Commons News

CC ePSIplatform topic report published

Timothy Vollmer, February 11th, 2011

We’ve been working on a series of blog posts for the European Public Sector Information Platform (ePSIplatform) on the role of Creative Commons in supporting the re-use of public sector information. In addition, we’ve published a topic report. The abstract is posted below.

Creative Commons and Public Sector Information: Flexible tools to support PSI creators and re-users

Public sector information is meant for wide re-use, but this information will only achieve maximum possible impact if users understand how they may use it. Creative Commons tools, which signify availability for re-use to users and require attribution to the releasing authority, are ideal tools for the sharing of public sector information. There is also increasing interest in open licenses and other tools to share publicly funded information, data, and content, including various kinds of cultural resources, educational materials, and research findings; Creative Commons tools are applicable here and recommended for these purposes too.

Again, you can download the topic report (licensed under CC BY) via the ePSIplatform site.

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CC tools and PSI: Supporting attribution, protecting reputation, and preserving integrity

Diane Peters, February 11th, 2011

The following is cross-posted from the blog of the European Public Sector Information Platform (ePSIplatform). ePSIplatform is a comprehensive  portal showcasing research and projects working to stimulate and promote public sector information (PSI) re-use and open data initiatives in Europe. Creative Commons is pleased to contribute a series of blog posts discussing the role of CC tools for use in public sector information.

In an earlier blog post, we promised to share some useful “things you may not know” about legal and technical aspects of CC tools, especially as they relate to the release of public sector information.  Publishers of PSI – which may include governments and their agencies, but also others – have a strong desire to receive the credit they deserve through proper attribution, while simultaneously safeguarding their reputations when information is re-used.  They also care about preserving the integrity of the information they provide, so that the original can be differentiated from modified forms, and can be easily located. CC’s legal tools provide sound and tested solutions for each of these needs.

Attribution

Creative Commons tools provide a sophisticated, flexible method for attribution that addresses the needs of those making PSI available (licensors) and those using the information (licensees).  Attribution is a condition of all Creative Commons licenses. This requirement calls for preservation of any copyright notice, attribution (recognition of the licensor as the copyright holder of the work) and the URL (link) to the original work if provided as well as to the CC license. The attribution requirement thus serves the dual purpose of ensuring that the publisher of PSI receives appropriate credit, and that provenance information for published PSI is kept intact.

CC licenses allow governments and others releasing public sector information to define how they want to be attributed, in advance at the point of publication.  For instance, a licensor may request a specific attribution statement separate from or in addition to credit for the individual author or the releasing agency, or request that attribution be made to another person or entity altogether, such as a funder, publisher or journal. Below is an example attribution statement that includes attribution to an author and credit to a funder, though any number of custom statements might be crafted:

“An evaluation of non-motorized traffic accidents from 2000-2010,” by Mary Smith. Funded by the Polish Ministry of Transport. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland license.

Licensors may also request not to be attributed at all, and can require users to remove the credit otherwise required.  For example, if PSI released under a CC license is aggregated with other content and published in a collection, or if the PSI is itself modified (when a CC license permitting modification is applied), then the licensor may request removal of the credit to which it is otherwise entitled from the collection or the modified work, regardless of the reason.  This removal mechanism enables the publisher to distance itself from re-uses, a feature that may also be used to protect the licensor’s reputation.

CC tools also make it easy for users of PSI to comply with attribution requirements. CC licenses allow for flexibility in the way attribution is implemented depending on the means used by a licensee to re-distribute the information.  There may be different expectations for attribution based on the format in which the PSI is re-used.  For example, providing attribution to the author when re-distributing information via a blog post is different than crediting the author within a video remix.  All CC licenses provide that attribution must be provided in a manner “reasonable to the medium or means” used by the licensee, and for credit to be provided in a “reasonable manner.”  This flexibility facilitates compliance by licensees – minimizing the risk that overly onerous and inflexible attribution requirements are simply disregarded as being too difficult – while at the same ensuring that credit is still provided.

CC’s straightforward yet flexible method of attribution makes it easy for users to “do the right thing.”  Licensees are more likely to use and republish the information and provide proper attribution, just as intended by the publisher, because no fixed or unbending form(at) is dictated. At the same time, institutions releasing PSI consistently receive the credit they are due.

Reputation

Governments and others want to release PSI and allow others to re-use, build upon, and combine the information with other materials in impactful and meaningful ways, yet some may be concerned that their reputation might be tarnished depending on how the information is re-used.  Protecting the reputation of publishers is critical, and CC licenses have several features that help ensure that this high priority need is met.  In addition to the credit removal mechanism mentioned above, CC licenses also contain a “no endorsement, no sponsorship” clause.  This standard feature of all CC licenses prohibits licensees from implicitly or explicitly asserting or implying any connection with, sponsorship or endorsement by the licensor without express, prior written consent.  Any violation of this clause results in automatic termination of the licensee’s right to use the CC-licensed PSI.

CC licenses help protect reputation in other ways, too.  When PSI is licensed under a CC license that permits modifications (any license without the “NoDerivatives” condition), anyone modifying the information must clearly label or identify that changes have been made.  This marking requirement puts users of the modified work on notice that the original has been modified, helping ensure that modifications are not wrongly associated with the original publisher of the PSI.  This feature, in combination with the requirement that the URL for the original must be provided, properly distances the original publisher of the information from the modifications (whether or not desired) and facilitates comparison of the original with the modified version.  Finally, CC licenses do not grant permission to use anyone’s trademarks or official insignia, nor do the licenses affect other laws that may be used to protect one’s reputation or other rights – those rights are all reserved and may be enforced separately by the publisher of the PSI.

Integrity

Some publishers of PSI may worry that information they release may be changed for the worse, re-used in a way that compromises the integrity of the original, or mixed with information from other sources in a way that compromises the integrity of the original release. CC licenses guard against these worries in several ways. Importantly, when PSI is released under a CC license permitting modification, any modifications that are made do not affect the integrity of the original material because any changes are made to a copy of the released information. The original remains intact and preserved, exactly as released (most typically) on the publisher’s website.  Additionally, the attribution and credit requirements described above require that adaptations provide a link to the URL for the original (if provided), ensuring everyone has access to the authoritative work in its unmodified form for reference and comparison purposes.  These mechanisms, together with the requirement that modified works be clearly marked to alert downstream users that modifications have been made (and the original may be easily be found through the link to its URL), provide a net of safeguards to help preserve the integrity of the original PSI release.

CC tools offer flexible yet legally and technically robust mechanisms for ensuring attribution in the preferred manner of the publisher (when credit is desired).  They also protect publishers’ reputations and alleviate concerns about preserving the integrity of the original information.  These mechanisms work together easily and seamlessly, giving confidence to publishers choosing CC licenses for their PSI.

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Designing assessment and credit pathways for open education learners

Jane Park, February 9th, 2011

open badge infrastructure prototype
Badge prototypes by P2PU & Mozilla / CC BY-SA

Getting students formal credit for their free and open education is a challenge, but groups and institutions are working around the world to come up with alternative pathways to recognition. The Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is one such group that explored the topic in an assessment workshop last September and then co-designed virtual “badges” for recognition in real time at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona. P2PU and Mozilla are piloting these badges via the P2PU School of Webcraft, and have solicited would-be developers for the skills and competencies that would best be reflected by a badge system. In collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, they have drafted An Open Badge System Framework: A foundational piece on assessment and badges (Google doc).

A meeting to build an OER University


Alternatives, such as the badge system above, may factor into a plan to bring formal recognition to open education learners’ achievements. In an effort to combine institutional forces, the Open Educational Resources (OER) Foundation will host an international planning meeting on February 23 to co-design assessment and credit pathways for open learning. As open educational resources (OER) under CC licenses become more integrated into institutional education, the OER foundation (along with Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, and Athabasca University in Canada) is hoping to “provide flexible pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.”

The challenge is to find robust mechanisms for academic credit for these OER learners. “Students seek flexible study opportunities, but they also want their achievements recognised in credible credentials.” said Sir John Daniel, President of the Commonwealth of Learning. “This important meeting will tackle the challenges of combining flexibility with rigour, which requires clarity in conception and quality in execution.”

The OER Foundation invites and encourages all post-secondary institutions and others “who care about sharing knowledge as a core value of education” to join the meeting, which will be streamed virtually by UNESCO to enable participation by all.

The foundation believes “OER is a sustainable and renewable resource,” but that “collaboration among education institutions will be a prerequisite for success.”

Learn more about the OER for Assessment & Credit for Students Project and see UNESCO’s announcement for more information.

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Open Attribute, a simple way to attribute CC-licensed works on the web

Jane Park, February 7th, 2011

Open Attribute, “a suite of tools that makes it ridiculously simple for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC licensed work,” launched today with browser add-ons for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The add-ons “query the metadata around a CC-licensed object and produce a properly formatted attribution that users can copy and paste wherever they need to.”

If you use our license chooser and copy and paste the resulting HTML code into your website, then you’re pretty much good to go. Anyone who uses the Open Attribute browser add-on to query your site will automatically receive a formatted HTML or plain text attribution that they can copy and paste to give you the proper credit.

Open Attribute uses CC REL metadata found in the pages to generate the attribution metadata. You might remember that we developed a guide with real examples to make CC REL metadata much easier to implement: CC REL by Example contains example HTML pages, as well as explanations and links to more information. If you’re curious to see how Open Attribute pulls the metadata, the guide includes a specific section on Attributing Reuses.

Open Attribute is a direct result of the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival held last year in Barcelona on Learning, Freedom and the Web. See Molly Kleinman’s post for a more comprehensive run-down of the origins and team behind Open Attribute.

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Get Your Limited Edition “Share” Shirt!

Allison Domicone, February 7th, 2011

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.

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CC News: $2 billion fund available for open education

Jane Park, February 3rd, 2011

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

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 reports logo

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.
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License Localization and Community Building

Michelle Thorne, February 2nd, 2011

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:

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.

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Video now online: CC Salon (2011-01-11) w/ Internet Archive, LinkedIn, 3taps, Tim O’Reilly

Allison Domicone, February 1st, 2011

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.

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Al Jazeera adds Egypt and Tunisia coverage to its CC video repository

Donatella Della Ratta, February 1st, 2011

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.

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CC and data[bases]: huge in 2011, what you can do

Mike Linksvayer, February 1st, 2011

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.

Database rights

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.

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