Reminder: White House wants your input on Public Access to Data and Publications

Timothy Vollmer, November 30th, 2011

In the U.S., the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released two Requests for Information (RFI) soliciting public input on long term preservation of and public access to the results of federally funded research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications. The deadline for responding to the RFIs is January 2, 2012.

Persons and parties interested in weighing in on the requests can find more information in the Federal Register announcements:

Our friends at SPARC offer some additional guidance, also listed below:

It is important that as many individuals and organizations as possible – at all levels – respond to these requests for information. For reference, the RFI specifically calls for comments from “non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research.” Both RFIs pose a series of questions, and respondents should answer those questions as specifically as possible. It should be emphasized that organizations beyond the U.S., with experience with open-access policies, are also invited to contribute.

The input provided through this RFI will inform the National Science and Technology Council’s Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications, convened by OSTP. OSTP will issue a report to Congress describing: 1) Priorities for the development of agency policies for ensuring broad public access to the results of federally funded, unclassified research; 2) The status of agency policies for public access to publications resulting from federally funded research; and 3) Public input collected.

The main point to emphasize is that taxpayers are entitled to access the results of the research our tax dollars fund. Taxpayers should be allowed to immediately access and fully reuse the results of publicly funded research.

Again, the deadline for submissions is January 2, 2012. Submissions to the publications RFI should be sent via email to publicaccess [at] ostp [dot] gov. Submissions to the data RFI should be sent via email to digitaldata [at] ostp [dot] gov. Please note: OSTP will publicly post all submissions after the deadlines (along with names of submitters and their institutions) so please make sure not to include any confidential or proprietary information in your submission. Attachments may be included.


Free and unrestricted Public Sector Information: Study finds benefits outweigh costs

Timothy Vollmer, November 28th, 2011

Governments around the world are increasingly relying on open licenses to release public sector information (PSI). A September 2011 report titled Costs and Benefits of Data Provision, prepared by John Houghton for the Australian National Data Service, examines the immediate and wider economic costs and benefits to making PSI available.

The key takeaway from the study: “the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available free and unrestrictedly typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, cannot even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong.”

The report offers an interesting and instructive analysis about the overarching cost-saving potential of making PSI available online for free and under open licenses (we assume the figures to represent Australian dollars):

[W]e find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

The Houghton study suggests that open licensing is a key component to reducing friction in the downstream use of PSI:

It is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted) … The efficient economic solution for the dissemination of PSI is likely to be free libre and free gratis (i.e. making it freely available online and using unrestrictive licensing such as Creative Commons).

In a separate internal document noted in the report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics described the impact of adopting CC licensing. It says that CC licensing “meets public expectations with regard to open government, facilitates data sharing (including across government), allows for more timely reuse of statistics, facilitates innovation, [and] makes sense to a growing percentage of people who recognise and understand CC licence symbols and conditions.”

The study urges us to try to understand and foster the unpredictable yet potentially powerful innovation that can be unleashed when PSI is made freely available online and released using unrestrictive licenses:

In the longer term, there may also be unforeseen uses and re-uses that simply cannot be accounted for, and again this may mean that the costs and benefits experienced in the early years of implementation tend to understate the longer-term advantages. Use and re-use can also have wider impacts, in terms of innovation and the development and introduction of new products, services and processes that, in turn, generate new economic economic activity, new business opportunities, better informed and potentially better government and business decisions.

The full report is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

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LRMI Specification version 0.5 released

Greg Grossmeier, November 21st, 2011


The Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) Technical Working Group just released the latest draft of their specification. This version is another step on the road to the final public release and submission to Schema.org, the multiple search engine group that is maintaining a standard metadata specification for online content. LRMI intends to extend Schema.org’s documentation to include metadata that is important to the educational community; everyone from commercial publishers and OER producers to learners of all varieties (and of course, educators).

Please explore the 0.5 version of the specification and provide any feedback via the LRMI mailing list by December 9th.

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First Spanish CC movie premieres in Spanish cinema: Interferències

Jane Park, November 18th, 2011

Today, marks the premiere of the first Spanish movie under a CC license (CC BY-NC-SA) in a Spanish cinema. Interferències, “an audiovisual and educational project launched from the Debt Observatory (ODG) and Quepo,” premieres in Barcelona at both the Alexandra and Girona cinemas. Interferències aims to educate and mobilize citizens, creating awareness of the world’s current financial and social situation. CC Spain has also covered the event, but here is the press release in English:

“The project includes a film and website regarding the causes and alternatives of the global crisis, putting names to those responsible and addressing issues of today’s debt crisis. The film comes from the need to disseminate the results of the research of a social entity; a task of dissemination that aims to create awareness of the existence of mechanisms and institutions inherent in the economic and political system in which we live, that impacts negatively on the life of billions of people. Interferències is the result of this anger and wishes to make accessible to the general public a new vision for understanding the reality around us.

Interferències arises as an open and shared project from its begining: through the participation and collaboration of more than 150 film professionals, audiovisual companies, social organizations and public institutions who contributed altruistically to make it grow, to the dissemination and distribution under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

The film is just the tip of an iceberg of a 2.0 comprehensive project which includes training and formal complaint dimensions, with a huge social transformation vocation. The project’s website provides educational materials, topics, chapters and teaching proposals for individual and collective action. The aim is not leaving the users by themselves with their own reflections on the film, but giving them the opportunity to enhance and participate in campaigns and alternatives for each of the issues proposed, becoming participants of the project. The internet premiere will start with the first chapter on November, 18th, the same day it premieres in cinemas. Coinciding with its period in Verkami’s crowdfounding platform, Interferències will be debuting weekly with a new chapter until the entire movie can be viewed online on December 20.”

Watch the movie trailer in English at Vimeo, and learn more at www.interferencies.cc.


German UNESCO Commission releases “Open Content Licenses – A Practical Guideline”

Jane Park, November 17th, 2011

The German UNESCO Commission has released the publication, “Open Content Lizenzen – Ein Leitfaden für die Praxis” (pdf) aka “Open Content Licenses – A Practical Guideline.” The publication is authored by Dr. Till Kreutzer, a member of the Commission’s legal expert committee and a founder of iRights.info, a legal information website for consumers. The publication explains how to make use of open licenses, featuring the CC license suite as its primary example. Though tailored towards companies, institutions and organizations, the guideline is also a compact how-to for anyone interested in CC licensing their work. The publication is available under CC BY-NC, and is a timely follow-up to UNESCO’s related publication with the Commonwealth of Learning, “Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education” — which also highlights the use of CC licenses for OER.

Read more about the German guideline at the press release (German), and download it from UNESCO (pdf).


Creative Commons at WIPO

Diane Peters, November 15th, 2011

This week, Andres Guadamuz (CC Costa Rica) is representing Creative Commons at the 8th Session of the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The agenda [PDF] promises review of several pending recommendations as well as a discussion of future work by the CDIP. Consistent with protocol, Creative Commons prepared a statement for the opening session, which you can read here, as well as find CC’s prior statements and presentations at the CDIP and other WIPO meetings and conferences.

This is one in a series of engagements by Creative Commons with WIPO, which commenced in 2005 through our then-subsidiary, Creative Commons International (since renamed iCommons, and now an independent organization). During those early years, our participation at WIPO meetings was largely focused on educating WIPO members about CC as an alternative licensing system that facilitates the distribution and reuse of materials around the world, and copyright in a digital age. In 2009, Creative Commons became an ad hoc observer to the CDIP, and has since participated directly in several meetings and conferences. As well, CC founder Lawrence Lessig keynoted last year’s WIPO conference on Facilitating Access to Culture in the Digital Age. Prof. Lessig’s remarks highlighted the role that CC licenses play in enabling the sharing and reuse of creativity under the existing copyright regime, and called for the creation of a blue sky commission to consider copyright reform.

Our engagements with WIPO have been constructive, and educated us on the importance of being active in this and other fora where important policy discussions are taking place. This year, Creative Commons gained permanent observer status with WIPO on the CDIP, allowing us to regularly participate in the conversations and activities that WIPO hosts. Among other things, we plan to participate in select CDIP meetings and other activities where our experience and expertise can best be leveraged for maximum impact.

You can follow CC’s involvement in this meeting of the CDIP and otherwise vis-a-vis WIPO on this blog as well as via Andrés’ blog.

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Urgent: Stop [U.S.] American censorship of the Internet

Mike Linksvayer, November 11th, 2011

November 16 the U.S. Congress will hold hearings on a bill that would unfairly, recklessly and capriciously enable and encourage broad censorship of the Internet in the name of suppressing distribution of works not authorized by copyright holders. As Public Knowledge aptly summarizes, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” would seriously “threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet” by:

  • short-circuiting the legal system, giving rightsholders a fast-track to shutting down whole websites;
  • creating conflicts between Domain Name System (DNS) servers, making you more vulnerable to hackers, identity theft, and cyberattacks;
  • sanctioning government interference with the Internet, making it more censored globally.

SOPA threatens every site on Internet, but would especially harm the commons, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, focusing on free software. The same applies to free and open projects beyond software, which often use CC licenses. While standard public licenses have lowered the costs and risks of legal sharing and collaboration, SOPA would drastically increase both the costs and risks of providing platforms for sharing and collaboration (think sites ranging from individual blogs to massive community projects such as Wikipedia, from open education repositories to Flickr and YouTube), and vaporize accessibility to huge swathes of free culture, whether because running a platform becomes too costly, or a single possibly infringing item causes an entire domain to be taken down.

The trend that one can plot from the DMCA (1998) to SOPA, and continued extensions and expansions of copyright and related restrictions around the world, also demonstrate the incredible importance of the commons for healthy information policy and a healthy Internet — almost all other “IP” policy developments have been negative for society at large. The DMCA was decried by advocates of free speech and the Internet, and has over past 13 years had many harmful effects. Now, in 2011, some think that the U.S. Congress ‘struck the right balance’ in 1998, while big content is dissatisfied, and with SOPA wants to ratchet the ‘balance’ (watch out, 2024!) much further to their short-term advantage.

Techdirt has excellent coverage of the gritty details of SOPA, its ill effects, and the many constituencies alarmed (such as librarians and sports fans).

Sign up at American Censorship Day to be alerted of actions you can take against SOPA. Demand Progress, EFF, and PK have forms you can use to write the U.S. Congress right now.

Please take action! If you aren’t already sharing works under a CC license and supporting our work, now is a good time. Bad legislation needs to be stopped now, but over the long term, we won’t stop getting new bad legislation until policymakers see broad support and amazing results from culture and other forms of knowledge that work with the Internet, rather than against it. Each work or project released under a CC license signals such support, and is an input for such results.


Wired.com now releasing photos under CC Attribution-Noncommercial

Jane Park, November 7th, 2011

We are thrilled to relay Wired.com’s announcement that from now on all Wired.com staff-produced photos will be released under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC)! Wired.com’s Editor in Chief Evan Hansen says,

“Creative Commons turns ten years old next year, and the simple idea of releasing content with “some rights reserved” has revolutionized online sharing and fueled a thriving remix culture. At Wired.com, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos for years — thank you sharers! Now we’re going to start sharing ourselves.”

We want to return the thanks to Wired.com for recognizing the power of open! Wired.com is a leader in covering the world of technology and a pioneer in commercial online publishing. We hope that others will recognize the value of both borrowing from, and contributing to, the richness of our shared commons.

To immediately sweeten the pot, Wired.com is celebrating their new licensing policy by releasing a CC-licensed gallery of 50 iconic photos from past stories including portraits of Steve Jobs, Woz, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer, Trent Reznor, JJ Abrams, and others. Check out Wired’s Flickr stream for high resolution formats of the photos.

Trent Reznor / Jon Snyder/Wired.com / CC BY-NC

We believe that there are incredible opportunities for publishers and news organizations in open licensing. With this commitment, Wired joins other prestigious news and content organizations who are sharing interesting and important resources with the world under CC, incluing Al Jazeera, Propublica, and GOOD. Thanks Wired.com!

CC license use in journalism and other domains, in addition to numerous other activities, are made possible thanks to donations from people like you. We are a nonprofit organization; please consider contributing to our annual campaign going on now! Thank you.


CC News: Our Annual Campaign & CC License Version 4.0

Jane Park, November 4th, 2011

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

You Are the Power of Open: 2011 Creative Commons Annual Campaign

Last week we launched our Annual Campaign. Please join us in powering the future of openness! In addition to fueling the activities below, Creative Commons relies on donations to build and constantly improve the technical and legal tools that enable openness to flourish. The future of openness is bright, but ensuring that future requires urgent and sustained effort. CC is continuing to improve the usefulness of our licenses and helping even more artists, institutions and governments share their works. We are reaching a critical mass and need your support now more than ever. Donate now, or read more.

Copyright Experts Discuss CC License Version 4.0 at the Global Summit

The Creative Commons 2011 Global Summit was a remarkable success, bringing together CC affiliates, board, staff, alumni, friends and stakeholders from around the world. Among the ~300 attendees was an impressive array of legal experts. Collectively, these experts brought diversity and depth of legal expertise and experience to every facet of the Summit, including knowledge of copyright policy across the government, education, science, culture, and foundation sectors. We designed the Summit’s legal sessions to leverage this expertise to discuss our core license suite and the 4.0 license versioning process. Read more.

Blackboard to add support for CC Attribution

Blackboard, the popular Learning Management System (LMS), has announced that they will build in support for CC licensing, specifically enabling instructors the ability to publish and share their course materials under the CC Attribution (CC BY) license. Cable Green, CC’s Director of Global Learning, notes, “The core part of any OER is an open license, and Blackboard has shown its leadership by empowering instructors to share so others can revise, reuse, remix and redistribute their courses.” Read more.

In other news:

  • The Open Course Library released the first 42 high-enrollment courses for Washington State Community Colleges under CC BY.
  • UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning released Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education, citing that "OER are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain and released with an open license (such as Creative Commons)."
  • CC Portugal launched its second localized suite of CC licenses!
  • Open Access Week 2011 involved CC affiliates and community from around the world, including Perú, Poland, Croatia, and the U.S.
  • You may recall that the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative's Technical Working Group, with the input of the wider community, has been working to create a set of metadata terms to describe learning resources. The public draft specification is open for comment through November 11.
  • Musician Christopher Willits has released 121 stems from "Tiger Flower Circle Sun" for a remix project with SoundCloud! Deadline to remix the stems via CC BY-NC-SA is February 1, 2012.
  • The Polish version of The Power of Open — stories of creators sharing knowledge, art, & data using Creative Commons — is now available for download. Thanks to the CC Poland team for proofing!
  • Lastly, new CC job opportunities are on the horizon; if you have a knack for time management and logistics coordination, see our announcement.

Banner "CC Line" by Shinjirou – CC BY.

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Copyright Experts Discuss CC License Version 4.0 at the Global Summit

Diane Peters, November 3rd, 2011

CC General Counsel Diane Peters addressing affiliates / DTKindler Photo / CC BY

The Creative Commons 2011 Global Summit was a remarkable success, bringing together CC affiliates, board, staff, alumni, friends and stakeholders from around the world. Among the ~300 attendees was an impressive array of legal experts. Collectively, these experts brought diversity and depth of legal expertise and experience to every facet of the Summit, including knowledge of copyright policy across the government, education, science, culture, and foundation sectors. We designed the Summit’s legal sessions (pdf) to leverage this expertise to discuss our core license suite and the 4.0 license versioning process.

The 3.0 License Suite

The current 3.0 license suite has been in service since 2007, and is faring extraordinarily well for many important adopters. Notably, government adoption and promotion of the licenses for releasing public sector information, content and data has increased in the intervening four years, predominantly leveraging the 3.0 licenses. From the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing Framework, to the explicit acceptance of CC BY by the Australian government as the default license for Australian government materials, to the official websites of heads of state, to numerous open data portals, governments are increasingly looking to and depending on CC licenses as the preferred mechanism for sharing information.

As robust as the 3.0 continues (and will continue) to prove for many adopters, we also have learned that limitations exist for other would-be adopters that inhibit use of our licenses. These limitations set the stage in some instances for the creation of custom licenses that are at best confusing to users and at worst incompatible with some of CC’s licenses. One of the more compelling limitations driving the need for versioning now is the existence of sui generis database rights throughout the European Union, and the treatment of those rights in CC’s 3.0 licenses. But other limitations also exist for important categories of those would-be adopters. For example, although 55+ jurisdictions have ported some version of the CC licenses to their jurisdictions, there remain many others that want to leverage CC licenses but are without necessary resources to undertake the time-intensive process porting demands, and do not wish to use the international (unported) suite however suitable those licenses are for adoption worldwide.

So as well as our 3.0 licenses operate for many, we recognize as license stewards there exists room to improve if we are to avoid risking a fragmentation of the commons. Of course it bears emphasizes here and throughout the versioning process that 3.0 license adopters can continue to count on our stewardship and support for that suite, just as we have done with all prior versioning efforts. We are committed to remaining alert to revisions that might undermine or compromise pre-4.0 license implementations and frameworks, and will now more than ever look to the expertise and dedication of our affiliates to assist us with the process and the subsequent adoption efforts.

Beginning the 4.0 Process

Michael Carroll / Kalexanderson / CC BY

Against this backdrop, Professor Mike Carroll, CC board member and founder, led a discussion around CC’s plans for beginning the versioning of its licenses from the current 3.0 version to 4.0. His remarks provided a detailed explanation of the reasons leading CC to version in 2012, given the limitations for several adopters in the existing suite, the many opportunities at hand, and the current environment of accelerating adoption by governments and others.

CC’s goals and those of our affiliate community for 4.0 are ambitious, and include:

  • Internationalization — position our licenses to ensure they are well received, readily understood, and easily adopted worldwide;
  • Interoperability — maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;
  • Long-lasting — anticipate new and changing adoption opportunities and legal challenges, allowing the new suite of licenses to endure for the foreseeable future; and
  • Data/PSI/Science/Education — recognize and address impediments to adoption of CC by governments as well as other important, publicly-minded institutions in these and other critical arenas.
  • Supporting Existing Adoption Models and Frameworks — remain mindful of and accommodate the needs of our existing community of adopters leveraging pre-4.0 licenses, including governments but also other important constituencies.

These goals for 4.0 are not arbitrary — rather, we have recognized them as important levers for the CC license suite to support achieving CC’s mission and vision.

Addressing Restrictions Beyond Copyright – sui generis database rights and more

By design, CC licenses are intended to operate as copyright licenses, granting conditional permission to reuse licensed content in ways that would otherwise violate copyright. Once applied, wherever copyright exists to restrict reuse, the CC license conditions are triggered, but not otherwise. Yet what about that category of rights that exist close to, or perhaps even overlap with, copyright, making it difficult to exercise rights granted under CC licenses without additional permissions? This question drew the focus of Summit attendees across several of the legal sessions, particularly in the context of sui generis database rights that exist in the European Union and a few other places as a result of free trade and other agreements. Participants evaluated the practical problems associated with continuing CC’s existing policy of waiving CC license conditions (BY, NC, SA and ND, as applicable) in the 3.0 EU ported licenses where only sui generis database rights are implicated. Among others, Judge Jay Yoon of CC Korea provided a practical perspective on the challenges associated with CC’s current policy.

DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009
DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009 by Michael Mandiberg / CC BY-SA

Sui generis database rights are widely criticized as bad policy, and are unproven in practice to deliver the economic benefits originally promised. While these views were shared by the vast majority of affiliates attending the Summit, many also agreed that a reconsideration of CC’s current policy is appropriate, and that we should shift to licensing those rights in 4.0 on the same terms and conditions as copyright. This change in policy would be pursued in the greater interest of facilitating reuse, meeting the expectations of licensors and users, and growing the commons.

As foreshadowed earlier this year, and now with support from CC’s affiliate network, CC intends to pursue this course in 4.0, absent as-of-yet-unidentified, unacceptable consequences. Importantly, we will take great care to ensure that by licensing these rights where they exist we do not create new or additional obligations where such rights do not exist.

As the steward of our licenses and one of several stewards of the greater commons (including the Free Software Foundation and the Open Knowledge Foundation), we remain mindful and take with utmost seriousness the risks associated with shifting course. We fully intend to (and expect to be held accountable for) strengthening our messaging to policymakers about the dangers of maintaining and expanding these rights within the EU and beyond, and of creating new related rights. We also plan to develop ample education for users to help avoid over-compliance with license conditions in cases where they do not apply.

Further Internationalization of the CC Licenses

Until version 3.0, the CC licenses had been drafted against U.S. copyright law and referred to as the “generic” licenses. At version 3.0, that changed as we made our first attempt to draft a license suite utilizing the language of major international copyright treaties and conventions. While a vast improvement over pre-3.0 versions, there remains ample opportunity to improve to reach those who cannot or would prefer not to port. Thus, one of our major objectives with the process will be to engage with CC’s knowledgeable affiliates around the globe with the intention of crafting a license suite that is another step further removed from its U.S. origins, and more reflective of CC’s status as an international organization with a global community and following. This focal point will impact the versioning process in several respects, and will require the engagement and focus of our affiliate network, other legal experts and the broader community. But it will also impact our work post publication, where the legal expertise of our affiliates will become still more relevant to adoption efforts and implementations.

As part of this discussion at the Summit, Paul Keller of CC Netherlands and Kennisland led a robust conversation on the wisdom of the CC license porting process, and Massimo Travostino of CC Italy and the NEXA Center gave a presentation on the legal and drafting issues involved with creating global licenses.

Defining Noncommercial; License Enforceability

The legal program also included a presentation by Mike Linksvayer on the definition and future of noncommercial and an update from Andres Guadamuz on CC license enforceability. While a decision about retaining or modifying the definition of NC in 4.0, and branding thereof, remains open, any change has a high barrier to demonstrate it would be a net benefit to the commons, given the broad use and acceptance of CC licenses containing the NC term. And CC’s licenses in court continue their strong enforceability record, most recently with a favorable decision in September 2011 that enforced BY-SA in Germany. We plan to take caution when drafting 4.0 to avoid making changes that could compromise this record.

Next steps in the versioning process will be announced shortly to this blog and the CC license discuss list. Subscribe to stay apprised of future announcements about the 4.0 process and how you can contribute.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the license discussions and helped make the Summit a success!

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