open licensing policy

Open licensing guide for foundation staff

Timothy Vollmer, October 13th, 2015


Government funders are increasingly adopting open licensing policies for copyrightable works and data they create or commission. Over the last few years we’ve been excited to work with philanthropic foundations to implement similar open licensing policies for their grant-funded and in-house created works.

Because there is a limit to the funds available to even the largest foundations, most try to use their resources in a way that will have the greatest impact on the problems they hope to solve. We believe that in almost all cases, the copyrightable works produced with grant funding will have more impact on those problems if they are published under an open license.

An open licensing policy is made possible through the foundation’s use of open licenses, whereby the acceptance of foundation funds requires grantees to share content developed with those funds broadly under an open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. In addition to grant-funded content, foundations are adopting open licensing for the resources they produce themselves, such as website content, photographs, and publications. 

Several leading foundations have adopted default CC BY licensing policies in the last few years, such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (for all grant-funded research), and the Vancouver Foundation.

Recently the Hewlett Foundation has revised and released an Open Licensing Toolkit for staff. This document is a guide for foundation program officers so staff are well-informed on the default policy and can work effectively with grantees on open licensing. It answers common questions, explains the Creative Commons license, and provides best practices for marking different types of works under open licenses. The toolkit also includes sample language for grant proposals and reporting requirements.

Hewlett has generously agreed to license the toolkit under CC BY so that other foundations can utilize it for their specific grant workflows. Thanks to Hewlett for this great resource!

Hewlett Foundation Open Licensing Toolkit for Staff (Google docs)

Comments Off on Open licensing guide for foundation staff

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (DRAFT)

Cable Green, September 22nd, 2015

Files. By Pieter J. Smits, CC BY 3.0

Creative Commons believes that public and foundation funded resources should be openly licensed by default. We have written extensively about the importance of open licensing policies in government, foundations, and have built the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership with our open policy partners around the world. In the past few years, the United States federal government has accelerated its interest in and implementation of open licensing policy requirements on the products of publicly funded grants and contracts.

To support the education of government staff creating, adopting and implementing open licensing policies – we’ve created an Open Licensing Policy Toolkit. While this draft is tailored for U.S. government federal staff, it can easily be revised to meet the needs of any country. We share it here under a CC BY 4.0 license hoping others will take, improve, and modify it to meet regional, national and/or local needs. We look forward to seeing what you create… and we are happy to collaborate with you should you identify an opportunity to work with your government on broad open licensing requirements on publicly funded resources.

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Google docs version)
Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Wiki version)

Comments Off on Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (DRAFT)

Obama administration should require sharing of federally funded educational resources under Creative Commons licenses

Timothy Vollmer, August 4th, 2015

White House_600
White House by Diego Cambiaso, available under the CC BY-SA license.

Today, Creative Commons and a broad coalition of education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations are calling upon the White House to take administrative action to ensure that federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) for the public to freely use, share, and improve.

We ask the administration to adopt a strong Executive branch-wide policy requiring that educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds be shared under an open license. Some agencies have already implemented an open licensing policy for the outputs of federal grants, including the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, jointly administered by the Departments of Labor and Education. In order to receive these funds, grantees are required to license to the public all work created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY) license.

In issuing this public statement, we hope to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in the creation of educational materials produce resources that are freely available to the members of the public that paid for them. The administration has both an educational and economic imperative to increase access to learning and workforce development opportunities. Further, it has the opportunity to spur innovation through opening access to a wealth of educational resources that can be improved and built upon.

To ensure that administrative policy advances these goals, the coalition has outlined five core principles for executive action:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials.
  2. Provide free online access to these educational resources.
  3. Create conditions that enable easy reuse of materials.
  4. Require prompt implementation of the policy.
  5. Mandate regular reporting of progress and results.

The following can be attributed to Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons:

“By embracing Creative Commons licenses for the digital education and training outputs of federal agency grant making, the Obama administration will be demonstrating its commitment to collaboration, innovation, and effective government spending. When we contribute publicly funded educational materials to the public commons, everyone wins. This type of sharing is worth fighting for.”

A copy of the complete letter is available here. You can show your support for open access to publicly funded education materials by signing it too.


Gates Foundation announces $20M for Next Generation Learning Challenges; CC BY required for grant materials

Timothy Vollmer, October 11th, 2010

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $20M investment in the Next Generation Learning Challenges, an initiative to improve college readiness and completion through technology. The first request for proposals (RFP) was released today (PDF). The RFP specifically solicits proposals that address the following challenges:

  • Increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities.
  • Deepening students’ learning and engagement through use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations, and social media.
  • Supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success.
  • Helping institutions, instructors, and students benefit from learning analytics which can monitor student progress in real-time and customize proven supports and interventions.

The RFP lays out the grant guidelines with regard to open licensing, and requires the use of CC BY:

So that the knowledge gained during NGLC-funded projects is promptly and broadly disseminated, all documents, written materials, and other content submitted to EDUCAUSE during the period of Grantee’s NGLC grant application and grant (e.g., website postings, pre-proposals, proposals, findings, and information generated by Grantee) will be made available to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution license. In addition, all open educational resources and related work product (manuals, integration formats, hosting environments, faculty development guides, or curricula, etc.) created in connection with the Open Interactive Core Courseware challenge must be made available under this license.

Adopting CC BY is precisely aligned with the overarching goals of foundation funding and initiatives such as the Next Generation Learning Challenges. Last year, the Berkman Center’s study on foundation copyright licensing policies said that open licensing “ensures[s] the broadest and fastest dissemination of the valuable ideas, practices, works, software code and other materials the foundation’s funding helps to create.” That report went on to suggest that the impact of funding is even greater when permissive licenses (such as CC BY) are applied, allowing the resources “to be freely tested, translated, combined, remixed, repurposed or otherwise built upon, potentially by many subsequent researchers, authors, artists or other creators anywhere in the world, as the basis for new innovation, discovery or creation.”

Proposals for the first RFP are due November 17, 2010. The Next Generation Learning Challenges are a collaboration between several organizations, including the Gates Foundation, EDUCAUSE, iNACOL, CCSSO, The Hewlett Foundation, and The League for Innovation in the Community College. Congratulations to the Gates Foundation and partnering organizations on this fantastic effort.