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In conversation with Jessamyn West, famous librarian

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 13:30
Jessamyn West at Desk, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jessamyn West is a famous librarian, a former Metafilter admin, and a Vermont information technologist with a passion for open knowledge.

West has been blogging about library technology since 1999 at and on her blog since 1999. She also has a prolific Medium presence and an entertaining and informative newsletter about libraries and information access, called TILT. In addition to moderating the online Metafilter community, West has worked with Open Library, Harvard University, and the Rutland Free Library. An inspiring library activist, she designed the library “warrant canary,” and last year, she spearheaded the Librarian of Progress campaign, which encouraged the Library of Congress to modernize for the 21st Century.

You made a website during the nomination process of the Librarian of Congress called “The Librarian of Progress.” Can you talk about Carla Hayden’s nomination and then appointment as the Librarian of Congress? What do you think is going to happen with the new LOC and how do you think it’s going to affect copyright in the future?

I think there’s a couple things that pile in together, right? Number one, I feel like the Library of Congress has been a little bit of a ghost ship for the last five, maybe even 10 years. James Billington, who’s this eminent historian, headed the institution as if it were like a history center. But not quite a library and certainly not a public institution that is the world’s largest library. I think when a lot of us were looking at “Gosh, he’s retiring. Thank God. Who’s going to come in?” We were just hoping there would be somebody who was from this century, number one, and number two, somebody who was friendly, progressive, and forward-thinking. A lot of people don’t really know that the copyright office sits within the Library of Congress. The Librarian of Congress is nominally in charge of the copyright office.

She’s said copyright reform needs to happen – she’s definitely a sharing advocate, and a true public librarian who understands that culture is advanced when people are allowed to be creative with things. Hayden believes that libraries can be an institution that can help people do that—safely is maybe not the right word, but fairly.

Librarians don’t want copyright to go out the window. They just want it to be fair, they want it to be something that people can understand, and they want it to be something that people can use.

We hope that Dr. Hayden is really going to be the first Librarian of Congress who maybe gets that and can create an institution that can work with that.

Do you think that library values can be particularly important when it comes to the challenges facing the copyright office in the Library of Congress?

I think so. Libraries work for everyone, they don’t necessarily just work for their customers, they don’t necessarily just work for the people with money, and they don’t necessarily just work for the people in charge. There’s a democratizing factor with what they do. You realize that certain things about the way copyright works, the way copyright protection extends way, way back into history, some things seems to never enter the public domain, especially lately. Authors write that things can get locked up forever, things could be in an orphan work state where you have no idea who owns it and it’s just presumed that it’s not available to be used, unless you can prove it’s available to be used. I feel like libraries can have a mitigating factor on that because they can accept some of the risk. They can say, “We feel it’s probably okay to share this.”
The MPAA and RIAA work for the rights holders—who maybe be different than the actual creators—but in general the behavior of industry organizations is understandable. It’s not necessarily in their best interest to be crystal clear about what the law does and doesn’t allow. It’s a lot more in their interest to be slightly scary and to make you afraid so that if you’re making a video in your kid’s house, and your kids appear in a video, and you know the music in the background is an artist that’s notoriously litigious, maybe you’re not going to do that. As far as the RIAA is concerned, that’s fine with them. Don’t play Metallica in the background. Don’t paint Mickey Mouse on the wall of your daycare. All the rights holders want you to worry and second guess your use of their content, and what the library would like you to do is share legally as much as you can. They can help people and I think their values of working for everybody push forward that goal.

How do you feel about the concept of the commons and knowledge of licensing, like Creative Commons? Do you feel that CC can help in these kinds of situations?

I feel like it’s a great tool for cultural heritage organizations. Not just libraries, but museums and archives too, because then they also use it for sharing their own resources—to a certain extent. I use Creative Commons to license the content that I put online. I like it because it essentially says, “Look, I’m making this freely available, but I don’t want other people making money for it.” I can dial in how I want people to be able to use my work. Maybe someone else just want to give away all the rights and they can dial that in too. I think the only thing really standing in the way of Creative Commons is that some people aren’t clear what the enforcement mechanisms are.

I think we’ve seen people who share their content as freely as possible, but then other people sell it and they say, “What? That’s not in the spirit of it.” We’re not talking about the spirit. We’re talking about an actual license, which means you have to read the fine print and everything else. I think we’re seeing a ton of libraries using tools like Flickr, for instance, online photo archiving, and it’s awesome for them to be able to assign Creative Commons licensing to it to expand their options beyond either only public domain or only all rights reserved.

CC gives them options that are more true to their values, and I think that act facilitates sharing and reusing, repurposing, remixing, and all that wonderful stuff that helps culture move along. It’s joyful, honestly.

I really am happy that CC exists, but I’m always surprised how many people I talk to who either don’t quite understand it or they don’t see that it’s actually a tool of facilitation, not a tool of restriction.

It sounds like a lot of the different examples we’ve been talking about have to do with fear and confusion. This culture of fear around people using and sharing material and using and sharing licenses. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about how that has influenced your work, both as a librarian and also as a MetaFilter moderator, and the other work that you’ve done over your career as an advocate for free and open information.

I spend a lot of time trying to talk people through some worst case scenarios, because I think one of the problems is chilling effects of unclear rules. People aren’t sure what the rules are, and so they over-censor themselves or over-restrict, or they try to shame other people into doing that. For 10 years, I ran MetaFilter, which is a big online community. There are lot of people interacting and talking to one another. You would occasionally get someone who would write, “There’s this scientific paper that I think is super interesting,” and they would link to an abstract or a news article about the paper. Then in the comments, someone would tell them, “Here is a PDF, or contact me to get a PDF of that paper.” Maybe the PDF is available, but it’s only in a commercial journal, you have to pay 50 bucks to get it. They’d share it out. Then other people would say, “That’s so illegal,” and freak out.

As a moderator on the site, we have to be a mitigating influence and tell people, “Look, it’s up to the rights holder to determine if there’s a problem. Sharing a PDF among 30 people is maybe technically a copyright infringement, but it’s probably not going put you in jail.” I think the MPAA and the RIAA really like to blur that line. I don’t think it’s nice to pirate all music because it’s no good for struggling artists, but I don’t think sharing a Metallica song is really the same thing as stealing the records from somebody’s house. I think the entertainment industry tries to obscure that boundary because their revenue stream depends on it.

In terms of sharing information in online communities, the risk is so low and the value of people having better information about medicine, for example, is so valuable that it’s worth approaching the outlines of that envelope and trying to figure out how you can maximize sharing. I think for some libraries, they worry a lot about risk assessment because they’re government institutions. Not so much “We’re the government,” but if the library gets sued by the MPAA, that’s a town getting sued by the MPAA, and it’s expensive. I like it when non-profit institutions are willing to go to bat for better interpretations of copyright laws. We saw the Hathi Trust lawsuit and the Google Books lawsuit. The Internet Archive is always willing to stand up for sharing as much as possible. These public interest institutions can really help model appropriate risk assessment.

For example, the Internet Archive shares thousands of video games from the 1990s that nobody was playing anymore and the original companies have probably abandoned, but if someone comes along and says, “Hey, that belongs to me and I own the rights, will you take it down?” they will. In the meantime, the Archive provides access to games that people can play and share and talk about, and it surfaces culture in a way that if they were concerned only about chilling effects and “maybe this isn’t technically legal,” they never would. I’m happy that those organizations are out there, and I’m always advocating for libraries to join in the sharing as much as is possible. And I think for libraries this type of sharing is usually practical because they can shoulder a little bit more risk than one individual patron might be able to.

You work and live in Vermont, and in your library, the internet and having access to cultural works online can open up the world to a lot of people. I’m wondering while the culture of commoning can open up new frontiers for students and educators, how are you and your organization branching that digital divide? Are you or how are you using tools such as Creative Commons to help cultural heritage organizations bridge that gap?

One of the things I try to do all the time when I’m educating users about Creative Commons and the other things is just showing people where these deep archives of content are already available to them. One of the aspects of the digital divide is that people only have ideas about content, archives, and information that they read about in the paper. If you ask somebody what they know about Wikipedia when all they have is access to a newspaper and don’t use the internet that much, they’ll ask me “That’s that place where everybody yells at each other and people vandalize it all the time,” and they have all these weird ideas. I was like, “Okay, that happens, but did you know that every picture you see on Wikipedia you can have for free?” A lot of them don’t know that.

Part of how Wikipedia works is the content that’s available is freely licensed so that people can have it and use it. Somebody wants to make a YouTube video or maybe they got in trouble because they put up a YouTube video of something and it had a copyrighted song on in the background, and I let them know, “You know the Creative Commons has a search engine where you can search for music that you can use as a background to your video and it’s all licensed for you to use, reuse, mix, and share.” A lot of times they don’t. A lot of times what I’m talking to people about is ways to help transplant things maybe they want, but they can’t have, with things that they can have that are equivalent.

Our public library is digitally divided enough that it’s actually fairly difficult to even have a program about Wikipedia and have people show up, because people say, “I don’t understand why that would work.” If you hang out in a library with a scanner and help people take their photographs and put them online, or even show them other people’s photographs and then put them on the internet, you have to find what makes this stuff a genuine option for people. You have to figure out what the hook is that’s going to bring them in and be like, “That’s also a problem for me and I’d like to solve it.” In this region, a lot of it is family history books that are freely searchable via the internet archives. Or music that you can find through the Creative Commons searches that you can use on YouTube videos. Or historical photos on Wikipedia that you might use to illustrate a book report.

What kinds of random things do people want to go look up? YouTube videos about tractor engines running. Never would’ve known that’s a thing, but apparently there’s a ton of them, and a lot of them are available, shareable, embeddable, because even Youtube licensing strictly, videos can often can at least be shared around. I encourage people when they’re using the internet to think about the benefits of having that be shareable for everyone, and try to educate them appropriately about the downsides to it as well. I think a lot of people are under the misapprehension that if you share a picture on the internet then everybody just steals it, or takes it and draws a mustache on your baby’s face, or worse. Realistically, there’s so much information out there, most of the time people aren’t going to focus on harassing individual users, but if you do find the right user who can use that tractor engine video, of all the things, that’s really made a connection, and that’s, again, helped cultural progress, which is really I think what we’re all about in a library.

I think maybe some of this is the about first taste of recognition. I was having a conversation with someone at the bank and they saw who I worked for, and they said, “You know that my photo is the photo for challah on Wikipedia? It’s the best. I just love it.”

My mom is a huge sharer of photos using Flickr. She does some of them public domain and some of them not. She has a ton of those stories and she is a 70-ish-year-old lady living in rural Massachusetts, and she’s connected with a ton of people like that. She takes pictures of cats at the cat shelter to help cats get adopted. It’s enriched her life just doing her own things that she would basically be doing normally, but she sticks a sharing license on them and I think part of that also, she sticks a sharing license on them, and Flickr has mechanisms where you can search for stuff that’s shareable. It’s not just the power of Creative Commons, which I’m already jazzed about, but the fact that that’s built in now to search engines.

Have you seen a significant change in your own community in the last few years with smartphones really becoming a much more viable option for a larger group of people?

A little bit. I think smartphones are a lot more about instant connectivity, Instagram and Snapchat, and to look stuff up on the internet. We haven’t seen, at least in my community, too many people using smartphones to be creators of content. I taught an HTML class last fall at the local community college, and we spent a day talking about alternative licensing, we talked about Creative Commons licensing. I got to test and quiz kids on what does BY-NC mean and stuff. They didn’t quite see it as totally relevant to themselves because they didn’t see themselves as content creators. The couple kids who were musicians or web designers, they believed that this served them. Out of about 30 kids, I probably had four or five who really viewed themselves as creators. The makerspace communities that have taken root in bigger cities is only slowly getting here. These may be kids who build their own tractors, build their own cars. Literally building physically out of things, but the digital maker way hasn’t quite hit here yet.

Do you think that there’s anything that apps or that the people who are making apps, particularly people who are making apps for the cultural heritage sphere for libraries could do to make to help people feel more like makers on the web?

I think about Wikipedia, right, and Wikipedia really, really wants people to upload and share images. All sorts of content, but images especially because it’s easy.

I think the missing sharing point is unless you’re a cultural heritage institution who can bulk upload a bunch of stuff because you’ve been in touch with the Wikipedia organization and you know how to do it, it’s not going work very well. The average person doesn’t know they can get free storage for their content on Wikipedia. I feel like we still could have sharing tools that work better than the ones we have now that facilitated accurate licensing, but for people affected by the digital divide, the fact that they don’t have access to computers or the web means they don’t have access to a lot of other tools.
Can you talk a little bit about how you teach the ethos of sharing within your community, particularly with social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, when a lot of folks are coming online and that’s the first world that they’re encountering?

A lot of what I do is teach people how to use things. I teach people what some of the normative expectations of the space are, which can be challenging because there’s a lot of ways to be “normal” on Facebook. You can use it in a million different ways and nothing’s totally correct, but there are normative ways to use it. If you take a picture of someone else’s kids, for example, maybe you don’t make that picture public or maybe you don’t use that kid’s name. Maybe you do, depending on your community. That’s the thing that people need to put some thought into.

If I’m looking at Twitter, there are accounts like the History in Pics account, and it posts all these really interesting historical photos, but sometimes with semi-questionable captions. There’s whole other accounts dedicated to telling them, “Hey, I don’t actually think that caption is what that picture is really about. I actually did five minutes of research and realized that that thing that you pulled from that other random site wasn’t the thing you said it was.” I show people what the back and forth is that if there’s questions about where something came from, there are actually ways to figure it out. It’s not like, “It’s the internet. Nobody can figure anything out.” I teach them about research. I teach them about Google’s reverse image search. I teach them about how you can ask any librarian anywhere on the internet if you have a question. I think people think they can only talk to their own librarian.

I don’t think people know that the library system is there for them, and if I have a question about Colorado College, I can go ask the librarian at Colorado College and they will help me. They don’t do a ton of in depth research for me, but they can definitely help me. I try to teach people how there are humans you can talk to who can help you figure out some of this stuff, even though Facebook themselves doesn’t really have tech support, but you may have a buddy who understands it. The most powerful thing I teach people is that if you have a problem with a thing that you’re using, you’re not the first one.

It’s hard because the meta message is that you’re not special, but a lot of times if you Google an error message you’re seeing on your computer, you can find people discussing the exact problem that you also have. The thing I hear again and again from people is why doesn’t ‘X’ have a manual. The thing I have to keep telling people is the collective group of people on the internet are your manual. It’s not awesome because a lot of times people feel like that doesn’t work for them, they don’t understand it, they feel out of their element. It feels weird, but realistically, when you try it, it does work. Part of what I try to do is model good behavior with my own social media behavior.

Also I try to model not being frustrated. When people say, “Their pictures are stupid. They upload too many pictures. I don’t care about that person’s baby. Too much Trump.” I’m like, “Okay. Let me show you how to limit pictures of that person’s baby or ban the word ‘Trump’ from your front page of your Facebook.” There’s a lot of tools that we can use to empower us, but I think a lot of people presume the default role of technology is to be disempowered, which is not how I see it, but I can see how they see it that way. I try to get them turn that around and show them that there are tools that can help them. I’m part of the help manual for this system basically.

Just walk the talk. If you’re interested enough in Creative Commons to be reading this, share your stuff, put your content online, help other people do it, and spread the word. I think that’s the most important thing that super fans can be doing at this point.

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The post In conversation with Jessamyn West, famous librarian appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Community update: Unsplash branded license and ToS changes

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:54

UPDATE: Unsplash has responded to CC’s concerns, and offered clarifications and additional information to address the issues. In particular, they have committed to making the license explicitly irrevocable. We will update this post as changes are made to the Unsplash license and terms to reflect these statements.

Unsplash, a photo sharing startup, has launched their own branded license and updated their terms to add new restrictions and remove CC0 from their platform. As a result of the changes, Unsplash images are no longer in the public domain. The permissions offered can be revoked at any time, and Unsplash now has the right to pursue infringement on behalf of their users. Also, in some cases, attribution is now required. The terms of the new Unsplash-branded copyright license may create issues for users who hope to re-use the images, and for those who shared using the service and wanted their works available under unrestricted terms.


We feel it’s important to inform the CC community, as many have been supporters of Unsplash and we have been receiving questions from users in the open content and free software movements. We reached out to Unsplash and then also, with their consent, spoke to their legal counsel to understand the new license and terms.

Our intention is to ensure that CC community members understand what has happened to a service they have been using that incorporated CC tools, and to protect the content that was dedicated to the public domain. We don’t want to oppose a startup’s business and marketing decisions, nor deny them the IP they might now want to claim to protect their business model.

We understand from Unsplash that they felt that copycat services were detracting from their offering and upsetting their users. We are sympathetic to that challenge — the predominant players in photo sharing like Flickr, 500px, and Wikimedia Commons all use CC0 in their platforms, and have faced those issues with their users. But it’s also clear that Unsplash wanted to extend their brand to have their name incorporated into the license. That’s a perfectly valid business and marketing decision.

We’ve outlined some issues for consideration in more detail below for the benefit of contributors to Unsplash, and those who wish to re-use their images:


The new Unsplash-branded license is, as written, revocable. This means that Unsplash or the author could, at any time, change their mind about how people can use the images they have previously downloaded. This is a significant change from CC0. (Note: Unsplash has since stated that the license is irrevocable. We await an update to the license terms to reflect this explicitly).

Irrevocability is a fundamental feature of CC tools, designed to ensure that anyone who uses the image can do so with the confidence that the author can’t withdraw the permissions they’ve previously granted. We believe that is essential to building a commons that people can rely on, and use permissively.


CC0 does not require attribution, though we encourage users to do so because it gives gratitude to the creator, and can support further re-use by linking to the original work and its license. The new Unsplash-branded license doesn’t require attribution, but the Unsplash API guidelines do require attribution. So depending on how a user, a developer, or their app retrieves the image from the Unsplash service, they are subject to different terms.

Copyright and sub-licensing

The new Unsplash terms of service require users who share to grant a copyright license to Unsplash, which permits them to sub-license their work. Unsplash also requires users to grant them the authority to enforce copyright on their behalf. Beyond the compilation of photos in a competing service, it is not clear if there are other scenarios under which Unsplash would enforce copyright against reusers.

CC0 Collection and Archive

Following the switch to the new Unsplash-branded license, there is no marking of works that were previously shared in the public domain using CC0. The Unsplash API restricts/obscures the full CC0 collection, which we believe to be about 200,000 images, but it isn’t possible to access the complete archive. In order to ensure that the commons is maintained, we hope that Unsplash will either a) properly mark all the works shared using CC0 and/or b) make available a full archive of the CC0 works so they can be shared on a platform that supports open licensing and public domain tools. Previous platforms that have gone under or abandoned open license tools have shared their CC archives for this purpose. We hope Unsplash will follow the same path.

The post Community update: Unsplash branded license and ToS changes appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Toward a Better Internet: Building Prosocial Behavior into the Commons

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 14:36

What does it mean to exhibit prosocial behavior? For our purposes, we mean behavior that leads to healthy collaboration and meaningful interactions online. Specifically, we are interested in prosocial behavior around online content sharing. How can we help people make the human connections that make sharing meaningful?

In this post, we distill learnings from the “How to encourage prosocial behavior” session at the recent CC Global Summit in Toronto, and outline the next steps for CC in this space. Specifically, Creative Commons will launch an investigative series into the values and behaviors that make online collaboration thrive, in order to embed them more deeply into the experience of sharing with CC.

Read on for all of the glorious details, or skip to the end for next steps.

Creative Commons: Remix by Creative Commons / CC BY-SA

When we launched our new strategy in 2016, we focused our work with user-generated content platforms on increasing discovery and reporting of CC-licensed works. Since the majority of the 1.2 billion CC-licensed works on the web are hosted by third parties, re-establishing relationships with them (e.g. Flickr, Wikipedia) was important, as was establishing relationships with newer platforms like Medium.

In year 2 of our strategy, we are broadening our focus to look more holistically at sharing and collaboration online. We are investigating the values and behaviors associated with successful collaboration, in the hopes that we might apply them to content platforms where CC licensing is taking place.

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 in Toronto by Sebastiaan ter Burg / CC BY

As a first step, we asked the question — How can we help people make the human connections that make sharing meaningful? — at this year’s CC Global Summit in Toronto. (This question is also central to our 2016-2020 Organizational Strategy, where we refocused our work to build a vibrant, usable commons, powered by collaboration and gratitude.) In a session entitled, “How to encourage prosocial behavior,” our peers at Medium, Wikimedia, Thingiverse, Música Libre Uruguay, and Unsplash shared the design factors they use to incentivize prosocial behavior around CC content, particularly behavior that helps people give credit for works they use and make connections with others. Programming diversity expert Ashe Dryden shared additional insights into how current platforms often approach design from a position of privilege, unwittingly excluding marginalized groups and potential new members.

We structured the discussion into three parts:

Part 1 – The Dark Side, or defining the problem. We asked our peers to detail examples of negative behaviors around content sharing and reuse.

Part 2 – What Works, or identifying solutions. We asked for technical and social design nudges that platforms have implemented that work to increase sharing and remix. We also discussed community-driven norms and behavior “in the wild.”

Part 3 – What can we do? We wrapped by discussing what we might do together to design and cultivate online environments conducive to healthy and vibrant collaboration.

Part 1 – The Dark Side

In part 1, we heard the standard issues one might expect around CC licensing, and also negative behaviors that occur with online content sharing more generally, regardless of the © status of such content. Specific to CC were issues such as: users claiming CC0 public domain works as their own and monetizing them; misunderstanding what it means to share under a CC license vs. just posting it online; and lack of clarity on when or how a CC license applies. More generally, negative behaviors around online content sharing included harassment based on gender, ethnicity, and other identities, which discourage potential new members from joining a community.

The behavioral tendencies and tensions we surfaced that were most relevant to the question — How can we help people make the human connections that make sharing meaningful? — were:

  1. Users prefer real people (user identities with a history of credible content contributions) to automated accounts. CC users are smart and can quickly recognize the difference between a real user and a bot.
“How to encourage prosocial behavior” session slide by Makerbot’s Tony Buser
  1. Harassment marginalized groups face is more subtle than one might expect, and often serves to reinforce norms previously set in a space that does not account for diversity of gender, ethnicity, or geography. Overreliance on data or AI may also serve to reinforce these norms (that unintentionally discriminate) because data on which design is based is faulty or not representative of marginalized groups. Ultimately, this prevents the community from obtaining new members, particularly those from more diverse backgrounds, and from evolving into a truly open, inclusive environment inviting to “creators across sectors, disciplines, and geographies, to work together to share open content and create new works.”
    • Example: 80-85% of current Wikipedia editors are males from North America and Western Europe. 38% of Wikimedia users reported some level of harassment, including stalking, doxing, attacking off the wiki on other platforms, such as Facebook, based on gender, ethnicity, and other identities.
  2. On platforms, users enter into legal contracts and social contracts that are separate and often in direct tension with one another. This plays out specifically in the world of copyright, where people’s desires and expectations about how content will be used are often different from the rules dictated by copyright law (which are therefore, embedded with CC licenses).
Hobbit Contract by Henry Burrows / CC BY-SA
  • Example: A user may post discriminatory, harassing, or violent speech on a platform under the guise of parody. As a copyright matter, parody is clearly a fair use. As an ethical matter, whether the parody constitutes harassment may not be so clear, since a parody, as a satirical imitation, essentially mocks or belittles some aspect of the original work, and possibly the author. As a result, parody can often generate confrontation and controversy in a community. With the legal and social contracts in tension, the platform must decide which to uphold for its users, with either decision potentially alienating one segment of its community. This example also raises the issue that many users expect a platform to be the enforcer of ethical norms, a position not all platforms hold.
  1. When different values are in tension with each other, it is hard to design community rules that can be applied both consistently and fairly. Some rules may even serve to disproportionately affect one group of people over others.
    • Example: Medium has an “all-party consent” rule with respect to posting screenshots of personal 1:1 exchanges, such as text messages. This policy is designed to protect everyone’s expectation of privacy related to personal communications. It is also designed to apply to all users equally, with some exceptions for situations involving public figures or newsworthy events. In some cases, however, this policy can mean that a person with less power in an exchange is prevented from fully telling their story, since it is often when a powerful or privileged person behaves badly in private that the other person involved wants to publicly expose that behavior. As a result, this policy may allow some users to keep evidence of their private bad acts out of public exposure or scrutiny, while preventing users from a marginalized group (who may benefit from exposing the interaction or fostering public discussion of it) from being able to show the details of an exchange they think is important to show.
Part 2 – What Works, or identifying solutions.

In part 2, we learned about the different platform approaches to both incentivizing contributions of content to the commons and to incentivizing prosocial behavior around the content that made it personal and meaningful to users.

Platform approaches included:

  • a prosocial frame to license selection, asking creators the kinds of uses they envision for their works, versus what license they might want to adopt
  • a curated public space for licensed works, such as a radio channel, where the platform facilitates distribution to other users and potential fans
Screenshot of Radio Común by Música Libre Uruguay / CC BY-SA
  • collaborative education projects facilitated by the platform, such as an FAQ about music licensing and distribution built with the community
  • foregrounding the reuse and remix aspect of CC content in a variety of ways, such as: featuring remixes on the platform’s home page, displaying an attribution ancestry tree on the work’s page, sending alerts when a creator’s content is reused, and reminding users of the license on a work upon download
  • remix challenges and related competitions, run by the platform to foster reuse

We also learned about approaches to disincentivize the negative behaviors and tendencies we discussed in part 1. These included:

  • crowdsourced tracking of misuses and misbehaviors
  • redirecting license violations to the community to handle (e.g. community forums), utilizing community pressure to behave well
  • a safe space for new users to practice contributing before moving into the actual project, especially for projects with contribution rules and norms that are difficult for new members to get right the first time, e.g. Teahouse space for Wikipedia
Screenshot of Teahouse page by Wikimedia Foundation / CC BY-SA
  • follow-on events or projects to retain new members after initial engagement, such as face-to-face edit-a-thons
  • allowing for flexibility with regards to many community rules, noting that some rules may disproportionately affect marginalized groups
  • emphasizing a personal profile or identity for each user, so that other users recognize that these contributions were made by a real human being and not an anonymous internet entity
  • adding friction into certain workflows, such as at the moment of publication of a post or comment, to discourage negative behaviors and remind the user that there is a real human being at the other end of the exchange
  • making community rules more visible at the appropriate steps in the sharing process, so users are more likely to respond and adhere to them
Part 3 – What can we do?

In part 3, we discussed the importance of designing for good actors. Despite the examples of negative behaviors, the platforms in the room noted that the majority of CC uses have a positive outcome , and that people in content communities are passionate about Creative Commons as a symbol of certain values, and about sharing and remixing each others works. We shared positive examples that were completely community-driven, such as unexpected reuses of a particular 3D design that led to the creation of a prosthetic hand, and a sub-community of teachers that split off to bring 3D design to students in the classroom.

More importantly, we discussed what we could do next, together. Here is the short list of ideas that emerged in the last half hour of our discussion:

  • Prosocial behavior toolkit for platforms, a “prosocial” version of the CC platform integration toolkit we created in year 1 of our new strategy
  • Reinvesting in the tools that make it easier to comply with CC license conditions, e.g. one-click attribution in browsers, WordPress, and other platforms
  • API partnerships that bring CC media into platforms more easily, e.g. Flickr + Medium or WordPress
  • Supporting the good actors and amplifying their voices
  • Explore areas like reputational algorithms, possibly community-driven, to discourage bad behaviors
  • Explore the role of bots in trolling and antisocial behavior, and how that affects human behavior on a platform
  • And more!
What’s next

Asking the simple question — How can we help people make the human connections that make sharing meaningful? — elicited exciting discussion and surfacing of issues we had not considered before this summit session. Informed by the overwhelming response and interest from our platform partners and community, we will forge ahead with the next phase of our platform work, focusing on collaboration, in addition to discovery.

As a next step, Creative Commons is launching an investigative series into what really makes online collaboration work. What does it take to build a vibrant sharing community, powered by collaboration and gratitude? What are the design factors (both social and technical) that help people make connections and build relationships? How do we then take these factors and infuse them into communities within the digital commons?

The series will include:

  1. A series of face-to-face conversations on how to build prosocial online communities with CC platforms, creators, and researchers. To kick off the series, we are hosting a private event in San Francisco this June; stay tuned for public follow-on events in the series in a city near you!
  2. Research and storytelling of collaboration as it occurs over time through interviews and thought pieces.
  3. A prosocial platform toolkit that distills all of the applicable design factors into one comprehensive guide.
  4. Reporting of the most impactful stories in the next State of the Commons.

If any of this of interest to you, join the conversation on Slack.

If you would like to be invited to a future event, sign up for our events list.

The post Toward a Better Internet: Building Prosocial Behavior into the Commons appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Network Strategy: What’s next

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:08

For the first time, the CC movement has completed a comprehensive and collaborative effort to renew and grow its network, finalized at the recent Global Summit in Toronto. It’s important to acknowledge the hard work of all the people involved from the beginning, which included research (the Faces of the Commons is a 300 page multi region report with recommendations and insights), an open consultation with the broad CC community including Affiliates, partners, funders, and the CC Board, and 22 online and in-person meetings and more than the eighty percent of the active members of the network involved. This bottom-up process included discussions, proposals and specific edits and changes, reflecting the dynamic global community we have built together around Creative Commons during all this years. We all should be proud of all this process.

This new Strategy has a lot of benefits:

  1. Global collaboration. Connected with the work of the Platforms, communities will work together to set priorities, goals, objectives and strategies.
  2. Resilience. The previous model for Affiliate involvement was focused on institutional relationships. Today, we are focusing on individuals and supporting organizations instead. We are providing a path to create a network of trust and real collaboration for the future.
  3. Growth and inclusion. The new strategy is meant to include new and diverse global voices in the conversation and to provide more capacity and agency for teams working locally. We are creating a strategy focused on supporting and activating people.
  4. Shared decision-making, goal-setting, structure for collaboration. The new strategy creates new governance bodies to provide space for the community to identify priorities for the global work. This is a first for CC: the network takes care of the network.
  5. Resource allocation. The strategy creates two funds specifically focused on the network to support community activities, actual project work and identified movement priorities.

It has been a long road, but now the strategy work is complete. For the transition period, we are planning to focus on Chapters, Platforms and Governance.

Chapters (formerly Country teams). The local work is key for the new Network Strategy. To coordinate this efforts we will trust in Chapters as units for the governance and to coordinate local work. After concerns from several affiliate teams, we’ve decided to use Chapters instead of a reference of a “country” or “nation”. However, it will be those borders that we use to organize each team (with some exceptions, for example in Mainland China and Taiwan). These Chapters will be made up of people, with individuals whose work is focused on the place where they live, have accepted the Creative Commons Charter and have been vouched by two actual members. The membership recruiting process is starting in the coming weeks. More details of this process will be published very soon.

We expect Chapters to have their first team meeting no later than January 2018, primarily to appoint a coordinator (which will be the main point of contact for the movement), elect a representative to send to the Global Network Council, and draft a plan of work for the rest of the year.

Platforms. Platforms are areas of work, a collaborative space for individuals and institutions to organize and coordinate themselves across the broad network. Platforms will be the way we will create and communicate spaces of strategic collaboration to have worldwide impact. They will be the way our network will work collaboratively.

The conversation on platforms started at the Global Summit. So far, community members have organized around:

  • Copyright Reform Platform
  • Open Education Platform
  • Open GLAM Platform
  • Community development Platform

You can learn more about it and how to get involved and participate on our wiki and directly on Slack.

There may be more platforms in the future, but during this transition period -before the new Governance structure is set up by the next Global Summit on 2018- the work of the platforms will be oriented to fill a specific need and requirement from the network on each area, being particular activities, documentation or products.

These platforms will set specific priorities and plan of work in the coming months, to develop their plan of work until next Global Summit on 2018.

Governance. The main governance body for the new Strategy is the Global Network Council, and it’s important to us to focus on establishing the new Chapters as soon as we can, and to make that happen we will be opening the membership process in the coming weeks for anyone to join. For the transition period, during the coming days there will be an open call to constitute an Advisory Committee, to advise on this transition and provide support to the Chapters, with global and diverse representation.


The post Network Strategy: What’s next appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Is Re-negotiating NAFTA Opening Pandora’s Box?

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 16:56
Without a refocus on user rights, transparency, and meaningful public input, the agreement will become a bonanza for copyright maximalists

This week Creative Commons submitted comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) regarding negotiating objectives for the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA is the controversial trade pact between Canada, Mexico, and the United States that went into effect in 1994. It aims to eliminate barriers to trade and investment in a variety of sectors including goods and textiles, agricultural products, and petrochemicals. NAFTA also attempts to protect intellectual property by including provisions to enforce copyrights, trademarks, patents, and similar rights. The Trump administration has officially notified Congress of its intent to negotiate changes to the agreement. Last month USTR opened a formal request for comments regarding the objectives for updating NAFTA.

Copyright is global, and held by nearly every single person in the world, enabled by today’s online services and the ubiquity of technology to create new works. With that in mind, copyright laws rightly belong in international agreements, negotiated and debated in public fora, and should consider everyday citizens’ needs and uses along with those of industry and professional creators. Still, governments never seem to miss an opportunity to add additional terms to individual side agreements, ratcheting up restrictions and making a confusing, secretive mess for users.

We urged USTR to ensure that the copyright provisions in NAFTA should not be expanded to create new (and likely more onerous) rules than those that already exist in the agreement. If the copyright provisions must be reconsidered, a negotiating objective should at a minimum be to advocate for stronger protections for copyright limitations and exceptions; user rights should be granted a mandatory and enforceable standing alongside the rights of authors. In addition, the negotiations should be made through procedures that are transparent to the public and which include all stakeholders, especially the public.


NAFTA uses as its baseline existing and widely agreed upon international copyright treaties, which already contain extensive requirements that ensure the protection and enforcement of copyright and related rights. Therefore, the NAFTA copyright provisions should not be expanded to create new rules than those that already exist in the agreement. The recent negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) showed that when intellectual property is put on the table, there’s a significant push to drastically increase enforcement measures for rights holders, lengthen copyright terms, and demand harsh infringement penalties. Despite the various international agreements that aim to harmonize copyright, individual nations continue to use multilateral trade pacts as an opportunity to add increasingly onerous requirements and further lock up copyrighted works. This kind of venue shopping harms the commons and users by creating a “ladder effect”: increased IP protections are negotiated between a few countries, and then used to pressure other nations to adopt, rather than conducting a fair, public, and international discussion. While the demands of rights holders are addressed, there’s little consideration given to the rights of the public. Limitations and exceptions to copyright are downplayed, or not present at all.

It’s crucial that these rights be recognized and protected, as digital technology and the web has turned everyone with a digital footprint into a copyright user (and content creator) on a daily basis. Protecting and promoting these user rights support not only freedom of speech and access to information, but also educational activities, creative remix, and innovation. Re-negotiating the NAFTA provisions having to do with copyright would do more harm than good if there’s not a significant shift in the balance in favor of the rights for users and the public to reflect the reality of today’s digital users. If the copyright provisions will be reconsidered, a negotiating objective should be to advocate for stronger protections for copyright limitations and exceptions, and to endorse the expansion of a flexible exception such as fair use. User rights should be recognized as a legitimate and productive aspect of the copyright environment, and granted a mandatory and enforceable standing alongside the rights of authors.

Transparency and public participation in negotiations

It’s imperative that NAFTA negotiations be transparent and participatory. The secrecy demonstrated in the recent negotiation of the TPP left civil society organizations like Creative Commons and the broader public at an extreme disadvantage, as only a privileged few stakeholders invited into the closed negotiation circle have had their interests fully considered.

The NAFTA negotiations should be made through procedures that are transparent to the public and which include all stakeholders. Increased transparency and meaningful public participation will lead to better outcomes. We agree with the specific and actionable recommendations put forward by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and to improve the transparency of U.S. trade negotiations and their accessibility to a diverse range of stakeholders. These recommendations urge USTR to:

  1. Publish U.S. textual proposals on rules in ongoing international trade negotiations
  2. Publish consolidated texts after each round of ongoing negotiations
  3. Appoint a “transparency officer” who does not have structural conflicts of interest in promoting transparency at the agency
  4. Open up textual proposals to a notice and comment and public hearing process
  5. Make Trade Advisory Committees more broadly inclusive

Now USTR will evaluate the extensive feedback on NAFTA negotiating objectives (over 12,000 comments have been submitted). Canada has already opened a similar public consultation, and it’s expected that Mexico will do the same. It’s a fair question whether these sweeping agreements can actually promote trade and economic activity that is beneficial to a majority of citizens as opposed to a few powerful multinational corporations. But assuming we’re going down this path again, it’s important that negotiators rethink the copyright provisions to protect users and the public good. And it’s absolutely crucial that negotiators lift the un-democratic and counterproductive secrecy that has pervaded most of the recent discussions.

The post Is Re-negotiating NAFTA Opening Pandora’s Box? appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Announcing the Creative Commons Community Activities Fund

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:40
CC Tanzania training from the Awesome Fund, Photo by Aris Maro, CC BY-SA

Inspired by the Awesome Fund, we are excited to announce the Community Activities Fund as part of our ongoing efforts to support the activities of CC communities and beyond. Through this fund, and in conjunction with the Global Network Strategy, Creative Commons is taking a leap towards a truly open and collaborative community of individuals and organizations committed to building and fostering a vibrant global commons.

The Community Activities Fund is a mini-grant program aimed at supporting individuals and communities pursuing activities aligned with the network values and principles stated on the new Creative Commons Global Network Strategy. These grants are meant to provide quick, practical-level support for activities, projects, and events done by supporters and advocates of Creative Commons – from kickstarting projects, facilitating travel and mentorships, to supporting the organization of CC-themed events around the globe.

We’re looking to help fund salons, campaigns, translations, e-books, printing, collaborations, and more. Need the funds for something small and impactful? This fund is for you.

Basic information about the Fund:

  1. Anyone can apply. We’d love to support projects from any individuals, teams, or organizations advancing the mission and work of CC.
  2. There’s a maximum amount, not minimum. The maximum amount that one can request per project is USD 1000. There is no minimum.
  3. Light and fast procedure. The applications will be reviewed weekly and feedback relayed within 2 weeks of application.
  4. Language. Applications can be sent in English, Spanish, French or Arabic.
  5. Criteria. We support projects that help grow the global commons and foster the benefits of openness around the world at the local level. This fund is aimed to support efforts at country, city or community level to advance into the Creative Commons mission, providing support for activities.

Application and reporting process
To apply, please fill out this application form. You will receive feedback within 2 weeks of your application.
The reporting process is important, but we are keeping it lightweight – all we ask for are a brief narrative report and the minimum requirement of making your project outputs available under CC BY.
If you have any questions or clarification requests, please email Simeon Oriko, CC Network Manager, at or do it in our #general channel at the CC Slack. You can also post on the #creativecommons IRC channel, just connect via Freenode.

The post Announcing the Creative Commons Community Activities Fund appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Contribuye al Fondo de Defensa Legal de Diego Gómez

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:02

Hace tres semanas reportamos que Diego Gómez, estudiante Colombiano demandado por compartir por internet un paper académico, ha sido absuelto de los cargos penales en su contra.

Pero hace algunos días los abogados del denunciante apelaron a la decisión del juez de primera instancia, lo que implica que luego de varios años de procedimientos judiciales innecesarios (y caros), el caso de Diego será revisado por el Tribunal de Bogotá. El juicio a Diego Gómez es un ejemplo flagrante de abuso de derechos de autor, donde titulares de derechos pueden hacer uso de la ley, que ya es excesiva en su alcance, para que una infracción menor tenga un impacto significativo no sólo para el individuo involucrado, sino también para la sociedad en su conjunto. Los estudiantes no debieran ser sujetos de largos y estresantes acciones judiciales por el hecho de compartir conocimiento.

Diego necesita tu ayuda. La Fundación Karisma, organización de derechos digitales colombiana que ha estado asistiendo a Diego desde el comienzo, está lanzando una campaña de crowdfunding en IndieGoGo para pagar por los costos legales asociados. La campaña, llamada Compartir no es delito: Sharing Is Not A Crime pretende conseguir USD $40,000.

The post Contribuye al Fondo de Defensa Legal de Diego Gómez appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Contribute to the Diego Gómez Legal Defense Fund

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:02
Support Diego by donating today!

Three weeks ago we reported that Diego Gómez, the former Colombian student who’s been prosecuted for sharing a research paper online, had been acquitted of criminal charges.

But within days of the ruling, the author’s lawyer appealed the decision, meaning that even after several years of unnecessary (and expensive) criminal proceedings, Diego’s case continues to the appellate court—the Tribunal of Bogotá. The prosecution of Gómez is an egregious example of copyright overreach where rights holders can unfairly leverage the law so that even a minor violation leads to major negative repercussions for both the individual involved, and society as a whole. Students shouldn’t be subject to lengthy and stressful lawsuits for sharing knowledge.

Diego needs our help. Fundación Karisma, the Colombian digital rights organisation that’s been supporting Diego since the beginning, is launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for the ongoing legal expenses. The campaign—titled Compartir no es delito: Sharing Is Not A Crime—is now live and aims to raise $40,000.

The post Contribute to the Diego Gómez Legal Defense Fund appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

U.S. Department of Education Open Licensing Rule Now in Effect

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 12:54


The U.S. Department of Education’s new open licensing rule has gone into effect. Starting in FY 2018, education resources created with Department of Education discretionary competitive grants ($4.2 billion in FY 2016) must be openly licensed and shared with the public. Creative Commons (CC) congratulates the U.S. Department of Education for ensuring the public has access to the education resources it funds.

This announcement comes after years of work by Department of Education staff, multiple civil society organizations, and individual open education leaders.

CC’s involvement began in October 2015, when we joined the Department in calling for a new rule to require publicly funded education resources be openly licensed by default. A few months later, CC and other open education leaders submitted comments supporting the proposed rule. When the implementation of the rule was delayed, a coalition of open education organizations submitted additional comments in support of implementing the change.

This new Department of Education open licensing rule follows the example set by the Department of Labor agency-wide CC BY open licensing policy, the Department of State’s open licensing playbook for federal agencies, and multiple other open education licensing policies from around the world. While the rule does not specify the use of a CC license by name, it provides guidance on what attributes the open license needs to contain (see below).

Here is the text of the final rule published in the Federal Register and in the Government Publishing Office Code of Federal Regulations.

The key points in the new rule (summarized):

  • Grantees must openly license to the public any grant deliverable that is created wholly or in part with Department competitive grant funds.
  • Grantees must grant to the public a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, and irrevocable license to access, reproduce, prepare derivative works, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute the copyrightable work provided that attribution is given to the copyright holder.
    • The open license also must contain a symbol or device that readily communicates to users the permissions granted concerning the use of the copyrightable work; machine-readable code for digital resources; readily accessed legal terms; and the statement of attribution.
    • Grantees may select any open licenses that comply with the requirements of this section, including, at the grantee’s discretion, a license that limits use to noncommercial purposes.
  • A grantee that is awarded competitive grant funds must have a plan to disseminate the openly licensed copyrightable works created with grant funds.
  • The rule does not apply to:
    • funding for general operating expenses;
    • support to individuals (e.g., scholarships, fellowships);
    • grant deliverables that are jointly funded by the Department and another Federal agency if the other Federal agency does not require open licensing;
    • copyrightable works not created with Department grant funds;
    • peer-reviewed scholarly publications funded by the Department;
    • grantees under the Ready To Learn Television Program; or
    • a grantee that has received an exception from the Secretary of Education.

We celebrate this step forward and look forward to helping the Department implement this commitment to openness!

The post U.S. Department of Education Open Licensing Rule Now in Effect appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 11:58

The new book Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, features the work of open advocates around the world, including Cable Green, Director of Open Education at Creative Commons. This excerpt from his chapter, “Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy,” provides a summary of open licensing for education, as well as delves into the philosophical and technical underpinnings of his work in “open.”

Read and download the entire book via Ubiquity Press and follow Cable on Twitter @cgreen.

Open Licensing

Long before the internet was conceived, copyright law regulated the very activities the internet, cheap disc space and cloud computing make essentially free (copying, storing, and distributing). Consequently, the internet was born at a severe disadvantage, as preexisting copyright laws discouraged the public from realizing the full potential of the network.

Since the invention of the internet, copyright law has been ‘strengthened’ to further restrict the public’s legal rights to copy and share on the internet. For example, in 2012 the US Supreme Court on upheld the US Congress’s right to extend copyright protection to millions of books, films, and musical compositions by foreign artists that once were free for public use. Lawrence Golan, a University of Denver music professor and conductor who challenged the law on behalf of fellow conductors, academics and film historians said ‘they could no long afford to play such works as Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” which once was in the public domain but received copyright protection that significantly increased its cost.’

While existing laws, old business models, and education content procurement practices make it difficult for teachers and learners to leverage the full power of the internet to access high-quality, affordable learning materials, OER can be freely retained (keep a copy), reused (use as is), revised (adapt, adjust, modify), remixed (mashup different content to create something new), and redistributed (share copies with others) without breaking copyright law. OER allow the full technical power of the internet to be brought to bear on education. OER allow exactly what the internet enables: free sharing of educational resources with the world.

What makes this legal sharing possible? Open licenses. The importance of open licensing in OER is simple. The key distinguishing characteristic of OER is its intellectual property license and the legal permissions the license grants the public to use, modify, and share it. If an educational resource is not clearly marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not an OER. Some educators think sharing their digital resources online, for free, makes their content OER — it does not. Though it is OER if they go the extra step and add an open license to their work.

The most common way to openly license copyrighted education materials — making them OER − is to add a Creative Commons license to the educational resource. CC licenses are standardized, free-to-use, open copyright licenses that have already been applied to more than 1.2 billion copyrighted works across 9 million websites.

Collectively, CC licensed works constitute a class of educational works that are explicitly meant to be legally shared and reused with few restrictions. David Bollier writes:

‘Like free software, the CC licenses paradoxically rely upon copyright law to legally protect the commons. The licenses use the rights of ownership granted by copyright law not to exclude others, but to invite them to share. The licenses recognize authors’ interests in owning and controlling their work — but they also recognize that new creativity owes many social and intergenerational debts. Creativity is not something that emanates solely from the mind of the “romantic author,” as copyright mythology has it; it also derives from artistic communities and previous generations of authors and artists. The CC licenses provide a legal means to allow works to circulate so that people can create something new. Share, reuse, and remix, legally, as Creative Commons puts it.’

While custom copyright licenses can be developed to facilitate the development and use of OER, it may be easier to apply free-to-use, global standardized licenses developed specifically for that purpose, such as those developed by Creative Commons.


Fig. 1: Annual Growth of CC licensed works.

Open Education Licensing Policy

This section explores how public policymakers can leverage open licensing policies, and by extension OER, as a solution to high textbook costs, out-of-date educational resources and disappearing access to expensive, DRM protected e-books. Education policy is about solving education problems for the public. If one of the roles of government is to ensure all of its citizens have access to effective, high-quality educational resources, then governments ought to employ current, proven legal, technical, and policy tools to ensure the most efficient and impactful use of public education funding.

Open education policies are laws, rules, and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of OER. While this chapter only deals with open education licensing policies, there has also been significant open education resource-based (allocate resources directly to support OER), inducement (call for or incentivize actions to support OER), and framework (create pathways or remove barriers for action to support OER) open education policy work.

Open education licensing policies insert open licensing requirements into existing funding systems (e.g., grants, contracts, or other agreements) that create educational resources, thereby making the content OER, and shifting the default on publicly funded educational resources from ‘closed’ to ‘open.’ This is a particularly strong education policy argument: if the public pays for education resources, the public should have the right to access and use those resources at no additional cost and with the full spectrum of legal rights necessary to engage in 5R activities.

My friend David Wiley likes to say ‘if you buy one, you should get one.’ David, like most of us, believes that when you buy something, you should actually get the thing you paid for. Provincial/state and national governments frequently fund the development of education and research resources through grants funded with taxpayer dollars. In other words, when a government gives a grant to a university to produce a water security degree program, you and I have already paid for it. Unfortunately, it is almost always the case that these publicly funded educational resources are commercialized in such a way that access is restricted to those who are willing to pay for them a second time. Why should we be required to pay a second time for the thing we’ve already paid for?

Governments and other funding entities that wish to maximize the impacts of their education investments are moving toward open education licensing policies. National, provincial/state governments, and education systems all play a critical role in setting policies that drive education investments and have an interest in ensuring that public funding of education makes a meaningful, cost-effective contribution to socioeconomic development. Given this role, these policy-making entities are ideally positioned to require recipients of public funding to produce educational resources under an open license.

Let us be specific. Governments, foundations, and education systems/institutions can and should implement open education licensing policies by requiring open licenses on the educational resources produced with their funding. Strong open licensing policies make open licensing mandatory and apply a clear definition for open license, ideally using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license that grants full reuse rights provided the original author is attributed. The good news is open education policies are happening! In June 2012, UNESCO convened a World OER Congress and released a 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which included a call for governments to ‘encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.’ UNESCO will be convening a second World OER Congress in Slovenia in 2017 to establish a ‘normative instrument on OER.’ OECD recently released its 2015 report: ‘Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation’ provides policy options to governments such as: ‘Regulate that all publicly funded materials should be OER by default. Alternatively, the regulation could state that new educational resources should be based on existing OER, where possible (“reuse first” principle).’

As governments and foundations move to require the products of their grants and/or contracts be openly licensed, the implementation stage of these policies critical; open licensing policies should have systems in place to ensure that grantees comply with the policy, properly apply an open license to their work, and share an editable, accessible version of the OER in a public OER repository.

A good example of an open education licensing policy done well is the US Department of Labor’s 2010 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) which committed US$2 billion in federal grant funding over four years to ‘expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs’ (p.1). The intellectual property section of the grant program description requires that all educational materials created with grant funding be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, and the Department required its grantees to deposit editable copies of the CC BY OER into — a public open education repository.

A number of other nations, provinces and states have also adopted or announced open education policies relating to the creation, review, remix and/or adoption of OER. The Open Policy Registry lists over 130 national, state, province, and institutional policies relating to OER, including policies like a national open licensing framework and a policy explicitly permitting public school teachers to share materials they create in the course of their employment under a CC license.

New open policy projects like the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership are well positioned to foster the creation, adoption, and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations, and policy makers, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information. Because the bulk of education and research funding comes from taxpayer dollars, it is essential to create, adopt and implement open education licensing policies. The traditional model of academic research publishing borders on scandalous. Every year, hundreds of billions in research and data are funded by the public through government grants, and then acquired at no cost by publishers who do not compensate a single author or peer reviewer, acquire all copyright rights, and then sell access to the publicly funded research back to the University and Colleges. In the US, the combined value of government, non-profit, and university-funded research in 2013 was over US$158 billion — about a third of all the R&D in the United States that year.

As governments move to require open licensing policies, hundreds of billions of dollars of education and research resources will be freely and legally available to the public that paid for them. Every taxpayer − in every country − has a reasonable expectation of access to educational materials and research products whose creation tax dollars supported.

The post Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

Dozens of organizations call on European Parliament to redouble efforts for progressive copyright changes

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 13:12
“Tools in order” by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash. But one European political party wants to weaponize the worst parts of the copyright plan

This week, Creative Commons and over 60 organisations sent an open letter urging European lawmakers to “put the copyright reform back on the right track”. The letter criticizes the Commission’s lackluster proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, and calls on the Parliament and Council to spearhead crucial changes that promote creativity and business opportunities, enable research and education, and protect user rights in the digital market. From the letter:

The lawfulness of everyday activities depends on being able to count on a clear legal framework allowing companies to do business across the EU, individuals to access and use cultural goods, researchers to collaborate across borders using the latest technologies, and creators to be remunerated and contribute to Europe’s rich cultural heritage. This clear legal framework implies that the limitation of intermediaries’ liability must be upheld in EU law.

The letter highlights two aspects of the Commission’s proposal that are wholly detrimental to creativity and access to information in the EU. First, it calls for the removal of the new right that would permit press publishers to extract fees from search engines for incorporating short snippets of—or even linking to—their content (Article 11). This would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached, including Creative Commons licenses. Second, it urges lawmakers to delete the provision that would require Internet platforms to proactively monitor user uploaded content in order to identify and remove copyright infringing content (Article 13).

The letter was signed by stakeholders representing publishers, journalists, libraries, scientific and research institutions, consumers, digital rights groups, technology businesses, educational institutions and creator representatives.

While these organisations have been advocating for positive changes to support the public interest and fair rules for creators, a faction of the European Parliament is proposing alternative amendments to the Commission’s plan that would not only retain the harmful ancillary copyright and upload filtering mechanisms, but make them much, much worse.

Days after we sent our open letter, we learned that the European People’s Party (EPP) is considering “compromise amendments” that could be introduced in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. The changes would further extend the ancillary copyright to last for 50 years (instead of the originally-planned 20), and would also apply to offline uses (original proposal only covered digital). Perhaps most strikingly, their “compromise” would grant protection to academic publications (specifically left out in the Commission’s plan). This would mean that users of scientific and scholarly journal articles would be forced to ask permission or pay fees for including short snippets of a research paper in another publication. This type of arrangement is completely antithetical to longstanding norms in scientific research and scholarly communications.

Regarding upload filtering, the EPP’s proposed changes would remove the liability protections granted to online platforms if that services does anything above and beyond simply displaying user-uploaded content. This would mean that platforms would be forced to heavily filter content, or acquire licenses to protect themselves against the copyright infringement liability passed on by its users.

The vote in the Internal Market Committee is scheduled for 9 June (next week!). If you’re in the EU, now is the time to act. Tell your MEP to say no to these false compromises. Contact an MEP from your country who sits on the IMCO Committee and tell them you expect them to support MEP Stihler’s compromise amendments on the copyright file. A phone call takes no more than a few minutes and can prove very effective. Internet rights NGO Bits of Freedom has created a handy tool that allows you to call MEPs for free.

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Categories: Political Action

CC is more Awesome than ever

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 12:04

CC’s community consists of hundreds of individuals and organisations doing awesome stuff worldwide – from spreading the word about licensing to offering specific advice for creators and users, showcasing all aspects of open culture, and influencing policy makers around to globe to encourage them to adopt more open policies.

When we set up the Awesome Fund last year, we wanted to provide microfunding for this wide variety of activities. In the end, we received almost 40 applications – you can find the full overview of all projects we funded on our Wiki. Some projects haven’t finished yet, so this page will be regularly updated. On social media, look for #CCisAwesome for updates on ongoing projects.

CC Francocar workshop

The projects were diverse and exciting, with a number of teams using the funds to strengthen their own team or connect with others. Some highlights:

CC Belarus and CC Ukraine got together to create workflows for CC integration and to discuss on how to target creative communities to inform them about CC. CC UK and Ireland collaborated for a workshop on CC for start-ups. FRANCOCAR supported a range of events in the french speaking West African countries. CC Columbia, Chile, Uruguay and El Salvador collaborated on a series of podcasts highlighting Latin-American champions of open culture.

CC Ireland at the CC for Startups event

Some teams used to funds to travel to difficult to reach areas in their own countries: The Mongolian CC team used the funds to travel to the remote Buryat region to talk about CC as a tool for local empowerment and to promote local culture. CC Tanzania gave an advocacy training in the Iringa region.

CC Tanzania Training

CC is committed to supporting the Public Domain and promoting open policies and open culture: CC Argentina and CC Chile created a database of authors in the public domain. CC Israel organised an event to celebrate Public Domain Day and Fair Use Week, CC Nigeria organised a round table session on Creative Commons for policy makers and the copyright commission in Lagos, Creative Commons Portugal created a live performance and an accompanying site about copyright (and copywrongs) in the performing arts, while CC Indonesia showcased CC licensed music on an event promoting Free Culture and the joy of sharing. CC Ghana even organised their first ever CC Salon!

Having now left my position as Regional Coordinator for Europe, it is with great pride and joy I look back on the Awesome Fund projects. The amount and quality of applications, and the brilliant display of creativity and dedication that they showcase have been truly inspiring. The Creative Commons community is alive and kicking – and ready for the next phase with the ongoing network reform process.


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Categories: Political Action

Independent cinema for Brazil and beyond: How Canal o Cubo inspires media makers around the world

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 15:54

Canal O Cubo is a popular Brazilian platform for independent Creative Commons licensed films and the promotion of Brazilian multimedia production. In 2014, they produced “Eu Te Amo Renato,” the first full length Creative Commons film on the Brazilian internet. This year’s spinoff is an LGBT focused web series called “Todo o Tempo do Mundo,” which won best drama webseries and best directing of a dramatic webseries at the international Rio Webfest this year. They produce collaborative content through their short movie production program called Make a Short!/Faça um Curta! as well serve as a diverse content aggregator of Documentaries, Originals, Video Art, Animation, and more – all with CC licensing as the backbone. By solving the distribution issue for Brazilian filmmakers, they are able to better support a variety of independent artists around Brazil and contribute to an ecosystem of Brazilian independent media.

In addition to their content collection, the small team runs a yearly festival, which just celebrated its fourth anniversary in Rio de Janeiro in May. Director Fabiano Cafure spoke with Creative Commons about this year’s festival and the challenges and success that he faces as an independent media maker in Brazil.

Congratulations on this year’s Festival o Cubo! What was this year like? What kinds of films did you enjoy screening most? What themes have emerged within the festival?

Each year is a surprise for us in terms of what we will receive from the independent scene. This year we had an increase in fiction movies and we were also able to observe how the medium format is coming back to the scene in internet productions because most of the independent filmmakers do not have the budget to use traditional mainstream movie distribution. Last year we had a greater amount of documentaries.

Why did you begin Canal o Cubo? What is the reason for creating a platform and festival such as this one?

Canal O Cubo came to life after years trying to understand the movement of internet and its advantages for independent distribution using existing platforms such as Youtube and public licenses such as Creative Commons. We understood that we needed to go that way in order to have a wider and bigger voice, but not before establishing a network of Brazilian producer to come together – and we did. The festival came as a result of the channel we created.

What have been the challenges behind Canal o Cubo? How have you explained the CC licensing to the artists you work with?

The challenges are basic: we have a lack of money to make it grow and invest. We are only three people to make all it work. Until now we were able to unify lots of producers from all over the country in order to have a good amount of titles to play for free. It takes time for people and other companies to see you and your work, which is serious work. We are getting there and Creative Commons is very important in that process. Sergio Branco has been a great mentor to us and a great help to better explain the definition and benefits from CC. The artists are getting more open to the idea but it takes time to break paradigms.

What has it been like to produce a popular web series under CC? What kinds of stories are you looking to tell?

It has helped us to reach out to our public. I usually say that CC is like a domino: you may not profit from a specific work under CC but it sures comes around as it helps to show your work. It has been proven to me by experience. I usually tell stories about people around me and my perspective of life, so in the end it is about life, specially about those who have no voice.

What’s next for you, both in terms of content and how you want Canal o Cubo to grow?

I enjoy being a person who facilitates understanding on how to produce with low or no budget at all. I love teaching the process of filmmaking. As far as Canal O Cubo, we are working on it becoming one the best Brazilian independent movie platforms as well as a reference in producing and distributing.

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Categories: Political Action

Announcing Paola Villareal as Director of Product Engineering

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 12:02
Photo by Paola Villareal, CC BY

I’m thrilled to announce that Paola Villarreal will be joining the Creative Commons team as Director of Product Engineering. She will lead the development of CC’s tools to create a more vibrant, usable commons, beginning with CC Search.

This is an important hire for Creative Commons, and it was important we find someone with the talent, curiosity, and values needed to lead our technical work in a global movement.

Villarreal is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center of Harvard University and a former Mozilla Open Web fellow. A self-taught systems programmer and accomplished open advocate, Paola’s research as a Berkman Fellow focuses on the relationship between data and justice, aiming to strengthen access and reduce inequality by developing data tools that inform the work of advocates, activists, community organizers, lawyers, and journalists and their communities. In her 2015-16 Mozilla Open Web Fellowship, she worked at ACLU of Massachusetts on social justice projects that heavily rely on open technology and data.

Villarreal previously worked at Xamarin Inc as a iOS Developer and was the Director of Technologic Innovation at Mexico City’s Innovation Lab (Laboratorio para la Ciudad), where she ran the Code for Mexico City Fellowship and designed and implemented the Data Lab, an Open Data portal with an API. While working as the systems administrator for Mexico’s President’s Office, she was part of the team that first proposed the usage of CC’s licenses as best practice for governmental websites. In addition to her professional work, Paola has been involved with the Creative Commons Mexico Community since 2005 and blogs about her work at

With over 17 years experience, Villarreal brings a wealth of knowledge to CC as a long-time advocate for public access to information, an open source veteran and community builder, and a talented programmer and data scientist with a history of work for social justice causes ranging from community over-policing to solving local transportation issues. Read a profile of Paola’s work in the Harvard Gazette, and learn more about her work in her presentation on “Public Interest Data Science” at the Harvard Law School.

Paola is originally from Mexico City and is currently based in Boston, MA. She will join us in June, and we want to give her a warm welcome to the CC Community. Welcome, Paola!

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Categories: Political Action

The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra: a new CC cultural resource from the Getty

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 14:21

We’re excited to share this post from Mikka Gee Conway and Uma Nair of the Getty, which describes the history and curation of the remarkable new online exhibit, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra. The Getty’s exhibit, the first of its kind, is part of ongoing global efforts to call attention to the continued destruction of one of the world’s most important heritage sites due to the ongoing Syrian conflict.

In April, Creative Commons unveiled a collaboration with #NEWPALMYRA and re:3D at the CC Summit, a large scale rendering of one of the destroyed Palmyra tetrapyla.

On February 8, 2017, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles unveiled its first online-only exhibition, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra. Featuring over one hundred images primarily drawn from the Special Collections of the GRI, the exhibition explores Palmyra’s early history, its influence on Western art and culture, and the tragic loss of what is left of its ancient ruins amid the devastating ongoing war in Syria. Most of the images, and all of the texts, included in the online presentation are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC BY).

Temple of Baalshamin, Louis Vignes, 1864. Albumen print. 8.8 x 11.4 in. (22.5 x 29 cm). The Getty Research Institute, 2015.R.15 Temple of Bel, Louis Vignes, 1864. Albumen print. 8.8 x 11.4 in. (22.5 x 29 cm). The Getty Research Institute, 2015.R.15

The core of the exhibition comes from two bodies of work in the GRI’s Special Collections by 18th- and 19th-century Frenchmen who visited Palmyra: etchings by artist and architect Louis-François Cassas, made in 1785 as part of a diplomatic mission to the Ottoman Empire; and photographs made in 1864 by sea

captain-turned-photographer Louis Vignes as part of a scientific expedition to the Middle East. These collections include the first photographs of the ancient monuments of Palmyra, illustrating the Temple of Baalshamin, the Temple of Bel, the Monumental Arch, and the Tetrapylon, destroyed in 2015 and 2017 by ISIS.

Curators Frances Terpak and Peter Bonfitto, along with the rest of the exhibition team, wanted not only to give viewers a broader historical perspective on Palmyra, a city with a particularly rich and poignant history, but also to create a free visual resource enabling anyone with an internet connection to have digital access to these rare, unpublished materials and accompanying scholarly discussion.

With a goal of offering the same depth and breadth of material as an on-site gallery exhibition, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra contains 108 images, including 20 “loan objects” from other institutions, and more than 18,000 words of peer-reviewed scholarly text. The majority of the images can be downloaded and feature a “zoom” tool. Created as an informative experience for the general public and a research tool for scholars, The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra includes a resource page which provides links and further readings on both the history of the site and current events.

In building this exhibition, some of the questions we asked ourselves were: how do we take a visitor’s gallery experience–such as looking closely at an object and then standing back in the middle of the room for a different perspective–and translate this to desktop, tablet, and mobile devices? How do we translate an ancient city plan into an interactive and user-friendly digital platform? To answer these questions, our core working group, each bringing different areas of expertise, brainstormed ideas, did rapid sketching exercises, and tested with our three core audiences: (1) an international scholarly audience; (2) “enthusiasts,” whom we defined as the culturally curious but not subject-matter experts; and (3) teachers and students seeking credible sources of information on the region and on ancient history, political science, cultural heritage, and the arts generally

On the design side, our visual designers worked very closely with the curators to gain a very deep understanding of the intellectual component of the material and what the curators wanted to convey. They also used the original material as inspiration to visually present a connection between the 18th and 19th century materials and bring them into our 21st-century digital environment.

Curators and the visual designers leaf through pages of The ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the desart (London, 1753) by Robert Wood at the Getty Research Institute’s Special Collections and Reading Room.

Through a Visual Design Workshop, our team and stakeholders developed a common language and a set of visual cues for what we wanted the user experience to be like.

Snapshot of keywords from the Palmyra Visual Experience Workshop revealed that the team wanted the online experience to be elegant and immersive and not feel commercial or old-

On the rights side, we knew from the outset that we wanted to publish The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra as openly as possible. The J. Paul Getty Trust, of which the GRI is part, was established for “the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.” The Getty has long been committed to creating and disseminating knowledge in the fields in which it works. More recently we have embraced open access principles, and are committed to providing, wherever possible, free, unrestricted, digital access to the resources we own and produce. For example, our Open Content Initiative launched in 2013 and offers free, unrestricted, high-resolution images from the collections of the GRI and the J. Paul Getty Museum—at last count, 114,000 images and growing. We publish textual information on the Getty Museum’s online collections pages and the Getty’s blog under CC BY, as we did with two new online catalogues on the Getty Museum’s collections of Roman mosaics and ancient terracottas. Both the GRI and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) have developed open-source software projects to serve their audiences, including Getty Scholar’s Workspace®, the GRI’s collaborative research tool, and the GCI’s Arches™ software platform, a geospatially-based information system for inventorying immovable cultural heritage. Research resources maintained by the GRI are also available under open licenses, including datasets from the Getty Provenance Index® and the Getty Vocabularies, many of which are available as Linked Open Data under Open Data Commons licenses. In addition, the Getty Foundation has just published Museum Catalogues in the Digital Age, the final report on its Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative, under CC BY.

Museum Catalogues in the Digital Age: A Final Report on the Getty Foundation’s Online
Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) is licensed, with a few exceptions, under CC-BY.

Given the nature of the vast majority of the source material for Palmyra—public domain artwork owned by the GRI and texts written by GRI staff—we knew it would be possible to apply a CC BY license to most if not all of it. Unfortunately we were not able to secure permissions from the “lenders” to apply CC BY to their objects, with the exception of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which like the Getty makes its public domain collections images freely available. But with a clearly written image credits section and targeted use of the Creative Commons machine-readable code, we were able to identify for human and machine readers which parts of the exhibition are not part of the open license.

The exhibition has received much positive coverage and feedback from around the world, including from a teacher who planned to use the exhibition in the classroom for a lesson on Palmyra. We’re pleased to have created another cultural and educational resource that is freely available to all who can access it – please come visit the site and let us know what you think. We hope there will be robust re-use and repurposing of this content, and we will continue to look for ways that the Getty can add to the world’s cultural commons.

A snapshot of one of the many responses received on social media about the relevance of the online exhibition in today’s world.



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Categories: Political Action

The World Theatre Map: A digital commons for the global theatre community

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 13:33

Read our previous interview with the Howlround organizers

HowlRound is a non-profit knowledge commons by and for the theatre community based at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. We are a free and open platform that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners. One way we aim to connect the global theatre community is through a new free and open tool called the World Theatre Map. We created the World Theatre Map to try and solve a consistent and persistent problem in the theatre field— the isolation between theatre-makers and practice, especially across national borders.

Theatre knowledge is often limited to how “connected” one is within the field, or else it’s information diffuse or behind a paywall. We wanted to make something that could connect theatre-makers to each other absent of hierarchy or resource, and that could share information openly about what theatre is happening where and when, as well as information about the creative teams behind the work. The result is the first version of The World Theatre Map, which launched in January and is currently in a public beta period.

Why does it matter?
What if we could find ways to more efficiently share resources in the theatre field? What if theatre-makers could self-organize around areas of interest or identity, no matter their geography? What impact would that have on the art that is made? Could the theatre become more relevant to our cultural and political discourse? Could we build more empathy in our world? Could we build a better world?

What is it?

The World Theatre Map is a user-generated directory and real time map of the global theatre community. It’s a digital commons, free and open to all.

Who is it for?

It’s for all types of theatre-makers, theatre companies, and theatre institutions around the world, and anyone interested in theatre as an art form.

What can I use it for?

Anyone can create a user account to contribute (or edit) information on the World Theatre Map. You can create a profiles for individual theatre-makers and/or organizations. These profiles will immediately become a part of the searchable directory. You can add information about specific theatre events and the show profile will link together these events to display the production history of that piece. You can search the ever-growing directory to discover and connect to organizations, people, shows, and events. You can see what theatre is happening today around the world. You can read and watch HowlRound content related to a person or organization on the World Theatre Map.

For folks who feel compelled to participate more deeply in this global endeavor, we’ve recently issued a call for World Theatre Map Ambassadors to help enhance our outreach efforts and more importantly, to begin shaping the future of this map and its functionality.

What’s Next

We are using this public beta period to solicit feedback from the field about what is working, what should be improved, as well as future features that could be useful. This feedback will shape Version 2 World Theatre Map. This version is in English and Spanish and we hope to expand to more languages in the future.



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Categories: Political Action