Mike Linksvayer

Mozilla Public License 2.0

Mike Linksvayer, January 3rd, 2012

Congratulations to Mozilla on the release of the Mozilla Public License 2.0 after a two year versioning process. As Mozilla chair Mitchell Baker writes “Version 2.0 is similar in spirit to the previous versions, but shorter, better, and more compatible with other Free Software and Open Source Licenses.”

MPL 1.1 is one of the more popular free and open source software licenses, most famously used for Mozilla’s own Firefox browser. That MPL 2.0 is now compatible with the GPL, the most popular free and open source software license, is a big step forward for software. Why? Read Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else. which we link to in our FAQ explaining why CC licenses shouldn’t be used for software (except CC0). But the principle of lessening incompatibility among licenses is a general one, and applies to licenses used for cultural and scientific works, public sector information, databases, and more, as well as software. Thus one of our highlighted goals for version 4.0 of the CC license suite:

Interoperability – maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;

This is a difficult goal, requiring long-term thinking and collaboration with other license stewards. We have a number of other goals for version 4.0 of the CC license suite as all; we hope the cumulative effect will make for a much better license suite than 3.0. Of course each license (e.g., BY-SA) will also remain similar in spirit. Shorter? We’ll see, balanced with everything else.

As the MPL 2.0 announcement notes, numerous people made valuable contributions to the development of that license. Possibly a first for a software license, even making the license look nice was addressed — something CC thinks is important, and another opportunity for people with different skills to help make licenses more useful. With a far greater diversity of projects using CC licenses, our need for community-wide feedback is even greater. We urge you to get involved in the CC 4.0 process.

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Urgent: more action needed to stop SOPA

Mike Linksvayer, December 14th, 2011

Update 12/16

The hearings are still going on; please keep calling, emailing, and otherwise spreading the word!


Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will debate and potentially vote on SOPA, the Internet Blacklist bill that would break the Internet.

Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have compiled a list of 12 actions you can take now to stop SOPA.

Do them.


Soon you’ll find a huge banner at the top of every page on the CC site protesting SOPA. The Wikimedia community is considering a blackout to bring massive attention to the danger posed by SOPA. Many others are taking action. What are you doing?

For background on the bill, why it would be especially bad for the commons, and links for news, check out our previous post calling for action against SOPA and a detailed post from Wikimedia’s General Counsel.

Finally, remember that CC is crucial to keeping the Internet non-broken in the long term. The more free culture is, the less culture has an allergy to and deathwish for the Internet. We need your help too. Thanks!

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

Mike Linksvayer, November 11th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license enforced in Germany

Mike Linksvayer, September 15th, 2011

The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (BY-SA) has been enforced by a judicial injunction in Germany. Legal analysis will be added to our case law database in the coming days. Till Jaeger reported the case (in German; English machine translation) at ifrOSS (Institut für Rechtsfragen der Freien und Open Source Software), where one may also find a PDF scan of the ruling. John Hendrik Weitzmann of CC Germany has provided an English translation of the ruling, below.

Thilo Sarrazin am 3. Juli 2009
Thilo Sarrazin am 3. Juli 2009 by Nina Gerlach / CC BY-SA
The photo at left was used without providing attribution to the photographer and without providing notice of the license used, both core requirements of all CC licenses. This is an exciting ruling for CC, as the attribution and notice requirements are very clearly stated and upheld.

Additionally, we have been permitted to reveal that the defendant was a far-right party. This is somewhat ironic, given that an occasional objection to using a CC license is that one’s work could be exploited by Nazis (or other extremely objectionable parties). Of course the defendants could have correctly complied with the license (if they were smart and diligent enough), but then CC licenses contain further protections for reputation and integrity.

The photographer and plaintiff, Nina Gerlach, is an active editor of German Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects (all of which use BY-SA as their default license), and a member of Wikimedia Germany, where her spouse, Mathias Schindler is employed. The case was handled by Till Jaeger (who wrote about the case at ifrOSS, see above), a partner at the law firm JBB and a widely recognized expert in open licenses.

Gerlach said “I wanted to support the concept of free licenses that give permission for everybody to use content but come with a set of requirements, such as attribution.” She will donate any damages awarded by the court if there is money left in the end, and has already donated 100 euro to a project that created public domain and freely licensed songbooks for kindergartens.

Creative Commons is once again pleased that among millions of uses of its licenses, the courts are rarely involved — the licenses allow licensors and licensees to easily avoid transaction costs, let alone the costs of court. We are equally pleased that when a case involving a CC license is taken to court, whether to uphold the rights of the licensor (as in this case) or the licensee, that courts have held that the licenses are enforceable copyright licenses as one would expect.

English translation of ruling

Key

ZPO is the civil proceedings act,
UrhG is the Urheberrechtsgesetz (copyright act),
BGH is the Federal Supreme Court,
KG is the Berlin Supreme Court,
GRUR, NJW and WRP are journals,
to “credibly show” something is roughly to establish prima facie evidence.

Translation and key provided by John Hendrik Weitzmann

PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION RULING

In the preliminary injunction matter

of Ms. …
Applicant,

- Proceedings Representatives:
JBB Lawyers,
Christinenstraße 18/19, 10119 Berlin,-

against

the …
represented by its chairman
Defendant,

it is commanded by way of preliminary injunction, due to special exigency without oral hearing, according to s. 935 ff., 91 ZPO:

1. The Defendant is, in order to avoid a penalty to be ordained by the Court for every case of non-compliance of up to 250.000,00 EUR, alternatively arrest for disobedience to court orders, or an arrest of up to six months, the latter to be executed in the person of the party chairman, prohibited, to reproduce and/or make publicly available the following photo without naming the creator and adding the license text or its full internet address corresponding to the license terms of the Creative Commons license “Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported”:

[photo of Thilo Sarrazin]

2. The Defendant has to bear the costs of the proceedings.

3. The proceedings value is set to 4.000,00 EUR.

Rationale:

I.
The Applicant has credibly shown the following:

She has created the photo mentioned in the decision and released it for further use under the terms of the so-called Creative Commons license “Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported”. According to these terms, in case of use the creator must be named and there must be either a copy of the license text attached or the full internet address in the form of the Uniform Resource Identifier must be provided. The Defendant published the photo on its website under the address www.die-rechte.info without giving the aforementioned information. The applicant first took notice of the publication on September 9th 2010.

II.
This triggers the urgent entitlement to injunctive relief according to s. 97 ss. 1 in combination with s. 19a UrhG.

The photo enjoys copyright protection as a photographic work in the meaning of s. 2 ss. 1 No. 5 UrhG or as a photograph in the meaning of s. 72 UrhG. As the Defendant put the photo on its website while in breach of the aforementioned license terms, this constituted a use not covered by the permission of the Applicant and thus an unlawful use in the meaning of s. 97 ss. 1 UrhG.

The risk of recurrent infringement as a prerequisite for the entitlement follows from the occurrence of the breach; the risk could have been dispelled only by a declaration under penalty of law to cease and desist (BGH GRUR 1985, 155, 156 = NJW 1985, 191, 191 – Penalty up to … ! – mentioning further sources).

A preliminary ruling seems also “necessary” in the meaning of s. 940 ZPO, because the Applicant cannot be expected to tolerate a possible further infringement of her rights until main proceedings are run.

The set value of the proceedings equals two thirds of the value of the main proceedings (see KG WRP 2005, 368, 369).

Dr. Scholz Klinger von Bresinsky

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Celebrating Freesound 2.0, retiring Sampling+ licenses

Mike Linksvayer, September 12th, 2011

Freesound is a collaborative database of nearly 120,000 sounds. We first posted about the project in 2005. Freesound specializes in sounds, not songs, and those sounds have been used thousands of times from ccMixter remixes to a major motion picture.

The project has just launched a complete rewrite of its site, with a new, modern look, and a new, modern codebase that will enable the project to grow and add features over the coming years. Congratulations to Bram and the entire Freesound community! Hop over and get involved.

Freesound 2.0 also brings a long-awaited licensing migration, which the rest of this post delves into. Later in 2005, we interviewed Freesound project leader Bram de Jong:

CC: What led you to mandate use of a CC license for all samples in Freesound?

BdJ: Simply because the creative commons licenses are clear licenses, well thought of, well documented and above all quite modular. We doubted a long time about which license to choose, and in the end decided to go with Sampling+. In retrospect we chose wrong, and we’re planning to ask our users to switch to Attribution/Attribution-NonCommercial, but that’s a bit further in the future.

In 2006 the project started a poll which would inform the eventual license migration:

A large fraction (37%) of the community also wanted a public domain option (and fortunately we launched the CC0 public domain dedication in the interim). The image below shows what the Freesound 2.0 license migration options look like for existing users:

We expect this migration to result in greatly increased use of Freesound-hosted sounds, and of Freesound itself, especially to the extent users choose to migrate to CC0 and CC Attribution — this will be the first time Freesound samples will be available under fully free terms, and thus usable by anyone for any purpose, including massively in massively collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, which insists on such terms.

Creative Commons is taking this opportunity to retire the Sampling+ license, as well as the NonCommercial-Sampling+ license (the latter was not used by Freesound, nor by any major project, and probably should have been retired years ago). For a big picture explanation of why we’re retiring these licenses, and why now, see the following text from an email explaining plans for retirement to the Creative Commons board of directors:

[In 2007] we retired the sampling and devnations licenses due to low usage and failing to permit a minimum of noncommercial verbatim distribution worldwide (retirement means we don’t recommend use for new works and add to http://creativecommons.org/retiredlicenses — the deeds and legalcode stay up forever for anyone already using them).

It is approaching time to retire the sampling+ and nc-sampling+ licenses due to low usage and lack of interoperability with the six main CC licenses. We’ve further come to understand the importance of interoperability and clarity. While niche licenses in theory could attract more creators do the commons by addressing specific needs, they detract from the commons by subdividing it into incompatible pools and making the commons harder to understand.

The only major site using sampling+ (there are none of significance using nc-sampling+) is Freesound, a sound sample repository. Freesound 2.0 will be launched, with CC0 as the recommended option, but also support for BY and BY-NC, and a push to ask contributors to re-license (or dedicate to the public domain) previous uploads. We intend to retire the sampling+ licenses in conjunction with the launch of Freesound 2.0, giving that important community the respect and attention it deserves while at the same time demonstrating our continued rigorous commitment to an interoperable commons.

If you’re interested in even more details concerning why Sampling+ was not right for Freesound, and right for Creative Commons to retire, continue reading…

After the initial suite of 11 CC licenses (cut back to 6 in version 2.0) was launched in late 2002, it wasn’t clear that CC shouldn’t create even more licenses to address particular niches. Those following the free and open source software world knew that “license proliferation” had a bad name, but the world outside software is very diverse, so CC explored, including an education-specific license (never developed, which was just the right thing, as CC’s standard licenses have turned out to work just great for learning materials), a license which only granted broad permissions in the developing world (retired, see link above), and perhaps most interestingly, a remix-only license, at one point briefly be called the Recombo license (a tribute to CC’s popularity in Brazil), in the end launched as the Sampling license.

The Sampling license was on one hand very restrictive — it did not permit any verbatim distribution — a CC license that did not permit simple sharing(!) — but on the other hand, permitted commercial use of licensed works, provided they were used transformatively. In theory, such a license could be very good for the commons. It might encourage conservative entities to license some works in a way that would not sanction their bugaboos such as P2P filesharing, but could ultimately be incorporated into free works through remixing.

Sampling was never widely used, perhaps because lack of allowing verbatim sharing just broke too many use cases — including CC’s. When WIRED did its magnificent issue on CC, featuring prominent artists using the new license to promote remix, not being able to share the verbatim originals would have made a site like ccMixter (launched with the issue) rather unwieldy. So CC created the Sampling+ license, the plus noting that it added permission to share verbatim copies.

However, this process resulted in one of the oddities that made it very hard to remember how Sampling+ worked: it only allowed non-commercial verbatim sharing, but at the same time, it allowed commercial use if transformative. This is one instance in which CC’s practice of developing a simple machine-readable description of its licenses alerted us that something was amiss. The flat CC REL statements permits Distribution and prohibits CommercialUse would not be adequate for describing Sampling+. We were forced to define a new permission, Sharing, which we defined as non-commercial distribution. This allowed us to say Sampling+ permits DerivativeWorks and leave out prohibits CommercialUse, which would be too broad. This exercise wasn’t enough to stop Sampling+, but it did highlight another (in addition to helping computers facilitate discovery and use of licensed works) use case for machine-readable license descriptions — informing the development of licenses (and other legal tools; such an exercise was helpful in defining the scope of the Public Domain Mark) themselves.

Some of the artists (or their management) involved in the WIRED CD did not want to permit any sort of commercial use, thus we created the NonCommercial-Sampling+ license. The WIRED CD and issue and launch of ccMixter were each huge successes and major milestones for CC. However, the Sampling licenses themselves proved to be a nearly instant “legacy” problem. In 2005 ccMixter discouraged their use in favor of CC Attribution and Attribution-NonCommercial and as the interview above shows, Freesound knew that was the right move almost immediately as well. Please read Victor Stone’s delightful ccMixter memoir for a history of that project, including licensing.

For completeness, it’s worth noting a couple other problems the Sampling licenses had, in addition to Sampling’s not allowing verbatim sharing (the reason it was retired in 2007) and Sampling+’s hard to remember commercial/non-commercial mix.

All of the Sampling licenses only allow adaptations that make “partial” and “highly transformative” uses of the original. This caused three sub-problems: (1) for some short works, samples on Freesound in particular, “highly transformative” and (especially) “partial” use potentially severely limits natural uses of the works; (2) these conditions are fairly open to interpretation — had any of the Sampling licenses been very popular, “what is transformative/partial” would be another consuming question, a la non-commercial; and (3) it is not clear just how much the Sampling licenses permitted beyond what one can (or at least ought be able to) do based on copyright exceptions and limitations such as fair use.

Finally, the Sampling and Sampling+ licenses also have a complete prohibition on advertising and promotional use (except for promoting the work and artist themselves), which resulted in four sub-problems: (1) prohibition of such a broad class of uses greatly limits the value of the commercial use permission, and considering “promotional”, even many otherwise non-commercial uses; (2) what constitutes advertising or promotion?; (3) limitation to non-promotional uses accentuates the question above about what is permitted above and beyond default exceptions and limitations; and (4) the Sampling and Sampling+ licenses are not compatible with any of the 6 main CC licenses — one can’t incorporate a work under Sampling or Sampling+ into a work distributed under one of the 6 main CC licenses, as none of them, even those with the NonCommercial term have a complete prohibition on advertising, let alone all promotional uses.

Obviously CC has become much more focused on interoperability since its beginning — we have released no new niche licenses since 2004, and as of today, have retired all of those. Version 4.0 of the main CC licenses will present another opportunity to take a hard look at interoperability, and fix any rough edges we might find, with your help. If you’re interested, please join the discussion virtually or at its kickoff later this month in Warsaw.

If you’ve read this far, now take a break and check out Freesound 2.0.

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Dossier on EU sound recording copyright extension

Mike Linksvayer, September 6th, 2011

Creative Commons was launched in the aftermath of a retroactive copyright term extension in the U.S. and during a challenge to that extension, a challenge that economist Milton Friedman called a no brainer — a retroactive term extension cannot possibly incent the creation of new works, while at the same time it must rob the public domain.
Since its launch in 2002, Creative Commons has made tremendous strides in fostering the commons. In the last few years, policymakers have increasingly seen the value of making commons a default, e.g., where public information or public interest funding is involved. However, new retroactive copyright term extensions show that public policy continues to be far removed from the public interest — as is the case now with sound recording in the European Union.

The following text is by John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany and co-author of a new dossier on the EU sound recording copyright extension.


This week and next week will bring defining moments in European copyright policy. The efforts to retrospectively extend the term for related rights in sound recordings to 70 years, halted since 2009 by not finding the necessary majority in the Council of the EU, will probably be approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels tomorrow.

COREPER prepares the Council’s meeting on Sept 12th, which will without much doubt follow COREPERs preparation and pass the term extension. It will then become EU law even though both, the EU Commission that made the proposal and the EU Parliament that amended and passed it, are no longer in office.

The recent developments have largely been behind closed doors, until Denmark, Portugal and Finland indicated earlier this year that they would no longer oppose the extension. Now the proposal is being pushed to the Council again in an up-speed process.

As the most renowned copyright scholars from Cambridge to Amsterdam and Munich have pointed out again and again, such an extension will severely hurt Europe’s cultural diversity, its innovative potential and the preservation of its cultural heritage. All this in order to help four international corporations to squeeze marginal extra revenue from a fraction of the recordings of the 20th century (the 60s). The session musicians, being the group that the extension move purportedly is meant to support, are going to at best receive between 1 and 2 percent of the cake, extremely biased towards already highly successful artists like Sir Cliff Richard, a tireless campaigner for term extension. This prospect has been proven through economical and legal analysis. Academia has told the EU Commission about this in independent studies, has told the public in the Bournemouth Declaration and the Joint Academic Statement on Term Extension.

To no avail, the only ever reaction was discernible when the EU Parliament in 2009 lowered the Commission proposal’s 95 year term to 70 years and added some side provisions to counter the rights holders dominance in favour of artists. These provisions are well-meant but will not solve the distribution problem, as again was proven by academic experts. Above that, these provisions being added is ‘sold’ to the European public as being possible only if the term extension is passed. This is false. For example, as the Joint Academic Statement points out, the so called use-it-or-lose-it provision is a regular part of the German copyright code since decades ago and was introduced without any connection to a retrospective term extension.

With support by the Wikimedia Foundation, iRights.info has now compiled (blog post in German) a “Dossier on Term Extension for Related Rights in Sound Recordings”. It explains background, timeline and arguments made around the extension plans and is available in German and English.

A broad coverage of what is happening is needed all across Europe. The dossier can be sent around and built upon, it is licensed under CC BY 3.0 Germany and any re-use is highly appreciated.

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[Re-]Introducing Greg Grossmeier, Education Technology & Policy Coordinator

Mike Linksvayer, July 21st, 2011

Greg Grossmeier was a CC intern, community assistant, and for the last year and a half, a volunteer fellow. He is rejoining CC staff as Education Technology and Policy Coordinator, initially focused on the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative.


How did you get involved in CC initially?

It all started back when I was a student at the University of Michigan School of Information working with the fledgling Open.Michigan initiative (of which current CC staff member Tim Vollmer was one of the founders). Open.Michigan is the initiative at the University of Michigan that helps faculty, students, and staff share their educational material with the world as OER (Open Educational Resources). I was drawn to this project primarily because it aligned with my background as a member of the Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) community. As I saw in the FLOSS world, our ability as creators of useful objects such as software and educational material to share these objects with each other in a way that allows them to not only read them, but also build upon them, is changing the way we interact with the world. One part of this ability is the legal assurance that you will not be sued for building upon someone else's work. This is where my interest, and involvement, with Creative Commons got its start.

I was an intern under the amazing Jon Phillips (rejon) during the summer of 2008 then stayed on as a Community Assistant for the next year. I continued my outreach as an unpaid fellow traveling to conferences until coming back to Creative Commons full-time.

Education Technology & Policy Coordinator, that's a mouthful. What does that mean? How does it relate to the work of other CC staff?

It is a mouthful! It means that I am the person you should talk to if you are working in the world of education, specifically Open Education, and have questions regarding integrating or consuming metadata, license choice and its ramifications, or any other legal, technical, or policy issue. This work dovetails nicely with the work being spearheaded by Tim Vollmer, Policy Coordinator, as I am focusing my time mostly in the education and technology realm while Tim also works on issues such as government data sharing and funder policy. I will be sort of a bridge between the CC technology team (note we’re hiring a CTO) and the policy and legal people, and a liaison for technology/policy discussions externally. My new boss is Cable Green, Director of Global Learning, who holds the big picture of how to scale OER.

I’m also looking forward to seeing how my new role can support and be informed by the work of the many OER leaders in the worldwide CC affiliate network.

You've been a copyright specialist at MLibrary for two years. There's a ton of cool stuff coming out of MLibrary. Tell us about that.

At MLibrary I worked for the Copyright Office which, contrary to what Melissa Levine’s (our fearless leader’s) title of "Copyright Officer" may imply, is not the copyright cop of the university. Instead, much of what I did was outreach and education on how faculty, students, and staff can share their scholarly works more broadly. This included issues of data sharing, open education, and open access publishing.

Specific to the library, the Copyright Office spearheaded the change of default CC license on the MLibrary website from CC Attribution-NonCommercial to CC Attribution. I hope that our reasoning for making the switch, which I outlined in a blog post, will help other galleries, libraries, archives, or museums (GLAM-institutions) adopt a similar license choice.

It is also about time for this year's Copyright Camp which is put on by MPublishing (the division within MLibrary that the Copyright Office resides). Copyright Camp is an unconference on all things copyright; from libraries to musicians, policy to practice, even education to robots!

Along with our outreach efforts, the Copyright Office also manages important projects at MLibrary including a new one concerning "orphan works."

So your most recent project is this orphan works thing, say more…

"Orphan works" are works (nominally books in our case) that are still under copyright but the copyright holder is not findable and/or contactable. These works are thus still unable to be legally reused without permission but there is no one to ask permission to reuse them.

With the leadership of Melissa and the help of my coworker Bobby Glushko, I built the process that powers the Orphan Works Project. The goal of the MLibrary Orphan Works Project is to either find the work's copyright holder OR determine that they are truly an orphan and make them available to users of MLibrary. (If you are a copyright holder of any works in the MLibrary collection, please fill out the form available on the project website.)

One could characterize part of the orphan works problem as one of a lack of metadata, or works with inadequate provenance. In a way, CC is mitigating future orphan works issues by making it easy for metadata to travel with works on the web.

You mentioned metadata and provenance, what excites you about the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative?

LRMI excites me because it will finally allow all of the hard work being done by the various online education projects (open or not) to correctly tag their works with important information (such as license, audience, subject, learning outcomes, etc) to be indexed and exposed by popular search engines. Currently we have a smorgasbord of education-specific search engines that attempt to give learners access to the world's knowledge but they routinely fall short due to technical limitations. If the metadata applied to these resources is consumed and used by popular search engines, learning management software, and even the student's own computer then, I hope, big advances in education can be made more easily.

How can people get involved in LRMI?

There is a Call for Participation (CfP) and more information on the LRMI project wiki page that has all of the details.

You're also a technologist, not just a metadata technologist — no disrespect to the meta! What do you do with the Ubuntu community?

The Ubuntu community was the first FLOSS community I felt at home in. When I moved to Michigan for graduate school there was no local community team (aka "LoCo" in Ubuntu parlance) so I took it upon myself to create one. Little did I know that there was a wonderful group of individuals waiting for something like this and the team took off. The Michigan LoCo Team has since been your go-to group for Ubuntu (and FLOSS) related activities including release parties and bug and packaging jams. During graduate school when I should have been studying for exams or writing papers I spent a lot of my Ubuntu/FLOSS time reporting and triaging bugs.

Do you see underplayed opportunities for CC and OER communities to leverage Ubuntu and other FLOSS communities and vice versa? Or instances that we just know more about?

Everywhere. The FLOSS community is first and foremost a sharing or gift economy. This aligns well with the OER community (as I said before). There are many FLOSS projects that are primarily developed to be used in OER (such as the OERbit publishing platform and OERca content management system from Open.Michigan) that could have far greater impact when applied to non-institution specific endeavors.

I also firmly believe that some of the sticking points holding wide spread adoption of OER back can be addressed using software, and specifically FLOSS. Examples of this are the Open Attribute browser plugin that makes attributing CC-licensed works dead simple, the Open Badges platform being created by Mozilla that will help online learners record and display their efforts, and AcaWiki which aims to make high-quality scholarly article summaries available in every discipline. These are all great projects to get involved with from both the education side and the software side, if you are looking for something to contribute to in your free time!


In addition to following Greg’s work on the Creative Commons blog, you can follow Greg on identi.ca and twitter.

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Call for Participation: Learning Resource Metadata Initiative technical Working Group

Mike Linksvayer, July 18th, 2011

Or for short, LRMI tech WG CFP.

Read on for some exciting details about the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, which we announced last month in collaboration with the Association of Educational Publishers.


The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) to create a common metadata vocabulary for describing learning resources is seeking the participation of education metadata experts to participate in a technical Working Group over the next 6-12 months.

Spurred by the growing need to make online learning resources more discoverable and the opportunity created by the launch of schema.org (a Bing/Google/Yahoo! project to develop and encourage use of metadata vocabularies which can be used to enhance search results), LRMI has been formed. Its goals, in brief:

  • Document an abstract vocabulary representing the most common descriptions of learning resources used by existing educational metadata standards (e.g., Learning Object Metadata), by online publishers of learning resources (whether a machine-readable vocabulary is used or not), and addressing the contemporary desire to link learning resources to learning outcomes (e.g., Achievement Standards Network).
  • Create a concrete expression of the abstract vocabulary for use within the schema.org hierarchy. Given this deployment target and the motivation to increase discoverability, utility for enhancing search queries and results will be a desired property for each term in the abstract vocabulary.
  • Create a concrete expression of the abstract vocabulary as RDF, for interoperability with other applications and existing vocabularies. This drives another desired property for abstract vocabulary terms — to mirror the semantics of existing education matadata vocabularies to the extent possible, so that explicit equivalences and refinements may be established, protecting existing investments in educational metadata made by publishers and curators of learning resources and by institutions to date.
  • Liaise with search engines, learning resource publishers, communities, and repositories, and other potential distributors and consumers of education metadata (e.g., Learning Management Systems vendors, National Learning Registry) to promote adoption and impact of the vocabulary.
  • Explain the impact, value, and use cases of a common education metadata vocabulary to the general public, decision-, and policy-makers.

In order to ensure that LRMI hits a “sweet spot” of addressing real learning resource publishing practices, the requirements of search engines, and interoperability with existing education metadata (and hence achieves widespread adoption by publishers, repositories, and search and other application developers), we require the active engagement of experts in the field. Thus we are issuing this Call For Participation:

Technical Working Group members wanted to participate in researching and writing LRMI vocabulary and expressions. Tentatively weekly teleconferences, two face to face meetings. Commitment averages 2hrs/week over 6-9 months. This is a volunteer commitment. However, we do have funding for travel to face to face meetings if required.

LRMI’s work will occur in public. One does not need to participate in the Working or Advisory groups to follow, comment on, and contribute to LRMI. All interested parties are encouraged to join the LRMI Google Group/mailing list.

Please direct interest in Working group participation privately to lrmi@creativecommons.org, or if you wish, to the public mailing list.

We strongly encourage interest from around the world. Educational metadata efforts have historically arisen from various parts of the world, and improving discoverability and interoperability of learning resources is truly a worldwide challenge and opportunity.

Prospective timeline (2011-2012)

July 18:

  • publish CFP

August 1

  • announce initial WG
  • first WG teleconference
  • preliminary findings on existing education metadata vocabularies and real world use

late August/September:

  • first WG F2F
  • request domain expert and list feedback on findings re existing education metadata vocabularies and real world use

September

  • publish findings on existing metadata vocabularies and real world use
  • request domain expert and list feedback on first rough draft of abstract vocabulary

October

  • publish first draft of abstract vocabulary
  • request domain expert and list feedback on schema.org and RDF expression first rough draft

November

  • second draft of abstract vocabulary; release candidate pending bugs found in developing schema.org and RDF expressions
  • submit schema.org expression to first stage of to be determined schema.org process
  • work intensively with early adopters

December-January

  • finalize abstract vocabulary, schema.org and RDF expressions
  • finalize list of launch/1.0 publisher and application adopters

January-March

  • denote 1.0 of abstract vocabulary, schema.org and RDF expressions
  • launch with array of publisher and application adopters

March-ongoing

  • maintain and fix bugs
  • work to make adoption universal
  • pass on maintenance to established standards organization
1 Comment »

Creative Commons recruiting its next Chief Technology Officer

Mike Linksvayer, July 11th, 2011

DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009
Laptop Stickers by Fred Benenson / CC BY. Does your laptop look like this? It doesn’t have to, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

Since our previous CTO, Nathan Yergler, left CC to return to full-time engineering in April, we have been preparing to recruit his replacement. The time is now! See the full job posting on our opportunities page.

This is a fun job (I was Nathan’s predecessor, from 2003-2007) that offers technical, management, and communications challenges and opportunities for growth and impact. Using technology to enhance (rather than suppress) sharing has always been an important part of the CC story. Some background for the truly interested candidate:

  • All software developed by CC is free software; see our source repositories and bug tracker;
  • We have a small (two software engineers, one system administrator) technology team focused on maintaining and improving CC’s services (implemented using Python, CiviCRM, WordPress, MediaWiki, and other technologies); additionally technology suffuses all of our work, including when policy-oriented — the technology team and especially CTO are frequently called on to provide leadership on broad issues;
  • See our CC Labs blog for occasional posts on the details of our technical work and thoughts on related happenings;
  • Watch recordings of past CC technology summits;
  • Read about the CC Rights Expression Language, a set of recommendations implemented across CC’s services and by many publishers.

Relative to when Creative Commons started with a vision of leveraging the Internet to scale sharing (and vice versa), there are an unimaginable number of freely licensed works to build upon, and to build services around, and 90% of the technical groundwork is laid (of course as an engineer you recognize that means 90% of the technical groundwork remains to be developed — and that’s just the beginning!). Now is an incredibly exciting time to lead the technology efforts of Creative Commons — be part of a great team, help communities yearning to share better and more effectively (e.g., see our new Learning Resources Metadata Initiative), and engage with developers around the world to help build a better future.

We’re accepting resumes through August 1. Again see the job posting for details.

4 Comments »

The Power of Open: over 400 million CC-licensed works, with increasing freedom

Mike Linksvayer, June 27th, 2011

The Power of Open, released last week, demonstrates the impact of Creative Commons through stories of successful use of our tools by artists, educators, scientists, and institutions of all types.

The book also features two pages sketching the socio-economic value (separately, we’re looking at this in-depth; follow these posts) and numerical adoption of CC tools. The latter especially is asked about frequently by CC staff, affiliates, and community, and by people writing about CC: “How many things are released under CC licenses?” What The Power of Open says on this follows (slightly edited for format).

How Has Adoption of Creative Commons Grown?

A difficult question given the decentralized nature of the web, but not as difficult as measuring economic value. Since Creative Commons’ first year, we have tracked the number of web links to Creative Commons licenses reported by search engine queries and the number of works licensed at major repositories.

Derived from these a very conservative estimate of the approximate minimum number of licensed works at the end of each year is plotted below – from under 1 million works after the first year, to over 400 million at the end of 2010.

While the chart above shows incredible growth, the absolute number of licensed works is probably far larger. Due to the conservative way we estimate, only numbers from Yahoo! Site Explorer and Flickr are actually reflected. The most significant adoption event in Creative Commons’ history, the migration of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites to CC BY-SA starting in June 2009, is not directly reflected in the chart. Furthermore, due to changes at Yahoo!, even relative growth is probably understated starting around May 2010.

As use of Creative Commons licenses has grown, the mix of licenses used has changed. After its first year, only about 20% of works were licensed to permit in advance both remix and commercial use – that is, considered fully free or open. After 8 years, that proportion had approximately doubled.

This change seems to indicate that once creators have experienced the power of open, they want more of it!


After “How many things are released under CC licenses?”, “Which CC license is most popular?” often follows. The answer won’t be found above, but given the trend towards more freedom, should not be a great suprise. Early in CC’s history, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) was the overwhelming favorite. Other licenses, especially Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA), slowly gained ground over the years. In July 2009, BY-SA became the most popular, and has since pulled further ahead. These changes, and more, will be charted in future posts.

For now, if you’d like to examine the raw data yourself, please see this post’s technical companion on CC Labs.

If you’re involved in a CC-enabled site, please consider adding a CC site portal with metrics like Flickr’s — invaluable as a feature for your users and as source of CC metrics.

3 Comments »


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