A look at CC’s Open Culture Roundtable in Lisbon

Brigitte Vézina
“Group photo at CC’s Open Culture Roundtable in Lisbon” licensed CC BY 4.0

As part of our Open Culture Program, we at Creative Commons (CC) are exploring avenues to build momentum towards a UNESCO Recommendation on Open Culture. On 11 May, 2023, we hosted our first in-person Open Culture event, in Lisbon, Portugal. In this blog post, we look back at the day’s highlights and map out next steps.


Over the past decade, the open movement has made incredible strides in the cultural sector — take a look at some of the pioneers — yet it is still facing major barriers and challenges. But challenges are opportunities in disguise. In September last year, UNESCO declared culture a global public good at Mondiacult 2022. With the successes of the 2019 UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources and 2021 Recommendation on Open Science, the world looks to UNESCO’s leadership to create the necessary international framework that would unlock the possibilities of equitable, ethical, and respectful sharing of cultural heritage in the digital age: a UNESCO Recommendation on Open Culture. For an explanation of useful terms related to open culture, take a look at the glossary developed by the CC open culture platform.

Meeting highlights

Recognizing that such an international instrument requires deliberative, inclusive community consultations, the in-person event focused on the foundational work of gathering community input. Structured around a co-created agenda and under the able guidance of Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, facilitators at Visual Confidence, just under 40 experts gathered to exchange views and open initial discussions on the need to realize open culture as a global public good. 

Participants came from far and wide across the open movement and beyond, spanning the fields of law, library science, policy, design, anthropology, history, museum curation, international organizations, and many others. Attending from CC’s team were Brigitte Vézina, Director of Policy and Open Culture; Connor Benedict, Open Culture Coordinator; Jennryn Wetzler, Director of Learning and Training; and Jocelyn Miyara, Open Culture Manager. 

During convivial, engaged, polyphonous and cross-pollinating conversations, we exchanged our diverse perspectives; explored potential common grounds on backgrounds and contexts, core issues, and key principles; built a common understanding of what we collectively want to achieve; and elaborated a skeleton of a shared vision for “open culture.” Issues discussed included the role of copyright over access to cultural heritage, the impact of artificial intelligence, the “platformization” of culture, a sense of a generational shift in the open movement, the need to account for ethical sharing, the economics of open culture, open beyond “GLAMs” (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), the need for diversity and inclusivity in global and local contexts (including traditional knowledge and Indigenous rights), a vision for open culture in 100 years, and a lot more!

Take a look at the meeting’s graphic record, offering a visual summary of the diverse perspectives that felt most resonant within our breakout groups and that surfaced in plenary debriefs.

A hand drawn flowchart depicts the agenda for the day with “Snap Shot: Visual Agenda” in a speech bubble at the top. Beginning at the top with a smiling face coming through a doorway; two stick figures greeting each other, and arrows pointing to our three movements as described in the caption. All of this leads to a globe encircled by arrows and an opening question “what are you here to help achieve?”
© Creative Commons / Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, CC BY 4.0

Our work together was organized in three flows or movements. Flow #1: Mapping our Collective Knowledge, Flow #2: Context Mapping, and Flow #3: Bold Steps. These movements were designed to help us gather our collective knowledge, and hold multiple perspectives and truths at the same time.

This graphic recording is a hand-drawn representation of our conversations. With a bold black line framing the box, there is a speech bubble around “#01 Flow” next to the words “History of Open Culture”. In the center of the diagram is a globe with Africa centered. Themes with doodles orbit the globe. Clockwise from the top - “focus on western references and achievements”, “Pessimism or optimism” with a question mark, “new opportunities emerging in a quickly changing context” with an arrow pointing away from the globe, “AI comes with risks and benefits” with two lap tops chatting with each other, “different places but together”, “Missing global south perspectives” with speech bubbles, one colored orange, “negative actors: lack of clarity and infrastructure…risk of being illegal when working within open culture” with a skull and crossbones saying “who owns what?”, “History can mean many things” with a timeline, and “focus on ownership and access”.
© Creative Commons / Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, CC BY 4.0

In our first flow, participants were divided into five groups to discuss the History of Open Culture, and then came back together to identify key themes. This is a visual representation of some themes that were discussed, including ownership, western references and achievements, emerging opportunities in a quickly changing context, missing global south perspectives and the emergence of AI with its risks and benefits.

This graphic recording is a hand-drawn representation of our conversations. With a bold black line framing the box, there is a speech bubble around “#02 Flow” next to the words “Context Mapping”. In the center of the diagram is a piece of paper with the words “open culture” and a globe with arrows pointing to it. Around the piece of paper are the themes discussed with doodles to accompany them. Themes include “What’s the role of open culture?” with an arrow to “clear goals”, “who uses OPEN”, “blurriness around legal safety”, “AI concerns - what/how/where/when”, “Need to expand memory institutions”, “emergent technologies”, “activism: direct, hacker, subvert platformization”, “Digital barbershops”, “what is info literacy?”, “build bridges” written in the shape of a bridge, “How do we accommodate all the different needs” with a big drawn question mark, “internet know how”, “false!! Universality”, “NB boundaries for the greater goods”, “bad actors”, “license trolls”, “the traps of open: ethical concerns to fuzzy times..” with an open eyeball, “more access but gated” with a drawn wall with a gate, “identifying gaps” with arrows to “technical knowledge, generational, stakeholder needs”, “the rise of conservatism and its affects on culture”, “what are we supposed to do” with arrows to “choosing battles, allies in other forms of monopoly, ethics of open culture needs an update”.
© Creative Commons / Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, CC BY 4.0

In Flow #2, groups met again to discuss the context around open culture, including the political climate, internal and outside trends, economic climate, tech factors, stakeholder needs and uncertainties. A few major themes were the desire to build bridges, the need to accommodate diverse needs of diverse stakeholders, the desire to identify what our shared goals are and to better define the role of open culture.

This graphic recording is inside a bold black framed box, with a speech bubble at the top “#03 Flow” surrounded by “Bold steps…towards open culture”. Underneath is a sun rising on the horizon with a road narrowing towards it. Surrounding this are all some of the major themes with doodles accompanying them. “What are the opportunities for cultural change”, “bold steps are also known steps'' with a stick figure going up a staircase, “Assumption that we have shared values and sense of urgency”, “we can be more ambitious” with a stick figure atop an exclamation mark holding a sign that says “copyrights”, “strong opinions on platforms” surrounding a stack of flat rectangles, “meeting with more diverse stakeholders”, “UNESCO global fair use recommendation for culture; ethics open to local interpretation”, “TAX the RICH: taxation that supports cultural creation”, “need of different voices still…” with a heart drawing, “need for economic resources” with a big exclamation mark, “long term intentionality: centuries vs. decades vs. 100 year strategies”, on a theater stage “power of cultural literacy” on top and “space for telling stories” on the stage, a laptop with the words “investment for building different infrastructure” on its screen, “we don't’ really know why we really want open culture”, a venn diagram with private and public in two circles and “division between” below - “can we build sustainable and reliable relationships?”, a three-part venn diagram encircled by the worlds “partnerships with private sector” surrounding it and “can there be detachment from commercial interests” below. “Commercial platforms role in cultural creation” with a stick figure standing on an exclamation mark with an open eye above, “limited liability for cultural heritage institutions/public interest institutions”.
© Creative Commons / Abdul Dube and Mona Ebdrup, CC BY 4.0

In our third and final flow, we discussed “Bold Steps toward Open Culture”. By focusing on our values, supports, and challenges, we discussed what bold steps we might make toward our shared vision of the future of Open Culture. Major themes included discussions around partnerships between public and private actors; division between public and private interests and the need to build sustainable and reliable relationships, need for economic resources to support open, and the desire to meet with more diverse stakeholders.

Participants appreciated the opportunity to meet peers and build new relationships, and got a sense of the possibilities of going down a common path together. While in-person meetings such as this cannot include all of the perspectives needed, participants noted the value of in-person discussions to probe various approaches to open culture deeply. We aim to offer additional avenues to include more perspectives in follow-up activities.

Here’s what some of the participants shared about their experience: 

“The CC Open Culture Roundtable was an opportunity to meet and engage with open culture experts and advocates around the world and see how, despite the many contextual differences, there are meaningful ways for us to collaborate and shape nuanced, context-mindful perspectives for projects and policies aiming at a shared and open culture.”

Mariana Valente, Assistant Professor in law, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and Associate Director, InternetLab (Brazil).


“It was a great opportunity to hold first discussions about the initiative, and it allowed me to reflect on possible options further.” 

Gašper Hrastelj, Secretary General, Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO


“The CC Open Culture Roundtable was a perfect opportunity to meet in person to discuss Open Culture, and it allowed me to enlarge my view and learn other perspectives.”

Deborah de Angelis, Chapter Lead, Creative Commons Italy


The CC Open Culture Roundtable was a great opportunity to meet people from diverse organizations and parts of the world, and it allowed me to see different perspectives on IP and ‘openness’ as a concept and movement.”

Matt Voigts, Copyright and Open Access Policy Officer, IFLA


“It was an excellent opportunity to bring different open culture stakeholders together and reignite and expand important discussions among them. And it allowed me to reflect on the possibilities in my reach to contribute more effectively to the progress of open culture, both locally and globally.”

Fátima São Simão, Chapter Lead, Creative Commons Portugal


“It was an inspiring opportunity to share ideas of the open culture and notice that there are a lot of people trying to solve similar questions from different angles, and it allowed me to meet many new and interesting people and to enjoy working together.”

Johanna Lilja, Director of Services, National Library of Finland, and IFLA Cultural Heritage Advisory Board


“For me, it was an opportunity to do a historical reflection exercise where we were able to look at how we have grown as a movement. And it allowed me to collaborate in the construction of a more or less common concept or idea of what is understood in different corners of the world as “open culture”. It also allowed me to connect with people who are doing amazing projects.”

Ivan Martinez, Coordinator, Creative Commons Mexico


“The CC Open Culture Roundtable was a first step on a exploratory journey on how GLAMs could be better supported through open approaches to public domain material. It allowed me to understand the diversity of stakeholders’ perspectives on the issue.”

Lutz Möller, Deputy Secretary-General, German National Commission for UNESCO


“The CC Open Culture Roundtable was a pitstop for ongoing discussions around the importance of open culture, and it allowed me to reconnect to the wider international community.”

Maarten Zeinstra, Owner, IP Squared and Member, Creative Commons Netherlands


“It was firstly a chance to meet people who are actively involved in the movement, particularly from different contexts, it allowed me to better see somewhat paradoxically the boundaries of open culture, and have the space to start to think about what openness means for knowledges outside of the legal frameworks of IP.”

Abira Hussein, Advisor, Whose (Digital) Archives? and Lab Partner, GLAM-E Lab


“The CC Open Culture Roundtable was a warm gathering of fellow travelers and it allowed us to imagine new ways to act together.”

Fiona Romeo, Senior Manager, Culture and Heritage, Wikimedia Foundation 

Next steps

We are excited to take the outcomes of our Lisbon event forward. We are already planning to continue the conversation at the CC Summit in Mexico in October, and hopefully at GLAM Wiki 2023 in Montevideo, Uruguay in November this year. We will also organize multiple virtual opportunities to contribute as we engage more community members in our work on open culture.

Interested in knowing more about CC’s work in the field of open culture? Join our open culture platform or write to us at info@creativecommons.org