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CC’s take on the European Media Freedom Act

Man lying on bench reading newspaper.
The Artist’s Father, Reading a Newspaper” by Albert Engström – 1892 – Nationalmuseum Sweden, Sweden – Public Domain.

What are the EMFA’s objectives?

The proliferation of digital services has exponentially changed the way in which we engage with information, bringing both opportunities and challenges. In an increasingly digital world, the dual threats of mis- and disinformation are a huge challenge for democratic societies, especially at a time when almost half of the world will hold elections in 2024. And as we look at how media consumption evolves over time, many more citizens are now consuming their information online. In this context, the primary objectives of the EMFA are to ensure media plurality, as well as editorial and functional independence of public media, and to protect journalists across the EU. 

Misinformation is the sharing of inaccurate information. Disinformation is the sharing of inaccurate information, with the intention to mislead.

CC’s support for journalists 

Access to verified information is a basic human right and an issue we care deeply about at CC, especially as part of our work on Open Journalism. In 2023, we published A Journalist’s Guide to Creative Commons, which offers practical advice on how to make the most out of CC licenses in journalism and encourages journalists to openly license their outputs.

We find that CC-licensed news articles can dramatically increase their spread. The Conversation, a nonprofit network of eight international news sites publishing hundreds of useful articles of news and analysis each week under CC licenses, reports that around 60% of their readership comes from republished articles. Furthermore, small news outlets, lacking budgets for image subscriptions, turn to CC-licensed images on platforms like Flickr for free access to media.

Policy engagement with the EU

Starting with our Statement on the Introduction of the EU Media Freedom Act, we have provided context and input into the EU policy making process regarding the costs and risks of disinformation,  through parliamentary hearings and engagement on the EMFA text itself. We have outlined how our licenses and our community-based work can support free and fair access to pluralist media content as well as defend independence of information for citizens, whether they access their information through more traditional channels (TV, radio, newsprint) or more modern, digital channels. 

Our efforts centered on Article 17, which introduced the so-called “media exception,” thus creating special privileges for some incumbent, traditional media such as commercial newspapers and broadcasters. We argued that such a provision would disfavor smaller and independent creators, interfere with policies aimed at protecting users from harmful information, and have implications for how all people are able to share their creativity and knowledge online. 

EMFA: A positive step forward but not the end of the road

While we welcome adoption of the EMFA, we believe the EU must remain active and vigilant in the fight against disinformation, resolute in its defense of independent journalism, and tireless in its defense of media plurality. We remain concerned about several aspects of the EMFA, particularly around the “media exception,” including: 

In short, we strongly believe journalism provides a crucial public service. Access to verifiable information and stories that question the underlying terrain of power is critical to all democratic societies. Open-access information provides the strongest collective bulwark against the societally corrosive effects of mis/disinformation in the public arena. 

While the EMFA may not be applicable by the time EU citizens cast their votes in June this year, we applaud the EU’s efforts to strengthen its regime in this important area. CC will continue to engage with policymakers to enhance the sharing of knowledge and defend the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the EU acquis. 

For more information on our work on policy and on open journalism, contact us at info@creativecommons.org.

CC Joins Civil Society Letter Urging U.S. to Support Openness and Transparency in AI

Over the last year, Creative Commons (CC) worked with other stakeholders to support open science and open source in the context of artificial intelligence (AI) and, specifically, the EU AI Act. This policy debate has now ratcheted up in the U.S. as well, after President Biden directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce to start a public consultation process regarding “Dual Use Foundation Artificial Intelligence Models with Widely Available Model Weights.”

This week, we joined a broad coalition of civil society and leading academics urging a tailored, evidence-driven approach. The letter highlights the critical benefits that open models can provide, and encourages the government to consider carefully the best ways to address the marginal risks that openness can create. As the letter states, “We do not claim that openness is always beneficial, and there are some situations where openness may exacerbate risks from AI.” However, risk should be evaluated relative to alternatives (e.g., the use of closed models or other digital tools to accomplish the same ends) and may be addressed through less restrictive means than direct limits on openness.

Read the full letter.

For more information on CC’s works on AI, contact us at info@creativecommons.org

Celebrating the Public Domain in the Capital of Europe

Atomium in Brussels, photographed from below, in front of a clear blue sky. Prize winner of the Wikimedia Belgium Wiki Loves Monuments Photo Contest in 2023.
Close-up of the Brussels’ Atomium on a clear day By Geertivp, CC BY-SA 4.0 

Last week, on 7 March, Creative Commons participated in the International Public Domain Day celebration at the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels. Together with our partners meemoo, Europeana, Communia Association, The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision,  and the National Library of Netherlands, we hosted two lively roundtables in the afternoon; the first focused on copyright issues related to the public domain followed by another on the future of the public domain.

The event brought together advocates for the public domain and open access to cultural heritage including members of the Open Culture Platform, Doug McCarthy, who presented on the “Monetization of the Public Domain,” Emine Yildirim, who presented on how to “Decolonize the Public Domain,” and Maarten Zeinstra who previewed for the audience an update to the Europeana Public Domain Charter. On behalf of Creative Commons I was happy to present the new guidelines which were published in February: Nudging Users to Reference Institutions When Using Public Domain Cultural Heritage Materials.

In the morning the sessions focused on Belgian cultural heritage and other initiatives related to the public domain. Notably, Wikimedia Belgium announced and presented prizes to the winners of the 2023 Wiki Loves Monuments Photo contest.

The event was well attended by members of the community including from local cultural heritage institutions, academics, and policy advisors at the European level. We are looking forward to collaborating and contributing  to similar events with our partners in the future.

For more images see here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ter-burg/albums/72177720315300448/

EU adopts landmark Artificial Intelligence Act

Yesterday, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the Artificial Intelligence Act  (AIA), the world’s first piece of legislation comprehensively regulating artificial intelligence (AI).

Creative Commons (CC) has been actively engaged with EU policymakers on the AIA for the past years, especially as copyright issues arose front and center in the negotiations last June. In this blog post, we share a few high-level assessments of where the text landed across various key aspects impacting the commons as well as some thoughts on what lies ahead.

Open source software

We welcome the fact that the final text excludes open-source AI from some obligations, even if these exclusions are subject to conditions and come alongside ambiguity of the meaning of “open” in the context of AI overall and in the specific context of this law. Other noteworthy positives include an exemption for AI systems “specifically developed and put into service for the sole purpose of scientific research and development” and another exemption from the detailed transparency requirements for open-source general purpose AI (GPAI) models, even if they still have the obligation to put in place a policy to respect copyright law and produce a summary about the content used for model training.

AI and creativity

The AIA is largely agnostic when it comes to how the creative industries (and indeed individual creators) use AI. From our community consultation outcomes, we see some creators embracing AI, using it as a creative tool to further develop new and innovative works. Others, however, remain concerned about the impact of AI on employment in certain sectors as well as the competition aspect of more cost-effective digital/virtual solutions vis-a-vis human created works.

In response to Chat GPT’s explosive adoption, the EP introduced significant provisions, including on copyright. CC provided direct input to policymakers in public and in private on this aspect of the legislation, which touches directly on CC’s core mission.      

As ever with compromises there are aspects of the deal on copyright which are positive and others which will require further reflection and iteration. The AIA makes several cross-references to EU copyright legislation, in particular Articles 3 and 4 of the CDSM Directive on text and data mining. There are already some stakeholders who are pushing for revision of related EU legislation, including said Directive, in light of the AIA and recent technological developments. At CC we look forward to facilitating practical application of Articles 3 and 4. However, we caution against any fundamental revisions of the exceptions provided for in these articles. These are critical for ensuring a balanced copyright system. 

What happens next? A gradual application process

The Council is expected to give its final approval in the coming weeks and the Act will likely be published in the EU’s Official Journal later this spring. The Act will enter into force 20 days later, while the individual provisions will start applying in a staggered manner, with articles on prohibited AI applications applicable after 6 months (circa end of 2024), provisions on general purpose AI applicable after 12 months (circa mid-2025) and the remaining provisions applicable after 24 months (circa mid-2026). Looking further into the future, EU policymakers will no doubt have to assess how the AIA works in practice and ensure appropriate enforcement. 

We welcome the creation of the EU’s AI Office, which will soon have to start crafting technical rules, as mandated by the AIA. We look forward to engaging with the Office as it further develops important technical standards, in particular in developing an opt-out standard in alignment with existing copyright law. The Office will also have an important role in interpreting and further clarifying vaguely worded concepts, such as the requirement to publish “sufficiently detailed” summaries of inputs for large language models (LLMs) and foundation models. These rules will be crucial to provide clarity for firms and individuals regarding regime compliance. 

CC will continue to engage constructively with EU policymakers to ensure that the EU’s copyright regime remains fit for purpose in an ever-evolving digital age and that AI can be harnessed for good in support of a thriving commons.

Getty Museum releases 88K+ images of artworks with CC0

Close up of vivid orange flowers and blue irises growing above red-ochre soil.
Irises, 1889” by Vincent van Gogh, The J. Paul Getty Museum is dedicated to the public domain by CC0.

The J. Paul Getty Museum just released more than 88 thousand works under Creative Commons Zero (CCØ), putting the digital images of items from its impressive collection squarely and unequivocally into the public domain. 

This is in line with our advocacy efforts at Creative Commons (CC): digital reproductions of public domain material must remain in the public domain. In other words, no new copyright should arise over the creation of a digitized “twin.”

According to the museum’s press release, “users can download, edit, and repurpose high resolution images of their favorite Getty artworks without any legal restrictions.” The museum’s Open Content database is a wellspring of art that is bound to inspire myriad new creative reuses. It includes Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises and many more treasures waiting to be explored. Since opening up, Getty has seen “an uptick in image downloads on our site, averaging about 30,000 per month.”

This announcement is a huge cause for celebration for CC’s Open Culture efforts, which strive to promote open access and better sharing of cultural heritage held in cultural heritage institutions, such as museums, libraries and archives. It is also a testament to the stewardship of our open, public-interest infrastructure of Creative Commons licenses and tools. These are free, easy-to-use, and standardized open legal tools that enable worldwide open access to creative content.

We salute the Getty for supporting a thriving public domain and encourage other institutions to engage more deeply in the open culture movement and make the world’s vast collections of public domain materials openly accessible to everyone. We recently released guidelines promoting CCØ and the Public Domain Mark alongside best-practice norms incentivizing users to refer back to institutions. 

Get Involved

For additional guidance on using CCØ to release cultural heritage materials and tailored support in developing or implementing open access policies or to get involved in promoting open culture around the world:

Recap & Recording: Maximizing the Value(s) of Open Access in Cultural Heritage Institutions

In February, we hosted a webinar in our Open Culture Live series titled “Maximizing the Value(s) of Open Access in Cultural Heritage Institutions.” In this blog post, we summarize the key points raised in the discussion and share a link to the recording.

Webinar highlights

One of the most common concerns we hear about the decision to go open is the impact on an institution’s revenue through selling licensed images. With this webinar, we aimed to shed light on those concerns and imagine alternative models that both support openness to collections  while preserving institutions’ financial sustainability.

Panelists generally spoke about how the values and benefits of going open far exceed any potential loss of income. They also pointed out that cultural heritage institutions that go open get much better visibility and outreach online, thereby becoming a trusted source for information and images of their collections. This triggers new interactions with collections, fostering inclusive engagement and new forms of storytelling that are respectful of source communities. This in turn might lead to more onsite visits, increasing ticket sales.

Watch the recording.

Kicking off the conversation, Kristofer Erickson, Professor of Social Data Science at the University of Glasgow, offered evidence of the increased distribution of openly licensed images — with an estimation that if one assigned a commercial license rate to all 50 million files on Wikimedia Commons, the downstream economic value would equal about 22.5 billion US dollars. He said: “there’s a tremendous amount of value in free and open license materials both from cultural heritage institutions and from other informal, volunteer collective projects. And the challenge is making that material available and unlocking it so that it can be used by downstream users of all types.” He also emphasized the multiple layers of downstream uses and the positive spillovers that might be indirect but eventually link back to institutions.

Next to take the floor was Giovana Fontanelle, Program Officer, Culture and Heritage at Wikimedia Foundation. She presented data showing the comparison of page views to artworks at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts between the Met’s website and the Wikipedia articles in English and in all languages. Later in the conversation, she asked “does the sharing of culture, heritage images on social media, for example, cause negative financial, commercial and economic impacts for institutions? I believe that in 2024 most organizations right now understand that sharing their files on closed platforms doesn’t bring their financials down but actually helps to improve it in other ways down the line.”

We then heard from Elliott Bledsoe, Co-Lead of Creative Commons Australia and Wikimedia Australia Committee Member, who brought up the issue of the costs of digitization, and suggested considering a different approach: “We strive to make as much of our collection available to the public in a digital format online as we can, bearing in mind that there are reasons why we can’t make everything accessible, such as privacy or Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP), or other types of considerations. But if we take as a baseline that institutions want to make as much of their material accessible as possible, you can frame the idea of trying to get material digitized rather than being a transactional thing, a way of jumping the queue.” In this model, users would pay for the first instance of digitization of cultural heritage materials, which could then be made freely available online. In that new framing, payment would form part of a much bigger process: not as a condition for access, but as a contribution to supporting general access to cultural heritage for all.

Last but not least, Douglas McCarthy, Open GLAM Researcher and Author, critiqued institutions who choose to charge for image licenses with the headline that: “hardly any institutions actually turn a profit from that model. So the model of licensing content, asserting copyright or using contract law to control and attempt to monetize digital collections, was a bit more successful, slightly healthier, 20 years ago when I started in this area. That really isn’t the case now. Very rarely will you see a number in the black rather than the red, profit being returned from the classic picture library model, if we can call it that today.”

The discussion also touched upon alternative models for generating revenue which are not all-or-nothing, including charging for the first instance of digitization of a given work, which can then be shared publicly, as mentioned above, as well as a pay-what-you-can model. With equity at the center of many institutions’ missions in 2024, open access helps to ensure that audiences around the world can find and use cultural heritage that belongs to the public. Furthermore, open access creates more digital pathways back to the museum, leading to more financial stability through opportunities like partnerships as well as enhanced reputation through increased citations in academic papers. Other key takeaways included exposing and needing to escape the false binary of “free” versus “paying,” and uncovering the opportunity cost of not making collections freely and openly accessible: when collections are held behind (pay)walls, part of an institution’s impact and influence vanishes.

Thank you to the experts who joined us and shared their thoughts and research.

Learn More

During the webinar, panelists and participants shared some relevant resources.

What is Open Culture Live?

In this series, we tackle some of the more complex challenges that face the open culture movement, bringing in speakers with personal and professional expertise on the topic.

CC is a non-profit that relies on contributions to sustain our work. Support CC in our efforts to promote better sharing at creativecommons.org/donate.

Creative Commons joins the Digital Public Goods Alliance

Creative Commons logo + Digital Public Goods Alliance logo

Today, Creative Commons (CC) joins the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) as a new member. The DPGA is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to accelerate the attainment of the sustainable development goals in low- and middle-income countries by facilitating the discovery, development, use of, and investment in digital public goods (DPGs).

“We are thrilled to welcome Creative Commons to the Digital Public Goods Alliance. Their licenses and legal tools are pivotal for enhancing the sharing of DPGs, enabling more open, accessible tools to tackle global challenges. Similarly, Creative Commons’ commitment to training and capacity building supports governments and institutions in adopting open policies and practices, enriching the DPG ecosystem and equipping advocates with the needed knowledge. Their Open Climate Campaign and Open Climate Data project, is a testament to the power of open access in addressing critical issues like the climate crisis and biodiversity preservation. Together, we look forward to making significant strides towards a more open and sustainable world.” – Liv Marte Nordhaug, Chief Executive Officer, DPGA Secretariat

CC is delighted to be contributing to this mission. Solving the world’s most pressing challenges requires the open licensing and sharing of digital knowledge and cultural heritage assets about those challenges. By advocating for the use and implementation of DPGs, global communities can work together in prioritizing and mobilizing resources to help solve these challenges. CC’s legal tools and our programs play a critical role in helping to achieve the DPGA’s mission and advance the DPG ecosystem overall.

CC’s work aligns with that of the DPGA in the following ways, which will be included as part of the DPGA’s Annual Roadmap. CC will:

For us, being a member means working with other DPGA members and CC’s extensive member network to build capacity, develop practical solutions, and advocate for better open sharing of knowledge and culture that serves the public interest. When the world uses CC legal tools to share their knowledge, everyone has access to DPGs including: open educational resources, open access research, open cultural heritage assets, open data, and AI algorithms and models.

For any inquiries on Creative Commons please reach out to Cable Green: Director of Open Knowledge. For more information on the Digital Public Goods Alliance please reach out to hello@digitalpublicgoods.net

What Lies Ahead in 2024

Greetings to the CC Community!

A lot of exciting and critical work awaits us in 2024. While I steer Creative Commons as interim CEO, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and share details of our key priorities in the upcoming year.

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New Revisions to CC Certificate Course Content = New Opportunities for Translations

We are delighted to share the latest version of our Creative Commons Certificate Course content, available on our Certificates website as an OER (open educational resource) in multiple formats.

The Creative Commons Certificate program launched in 2018 to strengthen our global communities’ efforts to share open knowledge and culture. To date, we have over 1700 graduates of the Certificate program from 65 different countries. 

The program was built for iteration and adaptation.  We regularly revise and update the CC Certificate materials based on direct feedback from our community of participants, facilitators, and alumni. We make all iterations of our course openly available under a CC BY license. As a result, our community has created countless derivative trainings, faculty presentations, workshops, courses and open education, open access and open culture communication materials. Community members have also translated course reading content and made it available as open educational resources in 10 languages: Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English, French, Italian, Slovak, Spanish, Turkish, and Yoruba.

Now, we are pleased to announce the latest revision of our course content available on our Certificate Resources page, accessible and downloadable in multiple file formats.

With the 2024 course content, we hope to reach new audiences, and we invite new translation projects to help us.  Translation work could mean both updating existing translations or creating entirely new ones. If you’re interested in making the CC Certificate course content available in your own local language(s) by participating in a future translation project, please reach out to us at certificates [at] creativecommons.org for more information.

If you’re interested in a CC Certificate course, you can learn more and register for our upcoming June 2024 and September 2024 options on our website. If you are already CC Certified, we encourage you to share your experiences with your colleagues and to become an active participant in our alumni community, where you can read our alumni newsletter, learn about additional training opportunities, and participate in upcoming community projects. Contact certificates [at] creativecommons.org  if you are not already on the alumni listserv and we will add you.

We send a special thanks to the many wonderful CC staff, Certificate course facilitators, community members and volunteers who help make this work possible. We’re looking forward to continued improvements to the CC Certificate program as we explore new audiences and new opportunities to help you reach your open education goals.

Where in the world is… this public domain material? Helping users refer to host institutions.

A collage of text saying “sharing public domain collections CC BY” overlaid on an image of Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” from 1893 signifying shock and fear.
“Sharing Public Domain Collections CC-BY ?!!?” by Brigitte Vézina is a remix of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1893), Public Domain, National Museum Oslo. Licensed CC BY 4.0

Today, Creative Commons is releasing new guidelines for open culture: Nudging Users to Reference Institutions when Using Public Domain Materials.

These guidelines have been developed by CC’s Open Culture Team in collaboration with the Open Culture Platform Working Group to investigate use of CC BY to designate holders of public domain collections, led by Deborah De Angelis and Tomoaki Watanabe, and members of the Open Culture Platform.

Whether the institution is a neighborhood archive, a national library, or an art museum, the guidelines offer a fresh and innovative approach to prompting users to reference the institution when using public domain materials. Based on the Working Group’s proposal for a social intervention, they present various design ideas, rooted in the EAST Model for behavioral change.

What problem are these guidelines addressing?

Often, institutions wish to be acknowledged for the role they play preserving, restoring, digitizing, sharing, and overall providing context and meaning for the cultural heritage that they steward. To ensure users “credit” them, many institutions choose CC licenses (which require “attribution”) to release faithful reproductions of public domain material. This is bad practice. Digital reproductions of public domain materials should remain in the public domain and thus be shared under CC0 or PDM.

As a best practice, CC recommends a simple framework to create behavioral change and encourage positive outcomes through “nudges.” The guidelines offer a few design ideas for institutions to provide a comprehensive “reference statement,” if and where appropriate.

The guidelines address key questions, including:

The guidelines are available on the Open Culture Resources page. Download the complete guidelines.

Are you ready to implement one of these designs? Do you have comments on how to expand or improve these guidelines, especially on the technical aspects? Would you like to help make this resource available in other languages?