Commons News

CC Talks With: ISKME’s Lisa Petrides: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 29th, 2010

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 got the chance to interview Lisa Petrides. Lisa is president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), an independent non-profit educational research institute located in Half Moon Bay, CA. Petrides also leads OER Commons, an open source teaching and learning network that supports and facilitates the creation, sharing, and modification of open educational resources (OER). We talked with Lisa about ongoing research that aims to measure the effectiveness of OER, the necessity for education about tools and services that enable the creation and sharing of educational materials, and the important work needed to link OER to content standards.

How is ISKME and OER Commons related to open education?

For the past eight years, ISKME’s research has focused on improving the practice of data use, information sharing, and knowledge collaboration in the education sector. The depth of our research is fed by applying what we have learned from on-the-ground educational initiatives that we have been engaged in. We have supported OER through three primary ways: first, in the development of a research agenda that has included studies on the creation, use, and re-use of OER in teaching and learning; second, in the creation of OER Commons, the most extensive curation of metadata on learning materials available, with over 350 content partners. We make our metadata available for services such as DiscoverEd, as well as the international OER consortium GLOBE. As such, OER Commons is not simply an aggregation of metadata through automated harvesting and RSS feeds. With smaller organizations, educational institutions and museums, we offer resources and training that enable content creators to establish and publish meaningful descriptive metadata themselves, allowing these learning materials to be more easily discovered and used by others. Lastly, ISKME offers professional development workshops and continuing education for teachers focused on innovative concepts and practices related to digital and social learning, and open education curriculum. We do this by integrating a range of collaborative practices using open-source learning content with a research-based pedagogy focused on participatory learning for K-20 teachers and learners.

At ISKME’s Big Ideas Fest this past December, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in his welcome remarks, “Online courses and open source materials are catching on fast, but we’ve made only limited investments in understanding which ones are most effective.” How do we determine which are most effective? From ISKME’s research perspective, what do we need to know about OER in order to make the case to policymakers?


Lisa Petrides / CC BY

Others have noted how interesting it is that we don’t ask the same questions about textbooks and other traditional forms of learning materials. For example, does any teacher actually know when they are given a textbook to use by their district or school, whether or not that books has been used to more effectively help students learn? That being said, the more we can learn about use and reuse of OER, the better we can help guide teachers, learners, and policymakers to high quality open education solutions that scale.

In this rather new field of OER, we have been looking at the processes and conditions by which open content can be adopted, used, and modified. For example, as researchers for the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative, we looked at how community colleges were able to identify, organize, and support the production and use of high quality, culturally relevant open textbooks for community college students. This involved looking at the process of open textbook creation and promotion, as well as the structures and processes needed to support it, not to mention ways in which to create replicable models that could be adapted to future OER initiatives.

From our research on resources that “travel well” conducted with our partners, European Schoolnet and BioQUEST, we found that subject and abstract were important considerations in determining whether a resource was viewed. However, in terms of actually deciding to use a resource, factors such as how current the resource was and whether or not it matched the learning level of their students were two important considerations. Additionally, knowing how previous instructors have used a given resource and whether or not trusted colleagues have also tried it and liked it was also a strong determinant of use.

Ultimately, we need to know what the impact is of open materials on teaching and learning. Yet it is important to remember that “effective” can be defined to include everything from the prohibitive cost of textbooks (as in the case of the PIRG study that showed textbooks were over 50% of the cost of community college students), to ease of use, to adoption, to the collaboration of teachers and instructors that fosters pedagogical innovation, and the creation of more dynamic and relevant resources from the perspective of today’s learner. 

OER Commons provides access to high quality OER content. Another goal is to “develop training and professional development models to support teachers and schools in effective uses of online content and to meet the demands of 21st century learning.” What are the hurdles for teachers and schools in using and creating OER?

Teachers do require new understanding, training, coaching, and support for all aspects involving the integration and sharing of digital and open learning content. One of the biggest hurdles is helping teachers make the shift from a consumer culture of educational resources, to one in which teachers gain leadership and support to adapt and develop resources for their own needs, and then share those resources with others. We work directly with teachers to engage with learning resources through processes that require collaboration and social learning, and that build expertise from within and from the bottom-up.

The use of OER is really a part of a shift happening in education that aims to support shared teacher expertise and peer-based learning. As such, free and open content is not only a new economic model for schools and students, but also a primary vehicle for disseminating more flexible, adaptable curricula that support learner-centric approaches.

Teachers face hurdles in terms of their experience in sharing their own lessons learned from the classroom and then venturing into online communities of practice and experimenting with new social networking environments, wikis, and other unfamiliar tools. Typically they also lack support for adding tags or other metadata to organize materials for their own use and then making resources more discoverable by others. In short, most online collections typically present static lists of resources created by experts, and they typically do not support teachers in evaluating education materials and aligning them to state standards, or in localizing materials to meet their pedagogical approach, classroom requirements, and student learning needs—all of which are necessary components for effective usage by teachers—the basic tenets of OER. Even in cases where technology adoption by teachers and digital resource quality is comparatively high, such as in the sciences—teacher practice, pedagogies, and supportive infrastructures may not yet be evolving to truly take advantage of the innovative potential of OER.

As customizable, remixable, shareable educational materials, what are some of the challenges with OER and K-12 educators in adhering to state education standards?

There are many of us working on the issue of linking open content to standards. There have been groups who have done this for years, such as the Achievement Standards Network, Teachers’ Domain, and Dolan DNA Learning Center, just to name a few. However, it has been complicated by the fact that state standards can change every two years or so, and that we have several different sets of state standards across the country. The Common Core State Standards Initiative certainly holds promise. Ultimately, it is just a matter of technology that can enable the mapping and crosswalking of standards to learning resources. This really isn’t that difficult. It just needs to be done. And if we can do this, then we have transparent ways of ensuring that standards met do in fact lead to better learning outcomes.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

I think the role of Creative Commons is more important than ever within the OER movement. We need to continue to raise awareness about issues of copyright through workshops and online materials as part of the professional development of teachers. For example, in our workshops with teachers as well as through our research, perhaps not surprisingly, teachers search the Internet for materials and are happy to find any high quality materials that are easy to use. Yet like many people who use the Internet, they don’t necessarily take copyright into consideration. This behavior in the digital world is really the same as the paper-based world. Have you ever seen, or been a teacher who, in our under-resourced education system, flips through books looking for great examples or exercises for their students, and simply photocopies selective pages to use? This is what we see online.

Creative Commons is certainly among the best solutions to this dilemma, but is not yet widely known in the education community. As we know, within Creative Commons, creators of content can stipulate the conditions of use through a set of options that unpack the “all rights reserved” as we know it, into simple pieces, but the process of thinking about intellectual property for most educators is far from simple. In a perfect world, your average teacher or educator should not have to master a combination of six licenses and use cases, but instead be able to easily use and remix content with conditions of use as a seamless conduit. There is still much work to be done at the system level as well, in terms of working with schools, districts, colleges and universities, to encourage the open and free use of materials, particularly in our public institutions—where our public tax dollars have already paid for these materials many times over.

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

That is certainly a most exciting question! I think it’s really about the unbundling of the education system as we know it. It is about open and free access to all knowledge for all people, it is about peer-to-peer learning, alternative certification, and dynamic resources that can be adapted for use in a myriad of contexts. That is the promise and power of OER.  One lingering thought is how we can reallocate a portion of public tax-payer dollars from a $6-8 billion textbook market annually to support the OER ecosystem. Or will educators and administrators be convinced by those who want to position OER as some rogue movement and be scared away from collaboration and reuse? Yet, from the news media to the recording industry, there has been a leveling of resources that needs to happen. And if you really believe that education is a public good, or even a human right, then we must do more to ensure access for all.

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Mozilla and the P2PU School of Webcraft

Jane Park, June 29th, 2010

In September, Mozilla and P2PU are launching the P2PU School of Webcraft, and they invite you to participate. The partnership leverages Mozilla’s experience and the P2PU community to create a social learning environment for those who want to “learn the craft of open and standards-based web development.” The P2PU School of Webcraft is a set of courses centered on the open web, including “Introduction to HTML5″ and “Building Social with the Open Web.” From the call for proposals,

Following on the delivery model developed by P2PU, course organizers volunteer to take existing open learning materials or develop their own content and lead a group of peers through 6 weeks of online classes. Courses focus on project based learning in a peer environment and are proposed, created and led by members of the web development community – so the content will always be up to date with the latest technologies.

We’d love for you to become a part of this project and until July 18 we’re inviting course proposals for P2PU School of Webcraft. We’ve made it really easy to get started, just fill out the proposal form, it takes less than 5 minutes!

The school is completely free and open, with all P2PU produced material licensed under CC BY-SA—which means anyone can build on the courses and run their own. But anyone can also get involved with P2PU by proposing a course or participating in one, or just learning more. You can also check out the School of Webcraft in 103 seconds.

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CC Search Redesign Beta

Alex Roberts, June 29th, 2010

Today we’ve released a new CC content search interface on our Labs site for an initial live beta, testing some interface variations, before completely replacing our current search UI.

Why are we changing it?

Many of you use and love search.creativecommons.org, judging by actual use and tweets about the service.

After four years of the current tabbed interface, we have become increasingly aware of how many sites provide CC licensed content and would like to be included on CC Search. Due to the nature of tabs, there just isn’t room to easily showcase all these great sites. We’ve come a long way since our original selection of Google, Yahoo, and Flickr.

The current search embeds providers inside an iframe, which can be frustrating or confusing if you come to the site to find your favorite search providers wrapped in our frame.

I gave a brief presentation on the new search UI beta at a Creative Commons staff meeting recently. You can watch the UStream recording here.

Before we change the UI on search.creativecommons.org (also accessible via our home page and Firefox), we have some things to do: see how people use the beta, get feedback, and have the new interface translated into several languages.

Visit http://labs.creativecommons.org/demos/search, let us know what you think, tell your friends, and share it amongst your network.

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Educational Search and DiscoverEd

Alex Kozak, June 25th, 2010

Last week in the vuDAT building at Michigan State University, a group of developers interested in educational search and discovery got together to contribute code (in what’s commonly called a code sprint) to Creative Commons’ DiscoverEd project. Readers interested in the technical details about our work last week can find daily posts on CC LabsDay 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

DiscoverEd is a semantic enhanced search prototype. What does that mean practically? Let’s say you’re a ninth grade biology teacher interested in finding education resources about cell organelles to hand out to students. How would you go about that?

If you’re web savvy, you might open up a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing and search for “cell organelles”. You’d find a lot of resources (Google alone finds over 11 million pages!), but which do you choose to investigate further? It’s time consuming and difficult to sift through search results for resources that have certain properties you might be interested in, like being appropriate for 9th graders, being under a CC license that allows you to modify the resource and share changes, or being written in English or Spanish, for example. As you throw up your hands in dismay, you might think “Can’t someone do this for me?!”

DiscoverEd is an educational search prototype that does exactly that, by searching metadata about educational resources. It provides a way to sift through search results based on specific qualities like what license it’s under, the education level, or subject.

Compare search results for “cell organelles” in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and now in DiscoverEd. You can see that finding CC licensed educational resources is friendlier because of the available metadata accompanying each result.

While most search engines rely solely on algorithmic analyses of resources, DiscoverEd can incorporate data provided by the resource publisher or curator. As long as curators and publishers follow some basic standards, metadata can be consumed and displayed by DiscoverEd. These formats (e.g. RDFa) allow otherwise unrelated educational projects, curators, and repositories to express facts about their resources in the same format so that tools (like DiscoverEd) can use that data for useful purposes (like search and discovery).

Creative Commons believes an open web following open standards leads to better outcomes for everyone. Our vision for the web is that everyone following interoperable standards, whether they be legal standards like the CC licenses or technical standards like CC REL and RDFa, will result in a platform that enables social and technical innovation in the same way that HTTP and HTML enabled change. DiscoverEd is a project that allows us to explore ways to improve search for OER, and simultaneously demonstrate the utility of structured data.

Continued development of DiscoverEd is supported by the AgShare project, funded by a grant from The Gates Foundation. Creative Commons thanks MSU, vuDAT, MSU Global, and the participants in the DiscoverEd sprint last week for their support.

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CC Talks With: WikiEducator’s Wayne Mackintosh: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, June 23rd, 2010

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. As such, we recently caught up with Wayne Mackintosh. Wayne is the Director of the International Centre for Open Education based at Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, member of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation, and founder of the WikiEducator project. In our interview with Wayne, we discussed Creative Commons and openness as a “competitive advantage” to closed systems, how OER “levels the playing field” through open licensing and file formats, and New Zealand’s unique context and approach to teacher empowerment and experimentation using OER.

Can you explain your role and how these organizations are tied to the mission of open education in New Zealand and internationally?

I’m an educator – by choice. I have spent the majority of my career in the academy, but started life as an accountant. Realising that I would not be able to spend forty years of my life pushing numbers around, I made a career change and decided to follow my vocation and become a teacher. The act of teaching is fundamentally about sharing knowledge. OER embodies the purpose of teaching and is today’s most compelling manifestation of the core values of education in a digital world, that is, to share knowledge freely.


Wayne Mackintosh by Mackiwg / CC BY

WikiEducator is by far the most rewarding project of my professional career. I founded the WikiEducator prototype in February 2006 as a social software experiment for educators to collaborate on the development of open source teaching materials. WikiEducator’s formative years were nurtured by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. Today, WikiEducator is a flagship project of the OER Foundation. As a philanthropic organisation, the OER Foundation is responsible for raising and administering the funds for the purpose of supporting the adoption and implementation of OER for the benefit of education institutions and the learner communities they serve. The OER Foundation also maintains the technical and operational infrastructure of the WikiEducator community in accordance with the policies approved by the open WikiEducator Community Council. In short the OER Foundation is nurturing the development of sustainable ecosystems for the OER movement.

In our search for fertile ground to host the headquarters of the OER Foundation, we decided on a global leader in Open Education, Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. Otago Polytechnic is the first New Zealand tertiary education institution to sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, the first tertiary education institution in the world to approve and implement an intellectual property policy that by default uses the Creative Commons Attribution license. Otago has an institutional commitment to education for sustainability embodied in their strategic plan. Otago Polytechnic is serious about collaboration and sustainable OER futures, as demonstrated by the Council’s decision to establish the OER Foundation as an independent entity rather than hosting yet another institution-based project.

It is not easy for smaller institutions to reap the benefits of reducing the costs of provisioning and participating in global OER networks due to the inertia of getting open content projects started. The OER Foundation provides a viable and effective solution for education institutions to stake their claim in OER, to test the open education waters and derive immediate benefits while contributing to the global sustainability of education.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

Creative Commons is the air that the OER movement breathes. It is the legal enabler that eases the complexities of intellectual property in education, helping us move from a restrictive culture to a free culture. Creative Commons fuels the efficiency and effectiveness of the OER movement by avoiding redundancy and unnecessary duplication of legal tools that facilitate collaboration in education.

As the OER landscape evolves, I believe the nodes in the free culture network should focus their energies on core competencies and prioritise areas of collaboration where collective effort enables each initiative to better achieve their own objectives. For example, education is not the core business of Creative Commons, however educating users on making informed choices with regard to Creative Commons licenses is potentially a productive area of mutual collaboration among mainstream OER projects and Creative Commons. Similarly, the OER Foundation is not necessarily well positioned to provide solid legal advice on intellectual property issues in education. Creative Commons could, for instance, leverage its networks to establish a global network of pro bono legal counseling services, or develop an array of draft intellectual property policies published as OER that can be reused and remixed by education institutions around the world. In this way, all projects benefit from the core expertise and tacit knowledge of our respective organisations.

In responding to these needs, the OER Foundation has launched the CollabOERate project. CollabOERate is the OER equivalent of research and development (R & D) for new “product” design in open content and open education. CollabOERate is an “OER remix” of industry’s “co-opetition” model where individual OER projects agree to collaborate on areas that allow them to “compete” better for their own sustainability and attainment of their own strategic objectives.

The uncharted territory, and arguably the biggest point of difference for OER lies in the remix. The open education movement is yet to master the remix, but I concede that this is a challenge riddled with complexity. At the OER Foundation we subscribe to free cultural works licensing. These licensing schemes provide legal compatibility for the essential freedoms and also provides a commitment to ensuring access to source files using open file formats. In this way, no educator is restricted from participating in the OER remix because they have to purchase software licenses or sacrifice their freedoms in software choices.

Creative Commons licenses do not cater to the challenges associated with open file formats or digital rights management. Perhaps the free culture movement can learn from our industry counterparts. Today, a growing number of chocolate manufactures apply the “Fair Trade” logo on their products, communicating to the consumer that they pay cocoa producers a fair living wage. Similarly, most processed food items we purchase at the grocery store supply the details of the ingredients used in the manufacturing of the product. Clearly there are degrees of openness in digital OERs, and I believe the OER movement should work toward consumer awareness and branding of our OER artefacts, particularly insofar as free cultural works licensing and open file formats is concerned. In a similar vein I think we should be doing more in educating users on the implications of their license choices, most pertinently in relation to Creative Commons licensing. We can collaborate with mainstream projects in the free culture community to help in this work.

The precondition for building sustainable OER ecosystems lies in our distinctive “competitive advantage” when compared to closed systems. Our advantage is openness. Effecting real social change is facilitated through open philanthropy where we focus on achieving our respective aims through the principles of openness, transparency and networked collaboration. At the OER Foundation we believe in radical transparency and all our planning documents, projects and funding proposals are developed openly in WikiEducator, using Creative Commons licences. This has worked very well for us and we encourage all non-profits working in the open education space to do the same. This will reduce duplication of effort and scale our growth and success in the free culture movement by an order of magnitude in ways that simply cannot be replicated through traditional closed approaches.

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Aviary Launches New Music Creator

Cameron Parkins, June 11th, 2010

Yesterday Aviary released a brand new music creation tool, codenamed Roc. Roc employs a straight-forward grid-based interface that enables Aviary users of all musical backgrounds to create compositions easily. Most exciting to the CC community is that the instrument library accompanying Rock is released under a CC Attribution license:

Best of all, completed music made using our instrument library can be used by anyone for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial. We spent considerable time and money developing this library ourselves and have decided to give back to the community by releasing use of mixed sounds from our library under a Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0 Generic license.

We feel that by providing this tool without any commercial restrictions we will help the Internet cultivate and create an alternative shared library of musical loops that anyone can access and use without restriction.

Combined with Myna, Aviary’s audio editor, Roc strengthens Aviary’s position as a full fledged media creation platform. As always, Aviary allows users to share their works publicly under both our Attribution and Attribution-NonCommercial licenses.

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Mozilla Drumbeat Festival 2010: Learning, freedom and the web

Jane Park, June 11th, 2010

Mozilla has announced the first ever Drumbeat Festival focused on learning, freedom, and the web. Mozilla wants you to save the dates November 4-5, as the festival is set to take place in Barcelona—also where the Open Ed Conference will be taking place from November 2-4. From the announcement:

Learning, freedom and the web are connected. This connection has huge potential. The technology and culture of the internet offer the raw material to put people in control of their own learning in a massive and transformative way. At the same time, teachers and learners can play a critical role in ensuring that these raw materials — and the internet as a whole — remain open and free.

This is the focus of Mozilla’s first annual Drumbeat Festival: gathering passionate and practical people who are experimenting, inventing, creating, exploring and building things at the intersection of learning, freedom and the web.

Drumbeat Festival 2010 will showcase people, ideas and projects with huge potential. Things like:

1. A secure ‘data backpack’ where students control their own learning materials and credentials
2. Libraries transformed into digital garages where kids learn to make, do and create with an agile, hacker attitude
3. Massively scaled apprenticeship, we people learn by diving into the world of open source master craftspeople
4. Hackerspaces where people teach each other about everything from robots to lasers to knitting
5. Alternative accreditation models based on web and open source peer review techniques

The idea is to gather people working on ideas like this — and people with all the puzzle pieces needed to make them real at a massive scale.

Creative Commons, along with the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, is partnering with Mozilla to make this event possible. For more information and to sign up to receive updates visit http://drumbeat.org/drumbeat_festival_2010.

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CC Talks With: Shareable Magazine

Jane Park, June 10th, 2010


Neal Gorenflo by Shareable | CC BY-NC-SA

Last week, Shareable—the online magazine about sharing culture—launched a survey asking you how much you share. The survey contributed to CC’s Catalyst Campaign, which is continuing through the month of June. This week, CC talks with Shareable co-founder and publisher, Neal Gorenflo.

The caption for Shareable is “Design for a shareable world.” “Design” is a huge buzz word nowadays — what do you mean by “design”? What is the purpose or mission of the magazine and how does it relate to openness?

The word “design” signals intent. We write about those who intentionally design for shareability, whether they be an entrepreneur creating a product service system like carsharing or a parent creating a babysitting co-op in their neighborhood. And we host discussion about how to make different facets of the world more shareable.

Like Creative Commons, Shareable acts on the idea that sharing is not merely nice, but essential to our ability to create, thus survive as a species. As in the digital world, so is it in the material world—our ability to change depends on sharing and openness.

Our mission at Shareable is to help people share. We write about the sharing lifestyle with lots of How-to’s. And we report on the emergence of a new society based on the logic of sharing to inspire action. We think sharing is one of the best ways to cope with the social, economic and environmental crises we face.

What led you to start Shareable? As the publisher, what exactly do you do?

I didn’t have a choice. I saw from the inside how the global economy worked. And how it felt to live out its value system. From these experiences, I saw that it was moving us toward collapse. I also wanted a better life for myself. I found the earn-and-spend-life meaningless, not to mention incredibly boring. I took a year off in 2004 to find a purpose for my life. That eventually lead to the founding of Shareable.

Wow, the title ‘publisher’ sounds old fashioned. Maybe I should change my title. Any suggestions? Whatever the title, my job is to attract talented people to the project and help them succeed. A lot of the time that means staying out of the way. But it also means raising money and helping our stakeholders reach consensus on important decisions.

Can you give us an example of a story that would be Shareable (aka particularly compelling for your magazine)?

Dude, Where’s Our Car? is the Hightower family’s struggle to survive the Great Recession, how they use sharing, not always enthusiastically at first, to create a new life, one with less stuff and more satisfaction. It talks about the surprising results of giving up the prized family car, the last vestige of their identity as high-powered consumers. It’s a Shareable classic because it’s a poignant story of transformation with practical how-to advice.

Shareable readers also value our social enterprise pieces like Would You Share Your Car With A Stranger?, which is about the rise of peer-to-peer car sharing. And our Shareable Cities series epitomized by Can Cities Be Designed for Happiness?.

Shareable is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA. Why did you guys go with this particular license? What does the CC license enable that traditional copyright cannot? How has CC changed or contributed to the sharing landscape?

We went with the CC BY-NC-SA license because not all of Shareable contributors are OK with commercial use of their work. Our CC license is incredibly useful. It gives anyone permission to share our work without needing to ask, which is exactly what we as a mission-driven nonprofit want our readers to do. So please dear readers, republish our stories!

Creative Commons has had a huge impact on sharing by making it cool, and for telling the sometimes scary truth in a capitalist society—that we need sharing to survive.

What’s this I hear about Shareable paying people $10 to take a survey, and that the money may be donated to Creative Commons or the Project for Public Spaces?

Yes, guilty as charged. Shareable and Latitude Research are doing what might be the first ever sharing industry survey. The point of the survey is to uncover actionable insight that can help accelerate the growth of the sharing industry.

Want to help? Then please take the survey. At the end of the survey, you can chose to donate your $10 incentive to Creative Commons.*

*Thanks to those of you who took the survey and donated $10 to CC’s Catalyst Campaign! Those who didn’t can still help out, or take the survey for fun here.

Are there any last thoughts you’d like to share with the CC community, or the world?

Sharing is the killer app. We live in a time of interrelated social, economic, and environmental crisis. We can not treat these crises separately. We need systemic interventions like sharing. Sharing is arguably the most effective form of resource use reduction, not to mention it can build social solidarity, alleviate poverty by increasing access to resources, and grow service jobs at home.

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CC Australia releases 3.0, explains improvements

Michelle Thorne, June 8th, 2010

Our CC jurisdiction teams are always hard at work on critical license maintenance and version upgrades. Currently, many of these talented local teams are adapting Version 3.0, released February 2007, to the laws and languages of more than 70 jurisdictions around the globe. Joining the jurisdictions that offer licenses at 3.0 is Creative Commons Australia, whose versioning process revealed important insights into the licenses and suggestions for future versions.

The Australian licenses already have their first significant adopter, the Australian Parliament. The Parliament’s central web portal http://www.aph.gov.au houses the most important documents of the Australian Federal Government including all bills, committee reports and, most importantly, the Hansard transcript of Parliamentary Sittings, and the portal will be published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND Version 3.0 Australian license.

Thanks so much to the CC Australia team, headed by Professor Brian Fitzgerald and Tom Cochrane and coordinated by Jessica Coates and Elliott Bledsoe at Queensland University of Technology, for their diligence and input. Congratulations!

From CC Australia:

The Australian v3.0 licences…have been developed over the last few years via a public consultation process. We thank all of those who provided feedback on the licences, particularly our colleagues at CC Aoteoroa New Zealand and within the Australian government and non-profit sectors.

Our main aims during the Australian v3.0 drafting process were to ensure that the new licences:

  • complied with Australian legal requirements and conventions;
  • aligned with the rights and restrictions of the Unported (ie non-country specific) licences provided by Creative Commons; and
  • were clear and easy for creators and users alike to read and understand.

Based on these aims, we made the following changes to the licences:

  • adapting the Unported formatting and language to bring them more in line with Australian law and drafting conventions – mainly by using localised definitions and introducing lists and headings;
  • simplifying some of the language, where this would not affect the legal interpretation of the licence – many of these simplifications were adopted from the recent version put together by our friends in New Zealand;
  • a few minor additions to clarify the operation of the licences in the Australian context, in response to feedback from our consultation process – these included clarifying how the licences operate with respect to sublicensing and adding language to ensure that the licences comply with the requirements of Australian consumer protection law.

We are happy to release these licences, which we believe provide clear, reasonable and legally sound options for creators and users alike and represent a new best practice standard for the CC licences in Australia. If you would like any more information about the licences please feel free to contact us at info@creativecommons.org.au. For more information on the versioning process contact the Creative Commons head office.

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Peer 2 Peer University’s Philipp Schmidt on paying for (CC) infrastructure

Mike Linksvayer, June 7th, 2010

Peer 2 Peer University co-founder and director Philipp Schmidt (see our posts on P2PU, a cutting-edge open education project) has written an excellent post on his Sharing Nicely blog about supporting our Catalyst Campaign:

Today Creative Commons launches their catalyst campaign – brother to the recently announced catalyst grant programme. I like how they connect the two – funding their work AND raising money at the same time. On one hand, they offer small grants for projects that further their vision, and with the other hand they politely ask for donations to support it. It creates a connection between the donation and the purpose of that donation, even if it’s a very loose connection.

Well put — though in this campaign, the connection is very tight, 1:1 — the funds we raise go directly to the small grants.

However, the reason for highlighting Philipp’s post here is that he raises several important points that anyone who cares deeply about Creative Commons may be interested in. The first is simply that CC is crucial infrastructure that must be supported:

CC’s work is a very important foundation of a lot of the open content / commons movement – and I don’t think it’s easy to raise the funds necessary to support it. Hal Plotkin asked this question after his keynote at the recent OCWC Global conference. How should and can something that provides an important, but not very glamorous (my words, not Hal’s, with apologies to my lawyer friends at CC) enabling service be supported financially? Funding for infrastructure is difficult to raise. It’s a little bit like raising money for TCP/IP or HTTP. Everyone will agree that it’s important and we all benefit from having it – but we all hope that someone else will pick up the tab. We rely on that friend of a friend who got rich on stock options, sold his company, or house – or simply inherited a lot of money.

Having grown up in a social democracy that offers high-quality infrastructure and services to (almost) all of its citizens, my immediate response is that infrastructure should be paid for by the state from tax income. I personally would welcome a small part of my tax payments to be used to support important infrastructure projects that enable free flow of knowledge and information. Even more so, now that I live in a country where access to knowledge is scarce and expensive. I believe such would be an excellent investment in future development and well-being of all citizens.

The problem with writing blog posts about topics like this is – you end up getting stuck in a dilemma. I have now explained that I think CC’s work is important, that I suspect many people fail to support it, and that the government should consider doing so. However, pending major adjustments in the political landscape of South Africa, that doesn’t really help anyone. So I went ahead and donated a little money to CC today.

Please join Philipp. But it’s ok to consider infrastructure glamorous, because it is. You’re with a cool crowd. That realizes the Internet breaking is extremely anti-glamor.

Ponte estaiada Octavio Frias - Sao Paulo
Gratuitous infrastructure glamor shot: Ponte estaiada Octavio Frias – Sao Paulo by Marcosleal / CC BY-SA

Philipp continues:

The benefit of donating is the perceived authority to ramble on a little bit longer, and say a few things about what CC are doing what I think could be improved. In order to do that I think its worth looking at the licences as a service (or even a product) that has to be sold to a particular audience and designing it in order to provide maximum value to that audience. What I mean by that is that there is a tendency for organizations to turn inwards – and in the case of CC that means pay more and more attention to the opinions of legal experts – rather than listen to the customers who don’t understand the legal details, and in most cases don’t give a rat’s hat. Here is what I’d like to see:

I would like to see fewer licences and fewer versions – but more certainty that the licence will hold up in court. I believe simplicity beats choice and legal finesse.

It’s absolutely worth looking at Creative Commons licenses as products that serve customers, and without doubt any organization that turns inwards, ignoring what its customers desire from its products is doomed. This isn’t what Creative Commons does.

Most users of Creative Commons licenses may not care to understand the legal details (but you can bet that many policymakers and the legal departments of institutions do), but their desire to see the licenses hold up in court requires that someone does — that’s Creative Commons’ job, and it requires paying attention to the opinions of legal experts — we must make the licenses work not just for a particular audience in a particular jurisdiction, but across many domains and globally. The strength of our legal resources — on staff, an amazing affiliate network, board, and pro-bono — is what allows most users to rationally not give a rat’s hat about the legal details involved.

So the listening to the opinions of legal experts is crucial, but so is listening to users. Philipp’s request for more simplicity, especially in the form of fewer licenses and versions therof, is not uncommon. Creative Commons is doing alright here — especially considering potential user requests for more narrowly targeted licenses are at least as common. Here are some examples of doing well:

  • In a little over four years from its launch late 2002, Creative Commons released four versions (1.0, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0) of its core licenses. In the last nearly three and a half years, no new versions have been released — and none will be for some time. A version 3.x was briefly discussed in late 2007 due to concerns brought up by Wikipedians; instead of rushing a new version, we listened very carefully and took a number of steps, none legal, to assure Wikipedians that CC would be an excellent steward of the license used by Wikipedia — with the successful result of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites migrating to CC BY-SA as their main content license last year.
  • In 2004 CC launched two sets of specialty copyright licenses — sampling and developing nations. None have been launched since then — and sampling and developing nations were retired in 2007.
  • The CC0 public domain waiver, launched last year raises the bar for generality of CC tools — it was designed to be universal from the beginning so that porting to different jurisdictions is not desired — and demonstrates the value of legal expertise — making a public domain dedication work globally (our first attempt launched in 2002 only targeted U.S. law) is no small task.
  • Since the launch of Creative Commons there has been little “license proliferation” for content (arguably there has been de-proliferation, as the pre-CC pioneers have recommended or facilitated using CC), surely in large part due to CC’s demonstrated competence.

It’s also worth noting that while CC has and does listen very carefully to particular audiences, maximizing value for any particular audience is not good enough. Maximizing the global value of the commons requires a focus on interoperability — furthered by both getting legal details right and non-proliferation.

Suggestions regarding how we do do even better encouraged. Philipp concludes with:

I would like to see CC separate its core business (the licences) more clearly from other programme areas and especially things that fall broadly into the fostering of “creativity (cultural, educational, scientific and other content) in the commons”. This separation should include budgets – so that donors can choose what activities their money ends up supporting. Don’t get me wrong, I think creativity should be supported, and probably in a fairly vague and flexible way, but I think part of the funding challenge for CC is that people, especially those who are making small donations, are comfortable funding the licences but might not be as comfortable with CC using their donation to foster “creativity”. That applies to me for example.

Supporting creativity in a vague and flexible way would be massive mission creep for Creative Commons. Even supporting the creation of CC-licensed works is out of scope, and the Catalyst Grants description of fundable work specifically calls this out. However, we do a significant amount of work that could be characterized as communications, education, marketing, advocacy, evangelism, business development, tool building, etc. to support license adoption. This is crucial work for Creative Commons to do for the licenses are much, much more valuable with massive adoption. There’s more useful work to do here than we can do directly — thus our priority on developing our affiliate network and other means of scaling Creative Commons’ impact without adding substantially to our core cost structure. That’s fundamentally what the Catalyst Campaign and Catalyst Grants are about — raising a little bit of money to spur capacity for growing CC adoption massively beyond what CC can do directly.

Supporting Creative Commons (and our current Catalyst Campaign in particular) is much more highly targeted than “supporting creativity” — but there isn’t a bright line between “funding the licenses” and funding work done to support and promote the licenses. I would argue there shouldn’t be. The licenses are great products that requires support and promotion to realize their potential — like any great product. Creative Commons is a small organization, and among our small staff, most have overlapping duties that support the licenses in multiple ways. We do work hard to deploy our limited resources in the most scalable way possible. We also understand that the licenses are critical infrastructure that must be kept up and defended even if funding dries up, so we do make contingency plans for such scenarios.

Hopefully this addresses some of Philipp’s excellent and reasonable concerns. Again, specific suggestions for how we can do better are strongly encouraged! Now please join Philipp and his colleagues at P2PU in supporting this work!

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