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Back in 2013 at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, Jakob Kapeller and I had received the prestigious Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award for an article comparing open strategy-making in the cases of Wikimedia and Creative Commons. Today, several rounds of revision later, we are proud to present the article “Open strategy-making with crowds and communities: Comparing Wikimedia and Creative Commons” being published in the journal Long Range Planning. The abstract of the paper reads as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Sigrid, Markus and I have finally been able to publish another paper on the case of Creative Commons. In a longitudinal analysis we compare three embedded cases of transnational standard-setting: (1) license porting, (2) license versioning and (3) license interpretation. The article “Open to Feedback? Formal and Informal Recursivity in Creative Commons’ Transnational Standard-Setting” has been published in Global Policy and the abstract reads as follows:

In this article, we examine how non-membership organizations that claim stewardship over a transnational public or common good, such as the environmental or digital commons, develop combinations of formal and informal recursivity to develop and maintain regulatory conversations with their dispersed user communities. Based on a case study of Creative Commons, an organization that developed what have become the most widely used open licenses for digital content, we show how rhetorical openness to informal feedback from legitimacy communities in different sectors and countries can improve the feasibility and diffusion of standards. However, as long as the standard-setter’s methods of making decisions on the basis of such feedback remains opaque, its communities are likely to raise accountability demands for more extensive ex post justifications.

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When Creative Commons published version 4.0 of its set of alternative copyright licenses in 2013, this represented a sea change. While previously a generic set of licenses had been legally adapted to different jurisdictions (“ported”), version 4.0 of the licenses was developed as a single globally applicable license standard. To a certain degree, a decade of laborious license porting helped to build an international network of legal professionals and a respective body of legal knowledge, which than enabled Creative Commons to abandon its porting strategy.

global_affiliates_map

More than three years after this “globalization” of Creative Commons’ licenses, the NGO strives to also globalizing its organizational structure. By March 24, 2017, the various communities of Creative Commons activists, lawyers and contributors may comment on a detailed proposal for an entirely new governance structure. The proposal is accompanied by several regional and a global “Faces of the Commons” reports and additional background information on the process that led to the proposal – a particular open form of strategy-making. Read the rest of this entry »

I like recursivity in acronyms such as GNU, which stands for “GNU’s Not Unix”, and also in cartoons. A recent example for a recursive cartoon is featured below, addressing a great number of issues regularly debated around the alternative copyright licensing standard Creative Commons. The author of the work is Patrick Hochstenbach, a comic artist, programmer, and digital architect at University of Ghent libraries. You can also find his work on Instagram and Twitter.

Patrick Hochstenbach, CC-BY-SA

Patrick Hochstenbach, CC-BY-SA

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Blogging about organizational strategy and even using blogs as a strategy-making device is an increasingly common practice among (not only) young firms. For instance, in a paper* co-authored with Thomas Gegenhuber, we analyze strategy blogging as an open strategy practice that increases transparency of and involvement in strategy making, while at the same time adding to the corporate impression management repertoire.

Consequentially, it comes at no surprise that non-profit organizations such as Creative Commons, which heavily rely on external communities such as different groups of license users, also engage in strategy blogging. Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, started the series of strategy posts with general reflections on sharing, followed by suggestions for the overall mission and role of Creative Commons in his second post:

CC must recognize its various roles in a variety of diverse and active communities. We provide essential infrastructure for the Web, and are vital contributors and leaders in these global movements. The opportunity to realize the benefits of openness will come from showing how “open” is uniquely able to solve the challenges of our time. Our role is not just as providers of tools, but also as strategic partners, advocates, influencers, and supporters to quantify, evangelize, and demonstrate the benefits of open.

Only after announcing that Creative Commons had received a $10 million grant from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to implement the new strategy, Merkley identified “three specific areas” that Creative Commons will focus on (emphasis in original: Read the rest of this entry »

About a week ago I blogged about misleading information on Creative Commons licenses provided by one of the leading scientific publishing houses in the course of a textbook project I am involved in. In the closing paragraph, I wrote that “we plan to insist on including the respective figures in the volume”. After doing so, we have now received another table with “permission queries” from the publisher with even more disappointing misinformation. The query with regard to the photo of the Rana Plaza Collapse in full:

Although creative commons states that you can reproduce work commercially, it states that you can only do so by retaining the creative commons rights (aka no copyright) on the reproduction which would prohibit us from placing a copyright on the book. We also have no proof of who took the photograph which makes it too risky to include. We need to remove this photograph

Again, this is misleading on many different levels. First of all, “creative commons rights (aka no copyright)” is not just misleading but simply wrong. Creative Commons does not mean “no copyright”, it means “some rights reserved”. Actually, Creative Commons is entirely based and dependent on copyright; only someone who has the copyright of a work is able to (re-)license it under a Creative Commons license.

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When publishing a scientific work or a textbook in a reputable publishing house, the final steps before publication usually involve signing over exclusive copyrights in a standardized manner. A standard clause in such copyright forms is that the author has to warrant that she either is the sole owner of the copyright in the contribution or has obtained the permission of the owners of the copyright (see Figure below, an excerpt of such a standard copyright form).

excerpt-copyright-form

While publishers thereby shift all responsibility with regard to rights clearing issues over to their authors, they regularly devote particular scrutiny to figures and tables. For any such figures and tables authors have to provide explicit permission statements. Even though including a properly referenced figure or table from another work in a scientific work or textbook could be – and probably often is – fair use (US copyright) or might be justified by exceptions for quotation, research and education (EU copyright), publishers refuse to take any risk that could be related to such a legal standpoint. Such a restrictive interpretation and enactment of copyright by publishers not only places unnecessary burdens on authors but also further worsens practicability of current copyright in academic contexts.

However, as I have learned in the course of contributing to a textbook with case studies on innovation and project networks, publishers might even decide to reject figures where permission is explicitly granted in form of a standardized Creative Commons license. In this particular case, in a spreadsheet entitled “permission queries”, the publisher listed all exhibits that were considered in any way problematic.

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About half a year ago, the German Internet association D64 – Center for Digital Progress had launched an initiative to promote the use of Creative Commons licenses. I was one of the co-organizers. Last week, with the help of graphic designers Sara Lucena und Nico Roicke, we have put together a very nice infographic on “Creative Commons in Numbers”. Of course, some of the numbers are only estimates and not all are most recent, but taken together they give a good overall impression of Creative Commons usage on the internet. Enjoy & Share! Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

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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.

Dexter-Award-Plakette2013(small)

Plaque for 2013 Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award

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.. ;-)

(leonhard)

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
November 2017
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.