gabriela Ortuzar with Universidad de Chile, Information Services & Library System (SISIB), and the Corporación Derechos Digitales (CDD).
There are a number of important 3.0 ports and license upgrades still in the pipeline. Soon the teams in Egypt, China, Portugal, and a few other jurisdictions will also publish license suites adapted to their laws and languages. All across the CC Affiliate Network, we’ll see a renewed focus on supporting license users and continued ways to get involved the world over.Comments Off
What does it mean to be open in a data-driven world?
On January 11, 2011, we gathered together four knowledgeable individuals who interact with data in different ways and who each understand the importance of exploring this timely question. The result was a stellar CC Salon at LinkedIn Headquarters.
You can now watch the video from the event, which included brief presentations from Internet Archive’s Peter Brantley, LinkedIn’s DJ Patil, and 3taps’ Karen Gifford, as well as a panel discussion moderated by O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly. View it now!
Also see our post today on Creative Commons tools, data, and databases.Comments Off
Since the beginning of the Egyptian uprising on January 25th, Qatar-based all-news Arabic channel Al Jazeera has been feeding its repository of CC-licensed video with up-to-date footage from Egypt and Tunisia.
The circulation of information is key in such crises and Al Jazeera has got a powerful network of journalists and reporters on the ground who can provide footage that is sometimes very difficult to obtain. As Wired puts it: “in order to make the news available worldwide, Al Jazeera has decided to make its content available for other news sources to use through their Creative Commons website”.
The footage released on Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons repository is under a CC BY license, which makes it legally available to be downloaded, shared, re-mixed, translated and even re-broadcast without asking for further permission as long as the original source is credited.
The repository was launched in January 2009 with footage of the conflict in Gaza. Since then, original footage from many Arab countries has been added. According to a tweet by Mohamed Nanahbay, Head of Online at Al Jazeera English, traffic on the CC Al Jazeera repository has increased of 723% since adding the Egyptian footage.
Al Jazeera is not the only media outlet in the region using CC licenses to further the reach of their reporting and analysis. For instance, the Egyptian daily news organization Al Masry al Youm, available both in English and in Arabic, is also licensing its original video content under a CC BY NC ND license. Many Egyptian blogs and activists’ websites providing live reports and updated information about the current events in Egypt such as Manalaa.net and Misr Digital are published under Creative Commons licensed too.
Creative Commons has been working in Egypt with a local team from Bibliotheca Alexandrina headed by Hala Essalmawi. The team has been busy readying the Egyptian licenses for publication in late February, the first Arab CC ports to be formally launched. All of us at CC send wishes of support to the CC team and the Egyptian people during this time.Comments Off
You may have heard that data is huge — changing the way science is done, enabling new kinds of consumer and business applications, furthering citizen involvement and government transparency, spawning a new class of software for processing big data and new interdisciplinary class of “data scientists” to help utilize all this data — not to mention metadata (data about data), linked data and the semantic web — there’s a whole lot of data, there’s more every day, and it’s potentially extremely valuable.
Much of the potential value of data is to society at large — more data has the potential to facilitate enhanced scientific collaboration and reproducibility, more efficient markets, increased government and corporate transparency, and overall to speed discovery and understanding of solutions to planetary and societal needs.
A big part of the potential value of data, in particular its society-wide value, is realized by use across organizational boundaries. How does this occur (legally)? Facts themselves are not covered by copyright and related restrictions, though the extent to which this is the case (e.g., for compilations of facts) varies considerably across jurisdictions. Many sites give narrow permission to use data via terms of service. Much ad hoc data sharing occurs among researchers. And increasingly, open data is facilitated by sharing under public terms, e.g. CC licenses or the CC0 public domain dedication.
CC tools, data, and databases
Since soon after the release of version 1.0 of the CC license suite (December, 2002) people have published data and databases under CC licenses. MusicBrainz is an early example (note their recognition that parts of the MusicBrainz database is strictly factual, so in the public domain, while other parts are licensible). Other examples include Freebase, DBpedia (structured information extracted from Wikipedia), OpenStreetMap, and various governments (Australia in particular has been a leader).
More recently CC0 has gained wide use for releasing data into the public domain (to the extent it isn’t already), not only in science, as expected, but also for bibliographic, social media, public sector data, and much more.
With the exception of strongly recommending CC0 (public domain) for scientific data, Creative Commons has been relatively quiet about use of our licenses for data and databases. Prior to coming to the public domain recommendation for scientific data, we published a FAQ on CC licenses and databases, which is still informative. It is important to recognize going forward that the two are complementary: one concerns what ought be done in a particular domain in line with that domain’s tradition (and public funding sources), the other what is possible with respect to CC licenses and databases.
This is/ought distinction is not out of line with CC’s general approach — to offer a range (but not an infinity) of tools to enable sharing, while encouraging use of tools that enable more sharing, in particular where institutional missions and community norms align with more sharing. For a number of reasons, now is a good time to make clear and make sure that our approach to data and databases reflects CC’s general approach rather than an exaggerated caricature:
- We occasionally encounter a misimpression that CC licenses can’t be used for data and databases, or that we don’t want CC licenses to be used for data and databases. This is largely our fault: we haven’t actively communicated about CC licenses and data since the aforementioned FAQ (until very recently), meaning our only message has been “public domain for scientific data” — leaving extrapolation to other fields to the imagination.
- Our consolidation of CC education and science “divisions” has facilitated examinations of domain-specific policies, and increased policy coherence.
- Ongoing work and discussions with CC’s global affiliate network; many CC affiliates are deeply involved in promoting open public sector information, including data.
- The existence and increasing number of users of CC licenses for data and databases (see third paragraph above).
- A sense of overwhelming competitive threat from non-open data; the main alternative to public domain is not sharing at all — absence of a strong CC presence, except for a normative one in science, creates a correspondingly large opportunity cost for society due to “failed sharing” (e.g., under custom, non-interoperable terms) and lack of sharing.
- A long-term shift in understanding of CC’s role: from CC as purveyor of a variety of tools and policies to CC as steward of the commons, and thus need to put global maximization, interoperability and standards before any single tool or policy idea that sounds good on its own, and to encourage (and sometimes push) producers of data and databases to do the same.
- We’ve thought and learned a lot about data and databases and CC’s role in open data. In 2002 data was not central to CC’s programs, now (in keeping with the times), it is.
- Ongoing confusion among providers and users of data about the copyrightability of data (it depends) and rights that may or may not exist as a result of how the data is compiled and distributed — the database.
- Later in 2011 we expect to begin a public requirements process for version 4.0 of our license suite. At the top level, we know that an absolute requirement will be to make sure the 4.0 licenses are the best possible tools (where public domain is not feasible, for whatever reason) for legally sharing data possible.
One other subtlety should be understood with respect to current (3.0) CC licenses. Data and databases are often copyrightable. When licensed under any of our licenses, the license terms apply to copyrightable data and databases, requiring adaptations that are distributed be released under the same or compatible license terms, for example, when a ShareAlike license is used.
Databases are covered by additional rights (sometimes called “sui generis” database rights) in Europe (similar database rights exist in a few other places). A few early (2.0) European jurisdiction CC license “ports” licensed database rights along with copyright. Non-EU jurisdiction and international CC licenses have heretofore been silent on database rights. We adopted a policy that version 3.0 EU jurisdiction ports must waive license requirements and prohibitions (attribution, share-alike, etc) for uses triggering database rights — so that if the use of a database published under a CC license implicated only database rights, but not copyright, the CC license requirements and prohibitions would not apply to that use. The license requirements and prohibitions, however, continued to apply to all uses triggering copyright.
CC licenses other than EU jurisdiction 3.0 ports are silent on database rights: databases and data are licensed (i.e., subject to restrictions detailed in the license) to the extent copyrightable, and if data in the database or the database itself are not copyrightable the license restrictions do not apply to those parts (though they still apply to the remainder). Perhaps this differential handling of database rights is not ideal, given that all CC licenses (including jurisdiction ports) apply worldwide and ought be easily understandable. However, those are not the only requirements for CC tools — they are also intended to be legally valid worldwide (for which they have a good track record) and produce outcomes consistent with our mission.
These requirements mandate the caution with which we approach database rights in our license suite. In particular, database rights are widely recognized to be bad policy, and instance of a general class of additional restrictions that are harmful to the commons, and thus harmful to collaboration, innovation, participation, and the overall health of the Internet, the economy, and society.
If database rights were to be somehow “exported” to non-EU jurisdictions via CC licenses, this would be a bad outcome, contrary not only to our overall mission, but also our policy that CC licenses not effectively introduce restrictions not present by default, e.g., by attempting to make license requirements and prohibitions obviate copyright exceptions and limitations (see “public domain” and “other rights” on our deeds, and the relevant FAQ). Simply licensing database rights, just like copyright, but only to the extent they apply, just like copyright, is an option — but any option we take will be taken very carefully.
What does all this mean right now?
(1) We do recommend CC0 for scientific data — and we’re thrilled to see CC0 used in other domains, for any content and data, wherever the rights holder wants to make clear such is in the public domain worldwide, to the extent that is possible (note that CC0 includes a permissive fallback license, covering jurisdictions where relinquishment is not thought possible).
(2) However, where CC0 is not desired for whatever reason (business requirements, community wishes, institutional policy…) CC licenses can and should be used for data and databases, right now (as they have been for 8 years) — with the important caveat that CC 3.0 license conditions do not extend to “protect” a database that is otherwise uncopyrightable.
(3) We are committed to an open transparent discussion and process around making CC licenses the best possible tools for sharing data (including addressing how they handle database rights), consistent with our overall mission of maximizing the value of the commons, and cognizant of the limitations of voluntary tools such as CC’s in the context of increasingly restrictive policy and overwhelming competitive threat from non-sharing (proprietary data). This will require the expertise of our affiliates and other key stakeholders, including you — we haven’t decided anything yet and will not without taking the time and doing the research that stewards of public infrastructure perform before making changes.
(4) is a corollary of (2) and (3): use CC licenses for data and databases now, participate in the 4.0 process, and upgrade when the 4.0 suite is released, or at least do not foreclose the possibility of doing so.
Regarding discussion — please subscribe to cc-licenses for a very low volume (moderated) list, intended only for specific proposals to improve CC licenses, and announcements of versioning milestones. If you’re interested in a more active, ongoing (unmoderated) discussion, join cc-community. You might also leave a comment on this post or other means of staying in touch. We’re also taking part in a variety of other open data discussions and conferences.
By the way, what is data and what are databases?
Oh right, those questions. I won’t try to answer too seriously, for that would require legal, technical, and philosophical dissertations. All information (including software and “content”) can be thought of as data; more pertinently, data might be limited to (uncopyrightable) facts, or it may include any arrangement of information, e.g., in rows, tables, or graphs, including with (copyrightable) creativity, and creative (copyrightable) arrangements of information. Some kinds of arrangements and collections of information are characterized as databases.
Data and databases might contain what one would think of as content, e.g., prose contained in a database table. Data and databases might be contained in what one would think of as content, e.g., the structured information in Wikipedia, assertions waiting to be extracted from academic papers, and annotated content on the web, intended first for humans, but also structured for computers.
(Note that CC has been very interested in and worked toward standards for mixing content and data — apparently taking off — because such mixing is a good method for ensuring that content and data are kept accurate, in sync, and usable — for example, licensing and attribution information.)
All of this highlights the need for interoperability across “content” and “data”, which means compatible (or the same) legal tools — a good reason for ensuring that CC licenses are the best tools for data, databases and content — indeed a mandate for ensuring this is the case. Thanks in advance for your help (constructive criticism counts, as does simply using our tools — experience is the best guide) in fulfilling this mandate.4 Comments »
On January 8, 2011, Creative Commons held a board meeting in the San Francisco headquarters.
We discussed the CEO transition plan. I reiterated my commitment to continue working with Creative Commons in my new role as Chair of the Board focusing on international and in particular, the Middle East.
Our current plan is for the transition work to begin immediately, but for Cathy to come on board starting March 1. While the timing and the exact location are to be determined, we will be moving the headquarters from San Francisco to Silicon Valley to be closer to some of our funders and many of our core adopters coinciding with Cathy joining full time.
We reviewed and discussed the strategic plan and the board was supportive of the new structure and the objectives and metrics driven format. There was a discussion about the importance of developing the science and education sections of the vision and strategy more. We discussed the importance of involving the stakeholders and community in the conversation as well and looked to other successful models such as Wikimedia.
The board approved the budget which linked to the strategic plan and its objectives with the understanding that Cathy and I will be working on fund raising over the next few months and that certain costs such as the move and the global meeting were still only estimates. We agreed to return to the board with additional updates as they became available.
We discussed the commitment of the board to add additional board members from the international community and committed to publish the criteria within weeks. The board found no reason why board members couldn’t be added as soon as qualified board members were identified through this process. We hope to add two new non-US board members as soon as possible.
We discussed the global meeting and the board reiterated its support for the meeting.
The board discussed the website redesign. “Phase 0” the initial redesign was viewed as an improvement to the old design. (Data about the performance metrics support this.) The board supported the continuation of the website redesign, but asked staff to be prudent about the budget, interview stakeholders for feedback and input, and use internal resource where this made sense and were available.1 Comment »
Litigation involving CC licenses is infrequent even though we’ve been around almost a decade and hundreds of millions of creative works are published under CC licenses. CC believes that this absence of litigation is evidence of widespread acceptance and understandability of our licenses. That said, we still appreciate occasional decisions by courts confirming that CC licenses operate as intended when tested (we note a few on our wiki), such as recent decisions in Belgium and Israel. These decisions also showcase important features of our licenses and how they operate to help copyright holders share, while fully retaining any rights they have not chosen to grant.
In the Belgian case, Lichôdmapwa v. L’asbl Festival de Theatre de Spa, a theater company used 20 seconds of the song “Abatchouck” in an advertisement. The song had been released by the Belgian band Lichôdmapwa under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND (Attribution, NonCommerical, NoDerivatives) license. Lichôdmapwa brought suit, claiming the theater company violated all three license conditions when it failed to provide attribution, used the song in a commercial advertisement, and used only a segment of the song.
The Belgian court agreed. Citing opinions from Dutch, Spanish and American courts, the judge held that the theater company violated the Creative Commons license and therefore had committed copyright infringement. The Belgian court disagreed with the defendant’s claim of ignorance to the license given the defendant’s prior licensing experience and because the website from which the music was downloaded referenced the CC license. The judge also dismissed the defendant’s claim that because the band was not a member of the Belgian collective rights management association SABAM, the band should receive reduced or no damages. The court awarded the band 4500 Euros.
This month, an Israeli court for the first time granted relief in a suit for copyright infringement brought by a Creative Commons licensor. In Avi Re’uveni v. Mapa inc., the plaintiffs uploaded photographs to Flickr and licensed them under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. The defendant likely violated all three license conditions when she made a collage incorporating the photographs, sold the collages, and did not provide attribution. The defendant asserted she had no knowledge the photographs were under copyright or distributed under a CC licenses, claiming that she had instead downloaded them from another website where no copyright or CC license information existed.
The judge concluded that the defendant had no right to use the copyrighted photographs and therefore was liable for infringement. Although the judge mentioned the CC license only in passing and did not discuss enforceability or whether its terms had been violated, he did not suggest that the license was unenforceable, or that the defendant was not liable for copyright infringement based on the distribution of the photos with a Creative Commons license. For further analysis, CC Israel has made a statement about the case as well.
These cases together highlight some important fundamentals about how CC licenses operate. First and foremost, our licenses operate in conjunction with copyright, not in lieu of copyright. This means that if the terms of the CC license you have applied to your music or other creative work are violated, as the judge concluded in the Belgian case, the result is copyright infringement and nothing less. Conversely, the CC licenses are designed so that downstream users who abide by the license conditions are not in violation of the license. Both court decisions also reinforce a related and subtle (yet important) point for CC licensors — using a CC license does not work against you when it comes to enforcing your copyright later, even when users of your work may not be aware of your license choice. There is no penalty down the line for choosing flexibility over “all rights reserved” when it comes to enforcing your copyright.
These are just a few fundamentals of the licenses that CC works everyday to steward. Please support our ongoing stewardship efforts by donating to Creative Commons today!Comments Off
The Department of Labor and the Department of Education today announced a new education fund that will grant $2 billion to create OER materials for career training programs in community colleges. According to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) will invest $2 billion over the next four years into grants that will “provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs.” The full program announcement (PDF) states that all the resources created using these funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license:
In order to further the goal of career training and education and encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (“Grant”), the Grantee will be required to license to the public (not including the Federal Government) all work created with the support of the grant (“Work”) under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (“License”). This License allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted work and requires such users to attribute the work in the manner specified by the Grantee. Notice of the License shall be affixed to the Work. For more information on this License, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0.
The program supports President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 by helping to increase the number of workers who attain degrees, certificates, and other industry-recognized credentials. The first round of funding will be $500 million over the next year. Applications to the solicitation are now open, and will be due April 21, 2011.
Cathy Casserly, incoming CEO of Creative Commons, said, “This exciting program signifies a massive leap forward in the sharing of education and training materials. Resources licensed under CC BY can be freely used, remixed, translated, and built upon, and will enable collaboration between states, organizations, and businesses to create high quality OER. This announcement also communicates a commitment to international sharing and cooperation, as the materials will be available to audiences worldwide via the CC license.”
Beth Noveck, professor of law and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative, said, “The decision to make the work product of $2 billion in federally funded grants free for others to reuse represents a historic step forward for open education. The Departments of Labor and Education are to be congratulated for adopting more open grantmaking practices to ensure that taxpayer money funds the widest possible distribution of this important job-training courseware.”
Congratulations to The Department of Labor, The Department of Education, and others involved in crafting this important, innovative program. Creative Commons is committed to leveraging this opportunity to create a multiplier effect for public dollars to be used on open, reuseable quality content.
Where new learning materials are created using grant funds, those materials must be made available under CC BY. However, it is not a requirement that all the TAACCCT grant funds be spent on the creation of learning materials. We’ve also updated the title of this post to reflect this clarification, which before read U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education commit $2-billion to create open educational resources for community colleges and career training.
See our page about Creative Commons and TAACCCT for further information.
Nick Shockey is the Director of the Right to Research Coalition (R2RC) and the Director of Student Advocacy at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). The R2RC is an international alliance of 31 graduate and undergraduate student organizations, representing nearly 7 million students, that promotes an open scholarly publishing system based on the belief that no student should be denied access to the research they need for their education because their institution cannot afford the often high cost of scholarly journals. We spoke to Nick about similarities in the open access and open educational resources movements, the worldwide student movement in support of access to scholarly research, and the benefits of adopting Creative Commons tools for open access literature.
“It all started in a hotel room in Paris,” explains Shockey, who while studying abroad at Oxford and on a brief trip to France happened to catch a CNN special about MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) program. Nick was immediately impressed by the idea of OCW, and upon his return to Trinity University campaigned to get his school to implement a similar program. For a number of reasons, OCW didn’t catch on at Trinity, but the experience Shockey gained in advocating for it provided him with two crucial pieces that led to his work at SPARC: a deep interest in opening up the tools of education, and an introduction to Diane Graves, Trinity’s University Librarian and then SPARC Steering Committee member. Shockey began advocating for open access to research at Trinity, and convinced the student government to pass a resolution supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), as well as a later resolution endorsing the Student Statement on the Right to Research. The statement calls for students, researchers, universities, and research funders to make academic research openly available to all. These principles formed the foundation for what was to become the Right to Research Coalition.
Growth of R2RC
In the summer after Shockey moved to Washington D.C., he was able to add new signatories to the Student Statement on the Right to Research, including the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) and the National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. It soon became clear that a larger impact could be made by organizing as a coalition that actively advocated for and educated students about open access, and Nick joined SPARC full time to lead the Right to Research Coalition.
R2RC has grown to include 31 member organizations and now represents nearly 7 million students worldwide. “The incredible diversity of our membership speaks to how important access to research is to students,” says Shockey. R2RC’s members range in size from groups with less than a hundred students to organizations with more than a million. But Nick notes that all the member groups have two things in common: they believe students should have the benefit of the full scholarly record (not just the fraction they or their institution can afford), and they recognize that the Internet has made unfettered access possible by driving down the marginal cost to distribute knowledge virtually to zero.
Federal open access advocacy
SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition have been supportive of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a law which would require 11 U.S. government agencies with annual output research expenditures over $100 million to make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet. While FRPAA didn’t pass in 2010, Shockey’s very happy with the remarkable progress made, which culminated last year in the Congressional hearing on the issue of public access to federally funded research. Shockey, colleague Julia Mortyakova, and R2RC members have been advocating in support of FRPAA in various ways, such as letter-writing campaigns and in-person office visits. Shockey estimates his membership has reached out to well over two hundred Congressional offices.
Student support for OA around the world
Shockey describes that the current situation of limited access to academic research is a widespread problem that affects students all around the world. But, he explains that the real difference isn’t between the United States and the rest of the world, but between the developed and the developing world. “Paying $30 for access to one article is expensive even for many researchers in the U.S.,” says Nick, “but when you realize that $30 is an entire average month’s wage in Malawi, you can see the huge disparities in access faced by huge swaths of people around the world.”
At the end of last summer, R2RC began a concerted effort to expand their coalition to incorporate international student groups, and launched their Access Around the World blog series to feature stories and activities from students across the globe. In fall 2010, Shockey pitched the importance for student access to scholarly research to the European Medical Students’ Association’s General Assembly in Athens and the European Students’ Conference in Berlin. “The students understood the issue right away and have gotten involved immediately,” says Nick. The President of the European Medical Students’ Association has already made a presentation on Open Access and the R2RC at a major international medical conference, and just this month, the coalition welcomed the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), the world’s largest medical student organization, which operates in 97 countries around the world.
Access is crippled by cost; OA enables novel downstream benefits
The high cost to users to access academic journals and educational materials is a criticism shared by advocates of open access (OA) and open educational resources (OER). Scholarly journal prices have increased at 200% the level of inflation, similar to that of college textbook prices. Shockey believes that the that the greatest value of open access is to help knock down the prohibitive barriers that high prices pose to individual users. “A singe U.S. university we studied spent about $900,000 for only 96 journal subscriptions–and that was at a well-funded school,” says Shockey. “At less wealthy institutions, or those in the developing world, the price barriers often prove insurmountable. Students and researchers must make do with what their school can afford rather than what they need.”
Nick explains that through open access, the entire scholarly record could be available for anyone to read and build upon, leading to innumerable public benefits. But he’s most excited by the uses of open access scholarship we can’t even think of at the moment. “Lawrence Lessig points out that the real ‘secret sauce’ of the Internet is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to innovate on it,” says Shockey, “and I believe open access will finally bring this ability to academic research.” Nick describes a world of open access in which researchers will not only be able to read any article, but also be permitted to perform semantic text mining to uncover trends no one person could discover and connect together. But for this promise to be fulfilled, he reinforces that researchers need access to the entire scholarly record, not just a selected subset, and the rights necessary to reuse these articles in new and interesting ways.
Open access and Creative Commons
Shockey explained that Creative Commons plays a crucial role within the OA movement by providing a standard suite of prepackaged open content licenses. “To make an obvious point,” he said, “very few researchers are also copyright lawyers, and the CC licenses make it simple for scholars and journals to make their articles openly available. CC also helps prevents a patchwork system where it’s unclear which uses are allowed and which are not.” Nick notes that this sort of ambiguity can be very harmful–particularly to reuse of content, so it’s important that the open access community leverages CC to ensure access and communicate rights.
Shockey says that the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license has become the gold standard for open access journals. In general, scholars want recognition for their work, and the CC BY license ensures attribution to the author while allowing anyone to read, download, copy, print, distribute, and reuse their work without restriction. Shockey notes that several studies have shown a strong increase in article views and citations when an article is made openly available. “This makes intuitive sense,” Nick says. “If an article is available for more people to read and build upon, it’s unsurprising that it will also tend to be cited more often. Given the importance of citation counts in academic advancement, the citation increase can be an important benefit that flows from open licensing.”
OA support via the university
Open access (and increasingly, OER) initiatives at universities have been promoted in part through the university library. For example, at some schools librarians help educate faculty and students about the options available to them for scholarly publishing, including administering the Scholar’s Copyright Addendum. Shockey thinks that the library is a natural central organizing venue for OA and OER work, and meshes well with the library’s fundamental mission to provide their community with access to the educational resources they need. Nick also noted that libraries are perfectly positioned to play an OA/OER organizing role because they are one of the only institutions that reaches every department and every member of the campus community. Shockey said that some libraries have already taken the lead by supporting initiatives such as the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity (COPE), which sets aside money to pay for the publication fees that some open access journals charge, in order to help transition to an open model.
OA and OER working together
Open access advocates argue that access to scholarly literature should not be limited to scientists and academics, but available to patients, parents, students at all levels, entrepreneurs, and others. Shockey believes that since the OA and OER movements are both working to enable free access to the tools of education, it’s important to explore the ways in which these movements can work together. Even though the R2RC is centered on open access, it’s begun to weave OER into its messaging alongside open data and open science. Nick thinks it’s important for R2RC members to see the larger network in which they work. “When we hit roadblocks in one area,” said Shockey, “there are often opportunities in others, and advancing one of these pieces (be it OA, OER, open data, open video, etc) opens the door for further progress in other areas. Furthermore, once you’ve convinced someone about one of these issues, be it a friend, colleague, or the U.S. Congress, it’s much easier to engage them on the others.”
Shockey is optimistic with regard to the future of the student open access movement, but stresses the need to move ahead with the clear vision that advancements in education, science, and scholarship require access to raw research materials. “We must always remember what it is we’re fighting for,” said Shockey, “academic research is the raw material upon which not only education but also scientific and scholarly advancement depend. When we allow these crucial resources to be locked away, it hinders the entire mission of the Academy – student learning suffers, scholarly research is impeded, and scientific discoveries are slowed.” Nick says that widespread open access promises to benefit science and scholarship in radical ways that are almost unimaginable today. “Open access will improve how we teach, learn, and solve problems in ways that are impossible within a closed system.”
While there are many ways to get involved with the Open Access movement, Shockey stressed that the most important was simply to learn about this issue of access to research and start conversations with friends, colleagues, mentors, and students to raise awareness. The R2RC website has an individual version of their Student Statement on the Right to Research open for anyone to sign, as well as a host of other education and advocacy resources for those interested in Open Access.Comments Off