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From Broken Revenue Models to Embracing an “Open” Ethos

April 8, 2022

Journalism is a form of public service, critical to all of us. Unfettered access to verified information is essential for a healthy information ecosystem – essential for democracy. Yet, journalists face threats to their physical safety and online wellbeing, broken revenue models, the closures of local news outlets, and declining trust among readers. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns in the media challenge collective notions of ground truth. They also challenge the bedrock and meaning of an open internet.Now is a critical time to support journalists in their efforts to provide verified information, investigate our shared challenges, and bring essential health, environmental, and political facts to everyone. While Creative Commons (CC) cannot address many of the challenges journalists face, we believe that principles and practices of an open internet can help journalists in some of their public interest work. From crowdsourcing information on open source platforms to using CC licenses to increase access to a particular story–applying open internet practices can help free the flow of critical information to empower journalists and citizens around the world. Before engaging, we needed to understand more about journalists' challenges.In this vein, we initiated the Ground Truth in Open Internet project to better understand journalists' needs through global survey work, focus groups, Q&A discussions and training with journalists, activists and nonprofit news sources. Below, we share methodology and findings from our research and engagement. We learned that journalists around the world face an uncertain future, as they transition away from an old model of funding journalism and face unprecedented challenges. Journalists voiced a need for training and support to harness open internet practices, but such effort must be balanced with new, working revenue models. Most news organizations' current lack of a business model allowing for (1) open access to content and (2) stability and security for content producers obstructs quality journalism. More work is needed to demonstrate how quality journalism can be funded, while keeping it accessible and open to people around the world.

Towards Better Sharing of Cultural Heritage -- An Agenda for Copyright Reform

February 9, 2022

This paper is intended to act as a pillar and reference point for CC's advocacy work in copyright reform in the cultural heritage context, with a focus on issues arising in the digital environment. It may serve to support members of the CC community in their own advocacy efforts, guide policymakers in their legislative processes, and inform anyone interested in the policy issues gravitating around access and reuse of culture and cultural heritage. It will likely be adapted into a GLAM Guide for Policymakers and will be augmented with real-life examples, case studies and practical advice.It starts with an overview of copyright challenges to the legitimate activities of GLAMs, notably preservation (largely through digitization) and sharing of digital and digitized content images and data for access, use and reuse. It also notes copyright's chilling effects in the face of the GLAM sector's general risk aversion. The paper then offers insights towards effective copyright reform addressing those challenges, with a focus on the opportunities related to the digital environment. The proposals for reform aim to create legal certainty and international harmonization as well as to facilitate cross-border transactions.The paper encourages policymakers to recognize and support the pivotal roles of GLAMs in preserving and providing access to knowledge and culture to all members of society. It urges policymakers to engage with stakeholders to ensure there are clear, simple, and effective policies in place to support better sharing of cultural heritage in the public interest.The paper provides a high-level overview of the policy issues and, as a whole, it does not necessarily reflect the current situation in any specific jurisdiction. 

The Future Is Open

July 3, 2014

This interactive annual report talks about the future of open information and Creative Commons licensing.

Search and Discovery: OER's Open Loop

November 4, 2010

Open educational resources (OER) promise increased access, participation, quality, and relevance, in addition to cost reduction. These seemingly fantastic promises are based on the supposition that educators and learners will discover existing resources, improve them, and share the results, resulting in a virtuous cycle of improvement and re-use. By anecdotal metrics, existing web scale search is not working for OER. This situation impairs the cycle underlying the promise of OER, endangering long term growth and sustainability. While the scope of the problem is vast, targeted improvements in areas of curation, indexing, and data exchange can improve the situation, and create opportunities for further scale. I explore the way the system is currently inadequate, discuss areas for targeted improvement, and describe a prototype system built to test these ideas. I conclude with suggestions for further exploration and development.

Dealing with Legally Incompatible Content in OER

October 5, 2009

Open Educational Resources (OER) are defined by the use of a Creative Commons license and are generally created by those who would like to share their work globally. However, some creators find the need to consider the costs and benefits of incorporating third-party materials with incompatible licenses into their "otherwise open" OER. This document recommends ways of managing or avoiding the problems that will arise.

Remixing OER: A Guide to License Compatibility

October 5, 2009

This document gives a brief overview of Creative Commons license compatibility for the purposes of remixing OER.

Defining "Noncommercial": A Study of How the Online Population Understands "Noncommercial Use"

September 14, 2009

In 2008-09, Creative Commons commissioned a study from a professional market research firm to explore understandings of the terms "commercial use" and "noncommercial use" among Internet users when used in the context of content found online.The empirical findings suggest that creators and users approach the question of noncommercial use similarly and that overall, online U.S. creators and users are more alike than different in their understanding of noncommercial use. Both creators and users generally consider uses that earn users money or involve online advertising to be commercial, while uses by organizations, by individuals, or for charitable purposes are less commercial but not decidedly noncommercial. Similarly, uses by for-profit companies are typically considered more commercial. Perceptions of the many use cases studied suggest that with the exception of uses that earn users money or involve advertising -- at least until specific case scenarios are presented that disrupt those generalized views of commerciality -- there is more uncertainty than clarity around whether specific uses of online content are commercial or noncommercial.Uses that are more difficult to classify as either commercial or noncommercial also show greater (and often statistically significant) differences between creators and users. As a general rule, creators consider the uses studied to be more noncommercial (less commercial) than users. For example, uses by a not-for-profit organization are generally thought less commercial than uses by a for-profit organization, and even less so by creators than users. The one exception to this pattern is in relation to uses by individuals that are personal or private in nature. Here, it is users (not creators) who believe such uses are less commercial.The most notable differences among subgroups within each sample of creators and users are between creators who make money from their works, and those who do not, and between users who make money from their uses of others' works, and those who do not. In both cases, those who make money generally rate the uses studied less commercial than those who do not make money. The one exception is, again, with respect to personal or private uses by individuals: users who make money consider these uses more commercial than those who do not make money.The results of the survey provide a starting point for future research. In the specific context of the Creative Commons licenses, the findings suggest some reasons for the ongoing success of Creative Commons NC licenses, rules of thumb for licensors releasing works under NC licenses and licensees using works released under NC licenses, and serve as a reminder to would-be users of the NC licenses to consider carefully the potential societal costs of a decision to restrict commercial use. They also highlight the need for caution when considering whether to modify the CC NC licenses in the course of a license versioning process or otherwise, so that expectations of those using NC licenses are preserved, not broken.

Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content with Open Educational Resources

September 1, 2009

This paper seeks to provide an overview of the problem posed by the incorporation of materials protected by all-rights-reserved copyright, or that are not legally compatible with the copyright terms of materials offered to users, into otherwise open educational resources. This paper also describes a number of approaches to resolving this issue, including the reliance on jurisdictional copyright exceptions and limitations, and explores the trade-offs involved in adopting any one of these approaches. This paper also suggests areas for further empirical research into these issues.

Enhanced Search for Educational Resources - A Perspective and a Prototype from ccLearn

July 17, 2009

Users of search tools who seek educational materials on the Internet are typically presented with either a web-scale search (e.g., Google or Yahoo) or a specialized, site-specific tool. The specialized search tools often rely upon custom data fields, such as user-entered ratings, to provide additional value. As currently designed, these systems are generally too labor intensive to manage and scale up beyond a single site or set of resources.However, custom (or structured) data of some form is necessary if search outcomes foreducational materials are to be improved. For example, design criteria and evaluative metrics are crucial attributes for educational resources, and these currently require human labeling and verification. Thus, one challenge is to design a search tool that capitalizes on available structured data (also called metadata) but is not crippled if the data are missing. This information should be amenable to repurposing by anyone, which means that it must be archived in a manner that can be discovered and leveraged easily.In this paper, we describe the extent to which DiscoverEd, a prototype developed by ccLearn, meets the design challenge of a scalable, enhanced search platform for educational resources. We then explore some of the key challenges regarding enhanced search for topic-specific Internet resources generally. We conclude by illustrating some possible future developments and third-party enhancements to the DiscoverEd prototype.

What status for "open"? An examination of the licensing policies of open educational organizations and projects

December 18, 2008

What makes an educational resource "open"? Is it enough that resources are available on the World Wide Web free of charge, or does openness require something more?" These questions have become more urgent as the open education movement has gained momentum and as potential users of open educational resources (OERs) increasingly face uncertainty about whether permission is required when they translate, reuse, adapt, or simply republish the resources they find. With the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ccLearn surveyed the copyright licensing policies of several hundred educational projects or organizations on the Internet to assess whether these legal conditions limit the usefulness of self-designated open resources from the user's perspective.The study reveals three principal findings:The copyright licenses or terms of use associated with some OERs are difficult to find or to understand;The majority of OER projects or organizations have adopted a standardized license created by an independent license provider, and of these, the large majority have adopted one or more of the six Creative Commons copyright licenses ("CC licenses") to define the terms of openness. But, a sizable minority of OER providers have chosen to craft their own license -- often borrowing terms from one of the standardized licenses. Thus, as a group, OER providers have adopted a diverse, and often customized, set of license conditions that in some cases require significant work by users to understand;The usefulness of OERs as a group is limited by incompatible license conditions that functionally prohibit combination or adaptation of OERs provided by different sources. This report concludes with a recommendation that creators of open educational resources consider using CC licenses to provide users with readily found, standardized terms of use. It recommends further that OER creators consider adopting the most open of CC licenses, the Attribution-only License (CC BY), to nourish the creativity of educators and learners alike by allowing the adaptation, combination, and republication of OERs from multiple sources.

ccREL: The Creative Commons Rights Expression Language

May 1, 2008

This paper introduces the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (ccREL), the standard recommended by Creative Commons (CC) for machine-readable expression of copyright licensing terms and related information. ccREL and its description in this paper supersede all previous Creative Commons recommendations for expressing licensing metadata. Like CC's previous recommendation, ccREL is based on the World-Wide Web Consortium's Resource Description Framework (RDF). Compared to the previous recommendation, ccREL is intended to be both easier for content creators and publishers to provide, and more convenient for user communities and tool builders to consume, extend, and redistribute.Formally, ccREL is specified in an abstract syntax-free way, as an extensible set of properties to be associated with a licensed documents. Publishers have wide discretion in their choice of syntax, so long as the process for extracting the properties is discoverable and tool builders can retrieve the properties of ccREL-compliant Web pages or embedded documents. We also recommend specific concrete "default" syntaxes and embedding schemes for content creators and publishers who want to use CC licenses without needing to be concerned about extraction mechanisms. The default schemes are RDFa for HTML Web pages and resources referenced therein, and XMP for stand-alone media.

Towards a Global Learning Commons: ccLearn

November 1, 2007

Though open educational resources (OER) promise to transform the conditions for teaching and learning worldwide, there are many barriers to the full realization of this vision. Among other things, much of what is currently considered "free and open" is legally, technically, and/or culturally incompatible. Herein, the authors give a brief history of open education, outline some key problems, and offer some possible solutionsThis article was originally published in Educational Technology 4(6). Nov-Dec 2007.