Commons News

Fotopedia and UNESCO Launch World Heritage Application

Jane Park, August 10th, 2010

Fotopedia, in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Center, has created a breathtaking new application for the iPhone and iPad. The app builds on the concept of a coffee table book, updating and enhancing the browsing experience for the web.

UNESCO World Heritage “seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” With 911 properties, UNESCO has identified 890 heritage sites around the world. Now for the first time, you can access these sites as one comprehensive collection via the Fotopedia Heritage project.

This project would not be possible without Creative Commons, as over 18,000 of the pictures in Fotopedia Heritage book are under one of the CC licenses. The pictures come from all around the world; as individual photographers and organizations license their high quality photos under Creative Commons, the book will only grow as a community contributed and shareable resource.

Jean-Marie Hullot, CEO of Fotopedia, writes, “I believe it is a terrific showcase for what Creative Commons enable[s]. The biggest photo book ever… growing everyday with only high quality and 100% relevant pictures due to our community-based curation process.” From the announcement:

Fotopedia Heritage is a new way to experience Fotopedia, the first collaborative photo encyclopedia. The team led by Jean-Marie Hullot (former CTO of NeXT and Apple’s application division) built the application while the Fotopedia community added and curated the photos thus ensuring high relevance and quality.

Explore our heritage deeper and deeper navigating carefully chosen tags, learn more about each place reading rich descriptions from UNESCO and Wikipedia and browse an interactive map, localize precisely each site. And if you are planning a trip, you will be just one click away from TripAdvisor travel information for the World Heritage Sites you are interested in.

The Fotopedia Heritage book currently has over 20,000 pictures. Find out more about how you can contribute!

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Marking and Tagging the Public Domain: An Invitation to Comment

Diane Peters, August 6th, 2010

Almost 1½ years have passed since we launched CC0 v1.0, our public domain waiver that allows rights holders to place a work as nearly as possible into the public domain, worldwide, prior to the expiration of copyright. CC0 has proven a valuable tool for governments, scientists, data providers, providers of bibliographic data, and many others throughout world. At the time we published CC0, we made note of a second public domain tool under development — a tool that would make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain.

We are publishing today for comment our new Public Domain Mark, a tool that allows works already in the public domain to be marked and tagged in a way that clearly communicates the work’s PD status, and allows it to be easily discoverable. The PDM is not a legal instrument like CC0 or our licenses — it can only be used to label a work with information about its public domain copyright status, not change a work’s current status under copyright. However, just like CC0 and our licenses, PDM has a metadata-supported deed and is machine readable, allowing works tagged with PDM to be findable on the Internet. (Please note that the example used on the sample deed is purely hypothetical at the moment.)

We are also releasing for public comment general purpose norms — voluntary guidelines or “pleases” that providers and curators of PD materials may request be followed when a PD work they have marked is thereafter used by others. Our PDM deed as well as an upcoming enhanced CC0 deed will support norms in addition to citation metadata, which will allow a user to easily cite the author or provider of the work through copy-paste HTML.

The public comment period will close on Wednesday, August 18th. Why so short? For starters, PDM is not a legal tool in the same sense our licenses and CC0 are legally operative — no legal rights are being surrendered or affected, and there is no accompanying legal code to finesse. Just as importantly, however, we believe that having the mark used soon rather than later will allow early adopters to provide us with invaluable feedback on actual implementations, which will allow us to improve the marking tool in the future.

The primary venue for submitting comments and discussing the tool is the cc-licenses mailing list. We look forward to hearing from you!

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CC Talks With: Curriki’s Christine Mytko: Open Education and Policy

Jane Park, August 5th, 2010


Photo by Christine Mytko / CC BY-NC

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to a new Education landing page and our OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. We recently had the chance to talk to Christine Mytko, who is advancing OER at the local levels through her work as a K-12 educator and the lead science reviewer at Curriki. As a teacher, Christine brings a unique perspective to the conversation around open education and policy, and gives us important insight into how teachers on the ground are thinking about copyright and using Creative Commons and OER.

You are a teacher and the lead science reviewer at Curriki, which is known as the “next generation wiki” for K-12 education. Can you briefly describe who you are, your current roles, and what led to them? What would you say is Curriki’s mission, and how is it helping teachers like yourself?

For most of my teaching career, I have been a middle school science teacher in public schools. When I moved to the Bay Area three years ago, I was fortunate to find a job that combines both of my passions –  science and technology. I currently serve as the K – 5 science specialist and middle school technology teacher at a small independent school in Berkeley, CA.

In 2007, I interviewed for part-time work at Curriki. Like many teachers, I was looking to supplement my income. What I found was a community of educators committed to creating, collaborating on, and sharing open-source materials. As part of the Curriki Review Team, I am responsible for reviewing submitted science materials and providing a public score and feedback for the contributor. I also help out with other projects as needed. Currently, I am working with another Bay Area Chemistry teacher to revise and submit an open source Chemistry digital textbook as part of the California Learning Resource Network’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative.

As stated on its main page, Curriki’s mission is to “provide free, high-quality curricula and education resources to teachers, students and parents around the world.”  Its name, somewhat recognizably, is a play on the words “curriculum” and “wiki.” The Curriki repository does have many curriculum options, from lesson plans to full courses, available in various subject areas, educational levels, and languages. Curriki offers other resources, too, including textbooks, multimedia, and opportunities for community and collaborative groups.

All Curriki content is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), planting it firmly in the OER space. Do you know why Curriki chose CC BY for all of its materials? If not, what do you see CC BY enabling that other licenses or “all-rights-reserved” content might not?

Contributors of Curriki content do have the option to select either public domain or a variety of CC licensing, but the default License Deed is CC-BY. I honestly don’t know specifically why Curriki chose this, but I must say it as an excellent decision. CC-BY gives educators the power to remix, share and distribute materials as needed to be timely and maximally relevant to their own curriculum.

The flexibility afforded by a CC-BY license allows for materials to be adapted quickly. I hear that a typical textbook revision works on a 7-year cycle. Curriki materials can be updated and “published” in a matter of seconds and the community can correct any content errors just as quickly. Many topics, especially in science and technology, are changing so quickly that education can no longer afford to wait for proprietary materials to go through their lengthy cycles of publication.

Currently, California and Texas are the biggest purchasers of traditional “all-rights reserved” textbooks, and publishers strive to meet these states’ requirements. Educators in other states (and countries) are forced to work within these proprietary constraints. However, OER [initiatives] such as Curriki allow teachers to freely adapt materials to best fit their pedagogical and cultural needs. Furthermore, by creating or uploading such materials onto a public repository, teachers will no longer need to work in isolation, continuously “re-inventing the wheel.”  As relevant materials are freely shared among communities of educators, individual time spent on adapting proprietary materials will decrease, allowing educators to spend more of their precious time on other important areas of teaching.

Describe a class- or school-wide project where you have integrated CC licensing and/or OER. What challenges have you or your students come across while searching for or using resources on the web? How would you translate this experience for teachers looking to mark up their own resources correctly for OER search and discovery? What do teachers need to know?

In my technology classes, I now require all incorporated media to be Creative Commons, Public Domain or No Copyright. At first, after having free rein in Google Images for years, my students felt very limited in their choices. But after discussing the reasons behind copyright and copyright alternatives, many students understood the importance of respecting rights reserved.

There are so many excellent resources to help teachers and students use Creative Commons in their classrooms. The Creative Commons search page, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr CC group, and Google Advanced Search all are wonderful tools for finding alternatively copyrighted images. Websites such as Jamendo are great for finding CC music.

The language was a challenge at first for my middle school students. Although there are only six main CC licenses, my students got bogged down with terms such as “Attribution” and “No Derivatives.”  It didn’t help that Google uses slightly different terminology (“reuse” and “reuse with modification”) in their license search filter. But the kids quickly became comfortable with the terms and procedures and, within a few class periods, they easily accessed and properly used “some rights reserved” media. Of course, I have the kids assign rights to their own work, which reinforces the licenses, and gives students the opportunity to think carefully about which rights are important to them.

As far as marking up my own resources for OER search and discovery, I am still learning about the process myself. In fact, prior to my work with Curriki, I was hesitant to “release” my work as open source. I had put so much time and effort into certain materials, I didn’t see the point of just giving them away on the Internet. However, the last few years, I have come to recognize the benefits of open source materials and have begun to post some of my formally guarded resources on Curriki as CC-BY; and I now freely share my new material. Now that I am more comfortable using and creating open source materials on my own and with my students, I hope to move on to work with other teachers.

What are the most common confusions or concerns of teachers when it comes to sharing their teaching materials? Do you think the average K-12 teacher is aware of open licensing alternatives, like Creative Commons? What are the various school or institutional policies for teachers sharing their materials?

I am certain that the average teacher is NOT aware of open licensing alternatives. In fact, many teachers I know still operate on the guiding principle of CASE – Copy And Steal Everything.  I don’t believe teachers are lazy or purposely deceitful for using materials in this way; anyone who has taught in a classroom knows how much there is to do in an incredibly short amount of time. Sometimes, copying an (often copyrighted) activity and tossing it in your colleague’s box is merely survival. Even those teachers who are aware of copyright will often claim “fair use.”  The problem is that teachers often overestimate their protections and privileges under fair use. And there is little training in copyright and fair use, let alone Creative Commons and OER. Not only is an average K – 12 teacher unaware of his or her responsibilities, he or she often does not know the rights and options available to him or her in sharing his or her own work.

There are a variety of roadblocks preventing teachers from sharing their own work. First of all, since creating curriculum takes so much time, many teachers are unwilling to share lessons because they feel the product belongs to them. Other teachers may feel that their work isn’t good enough to share. And even if teachers overcome these psychological blocks, there are still the technical issues revolving around how will they share their work as open source. None of the schools I have worked with had any sort of policies on, or time set aside for, sharing materials. In talking with my colleagues, they found a similar lack of school policy. Even in the rare case in which there was some sort of policy, teachers often selectively ignored it. Currently, most teachers do not have the access, training, and support necessary to confidently participate in the OER movement.

Curriki has been doing some work to tie their resources to state education standards (http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/BrowseStandards). Can you describe a little of that process to us? What are some of the benefits and challenges to including this information? How useful is it?

This work is not part of my professional duties at Curriki, however, I can speak to the process on a personal note as a teacher and Curriki member. Right now, when you visit a resource, you will see four tabs – Content, Information, Standards, and Comments. Choosing the Standards tab allows a user to view currently aligned standards, as well as gives the option to “Align to [additional] Standards.”  The process itself is very intuitive; the user clicks through a series of menus and applies standards as he or she deems appropriate.

The biggest benefit will certainly be the convenience of browsing for resources by standard through the aforementioned jump page. The biggest challenge is to align all of the existing and future resources in the repository. Curriki is depending largely on the community to gather momentum for this process. Right now, in its infancy, only about half of the states have standards-aligned resources to browse, and even those collections are far from complete across subject areas and educational levels. Of course, members of Curriki are always welcome to browse unaligned resources by subject, educational level, or other criteria by using Curriki’s Advanced Search.

There has been a lot of OER talk at the state and federal policy levels, especially surrounding open textbooks. What do you think is the future of the textbook for the K-12 classroom? How would you like to see this reflected in policy?

I, like many educators, feel that the reign of the textbook is coming to an end. As a science teacher, I have rarely depended on a textbook for curriculum, and rely more heavily on both online materials and self-created materials. OER allow me to take better advantage of creating and sharing work within a collaborative community. While science and technology lend themselves to early adoption of the open source philosophy, I believe other subjects will soon follow.

Textbooks will not be able to maintain their current stronghold in K–12 schools. A recent New York Times article points out that “[e]ven the traditional textbook publishers agree that the days of tweaking a few pages in a book just to sell a new edition are coming to an end.”  Textbooks are expensive and quickly become outdated. Printed errors are not correctable until the next edition comes out. In contrast, OER are inexpensive or free, constantly updated, and easily correctable. I would love to see the money saved by choosing inexpensive OER over pricey textbooks used for supplementary materials and teacher training. Or even better, districts can use that money to set aside release time and pay teachers to meet, collaborate and create OER content.

Lastly, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, predictions?

A successful learning environment is relevant, engaging, challenging, and flexible. OER material is current, as well as easily, and legally, adaptable to meet the needs of various learners. An OER community can provide a teacher with materials and support in meeting the needs of his or her particular student population. Resources that are freely shared end up saving others countless hours of redundant individual work and frees teachers from stagnating in a proprietary curriculum.

Schools are beginning to recognize the cost savings of abandoning the current textbook model, and I predict that publishers will adapt as the market demands of them. I hope that schools begin to recognize that teachers are a valuable resource and skilled professionals, and deserve to be compensated for their time spent developing curriculum. I hope districts begin to create policies and provide support to encourage teachers to share the materials they create.

Ideally, the classroom should be a place where students are not merely passive consumers of resources and media, but rather active collaborators, synthesizers and publishers of their own work. I hope that, from a young age, students will be held accountable for using others’ work in an appropriate way, and encouraged to share their own work as open source with some rights reserved, rather than falling back on the default of full copyright, or worse, not sharing at all. I want my students and colleagues to understand that, by sharing materials, they are contributing to a collection of materials that will benefit learners far beyond the walls of their own classroom. This is a significant shift in current educational philosophy, but sites like Curriki are a great step in facilitating a move in the right direction.

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U.S. Department of Education includes OER in notice of proposed priorities for grant programs

Timothy Vollmer, August 5th, 2010

Today the U.S. Department of Education took another big step in supporting open educational resources (OER). In the Federal Register, the Department released a notice of proposed priorities (NPP):

The Secretary of Education proposes priorities that the Department of Education (Department) may use for any appropriate discretionary grant program in fiscal year (FY) 2011 and future years … This action will permit all offices in the Department to use, as appropriate for particular discretionary grant programs, one or more of these priorities in any discretionary grant competition.

The set of proposed priorities specifically mentions OER. Essentially, if the priorities are adopted, it could mean that grant seekers who include open educational resources as a component of an application for funding from the Department of Education could receive priority. OER is included in Proposed Priority 13–Improving Productivity:

Projects that are designed to significantly increase efficiency in the use of time, staff, money, or other resources. Such projects may include innovative and sustainable uses of technology, modification of school schedules, use of open educational resources (as defined in this notice), or other strategies that improve results and increase productivity.

As mentioned, the NPP includes a definition of open educational resources:

Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.

Interested parties may submit comments to the notice of proposed priorities until September 7, 2010. Information about how to submit a comment is described in the notice.

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Costa Rican license draft enters public discussion, pilots new comment tools

Michelle Thorne, August 3rd, 2010

We are happy to announce an experiment in the public discussion process of our licenses, piloted by CC Costa Rica. Customarily, we post a static text document of the licenses, including a re-translation and summary of changes in English, to our website. The community can download these files and submit comments on the jurisdiction’s mailing list. In an effort to improve usability and the level of interaction, we’ve wikified the Costa Rican BY-NC-SA 3.0 license draft , so you can read and discuss the text directly.

To contribute a review or question regarding the license draft adapted to Costa Rican law, please visit the BY-NC-SA 3.0 license draft page and click on the wiki’s discussion page to share your thoughts. You are also welcome to join and write to the CC Costa Rican mailing list, which will run in parallel to the wiki.

The public discussion is an open forum where everyone – from lawyers to active license users, from linguists to translators — is invited to contribute and improve the license texts. Comments should be submitted as soon as possible to allow enough time for review, so we encourage you to post to the list before the end of August 2010, when the discussion is scheduled to close.

Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Project Leads Rolando Coto, Carlos E. Saborío Romero, and Denis Campos with the support of the University of Costa Rica, and to Andrés Guadamuz for producing the draft and soliciting feedback from the Costa Rican public. We look forward to the discussion and to testing this new process!

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Joi Ito on License Proliferation

Cameron Parkins, July 27th, 2010

Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito has a great post on his blog today about license proliferation. Drawing from his experience as a board member at both ICANN and the Open Source Initiative, Ito outlines the problems created by license proliferation:

As sharing and the adoption of new, free licenses begins to accelerate, I believe we are in danger of creating sloppy licenses or incompatible licenses backed by torrents of content funded by well-meaning governments, non-profits, users and even commercial entities. Poorly drafted licenses, licenses that are not adequately stewarded or supported by a dedicated team of legal experts, content encumbered by onerous neighboring rights and isolated and restrictive licenses can create mountains of unusable content which we might call “free” but which for all practical purposes become puddles of unusable content and what we would call “failed sharing”.

As Ito points out, Creative Commons has the benefit of learning from previous license movements in making sure our licenses not only fill a specific need but also have low transaction costs and high interoperability. As request for additional features arise, we remain focused on feedback from our community to make sure we provide as many functional options as possible while keeping things simple. Read the full post for more.

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Don’t let ASCAP’s president be silenced!

Mike Linksvayer, July 27th, 2010

Last month the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sent an ill-advised fundraising letter to its members, signed by the organization’s president. The letter made obviously false and easily rebutted claims about Creative Commons and was lambasted across the net. See our response for links.

Now the ASCAP president has posted an equally misinformed letter on the ASCAP website. Summary: The anti-copyright “copyleft” movement is attempting to silence me!

Every bit of this is incorrect. To the extent there is a single movement the ASCAP president is attempting to criticize, it would be called the free culture movement. Presumably the ASCAP president thinks “copyleft” sounds more threatening than “free culture”. But copyleft, or a licensing requirement to share adaptations with the same freedoms as a source work, is one mechanism used to protect free culture (in the Creative Commons license suite we call this mechanism ShareAlike), and as a copyright licensing mechanism, it builds on copyright.

Furthermore, nobody in the free culture movement is attempting to silence the ASCAP president. The remedy for misinformation is more information–last month’s ASCAP fundraising letter was linked by many free culture blogs, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig offered to debate the ASCAP president (incidentally, the ASCAP president’s latest letter claims that Lessig is a founder of the “copyleft movement”–also not true; Lessig is arguably a founder of the free culture movement, but to the extent there is a copyleft movement, its founder would clearly be Richard Stallman), and right here, we’re linking to the ASCAP president’s letter–go read it, blog about it, post the link–make sure the ASCAP president is not silenced!

For a blow-by-blow of this affair so far, see Mathias Klang, lead of Creative Commons Sweden, on ASCAPs charge of the light brigade.

Thanks to everyone who donated to Creative Commons in response to ASCAP’s deceptive fundraising letter. You can still do this!

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The British Library asks researchers and educators – Is copyright a help or a hindrance?

Mike Linksvayer, July 23rd, 2010

The British Library has published a new report, Driving UK Research – Is copyright a help or a hindrance? (pdf). Sourced directly from 13 active researchers and educators, the report reflects the hindrances that copyright as currently structured pose to their daily work, and a consensus on the need for reform.

The report also features a letter from Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, closing with the following:

There is a supreme irony that just as technology is allowing greater access to books and other creative works than ever before for education and research, new restrictions threaten to lock away digital content in a way we would never countenance for printed material.

Let’s not wake up in five years’ time and realise we have unwittingly lost a fundamental building block for innovation, education and research in the UK. Who is protecting the public interest in the digital world? We need to redefine copyright in the digital age and find a balance to benefit creators, educators, researchers, the creative industries – and the knowledge economy.

It would be difficult to state the fundamentals of what is at stake more clearly than this–globally. While some of the essays touch on specific issues in UK copyright, researchers, educators, and citizens everywhere will gain relevant insight from the report.

Creative Commons of course makes it easy for you to offer your work under terms in more in balance with the digital age–as The British Library and contributors have done with Driving UK Research–the report is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

One of the report’s contributors, Cameron Neylon, has used the choice offered by the range of Creative Commons tools to release his contribution of all copyright hindrances via the CC0 public domain waiver. Read Neylon’s essay and the entire report–and share!

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CERN supports Creative Commons

Mike Linksvayer, July 15th, 2010

Creative Commons is deeply honored to announce CERN corporate support at the “creator level”. CERN is one of the world’s premier scientific institutions–home of the Large Hadron Collider and birthplace of the web. This donation comes on the occasion of the publication under Creative Commons licenses of the first results of LHC experiments.

Dr. Salvatore Mele, CERN Head of Open Access, provided the following statement:

The High-Energy Physics community in general, and the frontier experiments it runs at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN aim to unravel the mysteries of the universe. This major ambition can only be reached on foundations of technology and innovation, collaboration and partnership, and perhaps above all, on shared information, which is why this community has strived at Open Access to its scientific results since decades already.

The evolution of scholarly communication in the field, recently embodied by the SCOAP3 initiative, has reached an important milestone with the publication of the first results of the LHC experiments under a Creative Common license. These have appeared in the European Physical Journal (Springer) doi:10.1140/epjc/s10052-009-1227-4 (CC BY-NC); Journal of High Energy Physics (SISSA), doi:10.1007/JHEP02(2010)041 (CC BY-NC); Physics Letters (Elsevier), doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2010.03.064 (CC BY); and Physical Review Letters (APS), doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.022002 (CC BY).

CERN has become a supporter of Creative Commons to acknowledge the contribution that its licenses make to accelerating scientific communication and simplifying the way researchers share their work. The Creative Commons Attribution license is an important tool for the publication of CERN’s experimental results.

Please join CERN in using and supporting Creative Commons!

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Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges Adopts CC BY for All Competitive Grants

Timothy Vollmer, July 12th, 2010

The Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC) recently adopted an open licensing policy for the competitive grants they administer:

All digital software, educational resources and knowledge produced through competitive grants, offered through and/or managed by the SBCTC, will carry a Creative Commons Attribution License … [and] applies to all funding sources (state, federal, foundation and/or other fund sources) …

The brief (PDF), prepared by Cable Green (who we interviewed in March about the Open Course Library Project), explains how the policy is aligned with SBCTC’s strategic technology plan. The policy draws inspiration from related initiatives working to support the sharing of research and OER, such as the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), the Southern Regional Education Board’s openness recommendations via “An Expectation of Sharing: Guidelines for Effective Policies to Respect, Protect and Increase the Use of Digital Educational Resources”, and the open licensing requirements for foundation grantees explored in the Berkman Center’s “An Evaluation of Private Foundation Copyright Licensing Policies, Practices and Opportunities.”

Congratulations to SBCTC for this great step forward!

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