Commons News

#cc10 Featured Platform: Scribd

Elliot Harmon, December 6th, 2012

In celebration of Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary, we’re writing about various platforms that host CC-licensed content. Today, we’re featuring document-sharing site Scribd.

Most people reading this are probably quite familiar with Scribd. It’s an easy, reliable place to publish documents and presentations. A lot of professional publishers use it, including our friends at Pratham Books. One thing that’s neat about Scribd is its embed feature: you can insert documents into a website, just like YouTube videos or Flickr photos.

I asked Scribd content and community manager Taylor Pipes to recommend a few of his favorite CC-licensed works on Scribd, and I also asked him a few questions.

Street Photography an eBook by Alex Coghe

How much of the content on Scribd is CC-licensed? Has that number stayed constant or changed since you implemented CC licensing?

Most of the content published on Scribd is CC-licensed, as we encourage authors to use CC licenses when possible. We’ve seen the number of CC-licensed works on Scribd grow by over 100% year over year. While our library encompasses over 25 million documents, 20 million of them have been uploaded utilizing the Creative Commons license.

Have there been any unexpected results to CC licensing on Scribd? People reusing each other’s documents in surprising or unusual ways?

Probably the most powerful result of CC licensing has been the proliferation of embedded Scribd documents around the web. We have more than 10 million Scribd document embeds now, and many of those are from bloggers or other independent writers. Because of Creative Commons licenses, these bloggers are able to integrate the content of these works on Scribd into their own writing.

Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig

Since Scribd launched, have your community’s attitudes toward sharing changed?

We’ve definitely seen an increase in user understanding and awareness of the sharing now possible with social media. Authors have realized that allowing users to remix and re-publish their content is a great way to help their content go viral and get distribution around the web. We are in an entirely different place with publishing, which is truly astonishing. The amount of change and disruption that has occurred in the last few years is a testament to the radical innovation stemming from mobile. We feel quite strongly that our work, especially with CC-documents and publications, is helping to write a new chapter in publishing.

Taylor’s favorite CC-licensed works on Scribd

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#cc10 Featured Content: Cory Doctorow on Rudy Rucker

Elliot Harmon, December 6th, 2012

In celebration of Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary, we asked various friends of CC to write about their favorite CC-licensed content. Today, blogger and science fiction author Cory Doctorow writes about the CC-licensed novels of one of the original cyberpunks.

Rudy Rucker’s Wetware books: the finest high-weirdness of the
golden age of cyberpunk

Rudy Rucker is one of the modern heroes of science fiction, one of the original cyberpunks. The early cyberpunks only had a few writers who could be meaningfully called punks — writers like John Shirley and Richard Kadrey — but there was only one who could truly be called cyber: Rudy Rucker. Rucker is a mad professor, a mathematician and computer scientist with a serious, scholarly interest in the limits of computation and the physics and mathematics of higher-dimension geometry.

The Ware Tetralogy

But that’s just about the only thing you can describe as “serious” when it comes to Rucker. He’s a gonzo wildman, someone for whom “trippy” barely scratches the surface. His work is shot through with weird sex, weird drugs, weird brain chemistry, and above all, weird science.

The Ware Tetralogy is comprised of four novels written between 1982 and 2000, and I gobbled them up as they came out. They describe a future dominated by intensely weird and eerily scientifically plausible self-modifying cluster organisms that use evolutionary algorithms to bud offspring, rising to contend with humanity for dominance of the Earth and its envrions. They also get very, very high. On math. And they screw. A lot. Not like weasels. Not, in fact, like anything. Because Rudy Rucker is NOT LIKE ANYTHING.

Rucker is a tremendously prolific writer and editor who is publishing some of his finest work today (I’ve got his latest, the independently published Turing and Burroughs sitting at the top of my to-be-read pile as I write this). But the Ware books remain at the core of what I think of as the fiction that shaped who I am as a writer and thinker. And they’re available as a free, CC-licensed download (PDF).

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Africa’s First 3.0 Licenses!

Aurelia J. Schultz, November 30th, 2012

Uganda_16

Uganda_16 / Matt Lucht / CC BY

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Creative Commons 3.0 Uganda licenses. Since joining the Creative Commons family in March of 2011, the Ugandan team has been incredibly busy: hosting the African Regional Meeting, pulling together petitions for the Pan-African Intellectual Property Organization, and spreading the news about CC licenses. While doing all these great activities, they’ve also completed one of the last 3.0 ports.

The licenses are available through the license chooser, and like all of our licenses, are intended for use anywhere in the world. The Uganda 3.0 licenses are important as the first 3.0 licenses in Africa and one of the last 3.0 ports before the launch of the new 4.0 licenses.

Creative Commons would like to extend a huge thanks to the whole CC Uganda team; The National Book Trust of Uganda (NABOTU); the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD); and especially to Primah Kwagala for leading the porting team.

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Paul Brest Named Creative Commons Chair

Cathy Casserly, November 29th, 2012

Read the full press release. (PDF)

I’m delighted to announce that Paul Brest has been elected chair of the Creative Commons board. Paul will begin as chair in December, coinciding with CC’s tenth anniversary celebrations.

Throughout his career, Paul has bridged the worlds of law, philanthropy, and academia, most recently as president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and, before that, dean of Stanford Law School. He’s widely recognized as an expert on constitutional law, problem solving and decision making, and philanthropic strategy, having written books and taught classes at Stanford on these subjects.

I can’t think of a better choice than Paul. He has that rare combination of strong instincts and the knowledge and rigor to back those instincts up. He’s the leader we need to carry CC into the next decade.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to recognize Joi Ito for his years of service as chair. During Joi’s time as chair, he’s helped CC grow as an organization, both in global influence and in its relevance to a changing technology landscape.

Please join me in thanking Joi and welcoming Paul.

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CC-Licensed Documentary Explores Personality Rights Issues

Elliot Harmon, November 19th, 2012

A few weeks ago, CC received an interesting email from filmmaker Annie Berman. She told us about a CC-licensed documentary she’s been working on called The Faithful. The film explores issues of fandom and ritual, with Elvis Presley, Pope John Paul II, and and Princess Diana as its focal points.

As Annie was working the film, she contacted by Robert Sillerman — owner of the name, image, and likeness of Elvis Presley — for an interview. And suddenly, The Faithful was not only about the followers of iconic figures, but also about who owns their images.

THE FAITHFUL Teaser, as seen at REMIX NYC from Fish in the Hand Productions on Vimeo.

The film features an interview with CC founder Lawrence Lessig. In the clip below, Larry answers a pressing question: can Annie Berman make this film?

Excerpts from Lawrence Lessig Interview, THE FAITHFUL from Fish in the Hand Productions on Vimeo.

You can support the film on Kickstarter through the end of November. For more CC-licensed projects, visit our Kickstarter page.

Updated November 20: We incorrectly reported that Robert Sillerman initially contacted Annie Berman while she was working on the documentary. She contacted him.

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Introducing the CC Science Advisory Board

Puneet Kishor, November 16th, 2012

Creative Commons has formed a new Science Advisory Board (SAB) to guide its science program and to provide overall strategic vision and focus. The SAB brings legal, institutional as well as domain-specific knowledge in the use and sharing of scientific tools and data. Our SAB is made up of eminent scholars and practitioners from different disciplines and four continents who have volunteered to provide us both the domain expertise as well as regional perspective to help create a truly globally responsive program. We are grateful to Gilberto Camara, Michael Carroll, Robert Chen, Juncai Ma, Peter Murray-Rust, Mackenzie Smith, and John Wilbanks for their time and insight.

Creative Commons works with scientists and institutions, providing education and outreach on the right technologies and licenses to maximize legal interoperability of scientific data and tools. Since most science is both cross-discipline and cross-border, legal interoperability of data and tools facilitates collaboration, enables reproducibility and verifiability, and makes it possible to extract a higher return on investment in publicly funded scientific programs through reuse of information.

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500px Announces Creative Commons Licensing Options

Elliot Harmon, November 16th, 2012

Read the full press release. (PDF)

This morning, photo-sharing platform 500px announced that it now offers Creative Commons licensing options. 500px has become a hub for talented photographers in recent years, and it’s great to see it join the ranks of CC-enabled platforms.

From the press release:

“While our platform still defaults to full copyright protection as it always has, we want to give our photographers as much flexibility as possible to spread their work and build their profiles and businesses,” says Oleg Gutsol, CEO, 500px. “Our move to offer Creative Commons licensing is another way we’re providing additional services and value to meet the needs of our growing community.”

With tens of millions of high quality professional photos potentially now available through Creative Commons, 500px is planning for the increased traffic from bloggers, publishers and media outlets that have been clamoring to get at the content for several years.

“We’ve built content searching by keywords and applicable license right into the functionality,” says Gutsol. “Our hope is that this targeted searching makes it seamless for people to find the content they’re looking for.”

With this rollout, 500px joins the ranks of other prominent rich media communities such as Vimeo, SoundCloud and YouTube who already have Creative Commons in place.

“500px is a great addition to the family of CC-compatible media platforms,” Creative Commons CEO Cathy Casserly said. “500px caters to a talented and intelligent community of photographers, just the sort of users we’re always excited to see licensing their work under CC. I’ll be curious to see how creative people everywhere reuse and remix the work of 500px photographers.”

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Building an Innovation-Based Economy with Creative Commons

Cable Green, November 15th, 2012

In a paper released in conjunction with a panel discussion, the Brookings Institution identifies promising policy ideas to encourage entrepreneurship and innovative growth in the technology industry.

“We need to improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.”

“In an era of limited resources, educators must figure out how to do more with fewer financial resources. One action that would improve school efficiency and financing is to have educational resources developed with taxpayer dollars be licensed under a creative commons license that would improve accessibility to instructional materials. Budget circumstances require schools to get more efficient, boost productivity, and make do with fewer financial resources. While this poses obvious problems for school districts, it also creates the possibility of making changes in business operations that are innovative and transformational.”

“Throughout each of these initiatives, we should have metrics assessing education innovation implementation and impact. We should determine how fast we are transitioning from paper to digital textbooks, leverage the use of creative commons licenses, and enforce changes in education policy and accreditation that encourage more innovative approaches to learning and achievement.”

The report also endorses FRPAA legislation that would “mandate public dissemination of federally funded research within six months of publication (for agencies with extramural funding exceeding $100 million).”

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WIPO’s Broadcasting Treaty: Still Harmful, Still Unnecessary

Timothy Vollmer, November 14th, 2012

Creative Commons has been involved in discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the last several years, and we’ve made interventions in support of the public domain, as well as other topics.

One issue in particular that is resurfacing at WIPO is a draft treaty for the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations, or “Broadcasting Treaty.” If passed, the Broadcasting Treaty would grant to broadcasters a separate, exclusive copyright-like right in the signals that they transmit, separate from any copyrights they or others may have in the content of the transmissions. Some advocates of the treaty support granting these rights to broadcasters for a minimum of 50 years (and others, for a minimum of 20). And, because these additional rights would add a layer of rights atop the underlying copyright in the works being broadcast, the Broadcasting Treaty would permit broadcasters to restrict access to works already licensed under a Creative Commons license, or in the public domain. This new set of rights would unnecessarily complicate the rights-negotiation process that Creative Commons has attempted to simplify.

Antennas to heaven

Antennas to Heaven / mhiguera / CC BY

The Broadcasting Treaty has been on and off WIPO’s agenda since at least 1996. This is not the first time that CC has voiced its concern about the potentially harmful effects of a Broadcasting Treaty. In 2006, we signed a letter of concern (PDF) with 37 other organizations representing a broad range of information technology, consumer electronics and telecommunications companies, library associations, and civil society organizations. The letter told WIPO that if a treaty is deemed necessary, it should be based on a “signal-based” approach, focusing specifically on protecting broadcasting signals from intentional misappropriation or theft. The statement called for the inclusion of a mandatory baseline set of limitations and exceptions in order to ensure that uses of broadcasted content that are lawful under copyright law are not inhibited by the treaty. And in general, the letter questioned the need for a Broadcasting Treaty in the first place, suggesting that current legal frameworks already provide the necessary enforcement mechanism for “signal piracy” (unauthorized use of a broadcast, prohibited by the broadcaster).

Why is a Broadcasting Treaty problematic for users of Creative Commons licenses?

A report (PDF) by Professor Patrícia Akester, commissioned by UNESCO, concluded that a Broadcasting Treaty could “prevent or restrict the flow of information with respect to materials which may not be protected by copyright, such as news of the day, or which are in the public domain, because their term of protection has expired or in relation to materials created by third parties who do not wish to prevent dissemination of the latter… . For example, a broadcast of a speech by a public official may be covered by the scope of the proposed Treaty, even though it may not be protected by copyright, and a broadcast of materials under a Creative Commons license may prevent users from fixing such materials.” Anyone who would want to use a broadcast would have been compelled to get permission from the broadcaster in addition to the copyright holder. This would negatively affect users of Creative Commons licenses. It would grant broadcasters an additional right above and beyond those rights granted to the copyright holder. So, even though CC licenses provide for a clear set of permissions in advance, broadcasters’ rights could trump those rights, requiring that a user get permission or pay a license fee to the broadcaster to use the broadcasted content. Most WIPO member nations have agreed to pursue the more limited signal-based approach, but it’s not clear whether this path would avoid interfering with the permissions granted from the Creative Commons licenses.

CC licenses forbid licensees from applying adding technological protection measures (DRM) to a work if doing so prohibits other users from exercising the rights granted under the license. A broadcast treaty that authorizes application of DRM to their signals — depending on its final scope — would very likely conflict with that prohibition. Moreover, the Treaty permits countries to enact far-reaching anti-circumvention laws that stop users from breaking DRM to use the broadcast content — inclusive of any CC-licensed content, which by the terms of the license is expressly permitted. This may put licensees in a situation of either not being able to exercise rights granted under copyright via the CC licenses, or risk violating law when they circumvent the technological protection measure to do so.

Adding additional intellectual property rights via a broadcast right is bad policy and yet another representation of the expanding rights grab from entities who are not the copyright holder. And said well by Public Knowledge, “Intellectual property rights should go to authors or inventors, not middlemen.” This statement represents the underlying utility of Creative Commons since its inception: CC licenses provide powerful yet easy-to-implement solutions in order to reduce the legal transaction costs associated with sharing content. In addition, the Broadcasting Treaty could give rise to a sort of re-enclosure of the public domain by granting rights to broadcasters even after a user has placed a work in the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

The creation of new “copyright-like” rights has been increasing over the last several years, to the detriment of creativity and innovation. The Broadcasting Treaty is a direct attack on the rights of creators to share their work as they see fit under the existing (and increasingly protectionist) copyright regime. As Mike Linksvayer wrote in 2010, “With a proliferation of rights, it is harder to know who has exclusive control over what, or whether multiple parties have exclusive control over different rights over a work. This phenomenon of too many property claims forms what is sometimes called an anticommons — overlapping exclusive claims can prevent anyone from using a work — the opposite (thus “anti”) of a commons, in which anyone may use a work under a clear, easily discernible set of rules.” Creative Commons licenses have been a successful mechanism for creators who want to share to communicate their intentions clearly in an environment that has been increasingly hostile toward them. The Broadcast Treaty is antithetical to these methods of sharing and collaboration, but perhaps most harmful to CC-licensed works and to the public domain.

Bottom line: A Broadcasting Treaty is not needed

Is there need for such a treaty? Public interest advocates point out that the additional rights granted to broadcasters via a Broadcasting Treaty are simply not necessary because broadcasters already have legal remedies available to them to combat signal theft. An often cited example is the famous case of the Canadian company iCraveTV. iCraveTV decided to broadcast via the Internet 17 US-based channels on the grounds that local laws allowed it to transmit wireless broadcast cable signals without paying. And, because these channels were received at the Canadian border, iCraveTV argued it was exempt from paying royalties. Broadcasters in the US sued iCraveTV alleging copyright infringement. iCraveTV quickly settled, and the site shuttered shortly thereafter.

Copyright law already grants a complex bundle of rights to authors, and most of the time broadcasters are either copyright holders or licensees of copyrights. Public Knowledge notes, “broadcast signal piracy is almost always also copyright infringement and already illegal.” Similarly, Knowledge Ecology International wonders why the Broadcasting Treaty is necessary: “[W]e have yet to hear a cogent explanation of the problem the treaty is supposed to solve, or how it will work. We have asked the US government and other countries to explain what piracy problem the broadcaster treaty is expected to solve that can’t be solved by enforcing existing copyright laws and related rights laws, and we are still waiting for an answer.”

Establishing a Broadcasting Treaty could in effect negate the permissions that users of Creative Commons licenses wish to communicate, and grant unwarranted rights to broadcasting organizations that have added little or no value to the underlying work being transmitted. The proposed benefit to society resulting from creation and enforcement of additional rights for broadcasters under a Broadcasting Treaty is unclear. If there is a dire need to create additional rights for broadcasting organizations, the data demonstrating this need should be presented and impartially evaluated. If there is no discernable reason backed up by data, then the treaty should be abandoned.

What are the next steps?

Right now WIPO has released a working document (PDF) on the draft treaty, to be discussed and negotiated at the upcoming WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) meeting taking place in Geneva 19-23 November. Creative Commons is considering developing an intervention for the meeting, as we have permission to attend and contribute to the WIPO proceedings alongside other NGOs. We urge WIPO to make these deliberations as transparent as possible so that the public knows about the discussions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has already raised concerns that WIPO is pushing for a treaty to be signed quickly. And they also released a statement (PDF) during the July SCCR meeting. WIPO should carefully consider the implications to the public interest and properly address the recommendations from civil society organizations.

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TAG 2012 Keynote: Growing Into Mission-Supporting Technology

Cathy Casserly, November 13th, 2012

Today, I’m honored to be a keynote speaker at the Technology Affinity Group conference in Monterey, CA. I’ll be talking about my career and my experiences in the open space, and sharing three suggestions for the foundation community:

Technology deserves a bigger place at the table. Technology is what drives the big innovations in the philanthropic world, but all too often, the technology people don’t have enough of a voice in a foundation’s leadership. That’s a problem that I think foundations need to address before they can work at full potential.

Share by default. When foundations share their data, it’s often the exception rather than the rule. What if foundations made sharing the default? Yesterday, we blogged about a group of foundations making a commitment to share their grant data regularly, openly, and in a usable format. I’ll be applauding the Reporting Commitment and urging other foundations to get onboard.

Bake open into philanthropy. Every foundation wants to get the most good for its money. There’s a strong argument that grant dollars go further if they go toward openly-licensed work and resources.

Do you have any questions or thoughts from the session? Share them in the comments.

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