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OER Session at UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

Jane Park, July 16th, 2009

As part of UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education, UNESCO hosted a session and panel discussion on open educational resources (OER). The topic of the conference was “The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development,” and OER was considered an important dynamic in higher education. The conference took place over four days, ending on July 8, with over 1200 participants from 150 countries.

The OER session took place on July 7, 2009, and the summary is as follows:

“Building Knowledge Societies: Open Educational Resources Panel session

This conference aims to take stock of transformations in higher education since the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education and address the new dynamics likely to shape the strategic agenda for the development of higher education policies and institutions.

The growing Open Educational Resources (OER) movement has the objective of increasing access to quality educational content worldwide. Digital content that is open to re-use and adaptation is a public good that can be shared widely. The panel session is intended to explore OER as an example of a new dynamic in higher education that will contribute to building knowledge societies.”

The final Communiqué of the conference is available online. The Communiqué states some of the following conclusions:

“There is need for greater information, openness and transparency regarding the different missions and performance of individual institutions.”

“ODL (Open and Distance Learning) approaches and ICTs present opportunities to widen access to quality education, particularly when Open Educational Resources are readily shared by many countries and higher education institutions.”

The global nature of OER is integral to their quality and value. OER that allow adaptation, derivation, and redistribution encourage global activity like translation, transcontinental collaboration, and more. If OER produced from the American Graduation Initiative are licensed to allow these freedoms, U.S. college courses become global, thereby increasing their quality and value.

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CC Talks With: John Wood (Learning Music)

Cameron Parkins, July 15th, 2009

Beginning this past March, John Wood has written, recorded, mixed, and mastered an album a month. Distributed under the moniker Learning Music Monthly, the music arrives on the first of the month as CDs in subscribers’ mailboxes and MP3s in their digital lockers, all released under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license.

Offering a tiered subscription service (amenities include stickers, bonus albums, a song written for you on your birthday, and much more depending on price), Learning Music Monthly is a great case study in figuring out how independent artists and labels (LMM is released through CC-friendly label vosotros) are approaching distribution in today’s current music climate.

We were able to catch up with John and pick his brain about the project, including his thoughts on writing and producing an album a month, a subscription/donation-based distribution model, and his decision to release all the music, cover art, promotional text, mix-stems, sheet-music, and lyrics under a CC license.


john_wood
Learning Music Monthly @ Machine Project – 01, cameronparkins | CC BY

Can you give our readers some background on yourself and the Learning Music Monthly project? What has your career as a musician been like? LMM monthly has existed previously – what is different this time around?

LMM really began in November 2006. I had spent the previous two years doing a fair amount of touring with other bands, and assisting on a film score, all of which was really fabulous and fortunate to experience. That month, I turned down a bunch of work and created the first Learning Music album. For me, it was something very much apart from my professional musical experiences. I get paid mostly to create what other people hear or see, which I’m very lucky to do. When I set out to complete that first album, there was a deep spiritual need inside me, which I had been aware of for a long time, to create something more personal. The payoff, instead of a check, was the pleasure of handing to friends this little secret disc, weirdly wrapped up in reclaimed cardboard. LMM is a little different from that now, in that we actually sell subscriptions. I think I’m still in the process of learning what that means creatively. It’s also much different now because of all the support from John G and Vosotros. The first year, my audience was mostly my friends. Now I’m making music for people I’ve never met. And they’re paying for it! Part of me of course wants to only create what I think these people want to hear. Hopefully I will eventually be able to give them something that they never expected, but that’s really good for them. Sometimes I feel like I lack the confidence to do that, but then ultimately there’s no time for doubt.
Read More…

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The American Graduation Initiative

Jane Park, July 15th, 2009

President Obama announced yesterday the American Graduation Initiative, a twelve billion dollar plan to reform U.S. community colleges. The initiative calls for five million additional community college graduates by 2020, and plans that “increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities” to aid this goal.

A significant component of the initiative is the plan to “create a new online skills laboratory.” From the fact sheet,

“Online educational software has the potential to help students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone. Interactive software can tailor instruction to individual students like human tutors do, while simulations and multimedia software offer experiential learning. Online instruction can also be a powerful tool for extending learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs. New open online courses will create new routes for students to gain knowledge, skills and credentials. They will be developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation and sharing. The Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor will work together to make the courses freely available through one or more community colleges and the Defense Department’s distributed learning network, explore ways to award academic credit based upon achievement rather than class hours, and rigorously evaluate the results.”

It is important to note here the difference between “open” and simply accessible “online”. Truly open resources for education are clearly designated as such with a standard license that allows not only access, but the freedoms to share, adapt, remix, or redistribute those resources. The educational materials that make up the new open online courses for this initiative should be open in this manner, especially since they will result from a government plan. We are excited about this initiative and hope the license for its educational materials will allow all of these freedoms. Catherine Casserly, formerly in charge of open educational resources at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (now at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), writes,

“Today at Macomb College, President Barack Obama announced a proposal to commit $50 million for the development of open online courses for community colleges as part of the American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills through Community Colleges. As proposed, the courses will be freely available for use as is and for adaption as appropriate for targeted student populations. The materials will carry a Creative Commons license.”

You can read the official announcement at the White House site on their blog and visit the briefing room for the full fact sheet.

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UK National Portrait Gallery threatens Wikipedia user over public domain images

Joe Merante, July 14th, 2009

Museums, archives, and cultural institutions have been forced to re-examine their relationship with the digital presentation of public domain works in their collections. This has brought the issue of “copyfraud” to the forefront. Recently, the UK’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) threatened legal action under UK law against a Wikipedia user for, among other things, copyright infringement of digital photos of public domain works by uploading them to Wikipedia.

This raises some interesting legal issues related to copyright, jurisdiction, and enforcement. In the U.S., the Bridgeman v. Corel decision would probably bar NPG’s claims. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court in Feist held that copyright protection is not based on a “sweat of the brow” theory. UK courts have not necessarily agreed. However, there is the strictly legal, and then there is the practical. In the 2005 article Public Domain Art in an Age of Easier Mechanical Reproducibility, Kenneth Hamma, former Exec. Dir. for Digital Policy, J. Paul Getty Trust, highlights the collision of traditional approaches to control over museum collections and the digitization of the public domain:

[R]esistance to free and unfettered access may well result from a seemingly well-grounded concern: many museums assume that an important part of their core business is the acquisition and management of rights in art works to maximum return on investment. That might be true in the case of the recording industry, but it should not be true for nonprofit institutions holding public domain art works; it is not even their secondary business. Indeed, restricting access seems all the more inappropriate when measured against a museum’s mission – a responsibility to provide public access.

Restricting access via copyfraud or DRM defeats the purpose of the public domain, and damages the reputation and mission of the institution holding the original copies of these works. However, the NPG’s disappointing actions should not overshadow the many institutions working to make the public domain accessible to you, the public. The Commons on Flickr is a great example of 27 private and public institutions from all over the world who are making works available with “no known copyright restrictions”. Working with, not against, cultural institutions highlights some of the ways cultural heritage institutions and communities can work together to mutual benefit.

We hope that institutions will increasingly see the the mission value (and financial value — attracting visitors to see original works) of working with communities to open up access to curated public domain works and of proactively marking public domain works as such for humans and computers, e.g., with our public domain tools.

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Riversimple and 40 Fires Foundation promote participatory car design

Eric Steuer, July 13th, 2009

Caught an interesting NY Times post over the weekend about Riversimple, a British start-up that recently debuted a prototype of a two-seat hydrogen fuel cell car. There are several interesting things about Riversimple’s proposed business model – for instance, it plans to lease the car instead of sell it, and wants to employ a manufacturing process in which the cars are built in a variety of small, local factories. The detail that is of particular interest to us here at Creative Commons, though, is that the company has published the car’s design schematics under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license on the site of the 40 Fires Foundation, a project that invites community participation in the car design process.

Says Riversimple CEO Hugo Spowers:

“If we give away the tools for entrepreneurs around the world to make money from making cars, we expect to harness an unstoppable groundswell of support globally.” … “From a strictly commercial point of view, we want to encourage others to copy us as we want these standards adopted ubiquitously.”

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HOWTO Make Your CC-licensed Images Visible to Robots

Fred Benenson, July 13th, 2009

After last week’s exciting announcement that Google Image search is now capable of filtering results by usage rights, we realized there is a lot of interest in how creators can signal their work as being CC-licensed to both humans and robots.

Fortunately, CC has a solution for this that is not only a standard, but recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Its called the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language and is part of the semantic web. Without getting too technical, ccREL uses a technology called RDFa to express licensing information to machines so that they can deduce the same facts about a work (such as its title, author, and most importantly, its license) that humans can. If you’re interested in the future of the web and structured data, you’ll want to check out our wiki pages on RDFa, ccREL, and our white paper submitted to the W3C. Google has a page explaining RDFa and Yahoo has a page explaining how RDFa is used by Yahoo Search.

The easiest way to signal to both humans and robots that your content is CC licensed is to head over to our license chooser and choose a license to put on your own site.

Our license chooser automatically generates the proper ccREL code, so its easy! Don’t forget to fill out the “Additional Information” section. You’ll then get a snippet of XHTML embed that will contain ccREL. Place this near your work (preferably on its same page of the work which also happens to be unique) and you’re all set. If you’re running an entire content community, you can also dynamically generate this markup based on the particular user, title of the work and so on. Check out Thingiverse for a excellent example of this functionality.

Are you already using ccREL or RDFa on your website or platform? Let us know or add it to our Wiki page!

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Free Culture Research Workshop 2009 CFP

Mike Linksvayer, July 11th, 2009

The Free Culture Research Workshop 2009 is looking for scholars working on:

  • Studies on the use and growth of open/free licensing models
  • Critical analyses of the role of Creative Commons or similar models in promoting a Free Culture
  • Building innovative technical, legal, organizational, or business solutions and interfaces between the sharing economy and the commercial economy
  • Modeling incentives, innovation and community dynamics in open collaborative peer production and in related social networks
  • Economic models for the sustainability of commons-based production
  • Successes and failures of open licensing
  • Analyses of policies, court rulings or industry moves that influence the future of Free Culture
  • Regional studies of Free Culture with global lessons/implications
  • Lessons from implementations of open/free licensing and distribution models for specific communities
  • Definitions of openness and freedom for different media types, users and communities
  • Broader sociopolitical, legal and cultural implications of Free Culture initiatives and peer production practices
  • Free Culture, Memory Institutions and the broader Public Sector
  • Open Science/ Research/ Education
  • Cooperation theory and practice, dynamics of cooperation and competition
  • Methodological approaches for studying the characteristics, history, impact or growth of Free Culture

It is tremendously exciting to see the commons attracting this research interest. The workshop will be held October 23 at Harvard. Submissions are due August 9.

Also see the last year’s post on the First Interdisciplinary Research Workshop on Free Culture.

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Google Image Search Implements CC License Filtering

Fred Benenson, July 9th, 2009

Google Image Logo

Today, Google officially launched the ability to filter search results using Creative Commons licenses inside their Image Search tool. It is now easy to restrict your Image Search results to find images which have been tagged with our licenses, so that you can find content from across the web that you can share, use, and even modify. Searches are also capable of returning content under other licenses, such as the GNU Free Documentation License, or images that are in the public domain.

To filter by CC search, go to Google’s advanced Image Search page and select the options you’d like in the “Usage rights” section. Your results will be restricted to images marked with CC licenses or other compatibly licensed photos.

Remember, Google can only provide search results that its algorithms find tagged with the license you specify; it is your obligation to verify the license of the image you’re using and make sure you’re conforming to its guidelines.

This is a huge step forward for the future of image search on the web, so congratulations to the Google team on another great CC implementation!

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Vietnam opens national license draft for discussion

Michelle Thorne, July 9th, 2009

flag_of_vietnamCC Vietnam has released its first license draft (pdf) and is inviting the Vietnamese and international community to join in reviewing it. The goal of the license porting, coordinated by Creative Commons International, is to legally and linguistically adapt the CC licensing suite to national law. That way, creators enjoy additional legal certainty while better understanding the license terms in their own language.

An English retranslation (pdf) of the Vietnamese license is available, including an explanation of its substantive legal changes. The team has also provided supplemental documents about the jurisdiction’s civil code and corresponding copyright law.

CC Vietnam hosted at the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) and led by Dr. Lynne McNamara, Dr. Phuong Nguyen, and Mr. Tu Ngo, and initiated by Mr. Hung V. Tran. The Vietnamese license porting is supported by Ms. Thuy Dang and Ms. Hang Dang of the renown law firm D&N International.

National CC projects rely on content creators and license users worldwide to give feedback to improve local legal tools and build a strong community. Please consider weighing in on CC Vietnam’s drafting efforts by subscribing to their mailing list.

Thank you and congratulations, CC Vietnam!

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vosotros presents: the years

Cameron Parkins, July 8th, 2009

theyears_albumartvosotros presents: the years is the latest release from CC-friendly label Vosotros. Described as a “a musical journey through time”, the CC BY-NC-SA licensed album is being released as a free download through out the month of July while simultaneously being sold through a variety of digital outlets.

The album, which is a collaboration between Vosotros and Sam Barsh, is generating some amazing buzz and digital sales. Most exciting for those in the CC-community is the following quote from Amazon-blog Chordstrike (the album peaked at #8 on Amazon’s Classic R&B download chart):

Assembled by a crew of some premier sidemen, this fluid set of thumping soul is the sort of album that as fun to listen to as it seems like it was to make. With one eye pointed towards the past and the other one winking, they show love for not only the funky greats of the past 30 years, but affection for kitsch, too. Vosotros takes their motto, “music for you-all,” seriously. They’ve made the album available as a free download for a limited time and licensed it under Creative Commons encourage sharing. Enjoy it, remix it, and tell your friends.

Download the album for free or order it from vosotros’ online store.

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