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Creative Commons licenses are essential to virtually all of the different “open movements”, which have emerged over the past two decades beyond open source software. In the realm of open education, open science and open access, Creative Commons licenses are the standard way to make content open to the wider public. Also in fields such as open data and open government Creative Commons licenses are widely used to make it easier for third parties to re-use publicly funded content.
In spite of this vital role in different fields of openness, not to speak of all the open Wikimedia projects, Creative Commons has long struggled with its role. During its first decade, Creative Commons nearly exclusively focused on its role as a license steward, carfully abstaining from political copyright activism typical for the open movements. Only very recently, following a speech by its founder Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2013, Creative Commons has issued a policy statement on “Creative Commons and Copyright Reform” saying that “the CC vision — universal access to research and education and full participation in culture — will not be realized through licensing alone.”
Currently I am attending the Academy of Management Annual Meeting (AoM), which is located at Disney World Resort in Orlando this year and taking place at the same time as the Annual Meeting of the American Sociology Association (ASA) in New York. Christof Brandtner, an Austrian colleague working on his PhD in Stanford, commented on this fact on facebook as follows:
I suppose having a business school conference in a fantasy world is almost as ironic as a meeting on the sociology of inequality in a Hilton suite.
While I could not agree more with him, I nevertheless would prefer being in New York like he is. On the bright side, yesterday I learnt that Jakob Kapeller and myself have received the Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award for our paper “Open Strategy between Crowd and Community: Lessons from Wikimedia and Creative Commons” (PDF). This is the abstract:
Based on a conception of strategy as a practice and theoretical arguments related to ‘open strategy’, this paper analyzes six cases of open strategy initiatives situated in two transnational non-profit organizations (Wikimedia and Creative Commons). With regard to openness, we look specifically at the inclusion of external actors in strategy-making. We differentiate between crowds, where external actors are isolated and dispersed, and communities, where related agents self-identify as members of the community. In all six cases, we identify the main strategic aims at stake, the scope of the open strategy tools utilized, the relevant reference groups, and the open strategy practices emerging from these setups. We thereby show how the open strategy initiatives exhibit different degrees of openness, where greater openness leads to a greater diversity of open strategy practices. Additionally, we evaluate the relation between the scope of different open strategy tools and the characteristics of the external reference group addressed by it.
The Carolyn Dexter Award is an all All-Academy-Award, which means that 24 divisions and Interest Groups nominated a paper and these papers were evaluated by three reviewers (primarily from outside the USA) with knowledge of the division domain areas. The four finalists were then comparatively assessed in a final round of blind reviews. You can imagine that Jakob and I feel quite honored. Not to speak of the great plaque we received.. ;-)
The interview with Lawrence Lessig featured below was conducted by Markus Beckedahl and John Weitzmann, leaders of the German Creative Common affiliate organizations in late September and transcribed by Christian Wöhrl. A German version was published yesterday at netzpolitik.org. We are pleased to to publish the English original of the interview and invite others to share it as long as they abide to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license.Maybe you’ve answered this question too many times, but why did you found Creative Commons?
Lawrence Lessig: Well, there’s a narrow reason which was that at the time we were litigating the Eldred vs. Ashcroft case, and Eric Eldred was skeptical about whether we could win that case. And he said that he wanted to make sure that out of that litigation wouldn’t just come a losing case at the Supreme Court but something that would be a more fundamental foundation to support what we’ve come to call Free Culture. So I began to think that was right and recognized, more importantly, that if we’re ever going to get real change that we would had to build the movement of understanding in people. That wasn’t going to come from the top down, it had to come from the bottom up. So a number of us began to talk about what was the way to craft such a movement and the idea of giving people a simple way to affirm that they don’t believe in either extreme of perfect control or no rights, and what’s the best way to do it. So that’s what launched Creative Commons.
So there were already several Open Content licenses. Why did you develop your own CC licenses and didn’t just support existing FSF licenses, for example?
Lawrence Lessig: Well, there were two reasons. First, we thought we needed to have a more flexible and wider range of licenses. So that the, you know, like, the Free Document License is a particular version of a free license that might not be appropriate for all kinds of material – number one. But number two, we thought it was really important to understand your own licenses; it was very important to begin to embed an architecture that could be, number one, human-readable, understandable, and, number two, machine-readable, and, number three, at the very bottom, legally enforceable. And none of the other licensing structures that were out there were thinking of this particular mode of policy making, to have to speak three languages at the same time. So that’s what led us to architect this initially.
And it was our commitment from the very beginning, and, you know, we achieved this with the Free Document License and we’re still talking about this with the Free Art License to enable interoperability or portability between free licenses. So our idea was eventually that it didn’t matter which of the free licenses you were in as long as you could move into the equivalent free license that would be CC compatible.
Creative Commons’ birthday party week is hardly over and the organization responsible for the most common open content licenses is back to its core business: acting as a license steward. As reported repeatedly on this blog (e.g. “Discussing the NC Module“), the NonCommercial (NC) license module has attracted a substantial amount of criticism over the years. The suggestions with regard to the NC module range from fundamental such as to get rid of the module entirely (e.g. by the Students for Free Cutlture) to moderate such as clarify the meaning of the NC clause.
In his most recent statement on the issue, Creative Commons’ Timothy Vollmer indicates that in addition to some uncontroversial suggestions changing the name of “NonCommercial” to “Commercial Rights Reserved” is on the table:
This last point warrants a specific mention here, as it would be a big (and potentially sensitive) change to the branding of the Creative Commons NonCommercial licenses. This proposal is for a simple renaming of the “NonCommercial” license element to “Commercial Rights Reserved,” without any change in the definition of what it covers. Renaming it to something that more accurately reflects the operation of the license may ensure that it is not unintentionally used by licensors who intend something different. For more information about the idea and rationale behind this proposal, please see the CC wiki page on the topic.
The organization Creative Commons, which is responsible for the set of alternative copyright licenses of the same name, was officially founded exactly 10 years ago. Historic documents of meetings in the run-up to founding Creative Commons are still available online at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. At the official Creative Commons birthday party in Germany I had the honor to present some useless historical facts from this and other pre- and post-foundation documents. The slides of my talk are embedded below.
A video of my German talk is now available at Vimeo.
This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland.
Continuing the debate on license porting in the realm of Creative Commons (see “The End of the Porting Experiment?“), Paul Keller of CC Netherlands took a clear stance, calling for developing only one, global license in the future. In his talk, he mentioned the following advantages of the global approach:
- Reducing (potential) incompatibilities
- Forces us to take a consistent position on issues that are specific to certain regions (e.g. moral rights, database rights)
- Will produce licenses that better meet users’ expectations
- Will cover all jurisdictions, not ‘just’ 55
- Has the potential to initiate a inter-jurisdictional discussion on the substance of the licenses
- Frees time for other activities (community building, promoting adoption, policy work, implementation advice)
Keller was followed by Massimo Travostino from Creative Commons Italy, who added his opinion that the more a license is successfully “ported”, the more likely it is to create problems in other jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry »
This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland.
In the field of open content licensing, Creative Commons licenses have been the first and still are the only licenses that are adapted (“ported”) to local jurisdictions. Free/open source software licenses such as the GNU GPL, which had served as the role model for Creative Commons in the first place, are generally unported licenses. And also in the realm of Creative Commons, not all licenses are ported.
In the first session on the upcoming versioning process, Paul Keller (CC Netherlands) mentioned the “no rights reserved” (CC0) license as an example for a Creative Commons license working without any adaption to local jurisdictions. Therefore, Keller argued, the laborious task of license porting could be abondoned as the licenses approach version 4.0. This statement was followed by several legal arguments with respect to the benefits and pitfalls of license porting.
Google Books Ngram Viewer is a fantastic tool showing how certain phrases have occurred in a corpus of books over a selected period of time. Recently, fellow bloggers over at orgtheory have played around with this tool (see, for example, “market - science- religion“).
Working on the issue of the digital public domain during my stay at the WZB, I was curious to compare the mentions of “public domain” and “intellectual property”, which are depicted in the graph below:
The resulting graph is pretty interesting. First, I did not know that the term “intellectual property” was virtually non-existant at all prior to 1980. This is remarkable since the negotiations that in the end led to the WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) had started in the early 1980s. Again, we can observe a shifting baseline effect (see “Shifting Baseline in Assessing Copyright Regulation?“): today the concept of “intellectual property” has become completely taken for granted, while 30 years ago even the phrase hadn’t been used. Read the rest of this entry »
The series “Tagged Tabs” is short list of commented links in a recurrent attempt to clean my browser from open tabs containing interesting articles on governance across borders in the field of copyright regulation published elsewhere.
- “International Communia Association“: the EU-funded thematic network on the digital public domain “Communia” evolved into the NGO “International Communia Association”, which is officially launched today. Among the members of the Communia network are most of the European partner organizations of Creative Commons.
- “Sharing License Library“: Volker Grassmuck, among the most prominent advocates for a cultural flatrate (see “Extending Private Copying Levies: Approaching a Culture Flat-rate?“), put together an extensive collection of works on the issue.
- Debate on Open Educational Resources: Reacting to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources“, Creative Commons’s Cable Green issued an extensive “Response“, defending the requirement of CC BY licensing for certain grants by the U.S. government.
- Europeana v1.0 Draft for a Data Exchange Agreement: Europeana v1.0 is a project funded by the European Commission’s eContentplus programme, which strives to transform the Europeana.eu portal from a prototype into a fully operational site.
- The inaugural issue of the new journal “Critical Studies in Peer Production” features a short report by Michelle Thorne and myself with some reflections about the “Free Culture Research Conference” that took place at Freie Universität Berlin in October last year (see also #FCRC).