Ford Foundation to require CC BY for all grant-funded projects

Timothy Vollmer, February 3rd, 2015


Today the Ford Foundation announced an open licensing policy for all of their grant-funded projects and research. The new arrangement came into effect February 1, 2015 and covers most grant-funded work, as well as the outputs of consultants. The Ford Foundation has chosen to adopt the CC BY 4.0 license as the default for these materials. Grant agreements will now include a paragraph requiring the grant recipient to broadly share all copyrightable products (such as research reports, photographs, videos, etc.) funded by the grant under CC BY. And the Ford Foundation is leading by example by adopting CC BY for all materials not subject to third-party ownership on their own website.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said, “This policy change will help grantees and the public more easily connect with us and build upon our work, ensure our grant dollars go further and are more impactful, and – most importantly – increase our ability to advance social justice worldwide.”

“We’re incredibly pleased to see the Ford Foundation adopting a Creative Commons licensing policy for a wide range of grant-funded works, promoting openness and re-use of content produced through its philanthropic grantmaking,” said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons. “The Ford Foundation joins a growing movement of foundations and governments adopting policies that increase access to and re-use of digital education materials, research articles, and data using Creative Commons.”

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization created in 1936. Its mission is “to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.” In 2013 the Ford Foundation granted almost $570,000,000 to projects and organizations around the world.

The Ford Foundation joins several other philanthropic grantmaking organizations who have adopted Creative Commons licensing policies for the outputs of their charitable giving. We’ve highlighted several over the last few months, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (who also now require CC BY for all their project-based grantmaking) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (who adopted a CC BY open access policy for published grant-funded research and data). Releasing grant-funded content under permissive open licenses like CC BY means that these materials can be more easily shared and re-used by the public. And they can be combined with other resources that are also published under an open license.

Congratulations to the Ford Foundation on adopting an open licensing policy that will encourage the sharing of rich content and data in the digital global commons. Creative Commons continues to urge other foundations and funding bodies to emulate the ongoing leadership of the Ford Foundation by making open licensing an essential component of their grantmaking strategy.


A step toward compatibility with GPLv3

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, February 2nd, 2015

Free Software Foundation Bulletin by Osama Khalid under BY-SA 2.0.

Free Software Foundation Bulletin by Osama Khalid under BY-SA 2.0.

Together with the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons has officially proposed the GNU General Public License version 3 as a candidate for compatibility with CC BY-SA version 4.0. The announcement was made on the CC license development mailing list on January 29th, kicking off what will be at least a month-long discussion period before a final compatibility determination is made.

This proposal is significant because it would bridge a gap between two of the most widely-used copyleft licenses for code and content. Currently, developers are sometimes reluctant to integrate BY-SA content into GPL projects because of uncertainty about how the two licenses work together. Eliminating obstacles to remix between licenses so similar in aim and spirit is precisely what the compatibility mechanism in BY-SA was designed to do.

However, there are differences between the two licenses that pose issues for the CC and FSF communities to consider before declaring compatibility. Over the next several weeks, we will be leading a public discussion about those topics, ensuring the final decision will be informed by community input. We encourage anyone interested to join the discussion by signing up here.

GPLv3 is the second candidate for ShareAlike compatibility considered by Creative Commons. The Free Art License version 1.3 was considered under CC’s established compatibility process and criteria and was declared compatible in October 2014.

Comments Off on A step toward compatibility with GPLv3

Creative Commons DIY Salon: February 13th in San Francisco

Matt Lee, January 30th, 2015

DIY Salon_with CC

Join us in San Francisco at Park Life Gallery on 13 February 2015 for a Creative Commons DIY Salon. This salon features local artists who celebrate inexperience, sharing culture, and self-taught expertise in projects ranging from publishing and printmaking, to web-based collaborative music communities, to building open source libraries and visualizations.

This event also celebrates the San Francisco launch of I Can Do Anything Badly 2: Learning By Doing is a Shared Responsibility, a Creative Commons licensed artist’s book by Hoël Duret & The Big Conversation Space, designed by Frédéric Teschner, which features conversational interviews in English and French about DIY culture – from computer programming and independent publishing, to Wikipedia and furniture design.

Talks will be interspersed with ambient music performances from musicians from the Disquiet Junto.

Event Details:

Friday February 13th
5:00 – 8:00 PM
Park Life Gallery
3049 22nd Street
San Francisco, CA

Facebook event page.

Comments Off on Creative Commons DIY Salon: February 13th in San Francisco

Fifteen Seconds of Fame: Free Music Archive Launches microSong Challenge

Matt Lee, January 30th, 2015

On January 26th, 2015, the Free Music Archive put out a call for entries for their ‘microSong Challenge.’ The first of three consecutive contests the Free Music Archive will run through spring of 2015, the microSong Challenge requires participants to pack a whole song into 15 seconds or less – the maximum length for most video-sharing app platforms (some are even shorter).

The Free Music Archive is a repository for curated tracks (currently almost 80,000) that are licensed under Creative Commons, Public Domain and FMA-only licenses that allow for the tracks to be streamed, downloaded and shared for free. Some content may be used in videos or remixes, depending on how it’s licensed.

From January 26th until February 20th, 2015, any registered FMA user can submit their miniscule composition(s) to the Free Music Archive. It’s free to sign up for an FMA account, and anyone 13 or older can enter the running. There will be a link to the contest on the homepage.

After the last day of the contest, a panel of judges will determine the top three! Our judges include composer Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley, and WFMU DJ Jim Price. They will judge entries based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the time limit, and general musical appeal. The first prize winner
will receive a 3-D printer and runners-up will get prizes from Creative Commons and the Free Music Archive’s BFF radio station, WFMU.

Each microSong must be submitted in MP3 format. Every microSong will be licensed under a Creative Commons Zero license so that it can be freely used by anyone in a video, remix, extraordinarily brief performance art piece, miniature karaoke competition, or anything else they can come up with.

For more information about the microSong Challenge, email contact@freemusicarchive.org or visit www.freemusicarchive.org

1 Comment »

Finnish translation of CC0 published

Kat Walsh, January 29th, 2015

Congratulations to the CC Finland team for the Finnish translation of CC0!

If it seems like you just saw them featured here, you’re not mistaken; they published the first official translation of the 4.0 suite just a few months ago, and now they are the first to have the complete set of CC legal tools available in their language.

CC0 Finnish header screenshot

Our thanks and congratulations again to the team of Maria Rehbinder of Aalto University, legal counsel and license translation coordinator of CC Finland; Martin von Willebrand, Attorney-at-Law and Partner, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: for translation supervision; Tarmo Toikkanen, Aalto University, general coordinator of CC Finland; Henri Tanskanen, Associate, HH Partners, Attorneys-at-law Ltd: main translator, and Liisa Laakso-Tammisto, translator, with thanks to Aalto University, HH Partners, and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture for their support.

Update: CC Finland’s announcement (in Finnish).

1 Comment »

New job at CC: Software developer

Matt Lee, January 28th, 2015

Today, we’re opening up a new job posting, for a developer. This person will work with our education team and existing technical lead to develop tools that facilitate the discovery, curation, use and re-use of freely available online content.

The job will involve leading an overhaul of CC’s Open Education Resources (OER) Policy Registry and combine it with other catalogs to create a one-stop, global Open Policy Registry hosted under the umbrella of the Open Policy Network.

From the job description:

Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization focused on enabling the open commons of knowledge to grow and flourish. Our work crosses multiple sectors of creativity and knowledge — from photography, to music, to open educational resources, copyright reform, and open data. Today the commons includes over 880 million CC-licensed works, and we expect to pass 1 billion works in 2015.

Are you excited about powering the technical infrastructure of Creative Commons? Learn more and apply.

Comments Off on New job at CC: Software developer

For Faithful Digital Reproductions of Public Domain Works Use CC0

Jane Park, January 23rd, 2015

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s topic is the “Public Domain.” The public domain is our cultural commons and a public trust. Copyright policy should seek to promote, and not diminish, this crucial resource.

Creative Commons has long upheld that faithful digital reproductions of works in the public domain are also in the public domain, adhering to the U.S. District Court ruling of Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality” 1. Though this ruling is not a binding precedent, it remains highly influential as a legal ruling in the U.S. and elsewhere. Its real world applicability is less well-known. This is why, where possible, we recommend that institutions, especially those curating and providing access to public domain works of cultural heritage, use the CC0 public domain dedication for their digital reproductions where there might be any element of originality that might give rise to doubt.

Creative Commons currently offers two public domain tools, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark, which can be confused with each other but are very different tools. CC0, like the CC licenses, is a legally operable tool backed by a legal document that we like to call the legal code layer of our tools. Because it is legally operable, copyright owners may use it to relinquish their copyright and related rights in a work, effectively placing that work into the public domain. Where it is not legally possible to relinquish copyright, the tool defaults to CC BY without attribution or any other conditions (CC BY is the most liberal license on the spectrum of CC licenses). The Public Domain Mark, on the other hand, is not a legally operable tool, but merely a standard label that one may place on a work to indicate that its copyright has expired or is otherwise in the public domain worldwide. You can read more about both of these tools here.

We recommend using CC0 for digital reproductions of public domain works where there is reason for users to be concerned that the reproduction itself is subject to copyright. If nothing else, it clearly signals to users that the institution is proactively relinquishing any copyrights they may have in a digital reproduction, furthering its mission to provide greater public access to works of cultural heritage. From the institution’s standpoint, they are not making any guarantees about the public domain work itself, but removing any doubt for the user around any element of originality they may have in the digital reproduction.

Here are a few great cases of institutions committed to strengthening and growing our public domain.


The Rijskmuseum is the Dutch National Museum in the The Netherlands, founded in 1800, that contains many of the original artworks of European masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer, in addition to high resolution images of these original artworks. For 10 years, from 2003-2013, much of the physical museum — including 1 million physical items — was closed for renovations. During this period, the museum’s marketing department pushed for the release of its high resolution images of public domain works in order to keep the public engaged throughout the renovation period and as a way to extend the reach of the museum beyond its limited physical showcase. They released 150,000 high resolution images (each as large as 200 MB) into the public domain using CC0. They abided by the principle of unrestricted access to the digital public domain; as in the U.S., faithful digital reproductions of public domain works are considered public domain in Europe. After the release, the museum saw many benefits, including international exposure for the museum, especially during a time when much of the physical museum was closed; new audiences with developers, designers, and related creative industries; and an increase in revenue made from public domain image sales. For more details, see Tim’s post which links to the in-depth case study.

Statens Museum for Kunst

The Statens Museum for Kunst, aka the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, joined the Google Art Project in 2011. At this point, they realized they were giving use rights of images to a private company and could no longer justify charging the public for the same rights. As part of a pilot project, they initially released 100 educational videos and 160 high resolution image files (each as large as 440 MB) of Danish, Nordic and European public domain art under CC BY. Afterwards, they moved to CC0 for their images. Since their release, SMK’s images and videos have been featured on Wikipedia. SMK staff found that their understanding of quality and control changed significantly after releasing the images: “[Our public domain collections] don’t belong to us; they belong to the public. Free access ensures that our collections continue to be relevant to users now and in the future. We’re here to look after them and make them available and useful to the public. Use = value.” Read the case study contributed directly by museum staff.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has long been the haven of researchers and bibliophiles alike. Map lovers can join the group with NYPL’s open access maps initiative which has digitized and released more than 20,000 digital reproductions of cartographic works in the public domain. In the Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division’s own words, “To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.” In addition to public domain maps, NYPL has also used CC0 to dedicate 1 million of its bibliographic metadata records into the public domain.


We want to end the post on Europeana, the digital library for all of Europe and a model for libraries in rights information mark-up. Europeana has identified more than 16.5 million digital objects as being in the public domain (via CC0 or the Public Domain Mark) or under one of the CC licenses, in addition to dedicating 30 million metadata records to the public domain using CC0. Users can browse and search by re-use rights — including all six CC licenses and both public domain tools.

These four cases exemplify only a few institutions that are working to preserve our public domain. For uses of CC0 specific to data, see and add to our wiki page. For more great uses of CC tools and licenses by cultural heritage institutions, check out these slides and add to our wiki page tracking uses by GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums).

Have a great use case to share about the public domain? Leave us a note in the comments.

1 Comment »

The Limits of Copyright: Text and Data Mining

Timothy Vollmer, January 21st, 2015

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

Today’s topic is about supporting fair use, a legal doctrine in the United States and a few other countries that permits some uses of copyrighted works without the author’s permission for purposes such as parody, criticism, teaching, and news reporting. Fair use is an important check on the exclusive bundle of rights granted to authors under copyright law. Fair use is considered a “limitation and exception” to copyright.

One area of particular importance within limitations and exceptions to copyright is the practice of text and data mining. Text and data mining typically consists of computers analyzing huge amounts of text or data, and has the potential to unlock huge swaths of interesting connections between textual and other types of content. Understanding these new connections can enable new research capabilities that result in novel scholarly discoveries and critical scientific breakthroughs. Because of this, text and data mining is increasingly important for scholarly research.

Recently the United Kingdom enacted legislation specifically excepting noncommercial text and data mining from copyright. And as the European Commission conducts their review of EU copyright rules, some groups have called for the addition of a specific text and data mining exception. Copyright for Creativity’s manifesto, released Monday, urges the European Commission to add a new exception for text and data mining, in order to support new uses of technology and user needs.

Another view holds that text and data mining activities should be considered outside the purview of copyright altogether. The response from the Communia Association to the EU copyright consultation takes this approach, saying “if text and data mining would be authorized by a copyright exception, it would constitute a de facto recognition that text and data mining are not legitimate usages. We believe that mining texts and data for facts is an activity that is not and should not be protected by copyright and therefore introducing a legislative solution that takes the form of an exception should be avoided.” Similarly, there have been several actions advocating that “The right to read should be the right to mine.”

Whether text and data mining falls under a copyright exception or outside the scope of copyright, it is clearly an activity that should not be able to be controlled by the copyright owner. But unfortunately, that is exactly what some incumbent publishing gatekeepers are trying to do by setting up restrictive contractual agreements. One example we’ve seen of this practice is with the deployment of a set of “open access” licenses from the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM), many of which attempt to restrict text and data mining of the licensed publications. In jurisdictions such as the United States, users do not need to ask permission (or be granted permission through a license) to conduct text and data mining because the activity either falls outside of the scope of copyright or is squarely covered by fair use.

Ensuring that licenses give copyright owners no more control over their content than they have under copyright law is a fundamental principle of CC licensing. That’s why the licenses explicitly state that they in no way restrict uses that are under a limitation or exception to copyright. This means that users do not have to comply with the license for uses of the material permitted by an applicable limitation or exception (such as fair use) or uses that are otherwise unrestricted by copyright law, such as text and data mining in many jurisdictions.

Today’s topic of fair use rights reminds us that “for copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.” To liberate the massive potential for innovation made possible by existing and future types of text and data mining, we need user-focused copyright policy that enables these new activities.


1 Comment »

Using CC music in video: Free webinar tomorrow!

Elliot Harmon, January 20th, 2015

On January 21, I’ll be joining Free Music Archive’s Cheyenne Hohman for a free webinar on how to find and use CC-licensed music in your video projects. Join us for a great discussion.

From FMA’s announcement:

If you make videos, or you make music for videos, or you just like learning new stuff, tune in tomorrow to our webinar! We’ll be allowing a few guests in to our Hangout and then broadcasting for everyone else.

The webinar will begin at 3PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, January 21st.

Special guest and Creative Commons expert Elliot Harmon will be co-hosting with Cheyenne. We’ll show you around the Free Music Archive (including where to find license and contact info for artists), run through the basics of Creative Commons licenses and how to use CC tracks in videos, and show you how you can license your work under Creative Commons (spoiler: it’s easy!).

We’re looking forward to seeing you there! If you can’t make it, we’ll be archiving the webinars (slides and videos) to our site in the FAQ section.

Next week, we’ll host one for K-12 teachers, and in early February we’ll have one for you musical types.


Comments Off on Using CC music in video: Free webinar tomorrow!

Global Affiliate Network releases CC Affiliates Mixtape #1

Teresa Nobre, January 12th, 2015

Download album: Internet Archive / Free Music Archive / SoundCloud
Download album notes (PDF)
Download album art: Front / Back

Guest blog post by Teresa Nobre, Legal Project Lead Creative Commons Portugal

We didn’t need much. It was the release date of the State of the Commons report and on the CC affiliates mailing list, the discussion was centred on the annual fundraising campaign. CC Finland mentioned that we could celebrate CC’s 12th birthday with music and CC Denmark immediately proposed a new CC Birthday Mixtape. On the other side of the Atlantic, Elliot Harmon replied: “The mixtape was awesome. I think it would be a great project.”

I was on a train on my way to Porto to attend an OER policy project workshop. That activity and the follow-up to it were the things where I had to focus my attention on in the next few days. Composed exclusively by volunteers, most of the affiliate teams struggle with time management. We want to participate in as many activities as possible, but we have to be cautious. Before I could censor myself, I let the crew know that I “wouldn’t mind” organizing it again. Jewel by Zoe Leela was already playing in my media player, filling me with pride for our first adventure in the CC music world.

A couple of weeks more passed before someone asked if we were still going to do it. Of course we are! Time runs fast and if we were really going to do it, this had to be a quick community action. Limiting the mixtape to CC Europe was out of the question. This time we wanted to feel the European multiplicity, but we also wanted to get lost in Asian sounds, get African vibes, and go clubbing in the Americas. We sent an email around to the affiliates global network and in a little bit more than 1 week we had received over 60 nominations from 25 countries.

We are certain that had the deadline been longer, we would have received many more suggestions. But we couldn’t be happier with the astounding response of the affiliates and with the involvement of the regional coordinators in the action. And the final result couldn’t be better: the CC Affiliates Mixtape #1 not only showcases new music talent but also includes artists which are huge names in their own countries, such as Dead Combo (Portugal), the Mendes Brothers (Cape Verde), the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, or BNegão and the Seletores de Frequências (Brazil). Yep, it seems that the music world is turning CC!

The CC Affiliates Mixtape #1, comprising 25 CC-licensed tracks from 25 different countries, is available for download under various Creative Commons licenses Free Music Archive and Internet Archive. Enjoy your listening!

Comments Off on Global Affiliate Network releases CC Affiliates Mixtape #1

previous pagenext page