Ryan Merkley / Rannie Turingan / CC0
I’m honored to be chosen as CEO of Creative Commons. CC is a giant of the open web, and it’s an organization that I have always believed in and truly admire. I appreciate the confidence shown by the board, and support I have already received from staff and community members has been fantastic.
My path to CC has been unorthodox, but feels logical in retrospect. My commitment to public service and the public good; my deep belief in the power of technology; and my work to support the open Web as a place for everyone to create, share, and connect. Those are common threads that run through my work at the City of Toronto, at Mozilla, and now with Creative Commons.
Why am I joining CC? Because its success is so vital, and I want to ensure we succeed. Creativity, knowledge, and innovation need a public commons — a collection of works that are free to use, re-use, and build upon — the shared resources of our society. The restrictions we place on copyright, like fair use and the public domain, are an acknowledgement that all creativity and knowledge owe something to what came before.
Without a robust and constantly growing collection of works available for use and reuse, we lose the kind of innovation and creative inspiration that gave us Disney classics, hip-hop, and the interoperable Web. The consequences of failing to grow and protect the public commons present themselves as lost opportunities: discoveries not made, innovations left undeveloped, and creativity unrealized. It’s complex and hard to quantify, but also dangerous to ignore.
A public commons is a driving force to advance human knowledge, and is essential infrastructure for the global economy.
In today’s legal environment, the commons is increasingly under threat. New works are restricted by copyright from the moment they are created until long after their creators are dead, and stricter copyright rules are almost always demanded by large rights-holders who benefited from the commons in the first place. It’s like running across a rope bridge only to cut it loose once you get to the other side. And today’s battles over copyright often ignore the fact that the Web has dramatically shifted the motivations for creators: it’s no longer only about money. Many do it just for the love of their craft, or just to be seen in the world, and still more are finding ways to share their work and get paid at the same time.
There needs to be a balance that allows business models to thrive, and allows shared work to proliferate.
In the modern copyright environment, each one of us has to make a conscious decision to share our work. It can be complicated, confusing, and expensive. But we need creators to be inspired to do it anyway. We need governments, nonprofits, and institutions to give the public permission to use their works. We need an organization that makes the case, creates solutions so that sharing is easy even when the legal frameworks make it difficult, and that champions the benefits — both to individual creators, and to society.
That’s where Creative Commons has to lead.
A lot has changed since the first Creative Commons licenses were released in 2002. While the organization has been by many measures incredibly successful — enabling hundreds of millions of works to become part of a public commons — it has also struggled to adapt to new technology and the massive expansion of content created online.
Half a billion licensed works is an impressive achievement, but today’s Facebook users upload 350 million photos a day, and YouTube users upload over 100 hours of video a minute (yes, some of it CC-licensed). I want to drive more licensed works into the commons by breaking down the barriers — legal and technical — for individual creators. And we need tools to help those who would reuse their work to find it quickly and easily.
In his 2008 book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, James Boyle (also a former CC board member) makes an impassioned plea to build a global movement that will fight for the public commons — one modeled after the environment movement, which took something complex and hard to quantify and drew people to its cause. I believe Creative Commons must lead this movement.
We need to rally people to our cause, and ask for their creativity, their time, and their financial support.
We begin with a global network of 70 affiliates around the world who already form a vibrant, opinionated, and brilliant community of legal experts and advocates. The seeds of our movement already have roots.
We have a strong suite of free licenses that enable sharing in an increasingly restrictive legal framework.
And we have a powerful, recognizable brand that is respected the world over.
Not a bad place to start. I’m excited to step into this role, to defend and champion the public commons, and to join this global community and movement.
I am thrilled to welcome Ryan Merkley as the incoming CEO of Creative Commons.
This is an important moment in the history of the organization. After eleven years, CC licenses are globally recognized as the definitive tool for sharing creative works. Millions across the world use CC as a force for good in their communities. We are building universal access to knowledge and culture as we had hoped — within the freedoms we craft inside copyright.
But the web has changed, and its users with it. And CC must too. I am excited and incredibly pleased that Ryan has agreed to join CC as the leader to take CC into its next era.
Ryan is an outstanding and recognized voice among Mozilla’s global community. From his time there he has proven that he is a strong believer in the open web, open data, and open content, and he knows how to activate and motivate community members for change. He is a leader with a great technical vision informed by the right values. He has inspired all of us, and I am confident he will be the leader CC needs.
At the last Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, someone asked me how I’d like to see the organization change.
My answer was simple: We celebrate the tremendous achievement of Version 4.0 of our Creative Commons licenses. But we are still at Version 2.0 of the technology that we use to deliver those licenses.
Ryan will fix that, and give CC another decade of incredible growth and remarkable success. We are grateful he has agreed to share his enormous talents with us.
After an extensive search, the Creative Commons board of directors is pleased to announce that Ryan Merkley will be our new CEO. He’ll start work on June 1, and we’re all looking forward to working with him.
Ryan joins us after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits, technology, and government. As chief operating officer at the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan contributed to the development of Mozilla products and programs supporting the open web, including Lightbeam, Webmaker, and Popcorn, and also established Mozilla’s successful individual fundraising program. Ryan was most recently managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS and market research firm. Before that he held leadership roles at Toronto’s City Hall, including senior advisor to Mayor David Miller, where he initiated Toronto’s open data project. Ryan also served as director of corporate communications for the City of Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics. He has an impressive track record of leadership in civic-minded and technology-centered organizations — and I think he’ll make a great leader in the Creative Commons movement.
As the board has gotten to know Ryan after the past several weeks, he’s articulated a strong vision to us for the future of the organization. He understands that the internet has changed a lot since we first launched the CC licenses, and that our relevance requires an evolving technology strategy. Ryan speaks enthusiastically and eloquently about the future of Creative Commons. It is clear to me, and I think to anyone he meets, that he has been working in our world as an outspoken supporter of our mission for almost as long as Creative Commons has existed.
He also recognizes that this is a crucial moment for CC and its allies: we must work together to strengthen and protect the open web. As the web has become more stratified in a world of apps, and as new laws and court decisions stand to dramatically extend terms of copyright and make it more difficult for people to build upon the work of others, our role has never been more important.
Once again, the board would like to voice our appreciation for the work of outgoing CEO Cathy Casserly. She substantially advanced CC’s mission over the past three years. Under Cathy’s leadership, Creative Commons helped numerous governments around the world adopt open education policies, and we saw considerable growth and engagement in the CC Affiliate Network.
And finally, our sincere thanks to Lisa Grossman and staff at m/Oppenheim Associates for helping us conduct a swift and successful CEO search.
Please join me now in welcoming Ryan to Creative Commons.
- Download the press release (67 KB PDF)
Mountain View, CA May 14, 2014: The board of directors of Creative Commons is pleased to announce the appointment of Ryan Merkley to the position of chief executive officer. Ryan is an accomplished strategist, campaigner, and communicator in the nonprofit, technology, and government sectors. Ryan was recently chief operating officer of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit parent of the Mozilla Corporation and creator of the world’s most recognizable open-source software project and internet browser, Firefox. At the Mozilla Foundation, Ryan led development of open-source projects like Webmaker, Lightbeam, and Popcorn, and also kicked off the Foundation’s major online fundraising effort, resulting in over $1.8 million USD in individual donations from over 44,000 new donors.
Ryan is a well-known and respected voice in the open source community, and recognized for his unwavering support to open government and open data initiatives.
“As the board has gotten to know Ryan after the past several weeks, he’s articulated a strong vision to us for the future of the organization,” board chair and interim CEO Paul Brest said. “He understands that the internet has changed a lot since we first launched the CC licenses, and that our relevance requires an evolving technology strategy. He also recognizes that this is a crucial moment for CC and its allies: we must work together to strengthen and protect the open web.”
“A public commons, enabled by the open web, is the most powerful force to foster creativity, inspire innovation, and enhance human knowledge around the world. Those who believe in its potential need to join together in a global movement to ensure its success,” said Ryan Merkley. “At Creative Commons we’re making that case, and supporting, inspiring, and connecting the various communities that are building the commons — from open education, to science, to film and photography — and working to provide tools, solutions, and policy on their behalf.”
Creative Commons provides a set of licenses that creators can use to grant permission to reuse their work. With over half a billion openly licensed works on the internet, Creative Commons is internationally recognized as the standard in open content licensing. Ryan will lead a global team of legal and technology professionals who manage and support the licenses, as well as experts who lead CC license adoption efforts in areas like education, culture, science, and public policy.
Ryan joins Creative Commons after a career working to advance social causes and public policy in nonprofits and government. Outside of his work at Mozilla Foundation, Ryan was senior advisor to Mayor David Miller in Toronto, where he initiated Toronto’s Open Data project. He was also seconded to the City of Vancouver as director of corporate communications for the 2010 Winter Games. Most recently, Ryan was managing director and senior vice president of public affairs at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based SaaS company and market research firm.
Ryan will take up his new position on June 1, 2014. He will be based in Toronto, and will split his time between Toronto and the Bay Area.
Official biography and high-resolution images can be found at:
Bios and photos of Creative Commons board and advisory council members
Creative Commons launches Version 4.0 of its license suite
Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) is a globally-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. Creative Commons provides free licenses and other legal tools to give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions and get credit for their creative work while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make specific uses of it.
For more information contact:
Communications Manager, Creative Commons
Today the White House released the U.S. Open Data Action Plan, reaffirming their belief that “freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource… [and] making information about government operations more readily available and useful is also core to the promise of a more efficient and transparent government.” The report (PDF) outlines the commitments to making government data more accessible and useful, and documents how U.S. Federal agencies are sharing federal government information. From a legal standpoint, some agencies have decided to place their datasets into the worldwide public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. This means that all copyright and related rights to the data are waived, so it may be used by anyone–for any purpose–anywhere in the world–without having to ask permission in advance–and even without needing to give attribution to the author of the data.
Use of CC0 for government-resources resources has always been a challenging topic for federal agencies. This is due to the hybrid nature of copyright for federal government works under Section 105 of U.S. copyright law. That statute guarantees that U.S. government works do not receive copyright protection–they are in the public domain. However, while these works are not granted copyright protection inside the U.S., the legislative history of the law notes that the works may receive copyright protection outside of U.S. borders:
The prohibition on copyright protection for United States Government works is not intended to have any effect on protection of these works abroad. Works of the governments of most other countries are copyrighted. There are no valid policy reasons for denying such protection to United States Government works in foreign countries, or for precluding the Government from making licenses for the use of its works abroad.
Historically, the U.S. government has been apprehensive to apply CC0 to federal government works, because the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is a tool to waive copyright and neighboring rights globally. At the same time, it’s clear that many high-value U.S. government datasets, such as the weather data produced by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are being widely (and freely) used by meteorological and research organizations around the world. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, the U.S. Federal government doesn’t care to leverage its copyrights abroad. So perhaps it makes sense to simply clarify that these works will be made available in the worldwide public domain using a standard tool such as CC0. While we had some initial questions about acceptable licenses for federal government information, it seems that agencies are moving in the right direction in utilizing the public domain dedication, as opposed to the other copyright licensing tools that were laid out in Project Open Data.
In addition to showcasing federal agencies that are using CC0 on some of the datasets it’s releasing, the U.S. Open Data Action Plan document itself is also published under CC0.
As a work of the United States Government, this document is in the public domain within the United States. Additionally, the United States Government waives copyright and related rights in this work worldwide through the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Over the last several years, many have called upon the federal government to adopt CC0 for U.S. government works. Most recently, a group of advocates drafted recommendations urging federal agencies to release federal government works, contractor-produced works, and primary legal materials into the into the worldwide public domain under CC0. Today’s announcement is a move in the right direction for data re-users in the United States and beyond.
At the end of April, I had the opportunity to participate in two back-to-back events related to open education: the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) annual meeting in Ljubljana and OER14, the United-Kingdom based annual conference on the subject. Together, they provide a good insight into the state of open education in Europe (with one caveat: in both cases, the focus is on higher education – which is particularly obvious with regard to the OCWC, which is a consortium of academic institutions from around the world).
(A technical note: At the Ljubljana meeting, the OCWC announced a re-branding, and has changed name to Open Education Consortium (OEC) – the main argument being that member institutions have today a whole portfolio of educational resources, that goes beyond just Open Courseware – thus the brand was becoming misleading).
Here are my main insights and take-aways:
Opening Up Slovenia. THe Slovenian Ministry of Education announced during the conference in Ljubljana that it will launch a domestic „Opening Up Education” initiative – mirroring the EU-wide „Opening Up Education” initiative launched by the EC in autumn 2013 (Press release of the Slovenian Ministry of Education). The approach is promising, since the European initiative provides a strong basis for OER as a key element of a general educational strategy (as well as a generally good and sustainable model for modernising school systems through the use of ICT). Yet currently the Slovenian strategy is limited to general goals and directions for action – we need to wait and see, whether a strong OER development and support model will be introduced in the strategy. If that’s the case, the idea of national strategies matching the EU-wide initiative is to be applauded.
There are MOOCs of all flavours, including „open MOOCs”. Massive Open Online Courses were one of the dominant subjects in both conferences, but in particular at the OCWC meeting. MOOCs seem to be the tool of choice for a broadly understood „open education”. This obviously is a case of open washing, from my perspective (and that of most OER activists). The fact that OCWC declared that it will champion „Open MOOCs” proves the point – why do you need to add „open” to an acronym that already hides „open” within it?
The fact that MOOC resources are not open has been troubling OER advocates for some time now. Indeed, with the concept of OER so well developed by now, it is a pity that it has not been employed by creators of MOOCs. The fact that these are mainly commercial, educational startups partially explains this choice – as business models around open educational resources are still not well developed. While it would have been better if these popular educational tools were open (in the full sense of the term) from the start, the strategy that OER advocates face is simple: a valid, sustainable model for „open MOOCs” needs to be implemented – following the path taken by Open Access advocates with regard to journal publishing.
And it is good to learn that open MOOCs do exist. The OCWC has awarded three open MOOCs with its annual ACE award. STill, the most impressive open MOOC I learned about is the DS106 MOOC on digital storytelling. I recommend that you have a look at it, if you’d like to see what truly open, and at same time very creative online education can be about. Let me just mention that the organizers use an online radio as one of the preferred communication channels for their learning community.
Policy work is hard work. It is always interesting to attend an event that addresses open issues, but not in a crowd of open activists – but rather a community of educational practitioners, form whom open resources are but a tool, and who vary in their support for OERs. For them, policy matters turn out to be less interesting than practical, technological or pedagogical issues. Yet at both conferences there was a small but dedicated community of policy practitioners. I became aware of several new and interesting developments, including: the OER initiative in Alberta, the MoU on OER signed by three Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan) and the report presented to the Welsh government by the Online Digital Learning Working Group.
Of these initiatives, the one that is most worth highlighting is the Scottish Open Education Declaration, which is currently being drafted by Open Scotland, a grassroots initiative bringing together OER advocates. The declaration is open in character and the authors or soliciting feedback on the current draft – please leave your comments! It’s good to see another country, in which an OER advocacy alliance is developing.
Photo: Lorna Campbell, CC BY
While it is not surprising that participants find the subject of national policies quite abstract and seem to not fully appreciate their significance – I was surprised to find little discussion on institutional policies for OER (which could be particularly successful for higher education / academic institutions). Again, a comparison with Open Access is obvious – and the reason that OER policies are not implemented might be due to the fact that we have not yet identified as clear pools of resources (and associated production workflows) as is the case of journal articles targeted by OA advocates.
I had an opportunity to present Creative Commons work on OER policies. I organised a workshop during which we discussed best standards and strategies for implementing such policies, looking at examples from the Cape Town Declaration, through the Paris Declaration and a range of domestic documents, to the recent language used in the European „Opening Up Education” initiative and the associated Erasmus Plus program. Here are the slides for the presentation I gave at the beginning of the workshop, „Defining OER policies for public content, and bringing them to life„.
At both events, people to whom I talked about policy work agreed that a dedicated event for the „policy wonks” in the OER community is needed. I heard the same comments after our policy event in the European Parliament. A full day devoted to policy debates is something I hope we can organize in the coming year.
The OER divide between K-12 and HEI. The interesting thing about the OER model is that it spans two very different educational systems: the K-12 / primary and secondary schools on one hand, and the higher education institutions on the other. On one hand, the goals and the transformation obtained by opening up resources is the same in both cases. On the other, these are different institutions, differently funded, with different pedagogies. It is interesting that the European „Opening Up Education” initiative spans across this divide, and adds to it vocational training and adult / life long learning. The OER model is in general terms independent of these differences – the general rule for making resources available, also for reuse, is always the same. But communities of practitioners clearly draw a line. In particular, institutional policies will be very different in each case, due to different institutional models.
Openness: a value and a tool. OER advocates are used to talking about openness in value terms. And as a flipside, sometimes take the impact of open for granted. Or even run the risk of being dogmatic about the advantages of open. Many of the talks at the two events served as a useful reminder, that for many practitioners openness is a tool. One of many in their toolkits – sometimes the favourite, sometimes not. And their goals more often have to do with creating modern, effective and high quality education, rather than simply making it open. Mike Sharples, Academic Lead of Future Learn made this point very clearly in his presentation, when he said that toolkits, rather than simply OERs, are the resource that can modernize education. He gave an example of a sensors app for smartphones, with which students can conduct citizen science experiments.
This serves as a reminder of how important evidence is for policy work. And for this reason I appreciated a lot presentations by the OER Research Hub team at the Open University, which is running the best, to my knowledge, impact assessment research on OER. THe Hub was rightly awarded the 2014 Open Research Award of Excellence.
And accepting the fact that not every practicioner needs to be as passionate about open education as the advocates are, it would be great to see open standards (and in particular, strong open licensing norms) considered an obvious and necessary element of every such toolkit.
Vi har lige lavet en grundig opdatering af vores oversigt over projekter i Danmark, som bruger Creative Commons licens. Den dækker bredt fra musik, film, billeder, bøger, opera-manuskripter og meget meget mere. Har vi glemt nogle? Skriv til os på info (a) creativecommons (dot) dk!
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Naeema Zarif, CC BY 4.0
In February we said goodbye to Donatella Della Ratta, CC’s longtime coordinator for the Arab world. Today we’re pleased to announce that Naeema Zarif and Sami Ben Gharbia have joined Creative Commons as the regional coordinators for the region. Naeema and Sami join CC’s other regional team leaders, who are key in organizing the Creative Commons Affiliate Network around the world.
After 8 years in advertising, Naeema Zarif took a leap into social enterprise offering expertise on conceptualization and producing both offline and online integrated media initiatives, including print, social web, audio, and film. She is an enthusiastic supporter of open culture, speaking and lecturing frequently at conferences and educational institutes, and contributing visual and digital strategic consultancy and training to various governmental, not-for-profit, and for-profit initiatives around the MENA region.
Sami is a Tunisian campaigner, blogger, writer, and freedom of expression advocate. He was a political refugee living in the Netherlands between 1998 and 2011. Sami is founding director of the advocacy arm of Global Voices, co-founder of the award-winning collective blog Nawaat, and author of the first Tunisian e-book (in French), Borj Erroumi XL. He co-founded The Arab Techies Collective and co-organized the The Arab Bloggers Conferences for several years. Foreign Policy named Sami a major world influence in promoting government transparency. Sami received a Prince Claus Award in 2012 for his cyber-activism work. Yahoo! named Sami Ben Gharbia as a person of the year during the 2010 World Press Freedom for his work focused on Internet censorship. Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Sami and his fellow Nawaat co-founders with their 2011 Pioneer Award.
We recently highlighted some of the ongoing affiliate project grants in the Arab world region, and we look forward to more great developments with Naeema and Sami on board.