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Public (UK) perception of copyright, public sector information, and CC

Mike Linksvayer, June 9th, 2009

The UK Office of Public Sector Information has published a report on public understanding of copyright, in particular Crown Copyright, the default status of UK government works … and Creative Commons. It contains interesting findings, though I really wish it had included two additional questions.

Among the general (UK) public, 71% agree that government should encourage re-use of content it provides, and only 4% disagree.

The survey asked whether people felt encouraged or discouraged from using content when seeing “copyright” alone or alternatives on a web page:

Encouraged Discouraged
Copyright 15% 70%
Crown Copyright 22% 52%
Click-Use Licence 22% 35%
Read Terms & Conditions 61% 29%



Clearly, copyright discourages use. Of the alternative notices tested in this way, only “Read Terms & Conditions” noticeably encourages use. As the presentation notes, this option is likely to be recognized as non-transactional.

Adding a transaction, potentially monetary, as overhead to copy & paste discourages re-use. You’ll occasionally hear us and advocates of open licensing generally talk about reducing “transaction costs” — see, that’s not just blather! One way of looking at public licenses such as CC licenses is that they make re-use non-transactional — they pre-clear at least certain re-uses.

Unfortunately, the survey did not evaluate a CC license notice in the same manner — whether it encourages or discourages use. 87% of the general public did not recognize the license icon associated with the CC Attribution license. It’s hard to say whether this is good or bad — a small proportion recognizes the image — on the other hand we’re talking about the general public and one specific image.

Hopefully this or a similar survey will be repeated in the UK and elsewhere to see how recognition increases, or does not. Furthermore, future surveys should test not mere image recognition. Typically a license icon is paired with a statement such as “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.” And of course the icon and text are linked to a “human readable” deed explaining the terms, as well as a “machine readable” annotation so that seeing a license notice on a web page isn’t the only vector for discovering the content as re-usable without a transaction.

Even more unfortunately, they survey did not evaluate whether “public domain” encourages or discourages use.

Overall, it is fantastic that this survey was done and published. Clearly the public wants to be encouraged to make use of its own information and a non-transactional alternative to default copyright is necessary to make that encouragement.

While we’ve come a very long way toward enabling effective sharing and re-framing copyright for the digital age, one must strongly agree with Glyn Moody’s assessment:

It looks like much more work needs to be done to get the message out about Creative Commons and its licences.

You can help — release works under one of the CC licenses (or into the public domain), use and recommend licensed works, and if you’re able, please support the effort financially.

Via Open Education News.

2 Responses to “Public (UK) perception of copyright, public sector information, and CC”

  1. Church says:

    Is “Condistions” an English spelling, or a typo?

  2. Typo, fixed. Thanks!

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