Creative Commons Board of Directors approves resolution calling for Bassel Khartabil release

Timothy Vollmer, October 17th, 2015

At its meeting on October 16, 2015, the Creative Commons Board of Directors unanimously approved the following motion:

Consensus Resolution re: Bassel Safadi 

WHEREAS: Creative Commons is hosting its bi-annual Global Summit in Seoul, South Korea from Oct 15-17, 2015, an event that has previously been attended by Bassel Khartabil, where he was an active and valued contributor, and where he is today profoundly missed by his friends and colleagues.

WHEREAS: Mr. Khartabil has served faithfully and diligently as the Public Lead of CC Syria since 2009, and among other immeasurable contributions:

  • Built Aiki Lab Community Center in Damascus that has hosted talks from key figures in the open web movement in support of Creative Commons communities in the Arab region;

  • Volunteered on countless free culture projects including Creative Commons, Mozilla, Wikipedia, and Openclipart;

  • Participated in and was a leader of several Creative Commons Arab Regional Meetings, including work to forge a unified Arabic translation of important CC licensing and public domain concepts;

  • Was named in 2012 as a one of the Top Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy for insisting on a peaceful Syrian revolution; and

  • Was awarded by Index on Censorship the Digital Freedom Award in 2013.

WHEREAS: Mr. Khartabil’s contributions to Creative Commons have always inspired collaboration, community, and the sharing of culture and knowledge, including his leadership in the development of the #NewPalmyra, and his activism and involvement in the CC community and open internet community is deeply missed since his arrest and imprisonment without trial or assistance of counsel in March 2012.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: that the Board of Directors hereby calls on Mr. Khartabil’s captors for his immediate and safe release.


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A plea from the Commons: #FreeBassel now

Timothy Vollmer, October 14th, 2015


As the Creative Commons Global Summit kicks off this week in Seoul, we are acutely aware of the absence of Bassel Khartabil, the Palestinian-Syrian open source software engineer and activist who led the CC Syria affiliate team. He has been imprisoned in Syria since March 2012.

It is an incredibly dangerous time for Bassel. Earlier this month we heard that Bassel had been transferred from Adra Prison to an unknown location. Bassel’s name has been removed from the register at Adra Prison, and his bed has been assigned to another prisoner. There is little to no other information about his status, health, or whereabouts.

In this uncertain time it’s now more important than ever for our community to raise awareness about Bassel’s situation and re-commit to calling for his safe release. Here’s some things we all can do:

Keep Bassel in the spotlight. #FreeBassel.



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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)

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Supporting user rights for mass digitization of culture

Timothy Vollmer, October 12th, 2015

Assignments of copyrights photostat copies by mollyali, CC BY-NC 2.0

A few months ago the United States Copyright Office issued a request for comments on an extended collective licensing (ECL) pilot program they are considering for mass digitization projects. The Office thinks that such a program would permit greater access to cultural works by allowing institutions to engage in mass digitization and then licence those digital collections for a fee. Creative Commons and Creative Commons USA submitted comments to the Copyright Office in coordination with Wikimedia and Internet Archive.

We urged the Office to reconsider the pilot because the fair use doctrine has actually been strengthened in the U.S. due to recent court cases. This has increased the certainty with which a number of entities can engage in mass digitization. And even though the Office points toward similar pilots in Europe, their reliance on ECL is a response to the inflexibility of the current EU copyright framework. Some European cultural heritage institutions are willing to accept the ECL framework because they have no other option. U.S. institutions—such as university libraries—can rely on fair use.

The ECL system as proposed by the Office would not work well to support mass digitization projects. Many authors are not primarily interested in financial rewards—for example those that write scholarly books. And if there is no expectation of revenues for the creator, paying a collective rights organization collect fees to use such works is inefficient and in opposition to the intentions of these authors.

The proposed ECL scheme in the U.S. would be more powerful if it could do more, but the Office has chosen to favor a pilot program that would “facilitate the work of those who wish to digitize and provide full access to certain collections of books, photographs, or other materials for nonprofit educational or research purposes.” By limiting the proposed ECL scope to noncommercial uses, the Office inadvertently makes a stronger case that the activities of digitizers and users will be considered a fair use and that the ECL is not needed in the first place.

We explained that if the Office ultimately pursues an ECL pilot, it should affirmatively exclude works that are publicly licensed and allow other authors who wish to be excluded to apply a Creative Commons license to their work.

In the end, we agreed with many of the libraries that if the Copyright Office is serious about helping to increase legal mass digitization of our shared cultural heritage, it should instead focus on: 1) Encouraging the application of fair use to digitization projects; 2) Promoting the development of better copyright ownership and status information through enhanced registries, rethinking recordation, and asking copyright owners to identify themselves and their works through an internationally-compliant formalities system; and 3) Providing better access to existing copyright ownership and status information by digitizing or encouraging others to digitize and provide free access to all of the Copyright Office’s records.

Comments of Creative Commons and CC USA (PDF)

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CC0 now available in Polish – official translation published

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, October 9th, 2015

Post written by John Weitzmann

Creative Commons and the European group of CC Affiliates are proud and happy to announce the launch of the official Polish translation of CC0 version 1.0.

Translation is an essential part of our efforts to be a truly global project, offering legal tools that work for everyone regardless of language and origins of the respective legal system. Our tools aren’t finished until everyone who wants to use them has the ability to understand the license in the language they know best. The Polish CC0 translation exemplifies how our affiliates, in this case Centrum Cyfrowe in Warsaw as hosting organization of Creative Commons Poland together with other volunteers, are achieving that goal. Together with the Polish Coalition for Open Education, CC Poland had engaged in extensive analysis of the usability of CC0 under Polish law in advance of conducting the translation, this included engagement with the Polish Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the wider community of legal experts in Poland and abroad.

The Polish CC0 translation has passed the various internal and external stages of the standard process divised for this and is now complete. Further info on the public discussion that forms part of this process can be found here (in Polish). Key contributors in the process were Helena Rymar, Marcin Serafin and Katarzyna Strycharz, and further expertise and comments were provided by Krzysztof Siewicz and Adrian Niewęgłowski. Alek Tarkowski of CC Poland and Piotr Wasilewski presented on CC0 in October 2015 at a meeting organized by the Department of Intellectual Property Law of Jagiellonian University in collaboration with Creative Commons Poland, focussing on CC0 and the boundaries of copyright law.

Polish cultural institutions for a long time had been interested in CC0 as a tool, particularly because of their collaboration with Europeana. The team of CC Poland therefore expects a large increase in the use of the CC0 by libraries, archives and museums. We are proud to hear that for example the Polish National Institute for Museums and Public Collections (Narodowy Instytut Muzealnictwa i Ochrony Zbiorów – NIMOZ) in a brochure recommends the use of CC0 for digitized museum resources.

From now on, CC0 in Polish is available on the CC server at https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/legalcode.pl.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 now one-way compatible with GPLv3

Mike Linksvayer, October 8th, 2015

The declaration increases interoperability of the commons for games, hardware designs, and more

Photo by Hugh Llewelyn, licensed BY-SA 2.0, available on Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Hugh Llewelyn, licensed BY-SA 2.0, available on Wikimedia Commons.

In January we officially opened a public consultation (blog post) on CC BY-SA 4.0 unilateral compatibility with GPLv3, in accordance with our ShareAlike compatibility process and criteria. Following additional months of detailed analysis, discussion and deliberation with the Free Software Foundation and other stakeholders, we are very pleased to announce that we have added a declaration of one-way compatibility from CC BY-SA 4.0 to GPLv3 to our compatible licenses page!

Put simply this means you now have permission to adapt another licensor’s work under CC BY-SA 4.0 and release your contributions to the adaptation under GPLv3 (while the adaptation relies on both licenses, a reuser of the combined and remixed work need only look to the conditions of GPLv3 to satisfy the attribution and ShareAlike conditions of BY-SA 4.0).

This doesn’t mean that you should apply GPLv3 to your revised BY-SA 4.0 work — in most cases it makes sense to release adaptations under the same license as the original, even if not required (e.g., in the case of CC BY or CC0) to facilitate ongoing collaboration with the “upstream” and peer “forks”. But if your use case calls for or requires (in the case of remixing CC BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 material to make a single adaptation) releasing a CC BY-SA 4.0 adaptation under GPLv3, now you can: copyright in the guise of incompatible copyleft licenses is no longer a barrier to growing the part of the commons you’re working in. We hope that this new compatibility not only removes a barrier, but helps inspire new and creative combinations of software and culture, design, education, and science, and the adoption of software best practices such as source control (e.g., through “git”) in these fields.

Increasing Interoperability

Since 2005 Creative Commons has been working to increase the legal interoperability of the commons — roughly the ability to use works in the commons together, usually in the form of adaptation, without legal barriers. This has meant retiring little-used CC licenses that were incompatible with other licenses — meaning works under the now-retired licenses could not be remixed with works in the commons under more popular licenses. It has meant working with other license stewards and user communities to migrate projects to licenses compatible with those used for the largest pools of relevant works, as when we worked with the Free Software Foundation and the Wikimedia community to facilitate the latter migrating from the GNU Free Documentation License to CC BY-SA 3.0 as its default license. It has meant working with governments to use and mandate broadly used licenses, or the least ensure that government-specific licenses are compatible with broadly used licenses, most often CC-BY.

Finally, this long-term push for increasing interoperability meant developing an explicit mechanism for declaring compatibility between CC BY-SA and similar share-alike or copyleft licenses. Absent such a mechanism, works under different copyleft licenses cannot be used together to form an adaptation, as copyleft licenses typically require that adaptations be released under the same license as the original work. We first introduced the mechanism in CC BY-SA 3.0 (2007) but it has yet to be used for that license — the most pressing interoperability barrier at the time was mitigated instead through a temporary allowance for license migration (see Wikimedia above) — and we believe compatibility should only be declared after much careful analysis and deliberation. With CC BY-SA 4.0 (2013) the mechanism was enhanced, allowing the possibility of unilateral as well as bilateral compatibility. Nearly a year ago CC BY-SA 4.0 was declared bilaterally compatible with the Free Art License 1.3.

Since the beginning of version 4.0 consultations (2011) and before, we have been discussing with the Free Software Foundation and other stakeholders the possibility of declaring unilateral compatibility from CC BY-SA 4.0 to GPLv3, allowing new contributions to adaptations of works under the former to be released under the latter, and thus also allowing adaptations to be created from works under both licenses. The demand for such an arrangement comes from a variety of use cases, including games and other smart artifacts for which it isn’t always easy to separate software and non-software, hardware designs for which both CC BY-SA and GPL family licenses are popular, and artists who wish to require that adaptations of adaptations not only be allowed, but facilitated through availability of a “preferred form of the work for making modifications”, as the GPL requires. These may seem like niche issues if you think only of media such as text, images, and data. But as the saying goes, “software is eating the world”; the winning educational resources, cultural artifacts, and research inputs and outputs of the future will be software, designed by software, processed by software, or all three. Mitigating legal barriers to remixing “software” and “non-software” in the commons is one thing we can do to help ensure the commons remains vibrant.

Increasing interoperability of the commons is a very long-term, ongoing process, in part enabled by cooperation between license stewards within and across particular domains. CC BY-SA 4.0 one-way compatibility with GPLv3 is a huge win. It took many years to achieve. There are still many incompatibilities among licenses used for data, hardware designs, software, and other materials, both within those domains and especially across them. What commons interoperability fixes do you want to see in the next 5-10 years?

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Institute for Open Leadership 2: Apply now

Timothy Vollmer, September 28th, 2015

Cape Town by Kemal Kestelli on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Earlier this year, Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership (IOL). The IOL is a training and support program to empower new leaders interested in crafting and implementing an open licensing policy within their discipline. We had a diverse cohort of 14 fellows who came together for a week in January, 2015 in San Francisco. The fellows worked with mentors and each other to hone their open policy project ideas. Since then they’ve working within their institutions and fields to implement their open policy plan.

Today we’re opening the application period for the next round of the institute. IOL 2 will take place March 14-18, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Application instructions are on the Institute for Open Leadership webpage. Applications are due October 30, 2015. We will accept 15 IOL fellows.

We encourage applications from a variety of areas, including the public sector, cultural heritage institutions, publishing, and scientific labs. We’re interested in individuals who are eager to become experts in open licensing, pursue new opportunities for open sharing of content and data, and directly influence policy decisions in their institution and field of work.

Thanks again to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations for their support for the Institute for Open Leadership.

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Creative Commons awarded $450,000 from the Arcadia Fund to support open access publishing for authors

Rebecca Lendl, September 25th, 2015

Creative Commons is pleased to announce a grant award in the amount of $450,000 over 3 years from the Arcadia Fund, the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. Since its inception in 2001, Arcadia has awarded grants in excess of $331 million. Arcadia works to protect endangered culture and nature. Creative Commons will use funds from Arcadia to develop tools that complement the current CC license suite and empower authors to retain or regain their right to publish so they can make their scholarly and academic works available for public use.

Building on the success of the current CC licenses — now with nearly 1 billion licenses in use across over 9 million websites — Creative Commons is enthusiastic about developing tools that can be used by authors who “write to be read” but face all too common barriers to making their research openly available. These resources will be developed for global use, taking into account country-specific copyright laws, customs, and language. Once in widespread use, these tools are expected to increase the number of articles and publications that are available for broad public use.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, Creative Commons will work with CC’s international network of over 100 affiliates working in over 80 regions around the world. This core group will next convene at the 2015 Creative Commons Global Summit on October 14-17 in Seoul, South Korea. A dedicated summit session will be held to discuss the best approach to formulating tools and materials that enable authors to retain and regain their rights, while also addressing the needs of publishers. Collaborators on this project include Authors Alliance, Free Culture Trust, and SPARC, all of whom are dedicated to supporting authors, institutions, and the public in promoting access to research and scholarly work. Importantly, this group also includes academic publishers who support or have interest in promoting open access principles.

Creative Commons is grateful to the Arcadia Fund for its essential support of our work. We look forward to sharing our progress and success with all of you!

About Creative Commons and our collaborators

Creative Commons enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools to help realize the full potential of the Internet—universal access to research and education, and full participation in culture.

Authors Alliance is a membership-driven non-profit organization that supports and advocates for authors who write to be read.

Free Culture Trust is dedicated to helping authors and artists make their works widely available by removing bureaucratic and structural barriers to sharing.

SPARC is an international alliance of organizations dedicated to creating a more open system for sharing research and scholarship.

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European migrant crisis: Czech teachers create and share resources

Timothy Vollmer, September 24th, 2015

This is a guest post by Jan Gondol.

Pencil by Mari Pi, Public Domain.

In the midst of the European migrant crisis, the Czech Republic is showing the power of open educational resources (OER).

EDUin, a non-profit organization based in Prague worked with the Czech organization of civic education teachers to address the current migrant crisis. Students in schools were asking questions and wanted to understand what was going on. Why are so many people on the run? What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant? What is the difference between migration, emigration and immigration?

The teachers worked on developing the materials for Czech schools, and the resulting worksheets are now shared on their website (in the Czech language). These worksheets are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0, and there are different versions for ages 6-11 and ages 12-16.

“This activity shows that open educational resources can help react to a new situation very quickly in a way traditional textbooks cannot,” says Tamara Kováčová, coordinator of EDUin’s open education program. “Because of fast distribution, materials get to schools around the country in a matter of days. Teachers get support in time when they need it and teaching is up-to-date. Furthermore, it’s possible to join several school subjects together on phenomenon based learning principle.”

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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)

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