Commons News

Happy Birthday to friend and ally Bassel Safadi

Timothy Vollmer, May 22nd, 2015

Bassel Safadi
Bassel Safadi / Christopher Adams / CC BY

Bassel Khartabil (also known as Bassel Safadi) is a computer engineer who, through his dedicated work in social media, digital education, and open-source web software, played a huge role in opening the Internet in Syria and bringing online access and knowledge to the Syrian people. Many people reading this blog know Bassel through his leadership for the Creative Commons Syria affiliate team. You’ll also know that Bassel has been imprisoned by the Syrian government at Adra Prison since 15 March 2012–over 1100 days without any charges being brought against him.

Today is Bassel’s 34th birthday, the fourth birthday he’s spent in detainment. Creative Commons and the open community honor Bassel and continue to advocate for his immediate release from prison in Damascus.

You can wish Bassel a Happy Birthday and share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #freebassel. For more information check out http://freebassel.org/.

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Elsevier’s new sharing policy harmful to authors and access to scholarly research

Timothy Vollmer, May 20th, 2015

Today Creative Commons and 22 other organizations published a letter urging the publishing giant Elsevier to alter its newly revised policy regarding the sharing and hosting of academic articles so that it better supports access to scholarly research.

Elsevier’s new policy, announced 30 April 2015, is detrimental to article authors as well as those seeking access to these research papers. The policy imposes an embargo of at least 12 months before authors can self-archive their final manuscripts in an institutional repository–with the option of these embargoes being as long as 48 months. Beforehand, Elsevier allowed immediate deposit of the articles in repositories. The new policy also restricts access once the embargo expires by requiring that articles be shared under the most restrictive Creative Commons license–CC BY-NC-ND–which prohibits commercial use and the creation of derivative works.

From the letter:

This policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies. In addition, the policy has been adopted without any evidence that immediate sharing of articles has a negative impact on publishers subscriptions.

Kevin Smith, Director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke University, calls their updated embargo policies “both complicated and draconian,” and criticizes the requirement that authors apply a restrictive license to their works at the expiration of the embargo period:

This, of course, further limits the usefulness of these articles for real sharing and scholarly advancement. It is one more way in which the new policy is exactly a reverse of what Elsevier calls it; it is a retreat from sharing and an effort to hamstring the movement toward more open scholarship.

Elsevier should reconsider these policy changes in order to support the rights and wishes of academic authors, and to support better access to the research that they publish.

The letter is available here. It has been signed by the following groups, and you can add your organization to as well.

COAR: Confederation of Open Access Repositories
SPARC: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
ACRL: Association of College and Research Libraries
ALA: American Library Association
ARL: Association of Research Libraries
Association of Southeastern Research Libraries
Australian Open Access Support Group
IBICT: Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology
CARL: Canadian Association of Research Libraries
CLACSO: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales
COAPI: Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions
Creative Commons
Creative Commons (USA)
EIFL
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Greater Western Library Alliance
LIBER: European Research Library Association
National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences
OpenAIRE
Open Data Hong Kong
Research Libraries UK
SANLiC: South African National Licensing Consortium
University of St Andrews Library

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CC Tanzania expands OER and CC training to more primary schools

Aristarik Maro, May 19th, 2015

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Aristarik is an Assistant Lecturer at the Open University of Tanzania and Creative Commons Tanzania volunteer.


CC Tanzania SOO Training Training
SOO Tanzania Training by CC Tanzania under CC BY

Creative Commons Tanzania through School of Open programme trained 50 pupils from Kumbukumbu primary school on the benefits of the Internet, computer programmes information/knowledge sharing, and Open Education Resources (OER). This is one of the planned activities for School of Open (SOO) Tanzania where this training was preceded by a donation of computers, chairs and tables to the computer lab as part of CC Tanzania’s initiative to enable public schools’ use of ICTs in teaching and learning.

This event was officiated by Prof. Tolly Mbwette, the former Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Tanzania (OUT), who agreed to be the patron of CC Tanzania. The university supported the training by providing two training labs that were used by the pupils. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) computer labs were used in the training.

Steven Lukindo, Acting Director of the Institute of Educational Technology & Management (IETM) kicked off the 3-day program on 17, April 2014. 50 pupils were introduced to the open web to aid teaching and learning and the use of Google, Microsoft Word and Excel. The concept of the commons, copyright, and how CC licenses have enabled the global OER movement was also introduced.

A one-month teacher training for 40 primary school teachers was also launched, commencing on 20, April 2015. The training equips teachers from the same school with ICT skills in teaching and learning. Internet, OER and the concept of the commons were introduced to comply with school’s ICT syllabus. This training was SOO Tanzania’s follow-up activity after the donation of computers by CC Tanzania to the same school.

SOO Tanzania has planned for additional training to the school’s pupils on the benefits of sharing OER and the use of different teaching and learning tools customized to local content.

Challenges and lessons learned

A number of challenges were encountered by SOO Tanzania, including: lack of funding to carry out some of its key planned activities, time to merge busy schedules of facilitators work and volunteering activities, publicity, inadequate ICT facilities in most public schools, and low understanding of ICT in teaching and learning in most schools and perception change in sharing of innovations and creativity within the community. More publicity and training is required to take School of Open to the next level in the country.

CC Tanzania through its School of Open planned activities is planning to approach more donors and volunteers to support its 2015 road map, in addition to publicizing its activities to teaching and learning institutions to attract awareness of how CC affiliates work for a better and brighter future of sharing.

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U.S. K12 State Policy Recommendations for OER: Sign Letter of Support

Cable Green, May 8th, 2015

second grade writing class
second grade writing class / woodleywonderworks / CC BY


Achieve
(a nonpartisan education reform organization widely known for its CC BY licensed OER Rubrics) has developed policy recommendations with input from its OER Institute U.S. state partners for U.S. states to use OER as part of their college and career ready implementation plans.

These recommendations aim to provide helpful information and guidance for U.S. states that are interested in but have not yet begun an organized effort to use OER.

The OER policy recommendations center on:

  • States and school districts using OER as part of their strategy to support the implementation of college and career ready standards.
  • Recommending when public funds are used, the instructional materials created should be openly licensed.
  • States and school districts should ensure all instructional materials being used, including OER, are high quality and aligned to college and career ready standards.

To illustrate the broad array of audiences that support and have made effective, standards-aligned OER a priority, Achieve was recently joined by U.S. states, funders and organizations, including Creative Commons, in signing a letter of support for Open Educational Resources.

If your state or organization is interested in signing this letter, please contact Hans Voss at hvoss@achieve.org

This open letter outlines the benefits OER can provide to U.S. states and K12 school districts as they engage the hard work of college and career ready standards implementation. Particularly in an environment where many states are implementing the Common Core State Standards, OER can be used to leverage the benefits of these common standards by providing the legal rights and technical ability to freely share and modify instructional resources to help support the needs of individual classrooms (e.g., K12 OER Collaborative).

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Vancouver Foundation announces first CC BY policy for a Canadian foundation

Timothy Vollmer, May 7th, 2015

vancouver foundation logo

Vancouver Foundation has announced that it will adopt an open licensing policy by January 2017. The foundation will require that all projects and research funded through community advised grant programs be licensed and shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY). In addition, the foundation has pledged to license their own intellectual property–such as reports and publications–under CC BY.

Vancouver Foundation is one of the largest foundations in Canada, with over $1 billion in assets, and funds projects across British Columbia in areas such as arts and culture, education, children and youth issues, environment, animal welfare, community health, and social development. With the new open licensing policy–which is the first for a Canadian foundation–the organization aims “to advance transparency and accessibility of materials to drive greater innovation and creativity in BC and beyond.”

The open licensing policy will take effect in January 2017, and in the interim the foundation will work on the development, testing and implementation of the policy to explore and address the needs of those grantees who have a persuasive reason to choose alternative licenses or conditions.

“Vancouver Foundation is excited to join a growing international movement among foundations to increase access to a wide range of content funded to create public benefits,” said Foundation President and CEO, Kevin McCort. “We do this not only to share the products of our own community investments, but to encourage and support other foundations who want to join us.”

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, said, “Vancouver Foundation joins several leading philanthropic grant making organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving, unlocking billions in resources for everything from research to digital education materials, and data.”

Read the press release of the announcement here. Congratulations to Vancouver Foundation for their leadership and commitment to sharing research, educational materials, and data for the public benefit in the global commons.

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Medium embraces CC licenses

Jane Park, May 6th, 2015

Today Creative Commons is excited to announce that blogging and storytelling platform Medium now offers the entire suite of Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools. You can read more about this great news over at Medium, naturally, in stories by both Creative Commons and Medium.

In just a few years Medium has grown a thriving community of highly engaged authors and storytellers, and it’s been home to some incredible pieces of journalism covering a wide range of interests. It’s no surprise that we heard from folks in the CC and Medium community asking for the licenses to be made available. The Medium community, and the folks behind Medium, really understand the power of CC and the opportunity for their stories to reach even more people.

Medium users can now share their stories under any of the CC licenses or CC0, and they can also import other CC-licensed or public domain work. Medium leverages the power of photography like few other platforms, making it an ideal way to showcase and share CC licensed images, illustrations, and other media.

We want to thank the team at Medium for their amazing work and dedication in making CC available to their users. From our kick-off conversations it was clear that Medium understood the importance of this decision, and it was a pleasure to help them bring it to life.

Please read more about this exciting news over at Medium!

Medium joins CC’s new Platform Initiative, which works to create easy, clear, and enjoyable ways for users to contribute to the commons on community-driven content platforms. If you are a platform that would like to join this movement for the commons, please get in touch!

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Don’t mess with the right to link: Savethelink.org

Timothy Vollmer, May 6th, 2015

StL banner _800

(Hyper)links are the fundamental building blocks of the web, but the practice of linking has come under attack over the last few years. If copyright holders are able to censor or control links to legitimate content, it could disrupt the free flow of information online and hurt access to crucial news and resources on the web.

In the U.S. and Canada we may take for granted that no one requires permission or is forced to pay a fee to link to another place online. But this isn’t the case everywhere. Copyrighted content holders (including news organizations, media, and entertainment sites) around the world are working to remove the right to free and open linking, and the threat is more present than you may think.

Today a coalition of over 50 organizations (including Creative Commons) from 21 countries are launching Savethelink.org. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the issue and prompt action to urge decision makers to protect the practice of free and open linking online.

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, said, “At its core, the Internet is a network of links — connectivity is at the heart of the Web we love. Breaking that structure by giving some the ability to decide what links should work and what links should not undermines free expression, access to information, and the public commons.”

An example of how restricting access to links is already in place in Spain, where the Spanish government passed a law that “requires services which post links and excerpts of news articles to pay a fee to the organisation representing Spanish newspapers.” This type of pseudo-copyright law was intended to protect the revenue flows of Spanish media publishers. However, you have to question whether such a practice might have backfired for publishers who wanted to use the new rule as a means to monetize access to their content. It’s quite tell that Google News–which funnels significant traffic to media websites–shut down in Spain shortly after the law was passed, citing concerns that allowing rights holders to charge for access to links would have been an unworkable practice for them.

Last year’s public consultation on the review of European copyright rules also  contained a question on the right to link:

Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright, either in general or under specific circumstances, be subject to the authorisation of the rightholder?

Many groups, including Creative Commons, responded that allowing rights holders to control access to links would be a terrible idea.

Under no circumstance should hyperlinks be subject to protection under copyright. Sharing links without needing permission from the rightsholder is core to the operation of the internet. Changing this fundamental structural aspect of how the internet works would be detrimental to the free flow of information and commerce online.

You can check out the Savethelink.org website for examples from other areas around the world where the right to link is in danger. Read the press release here.

If links can be censored by rights holders, it would be detrimental to access to information, free expression, and economic activity. It could fracture the longstanding mechanism underlying the sharing of information on the web. Let’s not let that happen.

You can sign the petition at Savethelink.org. Organizations wishing to join the coalition can join here.

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Hague Declaration calls for IP reform to support access to knowledge in the digital age

Timothy Vollmer, May 6th, 2015

hague logo

Today Creative Commons joins over 50 organizations in releasing the Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age. The declaration is a collaboratively-created set of principles that outlines core legal and technical freedoms that are necessary for researchers to be able to take advantage of new technologies and practices in the pursuit of scholarly research, including activities such as text and data mining. The drafting of the declaration was led by LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries. It was developed through contributions from dozens of organizations and individuals, including several experts from the CC community. Creative Commons is an original signatory to the declaration.

One of the key principles recognized in the declaration is that intellectual property law does not regulate the flow of facts, data, and ideas–and that licenses and contract terms should not regulate or restrict how an individual may analyze or use data. It supports the notion that “the right to read is the right to mine”, and that facts, data, and ideas should never be considered to be under the protection of copyright. To realize the massive, positive potential for data and content analysis to help solve major scientific, medical, and environmental challenges, it’s important that intellectual property laws and private contracts–do not restrict practices such as text and data mining.

 

 

The Hague Declaration also lays out a roadmap for action in support of these principles. The roadmap suggests the development of policies that provide legal clarity that content mining is not an infringement of copyright or related rights. It’s important for advocates to champion this notion, especially as there have been increasing suggestions from rights holders who are attempting to develop new legal arrangements and licenses that require users to ask permission to engage in practices such as text and data mining.

In addition to supporting the notion that the right to read is the right to mine–free from additional copyright-like rights, license, or contractual arrangements–the declaration also suggests that if funding bodies are considering adopting open licensing mandates as a component of receiving grant funds, they should aim to adopt policies that champion a liberal licensing approach. Specifically the declaration states that research articles created with grant funds should be published in the global commons under a liberal license such as CC BY, and that research data should be shared in the worldwide public domain via the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

The Hague Declaration is an important set of principles and recommended actions that can aid the speed and effectiveness of scholarly research and knowledge discovery today. You can read the LIBER press release here. To show your support, you can sign the declaration.

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Japanese translation of CC0 published

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, May 5th, 2015

Congratulations to CC Japan for their tireless work on the official translation of CC0 into Japanese! This marks the first official translation of CC0 for the Asia-Pacific region, and the fourth official translation of CC0 overall.

CC0 is a tool that enables creators to dedicate work to the public domain. Its three-layer design includes a waiver of rights, a fallback license allowing use of the work for any purpose with no conditions, and an agreement not to assert rights in the work. Official language translations of CC0 are created in accordance with the CC Legal Code Translation Policy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.50.21 PM

This translation is the result of years of hard work by many in the CC community. Special thanks goes to Maki Higashikubo, Naoki Kanehisa, Kokoro Kobayashi, Yosuke Koike, Tasuku Mizuno, Yuko Noguchi, Masafumi Masuda, Asako Miyoshi, and Tomoaki Watanabe.

We are thrilled for this team and for the global commons!

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Open business models, open data, and the public interest

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, April 20th, 2015

Less than one month ago, Creative Commons began a project designed to explore and develop business models built on CC licensing. Starting from the methods in the best-selling Business Model Generation handbook, Creative Commons is developing new tools specifically tailored for ventures that utilize CC-licensed or public domain content as a central component of their strategies. We are also working one-on-one with a handful of companies and organizations to brainstorm new business models and paths to sustainability.

In this short span of time, we have seen there is a real desire for this sort of work, and Creative Commons is uniquely-suited to lead it. And in just these first few weeks of this project, we have learned an incredible amount about all of the fascinating ways nonprofits, universities, and businesses are leveraging CC licensing in what they do. One immediate observation about these ventures is how the public interest plays a role in all of them. Whether for-profit or not, the social good furthered by the product or service is an important part of the value proposition.

Meet Openwords: A great example of that phenomenon is a young startup called Openwords, a company CC has been fortunate to work with in our business models initiative. Openwords is a foreign language learning app with a social mission – to provide free and open language learning technology for languages that currently have little or no options for mobile language learning. The small startup is able to do this at low cost thanks to open data. Openwords mines the vast pools of existing open data on sites like Wiktionary and Apertium and transforms the data into language learning tools for a wide range of languages, large and small. Openwords’ open data strategy has already been successful. Openwords has mined content for over 1000 languages.

While Openwords uses existing open data to fuel its product, it is also giving back new open data and content to the public. Everything Openwords creates — the modified data, software code, and educational content – is either dedicated to the public domain using CC0 or offered under an open license. This virtuous circle makes it possible for this for-profit venture to fulfill its social goals.

Created by Zachary Rozycki.

Infographic created by Zachary Rozycki.

In 2014, Openwords released a prototype of its mobile app. Now, it has launched a Kickstarter to fund the development of a beta version of the app, and to involve the community in the Openwords app design.

Crowdfunding is just one avenue Openwords is pursuing to raise money, but it can be an effective way to generate funds and buzz simultaneously. In our business models work, we will be researching crowdfunding as a potential revenue model for ventures built on CC licensing. We even plan on trying it out ourselves by running a Kickstarter campaign this summer to write a book about CC business models.

Building sustainable models around open is important work. We encourage you to check out what Openwords is doing. If you are trying to determine how you can operate in a financially-sound manner while generating social good through the use of CC licenses, we encourage you to contact us and participate in our Creative Commons open business models initiative.

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