CC BY-SA

WikiEducator, Connexions, and MediaWiki join forces in OER Remix Project

Jane Park, November 20th, 2009

In case you haven’t heard, WikiEducator‘s Wayne Mackintosh announced earlier this week that they were joining forces with Connexions “to provide educators with greater freedom of choice to mix and match the best of two OER worlds, namely “producer-consumer” models with more traditional work flow approaches and commons-based peer production.” WikiEducator and Connexions are two collaborative OER projects that use Creative Commons licenses. While WikiEducator, licensed CC BY-SA, focuses “on building capacity in the use of Mediawiki and related free software technologies for mass-collaboration in the authoring of free content,” Connexions, licensed CC BY, focuses on the collaborative development, sharing, and publishing of modular educational content that can be easily integrated into larger collections or courses. According to the announcement, the two projects will partner “to build import export capability between the Connexions and WikiEducator/Mediawiki platforms.”

It’s definitely exciting to see these two OER projects working together, especially since the collaboration is being generously funded by a grant from one of our own biggest supporters, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. There are various ways you can tune into its progress, including visiting the project planning node, subscribing to the Connexions mailing list, or helping them develop use case scenarios.

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AntWeb, Fedora Project, Wikitravel → CC BY-SA 3.0

Mike Linksvayer, November 9th, 2009

Demonstrating that June’s migration of Wikimedia sites to CC Attribution-ShareAlike as their main content liense was a signal of much greater interoperability among free and open content projects going forward and not merely an end in itself are recent announcements from the Fedora Project, AntWeb, and Wikitravel, all moved or moving to CC BY-SA 3.0. Each has a different story as to how and why they made the move.

The Fedora Project, best known for its community-centric and cutting-edge GNU/Linux distribution, but also committed to “leading the advancement of free, open software and content” (emphasis added, from the Fedora Project home page), has migrated all of its documentation and wiki content to CC BY-SA from the long-deprecated , via their contributor agreement. Among the reasons:

4. Other organizations that have content we can reuse in Fedora and contribute back to, such as Wikipedia and GNOME, have switched or are switching to the CC BY SA. Why does this matter? For one easy example, we can write a definitive history of Fedora, host it on Wikipedia as the upstream, then package it as part of the ‘about-fedora’ package.

5. If you’ve never looked at how much open content there is on e.g. flickr.com and Wikicommons, please look. For content authors, this is going from practically zero useful open media available to tens of millions of photographs, diagrams, and so forth that we can not only freely reuse, but we can contribute back to.

AntWeb, a project of the California Academy of Sciences that holds its own copyrights has changed its license from CC Attribution-NonCommercial to CC Attribution-ShareAlike, a change that has resulted in a major collaboration with Wikimedians and 30,000 ant images gracing Wikipedia articles. Waldir Pimenta guest-blogging with Brianna Laugher, writes:

I found the fantastic images from AntWeb, a project from The California Academy of Sciences, which aims to illustrate the enormous diversity of the ants of the world. I was especially happy to find that they were using a Creative Commons license — but soon after I was disappointed to find that the specific one they used (CC-BY-NC) was not appropriate for Wikipedia (or, more generally, free cultural works, and thus discouraged by Creative Commons itself).

So I sent them an email suggesting them to change the license. When they replied, I found out that they actuallly had been internally discussing license issues for quite a while. I kept in touch, and made sure to let them know the advantages of having their work showcased in such high-traffic websites as Wikipedia, Commons or WikiSpecies.

I like to think that my two cents helped in their decision, some time later, to not only change their license to CC-BY-SA, but also upload all their images to Commons themselves! This was part of their overall mission: “universal access to ant information”. Before, the AntWeb project focused only on digitization of content and development of the web portal; but now they also decided to “export” AntWeb content to improve access. Putting the images and associated metadata in Commons was an example their outreach initiatives.

Finally, Wikitravel, a very successful site that we’ve mentioned here many times (see founder Evan Prodromou’s letter in support of our 2007 fundraising campaign — which also works for 2009!) is building community consensus for upgrading from CC BY-SA 1.0 to CC BY-SA 3.0. Unfortunately 1.0 did not have an upgrade clause, a problem corrected in 2.0.

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UNESCO OER Toolkit

Jane Park, October 15th, 2009

Last October, I mentioned that the UNESCO OER Community was developing an OER Toolkit “aimed at individual academics and decision-makers in higher education institutions interested in becoming active participants in the OER world, as publishers and users of OER.” Today, the draft version (1.1) has been released with an announcement by Philipp Schmidt of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa:

“15 October 2009 — Today the UNESCO OER Toolkit (with support from the UNESCO Communications and Information Sector) was released as a resource for academics and institutions — with a special focus on developing countries — who are interested in participating in open education projects.

OVERVIEW — Most of the Toolkit is designed for academics who are interested in finding and using OER in the courses they teach, or who wish to publish OER that they have developed. Some sections are aimed at institutional decision-makers and academics that [are] interested in setting up a more formal OER project. These projects may start with just a few interested academics but, as they grow, institutional policies, funding and legal constraints become more relevant. Individuals who are not aiming to set up a institutional project may nonetheless be interested to read the whole document. Likewise, institutional planners, IT staff or librarians who are interested in setting up an OER project would benefit from understanding the academic’s perspective.”

The toolkit, like the all content on the UNESCO OER Community site, is available via CC BY-SA.

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CC licensed photos and the International Olympic Committee

Mike Linksvayer, October 12th, 2009


Weezie’s Birthday Ballooning by Richard Giles / CC BY-SA

Richard Giles, a social media specialist in Australia who frequently posts and CC licenses photos on Flickr, received a threatening letter from the International Olympic Committee last week, mentioning a set of photos he had taken at the 2008 games in Beijing.

Giles posted a rundown of the story so far on his blog. It is not clear the situation is resolved yet, and initially there was confusion about which photos or licenses are at issue, but there are many worthwhile posts about it to check out, including these:

Regarding Ross’ post, of course the UK merchant that used the photo in an advertisement that eventually attracted the IOC’s notice may have discovered the photo directly on Flickr as well. In either case, the value of moving to a more liberal license if you want your works to spread is highlighted — Giles’ Usain Bolt photo is under CC Attribution-ShareAlike, while his other Beijing photos are under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.

cc-shepard-fairey-logo-mediumWhatever the resolution of this particular dispute, there’s no question that the IOC’s attempt to control how photographers use their own photos is symptomatic of the permission culture and tragedy of the anticommons we are facing. Creative Commons can’t directly influence the IOC’s policies, but we’re creating an alternative to ensure a non-gridlocked future of creativity and innovation, an alternative that offers benefits to those who participate in the commons now, and whose successes will change minds. Please support us — we’re in the midst of our 2009 campaign to raise $500,000 to fund this work.

The photo at the top of this post by Richard Giles is not of the Olympics, but does look fun. Note that even such an innocuous photo could be under threat as we move in the direction of a permission economy — building owners attempt to control public photography, why not balloon owners or designers? Give now.

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Software Freedom Law Show on the history of documentation licensing

Mike Linksvayer, October 10th, 2009

The Software Freedom Law Show, Episode 0×16 contains numerous bits of interest to CC geeks and is well worth a listen. The show’s hosts, Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center, discuss among other things:

  • How the GFDL turned out suboptimally — a key point is that developing good public licenses is very hard, the the GFDL was one of the very first for software documentation or other non-software works.
  • The migration of Wikipedia and sister projects from GFDL to CC BY-SA, successfully completed this June.
  • The importance of public license stewardship by mission-driven nonprofits — Bradley Kuhn’s writing on stewardship has been noted previously on this blog.
  • The license used for the show itself, which is CC BY-ND.
  • A promise to talk about the public domain and specifically CC0 in a future episode. Looking forward to it.

One quick addendum to the show, in which the hosts wonder if CC has a public versioning process. The answer is yes — see a a list of CC blog posts over the course of development of our 3.0 licenses. The next, eventual versioning will be even more public and rigorous, just as the GPLv3 had a development process far more in depth than that of any public software license that preceded it.


Download: ogg | mp3

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A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration

Jane Park, October 2nd, 2009

The Publius Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society offers a new essay on OER and public policy in the United States: A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration . Written by Carolina Rossini and Erhardt Graeff, it does a great job of pointing out the major recent movements toward OER in state and federal governments, and thoughtfully evaluates the issues that each initiative brings to the table.

“This post draws significantly from an interview on August 10, 2009 with Hal Plotkin, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Dept. of Education, who has closely followed and been involved with OER policies in California. The interview was part of research on the educational materials sector being conducted under the Industrial Cooperation Project at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. The research is part of a broader project being led by Prof. Yochai Benkler and coordinated by Carolina Rossini. In the research, we are seeking to understand the approaches to innovation in some industrial sectors, such as alternative energy, educational materials, and biotechnology. The intention is to map the degree to which open and commons-based practices are being used compared to proprietary approaches and what forces drive the adoption and development of these models.”

Like all content on the Publius site, the essay is available via CC BY-SA.

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First Mobile Novel Launches in South Africa

Jane Park, September 30th, 2009

Mobile phones are the most popular means of communication among young adults in South Africa, as South Africans send 250 million text messages a day. This may be true for many parts of the world, where Internet connections are still in dial-up mode or even nonexistent. Through mobile phones, youth carry daily conversations via text messaging, as in some areas it is cheaper to send a text than to call.

Leveraging the popularity of mobile phones, the m4Lit project has launched the first mobile novel of its kind, or m-novel, in South Africa. Kontax, which follows the adventures of a group of teenage graffiti artists, is made specifically for mobile phones, and is available in both English and isiXhosa. It is being released chapter by chapter on a daily basis, with the first chapter already out. From the press release:

“The m4Lit pilot project aims to explore whether teens are interested in reading stories on their cellphones, whether and how they write using their cellphones, and whether cellphones might be used to develop literacy skills and a love of reading. Enter Kontax, an m-novel written on commission from the Shuttleworth Foundation by prize winning ‘mobilist’ Sam Wilson. Kontax is an m-novel made for mobile – and from 30 September readers will be able to access the dynamic teen narrative from their WAP-enabled cellphones, or from their computers. Every day another exciting chapter in the mystery plot will be told, with 21 chapters rolling out over 21 days. Teen readers will be invited to interact with Kontax as it unfolds on their cellphones: they can vote on and discuss the progressing plot, leave comments, download wallpapers and finally submit a written piece as part of a competition, with airtime prizes available for winning submissions.

…As part of the research component of this project, interviews with teens in Cape Town before and after the publishing of Kontax will establish to what extent this project changes South African learners’ attitudes to reading and writing, what learners think about m-novels, and whether the mobile medium as a literacy tool interests or excites them.

Global perspective
In inviting interaction from and discussion amongst its teenage readers, Kontax is aligned with leading global trends, and follows the success of audience participation in story writing found in Japan, where teens have been reading and writing novels on their cellphones in this way for a number of years. The popularity of the m-novel is clearly evident in Japan, where six out of the top 10 fiction best sellers in 2008 were m-novels that had later been printed in book form. The evolution of digital media has had a profound impact on the literacy practices of teenagers from east to west – in the USA, research has shown that through their computers today’s teens are reading and writing more than ever, not formally but on blogs, MySpace pages and via instant messages. Increasingly, SMSes and chats on their cellphones also form part of the “reading” and “writing” of digital literacy.”

Read the press release for more information. And if you happen to be in South Africa, you may want to attend the book launch at “the Book Lounge in Cape Town on Wednesday 30 September at 18h00. All are welcome, but should please RSVP to either booklounge@gmail.com or 021 462 2425.”

All Kontax content and story images are licensed CC BY-SA. Kontax is written by Sam Wilson and the m4Lit project is spearheaded by Steve Vosloo, 21st Century Learning Fellow for the Shuttleworth Foundation.

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CC Hold Music? Yes, Really.

Fred Benenson, August 20th, 2009

digiumDigium, the parent company that hosts and maintains the open source telephony & PBX project called Asterisk, recently replaced the on-hold music featured in their distributions to CC BY-SA licensed works from OpSound. Using freely licensed CC music in open source projects has always made sense to us, but Digium’s John Todd discusses why they finally made the switch on the company’s blog:

In some nations (Australia and France, to pick two that have been brought to our attention) there are some who are claiming that we do not have the rights outlined above, and that our users therefore are in a similar situation where they may be in violation of license terms.

John goes on to explain that since CC licenses are easy to use, well defined, and accepted internationally, the choice was clear to them:

This is very far outside of Digium’s ability or interest to manage, nor do we wish to become involved in the protracted series of legal proceedings required to sort out this licensing issue. So we have chosen another path that is more clear to us: we will eliminate the files of questionable license from Asterisk, and replace them with music that has clearly defined and more acceptable licensing terms which are compatible with both the Asterisk license, and with any reasonable redistribution methods that might be used by others who re-package Asterisk.

(emphasis added)

Just think, the next time you get placed on hold, there’s a good chance you’ll be listening to some copyleft music!

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Wiki* milestones and mania

Mike Linksvayer, August 17th, 2009

ReadWriteWeb* writes that English Wikipedia just passed the 3 million article mark. While this is a great accomplishment that will surely be widely reported, RWW correctly highlights that “Wikipedia” is much more than the English site:

The family of sites as a whole has more than 13 million articles in more than 260 languages, not counting discussion pages and other errata.

As RWW also notes, Wikimedia Commons, the media repository sibling of Wikipedia, is about to pass the 5 million file mark.

And it just happens that the vast number of wikis hosted by the commercial wiki platform Wikia will cumulatively surpass the 3 million article mark soon.

All Wikipedia articles are now available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, all media hosted at Wikimedia Commons is under this or another free license or in the public domain, and most of the wikis hosted by Wikia are also under CC BY-SA, as are many other wikis, for example Wikitravel, WikiEducator, Planet Math, and Appropedia. Read about why this interoperability is a win for free culture.

Numbers alone are impressive enough and hint that Wikipedia has blown up the encyclopedia category and that other wiki projects will supersede other existing categories of cultural and educational artifact. However, the numbers only begin to tell the story. One place to see this unfold in highly concentrated form is Wikimania, the annual international conference of the Wikimedia Foundation. See the conference schedule, including panels featuring CC France and CC Taiwan co-founders Melanie Dulong de Rosnay and Shun-ling Chen (Authorship, Licenses, and the Wiki Borg) and me (OER Content Interoperability for WikiMedia platforms).

* Thanks ReadWriteWeb for all your awesome CC coverage!

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Wikipedia + CC BY-SA = Free Culture Win!

Mike Linksvayer, June 22nd, 2009

As anyone following this site closely must know, the Wikipedia community and Wikimedia Foundation board approved the adoption of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license as the main content license for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites. A post about the community vote has many links explaining the history and importance of this move.


Detail of Win win relationship by Alex Brollo / CC BY-SA

Starting last week with English Wikipedia (there are over 700 Wikimedia sites in over 250 languages — the image to the right is sourced from one of them), the copyright notice on Wikimedia sites is being changed to CC BY-SA. See the Wikimedia Foundation Terms of Use.

The outreach effort to non-Wikimedia wikis to take advantage of this migration opportunity is ongoing. Help if you can. One very important milestone was reached June 19, when most wikis hosted by Wikia (there are thousands, including some big ones) converted to CC BY-SA.

Hooray for Jimmy Wales, founder of both Wikipedia and Wikia! (Note the two organizations are unrelated.) CC is fortunate to also have Wales as a member of our board of directors. Without his vision, this unification of free culture licensing would not have been possible.

Here’s to a huge win for Wikipedians, all of free culture, and everyone who made it possible! Already the licensing change is enabling content to flow between Wikipedia and other projects. Will you interoperate? See a post on my personal blog for a long-winded conjecture about long-term impacts of the licensing change.

Finally, note that this is only one instance of the Wikipedia community showing great foresight and leadership. For example, clearly the Wikipedia community’s steadfast commitment to open formats played a major role in giving open video (effectively meaning Theora) a chance for wide adoption, which it now appears on the verge of. Hooray for visionary free culture communities and many wins to come!

Addendum 2009-06-30

Erik Moeller writes on the Wikimedia Foundation blog that the licensing update has been rolled out on all Wikimedia wikis:

Perhaps the most significant reason to choose CC-BY-SA as our primary content license was to be compatible with many of the other admirable endeavors out there to share and develop free knowledge: projects like Citizendium (CC-BY-SA), Google Knol (a mix of CC licenses, including CC-BY and CC-BY-SA), WikiEducator (CC-BY-SA), the Encylcopedia of Earth (CC-BY-SA), the Encyclopedia of the Cosmos (CC-BY-SA), the Encyclopedia of Life (a mix of CC licenses), and many others. These communities have come up with their own rules of engagement, their own models for sharing and aggregating knowledge, but they’re committed to the free dissemination of information. Now this information can flow freely to and from Wikimedia projects, without unnecessary legal boundaries.

This is beginning to happen. A group of English Wikipedia volunteers have created a WikiProject Citizendium Porting, for example, to ensure that high quality information developed by the Citizendium community can be made available through Wikipedia as well, with proper attribution.

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