Congratulations to the new 62 CC Certificate Graduates and 7 Facilitators!

From January to April 2019, Creative Commons hosted three CC Certificate courses and a Facilitators course to train the next cohort of Certificate instructors. Participants from Australia, Qatar, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Canada, Argentina, United Kingdom, Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and United States engaged in rigorous readings, assignments, discussions and quizzes. See examples of the participants’ assignments they’ve publicly shared under CC licenses. With these courses now complete, we are thrilled to announce 62 new CC Certificate graduates and 7 new CC Certificate facilitators!

Interested in taking the CC Certificate?  We are now accepting new registrations for our June and September courses.

There is nothing more gratifying than following your passion. Thank you @creativecommons for offering a course for educators. I encourage other educators to learn more about #openlicensing #cccert

— Cathy Germano (@cjgermano) March 31, 2019

The CC Certificate provides an in-depth study of Creative Commons licenses and open practices, uniquely developing participants’ open licensing proficiency and understanding of the broader context for open advocacy. The training content targets copyright law, CC legal tools, as well as the values and good practices of working in the global, shared commons.

u know, I’m more delighted w getting the #cccert not for the knowledge or community (cool tho they were/are) but for the experience of taking a course that was different and where facilitators exhibited a real and meaningful flexibility with assignments + listened to feedback

— ℳąhą Bąℓi, PhD مها بالي (@Bali_Maha) April 2, 2019

The CC Certificate is currently offered as a 10-week online course to educators and academic librarians. In late 2019 / 2020, Creative Commons will expand Certificate offerings to include 1-week boot camps, additional facilitator trainings, scholarships, and translations of the Certificate into multiple languages.

Just received my #cccert! Thank you for a great online course @cgreen and @creativecommons! Learned a lot! Ready now to spread the love @KAU, the rest of Sweden and wherever needed and wanted! #ONL191 #OER #OpenEducation #openaccess #LastNightInSweden

— Jörg Pareigis (@joergelp) April 1, 2019

Congratulations to our 62 new Certificate and 7 facilitator graduates; we are filled with gratitude for their amazing work. Now… let’s go change the world!

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Unleashing a Community in Action: this year’s CC Global Summit Keynotes

This year, we’re taking an alternative, community-centered approach to keynotes for the Creative Commons Global Summit. In addition to two keynotes from four esteemed colleagues in open knowledge and the public domain, we’re bringing six community leaders to the stage for short talks on their work and experience. They were identified and selected by the Summit program committee.

The Community Keynotes join us from four continents and a variety of disciplines. From technology to journalism, these Creative Commons Global Network members are accomplished leaders in their fields participating in crucial work for a more open world. These keynotes will be: Majd al Shihabi of Lebanon, Sophie Bloemen of Amsterdam and Brussels, Kelsey Merkley of Canada, Natalia Mileszyk of Poland, Dr. Haggen So of Hong Kong, and Ọmọ Yoòbá of Nigeria. Their bios can be found below.

CC-BY Alaa Elkamhawi

Majd Al-Shihabi is a systems design engineer based in Beirut, applying systems thinking to as many fields as he can reach. He works with a wide range of academic and cultural institutions and archives in the region to build openness into their information systems. He is interested in knowledge production outside of traditional institutions and knowledge dissemination to wider audiences. Majd is interested in studying how urban environments evolve and are shaped, which he is studying at the American University of Beirut. He is the inaugural recipient of the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship, where he worked on two projects:, running mapathons to vectorize the content of historic maps of pre-Nakba Palestine; and MASRAD:platform, an open source tool for archiving oral history collections.

CC BY-SA 4.0

Sophie Bloemen is Director and co- founder of Commons Network, a think tank and civil society initiative based in Amsterdam & Brussels. She writes and speaks on social-ecological transitions, the commons and new narratives for Europe. She is engaged in a number of projects and political processes that explore new, creative institutions, collaborative models and bringing the commons perspective to policy. She has worked as an advocate and public interest consultant on policy issues like health, trade, innovation and R&D. @sbloemen


Myuri Thiruna @emtee.pix CC BY-ND 2.0

Kelsey Merkley is the founder of UnCommon Women, a project designed to advocate for leadership roles for women and celebrate those in leadership through the UnCommon Women Colouring Book. She is an advocate with almost a decade of experience working with local, national, and global organizations. Previously she was Creative Commons Public Lead in South Africa and later in Canada where launched numerous community-building projects. Kelsey now lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Natalia Mileszyk is a lawyer and public policy expert dealing with digital rights, copyright reform and openness. She works for Centrum Cyfrowe, a leading Polish think-and-do-tank, where she analyses and comments on the social aspects of technology and a need for human-centered digital policy. She is also active in Communia Association for Public Domain and Creative Commons Poland. For the last three years, she has been actively involved in copyright reform advocacy at the European level. A graduate of the University of Warsaw and the Central European University in Budapest (LL.M.). You can find her on Twitter at @nmileszyk.


Dr. Haggen So is the president of the Hong Kong Creative Open Technology Association and the public lead of Creative Commons Hong Kong. He is a visiting lecturer of the Hong Kong Community College and previously taught in Hong Kong Baptist University as lecturer in the department of Computer Science. Dr. So also has experiences in commercial software development and developed software products for renowned companies such as Kodak.



Ọmọ Yoòbá is a journalist with eleven years professional experience in the Nigerian broadcast media. He has dedicated eight years of his lifetime to the propagation of the Yorùbá ecological knowledge and cultural on the digital space. As an advocate of multilingualism and internet universality, Yoòbá had worked with stakeholders in the effort to bridge the digital divide, giving minority languages a voice on the Internet of Things, and marginalised society access to digital resources. In addition to teaching the Yorùbá language on, Yoòbá is a volunteer translator and has worked with Localization Lab to localize digital security and Internet circumvention tools (EFF). He is the Lingua Manager of Global Voices in Yorùbá. In 2018, he collated more than a hundred oral literature of the Yorùbá which is in the archive of the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research in Phillips, Maine, United States.

In addition to these community keynotes, CC has invited two keynotes from four international leaders in free culture and open knowledge. Our first invited keynote is Adele Vrana and Siko Bouterse, co-directors of Whose Knowledge?, a global campaign working to create, collect and curate knowledge from and with marginalized communities, so that the internet we build and defend is ultimately an internet for all.

Our second invited keynote is James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins of the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, whose keynote will discuss music copyright, the Public Domain, and their work as advocates and lawyers to improve access to knowledge. Jenkins and Boyle recently spoke at our “Re-opening of the Public Domain” event in San Francisco. Watch the video to get a preview of their talk and read an interview with them on the CC blog.

The CC Global Summit will take place from May 9-11 in Lisbon. The program and registration is available at this link.

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European Commission adopts CC BY and CC0 for sharing information

Last week the European Commission announced it has adopted CC BY 4.0 and CC0 to share published documents, including photos, videos, reports, peer-reviewed studies, and data. The Commission joins other public institutions around the world that use standard, legally interoperable tools like Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools to share a wide range of content they produce. The decision to use CC aims to increase the legal interoperability and ease of reuse of its own materials.

In addition to the use of CC BY, the Commission will also adopt the CC0 Public Domain Dedication to publish works directly in the global public domain, particularly for “raw data resulting from instrument readings, bibliographic data and other metadata.”

The European Commission joins governments such as New Zealand and the Netherlands in using CC licenses and CC0 to share digital resources it creates. Intergovernmental organisations, philanthropic charities, and funding policies already require CC licenses to be applied to the digital outputs of grant funds — to promote reuse of materials in the public good with minimal restrictions.

The decision to require reuse of Commission documents under CC BY and CC0 was determined alongside a study on available reuse implementing instruments and licensing considerations. Until now the Commission had been relying on “reuse notices” (a simple copyright notice with link to the reuse decision) that would accompany covered materials, but this practice produced “unnecessary administrative burdens for reusers and the Commission services alike.”

In 2014 the Commission released a recommendation on using Creative Commons licenses such as CC BY and CC0 Public Domain Dedication in the context of Member States sharing public sector information.

CC BY 4.0 receives top score in license evaluation

The study mentioned above evaluates various options for the Commission to consider for its own documents, including the “reuse notice”, CC licenses, the Open Data Commons licenses, and a potential bespoke Commission licence. Its authors determined that CC BY 4.0 is the license best aligned with the Commission’s principles for reuse. According to the report, CC BY 4.0 is:

  • Universal: it is conceived to be applicable to all documents (at the choice of the licensor);
  • Unrestricted: generally speaking, the only condition is attribution;
  • Simple: there is no need for an application and it is user-friendly;
  • Cost-free: the text of CC-BY does not require payment of fees;
  • Non-discriminatory: terms of CC-BY are open to all potential actors in the market; [and]
  • Transparent: the text of the licence is publicly available, accompanied by supporting documents, guidelines and other material in multiple languages.

The study notes that not all of the CC licenses and CC0 have been translated into the two dozen official EU languages; there are 10 remaining translations for CC 4.0 (some in progress) and 12 for CC0. We are working with the Commission and the CC EU network to complete the remaining translations.  

Amid the disappointment with the vote in the Parliament on the copyright Directive last week, which leans toward a more restricted, less open web, it is heartening to see the Commission make progress on supporting reuse of the digital materials it creates and shares. We also look forward to upcoming vote this week on the recast of the Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive. This vote could increase the availability of PSI by bringing new types of publicly funded data into the scope of the directive, and provide improved guidance on open licensing, acceptable formats, and rules on charging.  

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The freedom to listen: Rute Correia on the power of community radio

Academic, producer, and open culture enthusiast, Rute Correia is a Lisbon-based doctoral candidate who produces the White Market Podcast, which focuses on free culture and CC music. As both a student of radio and producer herself, she is deeply connected to the Netlabel and CC music communities, utilizing her significant talents to showcase free music, culture, and Creative Commons through community radio and open source.

Rute will be joining us at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Lisbon from May 7-9 to talk about her exciting new project, the Open Music Network. Find out more about the Summit, and don’t forget to register soon!

How did you become involved with and interested in open culture and music production? How would you encourage others to get involved?
It all started about 12 years ago. I joined Radio Zero, a student radio station in Lisbon, and they had a very open source-oriented ethos. That’s where I first found out about Creative Commons and, luckily, at that time there were lots of independent music labels in Portugal releasing music under CC. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a show only dedicated to music that was freely (as in beers!) available. It was the precursor of White Market Podcast, my show about CC-licensed music and open culture. What I find really exciting about open music is that there’s so much to discover and everything is accessible. Cultural industries tend to remain heavily closed, reinforcing the idea that culture is a privilege, but CC licenses challenge that and allow you to share your stuff with whoever you want. If you like music, I’d say the best way to start is to dive into larger pools of free music, like Starfrosch, Dogmazic, ccMixter, and Auboutdufil.

What is the role of radio in open source music production? Why is radio art important in the digital age?
Radio is the medium with the widest reach in the world – the International Telecommunication Union estimates that it reaches “95% of virtually every segment of the population” around the the world. As such, it is still a great tool for promoting music regardless of genre, and reaching out to newer audiences. But the connection can grow a lot deeper than that; for non-for-profit stations, open music can also be a valuable resource as it is shared with fewer restrictions than copyrighted music. For instance, stations using CC BY-SA songs can share that share the content they produce under the same license allowing their listeners to engage with their content beyond the broadcast schedule.

How do you “live open” in a closed source world? What open values do you bring to your work in academia and radio?
It can be hard sometimes. Sadly, I don’t think we’re at a stage where you can live fully “open”. We’re all limited by the reality around us: jobs, what friends and family do, etc. I try to keep things as open as possible: creating open processes and using free software is a good start in our daily lives. In academia, I try to follow guidelines regarding open science: using open formats and sharing data whenever possible. Beyond using and sharing only free content, I have tried to set up a collaborative workflow using Github to create content for White Market Podcast. It’s still a work in progress, though.

What are you going to be working on or presenting at the CC Summit?
Darksunn and I will be presenting the recently-formed Open Music Network – a non-profit organization focused on promotion, education and advocacy for the benefits of open music for both professional and personal use. The network links different actors in the open music community – such as platforms, labels, podcasts and radios shows, and even a venue.

What aspect of the CC Summit are you most excited about? What are you most looking forward to?
Just to take part in it is already crazy exciting for me! It’s going to be my first ever CC Summit and it’s a lovely coincidence that it’s taking place right at home. I look forward to welcoming other CC-lovers into Lisbon, as well as learning from their experiences with Creative Commons and in open culture.

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A Dark Day for the Web: EU Parliament Approves Damaging Copyright Rules

Today in Strasbourg, the European Parliament voted 348-274 (with 36 abstentions) to approve the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. It retains Article 13, the harmful provision that will require nearly all for-profit web platforms to get a license for every user upload or otherwise install content filters and censor content, lest they be held liable for infringement. Article 11 also passed, which  would force news aggregators to pay publishers for linking to their stories.

There was a potential opportunity to vote on amendments that would have removed the most problematic provisions in the draft directive, particularly Articles 13 and 11, but the preliminary vote even to consider amendments fell short by five votes, thus pushing the Parliament to move ahead and simply approve the entire package.

MEP Julia Reda called the decision “a dark day for internet freedom.” We agree. There was a massive outpouring of protest against the dangers of Article 13 to competition, creativity, and freedom of expression. This included 5+ million petition signatures, a gigantic action of emails and calls to MEPs, 170,000 people demonstrating in the in the streets, large websites and communities going dark, warnings from academics, consumer groups, startups and businesses, internet luminaries, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Even so, it was not enough to convince the European legislator to change course on this complex and damaging provision that will turn the web upside down.    

Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley responded to the vote:

Despite an incredible show of public opposition to the directive, and an abundance of evidence that the proposals will favour large rights holders, damage online communities, slow or even stop innovation, and entrench established big tech players, the European legislature has decided to approve it. Regardless of this outcome, we’ll continue to work with Member States wherever we can to ensure the implementations of this directive minimize the negative impact we anticipate for the commons, and on users who want to share creativity and knowledge online.

We’re disappointed with the decision to push through Article 13 and 11, but the directive is not a total wash. There are some productive changes that will improve the situation of the commons, libraries & cultural heritage, and research sectors. For example, the directive includes a provision to ensure that digital reproductions of public domain works don’t get a separate copyright and will also be in the public domain. It includes text to improve the ability for cultural heritage institutions to preserve works and to make available copyrighted works from their collections that are no longer commercially available. And the directive slightly improves the copyright exception on text and data mining (TDM) by making mandatory an earlier optional provision that would expand the possibilities for those wishing to conduct TDM.

The final outcome of the European copyright directive reflects a disturbing path toward increasing control of the web to benefit only powerful rights holders at the expense of the rights of users and the public interest. It has been — and will continue to be — up to us all to fight for an open internet that sustains new creativity and upholds freedom of expression in the digital environment.

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Los europeos deberían decirle al Parlamento que vote NO a los filtros de derechos de autor

Llegó el momento decisivo para el proyecto de directiva sobre derechos de autor en el mercado único digital de la Unión Europea. Las dramáticas consecuencias negativas que traerían los filtros de carga de contenidos serían desastrosas para la visión que Creative Commons tiene como organización y comunidad global. La inclusión del Artículo 13 hace que la directiva sea imposible de apoyar tal como está.

El mes pasado, el Parlamento, el Consejo y la Comisión europeos completaron sus negociaciones y llegaron a un acuerdo final sobre el texto de la directiva de derechos de autor. Poco después, los embajadores de los Estados miembros de la UE y la comisión de asuntos jurídicos del Parlamento le dieron luz verde, lo que ahora lleva a una votación final en la sesión plenaria del Parlamento programada para el 26 de marzo.

La semana próxima, los 751 eurodiputados votarán entre adoptar la directiva de derechos de autor o descartarla para volver a empezar de cero.

Los filtros de contenidos modificarán la forma en que funciona la web

Desde una perspectiva de derechos de autor, el Artículo 13 da vuelta el modo en que funciona la web. Obligará a casi todas las plataformas web con fines de lucro que permiten la carga de contenidos generados por los usuarios a que obtengan una licencia para todas las cargas de los usuarios o instalen filtros de derechos de autor y censuren contenidos. Si las plataformas no cumplen, podrían ser legalmente responsables ante demandas por perjuicios masivos por infracción de derechos de autor. El resultado lógico es que esto dañará las plataformas existentes y evitará la creación y el florecimiento de servicios nuevos e innovadores en Europa porque esos nuevos actores no tienen el dinero, la capacidad ni la experiencia para llevar a cabo acuerdos de licenciamiento, o para construir (o contratar) las tecnologías de filtrado necesarias. Por el contrario, las corporaciones ya establecidas se consolidarán aún más y se volverán más dominantes, ya que los servicios como YouTube tienen una ventaja en ambos frentes. No podemos respaldar un ecosistema de derechos de autor que afianzará el amplio poder de mercado de los actores tradicionales y que, al mismo tiempo, creará obstáculos innecesarios para nuevas plataformas y servicios que estimulen la creatividad y el intercambio.

Esta inversión del régimen de responsabilidad, que en los hechos obliga a que sean implementados filtros de contenidos, tiene otra consecuencia desconcertante: los derechos de los usuarios son echados por tierra, porque las tecnologías de filtrado no pueden distinguir cuándo una obra se está subiendo de manera ilícita y cuándo se está utilizando legalmente bajo una excepción a los derechos de autor. Un sistema de este tipo casi seguramente restringirá la libertad de expresión, ya que las plataformas evitarán cualquier riesgo bloqueando el contenido, independientemente de si el uso está protegido por excepciones a los derechos de autor, como por ejemplo las excepciones que habilitan la crítica, la cita y la parodia.

El camino hasta aquí

En los últimos años, Creative Commons ha estado trabajando para respaldar cambios a los derechos de autor en Europa, con el objetivo de favorecer los bienes comunes y el interés público. Hemos hecho esto como parte de la Asociación Communia, en conjunto con organizaciones de la sociedad civil, grupos de investigación, activistas por los derechos de los usuarios y defensores de la web abierta. CC envió comentarios a la consulta inicial de la Comisión Europea, realizó un documento conjunto de análisis y recomendaciones elaborado por nuestra red en Europa, abogó por proteger la investigación científica y brindó recomendaciones de votación sobre muchas disposiciones de la directiva de derechos de autor.

Communia y otras organizaciones no gubernamentales europeas han apoyado cambios positivos en aspectos clave de la reforma que beneficiarían la investigación, la educación y el bien público. En particular, han trabajado para mejorar las excepciones para la minería de datos y de textos, así como las excepciones para la educación, y han propuesto cambios para apoyar el dominio público y para mejorar la capacidad de las instituciones que preservan el patrimonio cultural para poner a disposición los contenidos en línea. Son dignos de celebración los esfuerzos incansables de las organizaciones e individuos que han tomado la iniciativa para defender los bienes comunes y para mejorar varias partes de la directiva con el objetivo de respaldar los derechos de los usuarios. Su investigación detallada, sus aportes de redacción y su activismo han contribuido en gran medida para mejorar muchas partes poco conocidas pero enormemente importantes de la directiva.

Qué puedes hacer ahora

En CC creemos que nuestra visión de acceso universal a la investigación y a la educación, así como de plena participación en la cultura, solo se logrará cuando tengamos políticas de derechos de autor que realmente promuevan la creatividad y protejan los derechos de los usuarios en la era digital. Con el Artículo 13, no es exagerado decir que ocurrirá un cambio fundamental en la forma en que las personas pueden usar Internet y compartir contenidos en línea. A pesar de las pequeñas mejoras en otros aspectos del paquete de reforma de los derechos de autor, en el balance general una directiva que contiene el Artículo 13 hará más daño que beneficio.

Si estás en Europa, ve a para informarles a tus diputados del Parlamento Europeo que no apoyas una reforma de los derechos de autor que afecta la forma en que creamos y compartimos cultura en la web. Si el Artículo 13 no se puede eliminar, los legisladores deberían rechazar la reforma completa y comenzar de nuevo.

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Europeans should tell Parliament to vote NO to copyright filters

It’s the end of the line for the EU’s proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The dramatic negative effects of upload filters would be disastrous to the vision Creative Commons cares about as an organisation and global community. The continued inclusion of Article 13 makes the directive impossible to support as-is.

Last month the Parliament, Council, and Commission completed their trilogue negotiations and reached a final compromise on the copyright directive text. Soon thereafter the EU Member State Ambassadors and the Parliament’s legal affairs committee gave a green light, now leading to a final vote in the plenary session of the Parliament scheduled for March 26.

Next week all 751 MEPs will get a chance vote on whether to adopt the copyright directive, or send it back to the drawing board.

Upload filters will turn the web upside down

From a copyright perspective, Article 13 turns how the web works on its head. It will require nearly all for-profit web platforms that permit user generated content uploads to either get a license for all user uploads or otherwise install copyright filters and censor content. If the platforms don’t comply, they could become liable for massive copyright infringement damages. The logical outcome is that this will harm existing platforms and prevent the creation and flourishing of new and innovative services in Europe because those new players don’t have the money, pull, or expertise to conclude licensing deals or build (or pay for) the necessary filtering technologies. Instead, the established companies will simply become more entrenched and dominant, as services like YouTube have a headstart on both of these fronts. We cannot support a copyright ecosystem that will simply entrench the extensive market power of incumbent players and, at the same time, create unnecessary roadblocks for new platforms and services that stimulate creativity and sharing.

This reversal of the liability regime that all but ensures upload filters will need to be implemented has another disconcerting consequence: user rights are thrown out the window because filtering technologies can’t possibly know when a work is infringing and when a work is being legally used under an exception to copyright. Such a system will almost surely curtail freedom of expression, as platforms will mitigate any risk by simply blocking content regardless of whether the use is sanctioned under the exceptions to copyright, such as for criticism, quotation, and parody.

The road to here

Over the last several years, Creative Commons has been working to support copyright changes in Europe that champion the commons and the public interest. We’ve done this as part of the Communia Association, civil society organisations, research groups, user rights activists, and open web advocates. CC submitted comments to the initial consultation from the Commission, made a joint analysis and suggestions for improvement with our network in Europe, advocated to protect scientific research, and offered voting recommendations on many provisions within the sweeping copyright directive.

Communia and other NGOs on the ground in Europe have supported positive changes to key aspects of the reform that would benefit research, education, and the public good, particularly working to improve the exceptions for text and data mining and education, as well changes to support the public domain and improve the ability of cultural heritage institutions to make content available online. The tireless efforts of organisations and individuals who stepped up to defend the commons and improve various parts of the directive that supports robust user rights should be celebrated. Their detailed research, writing, and advocacy has done so much to improve many parts not-so-well covered yet incredibly important pieces of the directive.

What you can do now

CC believes that our vision of universal access to research and education and full participation in culture will only be achieved when we all have copyright policies that truly promote creativity and protect users rights in the digital age. With Article 13, it’s no exaggeration to say that it’ll fundamentally change the way people are able to use the internet and share online. Even with some of the minor improvements to other aspects of the copyright reform package, on balance a directive that contains Article 13 will do more harm than good.

If you’re in Europe go to to tell your MEPs you don’t support a copyright reform that turns how we create and share on the web upside down. If Article 13 can’t be removed, then policymakers should reject the reform outright and begin again.

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CC Search: A New Vision, Strategy & Roadmap for 2019

At the Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain at the Internet Archive, I teased a new product vision for CC Search that gets more specific than our ultimate goal of providing access to all 1.4 billion CC licensed and public domain works on the web. I’m pleased to present that refined vision, which is focused on building a product that promotes not just discovery, but reuse of openly-licensed and public domain works. We want your feedback in making it a reality. What kinds of images do you most need and desire to reuse when creating your own works? Along that vein, what organizational collections would you like to see us prioritizing for inclusion? Where can we make the biggest difference for you and your fellow creators?


Our 2019 vision is:

“CC Search is a leading tool for creators looking to discover and reuse free resources with greater ease and confidence.”

The vision centers on reuse — CC will prioritize and build for users who seek to not only discover free resources in the commons, but who seek to reuse these resources with greater ease and confidence, and for whom in particular the rights status of these works may be important. This approach means that CC will shift from its “quantity first” approach (front door to 1.4 billion works) to prioritizing content that is more relevant and engaging to creators.

We made our assumptions based on a combination of user research, whatever quantitative data we could get our hands on (e.g. analytics on previous iterations of search), and pure conjecture (based on anecdotal evidence from our community), or what in the lean start-up world is called a leap of faith.

How we expect reuse to happen

The base catalog is the database of all CC works we are continuing to gather and grow. We envision users will be able to access this catalog in three ways:

  1. Through CC Search — the default front end you see now.
  2. Through some curation on CC Search — you could imagine different portals for different kinds of users, e.g. educators seeking open textbooks.
  3. Through CC Search being integrated directly into other sites and software via a CC API, e.g. CC Search in Google Docs.

Once the user accesses the work, the user takes the next step to reuse the work. They download it, which means they make a copy. The user who is also a creator takes a step further; they attribute the author of the work in their new creation, ideally through the automatic and easy ways we provide for them to do this. Both download and attribution are ways a user reuses the work in a way that implicates copyright and thereby the Creative Commons license. And both are potential ways we can learn how that work is used in the wild.

Through learning about how CC works are reused, we will be able to validate our hypotheses and know we are on the right track (or not). We will also be better able to tell the story or journey of the works’ impact, which speaks to a key insight from our user research:

“People like seeing how their work is used, where it goes, and who it touches, but have no easy way to find this out.”

This learning is the hard part of our work, and what we still need to figure out. How do we track and learn about reuse in a way that is effective, but also aligns with our values and respects user privacy?

User research & usability testing

In 2019, we will focus on images and texts, with a stretch goal of including audio files. Accordingly, we will focus any user research and usability testing on groups of people that reuse these works in a meaningful way, specifically, “Creators making new works using existing free content.” A few we will start with are:

  • Creators making designs, imagery and art works (commercial or independent)
  • Creators illustrating a text or text-based resource (blog, journalistic articles, educational/academic texts or presentations)
  • Creators making a video

We’ll also being doing some separate user research to add open texts, which is a different bucket of people than the creators above, because we think (but don’t know) that most people seeking open texts are really seeking access, and not reuse, when it comes to CC Search. For example, we think that community college faculty looking for open textbooks are mainly seeking to access all open textbooks in one place.

As we talk to users, collect user feedback, and conduct usability testing, we may learn differently.


Based on this new 2019 vision and strategy, here are some of our key deliverables for the year.

The complete roadmap is available here, which also includes a pipeline of ideas. The pipeline of ideas is the master list of ideas from the community that we will revisit at the end of each quarter to decide what makes it in the roadmap. The roadmap is an evolving document and we welcome your comments and feedback.

The Team Follow the arrows from upper left: Kriti, Sophine, Alden, Breno, Sarah, Jane

The current CC Search team is led by CC’s Director of Engineering, Kriti Godey, and myself, CC’s Director of Product and Research. The other members are Sophine Clachar (Data Engineer), Alden Page (Back End Engineer), Breno Ferreira (Front End Engineer) and Sarah Pearson (Product Counsel).

Get involved

We are growing a vibrant community of open source developers and users willing to test and provide feedback on CC Search.

If you’re a current or potential user of CC Search, join the #cc-usability channel at the Creative Commons Slack ( where we regularly engage the group for feedback on new features.

If you’re a developer, check out Creative Commons Open Source, a hub for the CC developer community and the #cc-developers channel at the Creative Commons Slack.

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Use and Fair Use: Statement on shared images in facial recognition AI

Yesterday, NBC News published a story about IBM’s work on improving diversity in facial recognition technology and the dataset that they gathered to further this work. The dataset includes links to one million photos from Flickr, many or all of which were apparently shared under a Creative Commons license. Some Flickr users were dismayed to learn that IBM had used their photos to train the AI, and had questions about the ethics, privacy implications, and fair use of such a dataset being used for algorithmic training. We are reaching out to IBM to understand their use of the images, and to share the concerns of our community.

CC is dedicated to facilitating greater openness for the common good. In general, we believe that the use of publicly available data on the Internet has led to greater innovation, collaboration, and creativity. But there are also real concerns that data can be used for negative activities or negative outcomes.

While we do not have all the facts regarding the IBM dataset, we are aware that fair use allows all types of content to be used freely, and that all types of content are collected and used every day to train and develop AI. CC licenses were designed to address a specific constraint, which they do very well: unlocking restrictive copyright. But copyright is not a good tool to protect individual privacy, to address research ethics in AI development, or to regulate the use of surveillance tools employed online. Those issues rightly belong in the public policy space, and good solutions will consider both the law and the community norms of CC licenses and content shared online in general.

I hope we will use this moment to build on the important principles and values of sharing, and engage in discussion with those using our content in objectionable ways, and to speak out on and help shape positive outcomes on the important issues of privacy, surveillance, and AI that impact the sharing of works on the web.

We are taking this opportunity to speak to this particular type of reuse – improving artificial intelligence tools designed for facial recognition through the reuse of content found on the web (not just CC-licensed content) – to help clarify how the licenses work in this context. We have published new FAQs here that we will continue to update.

If you have comments or questions, please write CC at We will also be creating other opportunities to engage in public discussion in the coming weeks and months. We look forward to joining these discussions as we look for ways to resolve ethical public policy issues around data, AI, and machine learning as a community.

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Big Flickr Announcement: All CC-licensed images will be protected

I’m happy to share Flickr’s announcement today that all CC-licensed and public domain images on the platform will be protected and exempted from upload limits. This includes images uploaded in the past, as well as those yet to be shared. In effect, this means that CC-licensed images and public domain works will always be free on Flickr for any users to upload and share.

Flickr is one of the most important repositories of openly-licensed content on the web, with over 500M images in their collection, shared by millions of photographers, libraries, archives, and museums around the world. The company was an early adopter of CC licenses, and was bought by Yahoo! and later sold to Verizon. Last year, Flickr was sold again, this time to a family-owned photo service called SmugMug. Many were justifiably concerned about the future of Flickr, an essential component of the digital Commons.

Once the sale of Flickr was announced, CC began working closely with Don and Ben MacAskill of SmugMug, Flicker’s new owners, to protect the works that users have shared. Last November, Flickr posted that they were moving to a new paid service model that would restrict the number of free uploads to 1,000 images. Many, including Creative Commons, were concerned this could cause millions of works in the Commons to be deleted. We continued to work with Flickr, and a week later, they announced that CC-licensed images that had already been shared on the platform would be exempted from upload limits.

Today’s announcement takes that commitment one step further, and ensures that every CC-licensed or public domain image shared on Flickr is protected for all to use and re-use. It’s a significant commitment. Don and Ben MacAskill and the whole Flickr team have been supportive of CC and Flickr’s responsibility to steward the Commons from day one, and have been open and collaborative with Creative Commons all along.

For users of Flickr (and no doubt also for Flickr staff) it’s been a tumultuous time. Migrating to new business models is difficult, and will undoubtedly anger some users, especially those used to getting things for free. However, we’ve seen how unsustainable and exploitative free models can be, and I’m glad that Flickr hasn’t turned to surveillance capitalism as the business model for its sustainability plan – but that does mean they’ll have to explore other options.

Choosing to allow all CC-licensed and public domain works to be uploaded and shared without restrictions or limits comes at a real financial cost to Flickr, which is paid in part by their Pro users. We believe that it’s a valuable investment in the global community of free culture and open knowledge, and it’s a gift to everyone. We’re grateful for the ongoing investment and enthusiasm from the entire Flickr team, and their commitment to support users who choose to share their works. We will continue to work together to help educate Flickr’s users about their options when sharing works online, and to support the communities contributing to the growth and preservation of a vibrant collection of openly-licensed and public domain works.

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CC + Google Summer of Code 2019

We are proud to announce that Creative Commons has been accepted as a mentor organization for the 2019 Google Summer of Code program.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a annual global program through which Google awards stipends to university students who write code for free and open-source software projects during their school break. CC has been a mentor organization for GSoC on seven previous occasions, but our last participation was in 2013, so we are glad to be reviving the tradition and hosting students again.

We’ve compiled a list of project ideas for students to choose from when submitting their work proposal. There’s a lot of variety to choose from – adding features to CC Search, reviving older CC products, creating entirely new tools that increase the reach of CC licenses, figuring out ways to better present our legal and technical work, and more. There is definitely room for creativity – the project ideas are defined in broad terms, and students may also choose to submit a proposal for an original idea.

One of the goals of the CC engineering team this year is to build an active developer community around our projects. We’ve been writing free and open-source software for over a decade. Lately, we haven’t done the best job of enabling external developers to contribute to those projects. Hosting Google Summer of Code is our first step to change that for the better, and we’re also actively working on several other improvements to our code and processes, such as:

  • Creative Commons Open Source, a hub for the CC developer community.
  • Making CC Search’s development more transparent. Our current sprint workload is already public and we’ll be releasing a roadmap soon.
  • General cleanup, documentation, and contribution guidelines for our projects.
  • A technical blog.

If you want to stay updated on our work, join our brand new developer mailing list, the #creativecommons-dev IRC channel on freenode, or the #cc-developers and #cc-gsoc channels on our Slack community. And if you’re a student (or know a student), please consider submitting a Google Summer of Code proposal! It’s a great way to get an introduction to open-source, build real-world skills, work on interesting technical challenges, and help advance CC’s mission.

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Open Education Week: 24-Hour Global CC Network Web-a-thon: 5-6 March











Open Education Week is an annual convening of the global open education movement to share ideas, new open education projects, and to raise awareness about open education and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Each year, the Creative Commons global community participates, hosts webinars, gives local talks and shares CC licensed educational resources.

As part of the event this year, the Creative Commons Open Education Platform and CC Poland are hosting a 24-Hour Web-a-thon: 5-6 March (depending on your time zone).

We have amazing speakers from around the world presenting in multiple languages. Experts from Algeria, Nigeria, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, Chile, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, United States, Ireland, Sweden, Canada and Poland will present their open education projects.

Time: All times are UTC (check your local time using

Webinar Room: All sessions will be in:

Day One – March 5

9:00-9:20 – Open Networked Learning – a collaborative open online course on open networked learning
Presentation of the Open Networked Learning course – an initiative from Karolinska Institutet, Lund University, Linnaeus University and Karlstad University with Partner Universities and Organizations in Brazil, Finland, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, and Switzerland. In particular, we will focus on the new course homepage powered by WordPress and BuddyPress. Jörg Pareigis, Karlstad University

10:00-10:20 – Open Education Initiatives in Francophone North African countries
In this presentation, we will share the state of Open Education initiatives in Francophone North African countries. Kamel Belhamel, University of Bejaia

10:30-10:50 – Open for Educators: Stirring Action via Support Services
Adoption of OER and OEP by educators (K-12 to HEI) strongly depend on support services available. This presentation considers various support services needed by educators to start to shift and implement OER and OEP using a case study of educators in Nigeria. John Okewole, Yaba College of Technology

11:00-11:20 – Open Education to build a Latin American community of information professionals. Fernando Lopez, Aprender 3C

12:00-12:20 – Creating Educational Equity through OER and Open Degree Plans
This presentation will address OER and open degree as a means for reducing the high cost of earning a college degree, providing equity and access to higher education. Carolyn Stevenson, Purdue University Global

12:30-12:50 – Open is an Invitation: Exploring Use of OER with Ontario Post-Secondary Educators
In this short presentation, with lots of time for conversation, I will share the key findings of my doctoral research conducted in partnership with Ontario post-secondary educators in 2018. Jenni Hayman, Cambrian College

13:00-13:20 – Exploring the multiliteracies to support access to OER in South Africa
This presentation explores the specific multiliteracies required within a South African context in order to support epistemological and demiurgic access to OER. This research took the form of a conceptual study with an integrative literature review and document analysis of selected open educational resources and repositories. A broad framework of multiliteracies is presented for use within the Southern African context. Jako Olivier, North-West University

14:00-14:20 – Design process for an open educational resource: a case study
In this presentation we described an experience of creation of an open educational resource following an interactive design methodology, working with design students. The work was carried out within the framework of a university seminar, aimed at introducing students of audiovisual design in technical, legal and design issues and their articulation with pedagogical objectives in an interactive design process. The tasks carried out included the creation of a “user” profile of the target students, analysis of the use situation and the needs of the teachers. The process concluded with the creation of an OER prototype for use in secondary schools. Lila Pagola, Universidad Nacional de Villa María

14:30-14:50 – Open Education Cooperative Educoop
Presentation of the method of co-creation of open educational resources by teachers based on 4 values: cooperation, learning, openness and adventure. I will also show the effects of the first edition of the project. Aleksandra Czetwertyńska, Centrum Cyfrowe

15:00-15:20 – OEGlobal19 call for proposals – tracks and ideas
We are going to briefly present the main topic of next OE Global 19, the main tracks in the call for proposal and give our support to colleagues who might want to ask questions about how to submit their proposals, according to the different formats available this year. Susan Huggins, OE Consortium. Chrissi Nerantzi, University of Birmingham. Paola Corti, Politecnico di Milano.

15:30-15:50 – Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context
Nosotros hablaremos sobre los pequeños pasos y complejos contextos en el donde la educación abierta en Chile, a transitado en los últimos años, con algunas experiencias interesantes y relevantes, ademas del esfuerzo en compromisos concretos a través de los Planes de Acción de Gobierno Abierto. En nuestra opinión, los desafíos presentes y futuros para la educación abierta en el país son enormes, existiendo proyectos e iniciativas importantes, las que esperamos puedan representar nuevos escenarios favorables de mayor equidad y calidad educativa para los estudiantes. Werner Westermann, Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional

16:30-16:50 – OER news from the UK and OER19
We will share news of developments of OER in the UK and the OER19 Conference, taking place in Ireland in April – we will share how you can participate remotely and highlight important new resources and research. Maren Deepwell, Association for Learning Technology

17:00-17:20 – OpenEd in Oklahoma
The purpose of this presentation will be to share the state of Open at Oklahoma State University where we have been, where we are going, and why. Cristina Colquhoun, Clarke Iakovakis, & Kathy Essiller, Oklahoma State University

17:30-17:50 – One adult student’s perspective on open education opportunities
Older than most teachers and administrators, I’m the first online student at Metropolitan State University’s College of Individualized Studies authorized to use my own eportfolio to demonstrate my prior learning for assessment to complete a bachelor’s degree. An EdTech intern, I study open learning technologies and heutagogy. (self-directed learning) Mark Corbett Wilson, Metropolitan State University

18:00-18:20 – A Quick Look at the Future of OER
This talk will look at the impact of new technologies – specifically, open data, cloud technologies, AI and distributed ledgers (blockchain) – on the future shape of OER – what they will look like, how they will be used, and what skills and knowledge will be needed to develop and use the. Stephen Downes, National Research Council Canada

18:30-18:50 – Going beyond the classroom: Digital Humanities OER powered by the European research infrastructure DARIAH
This talk will showcase two types of OER for Digital Humanities that allow for flexibility with different teaching/learning contexts, enable peer learning, and empower teachers and students
to see beyond their institutional perspectives. These are: the Parthenos Standardization Survival Kit and the OpenMethods metablog. Erzsébet Tóth-Czifra

19:00-19:20 – OER Momentum in the Rocky Mountains: Policy, Practice and Purpose
Colorado’s unique leadership with statewide OER efforts is steered by the OER Council, a legislatively created advisory group comprised of representatives from a variety of disciplines and institutional types. This session will highlight how a diverse group of individuals in the Rocky Mountain state have advocated and executed OER efforts at the state level, while also highlighting future ambitions in policy, practice and purpose. Meg Brown-Sica, Colorado State University. Brittany Dudek, Colorado Community College Online. Spencer Ellis, Colorado Department of Higher Education. Jonathan Poritz, Colorado State University-Pueblo.

19:30-19:50 – State of Open Data: Data and Education
This talk will showcase the findings of the chapter about data in education on the book State of Open Data. It aims at presenting the benefits of the use of open data in education, and its value for developing data literacies, but also, it highlights the risks of datafication of education with the aim of giving a wide landspace and perspectives on data in education. Javiera Atenas, ILDA

20:00-20:20 – An OER Library in Afghanistan
OER in Afghanistan? Yes, it’s true! For several years, we have been making and translating OER into Afghan languages, as part of the Darakht-e Danesh (‘knowledge tree’ library). We will tell you about our small but fierce digital library, we will share our lessons learned doing OER in this part of the world, and we will tell you about how we innovate around challenges like insecurity, connectivity and digital literacy. We’ll highlight some of our exciting future plans, and hopefully, leave you inspired. Lauryn Oates, Abdul Parwani, Darakht-e Danesh Library

20:30-20:50 – New open education initiatives in Ireland
Ireland’s ‘National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’ is a unique body, tasked with supporting & fostering T+L enhancement & collaboration across all HEI’s in Ireland. Terry & Catherine will describe national plans in the area of open education – and are open to ideas & feedback. Terry Maguire & Catherine Cronin, National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education

21:00-21:20 – Alquimétricos, Open source DIY didactic building blocks
Near past, present and what’s next on building our open tech, didactic content, and branding model. Alquimétricos is a collaborative open project on designing, content developing and DIY (handcraft or digital) fabricating of tech-oriented didactic materials. A word on sustainability on open tangible stuff. Fernando Daguanno, Alquimétricos

21:30-21:50 – OER19 Conference – themes & conversations
Following on from earlier presentation by Maren Deepwell & Martin Hawksey, Catherine (and an OER19 guest, TBC) will explore themes of the upcoming OER19 Conference taking place in Galway, Ireland, April 10-11. The overall conference theme is: ‘Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives’. Catherine Cronin, National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education

22:00-22:20 – State of Open Education in Canada
We will share the projects and initiatives happening in Canada around open education. Specifically looking at Provincial initiatives in postsecondary education as well as policies in Open Education in Canada. We will also highlight what is next for Canada, and what we hope to see for the future of Open Education. Amanda Coolidge, BCcampus. Lena Patterson, eCampusOntario.

22:30-22:50 – Creative Commons Certificates
The 10-week CC Certificates course for educators and librarians provides an in-depth study of CC licenses and develops participants’ open licensing proficiency and understanding of the broader context for open advocacy in the Commons. Will also discuss: new CC Certificates in process, facilitator training, translations, and scholarships. Cable Green, Creative Commons


7:00-7:20 – Equity-oriented Open Learning in the Marginal Syllabus
A presentation about equity-oriented open learning as supported by the Marginal Syllabus project. The presentation will review design and learning practices summarized in Kalir (2018). Additional information about open learning via the Marginal Syllabus project. Remi Kalir, University of Colorado Denver

10:00-10:20 – Online roundtable on Growing Open Education Policies in 2019
This session is an opportunity for all activist to join and briefly present their organisations and plans for 2019. Host of this session is Centrum Cyfrowe Foundation from Poland – we will present some details about Open Education Policy Forum 2019. Alek Tarkowski, Centrum Cyfrowe Foundation

Be sure to share your Open Education Week activities with: #OEWeek

See you online!

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Announcing Plays Well With Others, a new podcast about the Art and Science of Collaboration

I’m thrilled to share the first episode of our podcast, Plays Well with Others, with our community. It’s about the art, science, and mechanics of collaboration.

Ask yourself: How often have you walked into a room where you were about to work with colleagues, friends, or even strangers, and thought, “I’m going to focus on being a great collaborator today”? We spend so much time on leadership, and hardly any time on helping each other do great work together.

We hope to change that, in our own small way, with Plays Well with Others.

I couldn’t be more excited about this project — I’ve always wanted to produce radio journalism. I love interviewing people and helping them tell the best version of their stories. And it’s been a joy to work with my colleague and collaborator Eric Steuer on the podcast’s design and development. I’ve loved the opportunity to do creative work, and to work directly on something like this that is close to my heart, and that I feel is really good. We’re incredibly proud of how it’s turned out, and we hope you’ll enjoy it and learn something along the way.

Collaboration is a natural topic for me. My job at CC is all about making collaboration happen, and it’s been at the centre of my work for my entire career — across cultures and timezones. I’m fascinated by the things that we can only do together. Collective action — from the power of a union to build a more equitable world, to the ability of shared public investments to strengthen communities, to the potential of the commons to democratize knowledge — these ideas inspire me. It’s why I do what I do.

The first episode of our show focuses on the writer’s room on a comedy show. Our guests, Anne Lane and Wayne Federman, deserve our thanks for trusting us with their stories. They had no idea if what we were making would be any good, and there was no body of work to look at, since it was our first episode. Anne and Wayne were open and honest, and they gave us a view into a special room that very few people get to visit. But they also helped reveal insights into how collaboration works in groups: how to deal with the disappointment of watching your joke fall flat; the importance of picking up what other collaborators are laying down (“yes, and”); and an acknowledgment that many ideas, combined with the need to ship an episode, yields better results than writing alone in your basement.

I hope each episode yields such great insights — that’s certainly our goal. Our operating thesis is that digging into how collaboration really works might help us all become better collaborators ourselves.

Each episode homes in on an element of collaboration, told by some of the world’s great collaborators. We’ll publish one episode each month, and the first season will likely run around eight episodes. I hope you’ll join us along the way, and that we’ll all learn some new tactics, techniques, and approaches — together.

Listen now

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EU copyright directive moves into critical final stage

Journalists at work in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, CC BY-ND 2.0

In September 2018 the European Parliament voted to approve drastic changes to copyright law that would negatively affect creativity, freedom of expression, research, and sharing across the EU. Over the last few months the Parliament, Commission, and Council (representing the Member State governments) were engaged in secret talks to come up with a reconciled version of the copyright directive text.

The closed-door “trilogue” negotiations are now complete and a final compromise has been reached. The text is not yet published but MEP Julia Reda has shared unofficial versions of Article 13 (upload filters) and Article 11 (press publishers right). Both of these carried through with no major improvements on behalf of user rights and the public interest.

For an overview and evaluation of the key issues, check out Communia’s website:


Article 13 and 11: Still bad (or worse) for creators and users

It’s more clear than ever: Article 13 will require nearly all for-profit web platforms that permit user uploads to install copyright filters and censor content. While there was an earlier version that included an exclusion for small companies, that provision has been reeled in. Now only services that have been operating for less than 3 years, with annual revenue below €10 million, and with fewer than 5 million unique visitors each month, will be excluded from the rule. And the filters need to process all types of content — from music to text to images to software — anything that can be protected by copyright. If platforms don’t take action, they assume liability for what their uses publish online. This will surely harm creativity and freedom of expression in Europe. Some types of services will be exempted, for example Wikipedia, or open source software platforms such as GitHub. But for the vast majority of online platforms in Europe this will mean more regulatory burden and costs, and it will make it more difficult to compete with the big established platforms.

Article 11 got no better. It would force news aggregators to pay publishers for linking to their stories. The counterproductive press publishers right would last for 2 years. The text claims that the right will not apply to “individual words or very short extracts of a press publication.” At least openly licensed works such as those under Creative Commons or in the public domain would be exempted.

What’s next?

The final text of the directive will be released soon. While the trilogue negotiators focused on Articles 13 and 11, there were some productive changes that will improve the situation of the commons, cultural heritage, and research sectors. For example, we know that the negotiators agreed upon a provision to ensure that reproductions of works in the public domain will also be in the public domain. They included text to improve the ability for cultural heritage institutions to better serve their users online. And the negotiators slightly improved the exception on text and data mining by making mandatory an earlier optional provision that would expand the possibilities for those wishing to conduct TDM.

The European Parliament elections are coming up in May, and the existing Parliament will vote on the final text of the copyright directive beforehand. The plenary vote will take place between late-March and mid-April. This is when all 751 MEPs will get a chance to vote Yes or No on adopting the text as finalised by the trilogue.

With Article 13, it’s no exaggeration to say that it’ll fundamentally change the way people are able to use the internet and share online. And the European copyright changes will affect how copyright develops in the rest of the world. Even with some of the minor improvements to other aspects of the copyright file, it’s hard to see how the reform — taken as a whole — will be a net gain except for the most powerful special interests.

There is still time to make your voice heard on stopping the harmful upload filters and press publishers right. If you’re in Europe, visit to get more information and contact your MEPs before the vote.

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Is it possible to decolonize the Commons? An interview with Jane Anderson of Local Contexts

Traditional Knowledge Labels

Joining us at the Creative Commons Global Summit in 2018, NYU professor and legal scholar Jane Anderson presented the collaborative project “Local Contexts,” “an initiative to support Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, Metis and Indigenous communities in the management of their intellectual property and cultural heritage specifically within the digital environment.” The wide-ranging panel touched on the need for practical strategies for Indigenous communities to reclaim their rights and assert sovereignty over their own intellectual property.

Anderson’s work on Local Contexts is a collaboration with Kim Christen, creator of the Mukurtu content management system and Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University. Local Contexts is both a legal and educational project that engages with the specific challenges and difficulties that copyright poses for Indigenous peoples seeking to access, use and control the circulation of cultural heritage. Inspired by the intervention of Creative Commons licenses at the level of metadata, the Traditional Knowledge Labels recast intellectual property as culturally determinant and dependent upon cultural consent to use of materials.

How can we have an open movement that works for everyone, not only the most powerful? How have power structures historically worked against Indigenous communities, and how can the Creative Commons community work to change this historic inequality?

Jane Anderson discussed these issues as well as some of her more recent work with the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Maine with Creative Commons.

Your project recasts the Creative Commons vision of “universal access to research and education and full participation in culture” through a local and culturally determinant lens. How is the vision of Local Contexts complementary to the CC vision, and how does it come into conflict?
The Local Contexts initiative began in 2010 when Kim Christen and I started to think more carefully about how to support Indigenous communities to address the immense and growing problems being experienced with copyright around Indigenous or traditional knowledge. We had both been working with Indigenous peoples, communities and organizations over a long period of time and had increasingly been engaged in a very specific way with the dilemmas of copyright that existed at the intersection of Indigenous collections in archives, libraries and museums. We were able to see more clearly the ways in which copyright has functioned as a key tool for dispossessing Indigenous peoples of their rights as holders, custodians, authorities and owners of their knowledge and culture.

Combining both legal and educational components, Local Contexts has two objectives. Firstly, to support Indigenous decision-making and governance frameworks for determining ownership, access to and culturally appropriate conditions for sharing historical and contemporary collections of Indigenous material and digital culture. Secondly, to trouble existing classificatory, curatorial and display paradigms for museums, libraries and archives that hold extensive Indigenous collections by finding new pathways for Indigenous names, perspectives, rules of circulation and the sharing culture to be included and expressed within public records.

Inspired by Creative Commons, we began trying to address the gap for Indigenous communities and copyright law by thinking about licenses as an option to support Indigenous communities.

Our initial impulse was to craft several new licenses in ways that incorporated local community protocols around the sharing of knowledge. Pretty quickly however we ran into a significant problem: with the majority of photographs, sound recordings, films, manuscripts, language materials that had been amassed and collected about Indigenous peoples, and that were now being digitized, Indigenous peoples were not the copyright holders. Instead, copyright was held by the researchers, missionaries or government officials who had done the documenting or by the institutions where these materials were now held. Or – at the other end of the spectrum, these materials were in the unique space that copyright makes – the public domain. This meant that not only did Indigenous peoples have no control over these materials and their circulatory futures, they also could not apply any licenses – either CC ones or ones that we were developing. This was a problem that we responded to by developing the TK Labels.

Why is it important to problematize the ways in which universal access can undermine cultural participation, particularly for traditionally marginalized groups?
Local Contexts is an effort to initiate questions about how ideas of the universal operate by pointing to sites of difference and locality, especially in how knowledge is shared, circulated and expanded. The vision of Local Contexts emphasizes specificity – that the circulation of knowledge and culture depends upon relationships and context – and if these relationships are formed unevenly, or privilege one cultural perspective above another, then that inequity continues to create a range of future problems.

One of the motivations behind Local Contexts, and this is an interesting question for Creative Commons to consider as well is: what would it look like if we invested time and support to Indigenous communities who have been disproportionately affected by colonial property laws – including copyright. How does access and openness perpetuate a colonial agenda of taking? And what can be done to change this direction? Where does the Creative Commons community come in to help think through these issues in conversation with Indigenous peoples and through Indigenous experiences? Is it possible to decolonize the commons? What would it look like to imagine a commons that is not totally open, but one that has an informed and engaged approach to openness; one that foregrounds the histories and exclusions embedded within calls for openness and open access. What would it mean to ask questions about the privilege that openness calls for and embeds?

We believe that Local Contexts is one of many efforts that are needed in order to take on this expansive problem. If you start thinking about what kind of information has been taken (through unethical and inappropriate research practices for instance) from Indigenous peoples, communities, lands and territories – and how this has been done without consent and permission, it is possible to start seeing the extent of the problem. For example, Indigenous names have been used for names of cars (Cherokee); for software (Apache); for varieties of strawberries (Sto:lo). For Indigenous peoples, names are not just words in common, they have embedded temporal and relational meanings including integral connections to place. For Indigenous peoples, names matter and are not open for others to use in ways that minimize and reduce them for commercial gain. How have settler-colonial laws and social frameworks created the conditions where no permissions are required to use Indigenous culture? What is the impetus to use Indigenous culture in these ways? Who benefits from using these exclusionary and extractionist logics?

Reciprocal Curation Workflow

How does information colonialism impact the communities where you work? How are you working to mitigate exploitation of cultural resources?
Information colonialism is an everyday problem for all the communities with whom we work and collaborate. It is not only the legacies of past research practices, but how these are continued into the present. There are more researchers working in Indigenous communities now than there were at the height of initial colonial documenting encounters from the 1850s onwards – and the same logics of extraction through research largely continue. This means that many of the same problems that we are trying to address in Local Contexts – namely the making of research derived from Indigenous knowledge and participation often conducted on Indigenous lands as owned by non-Indigenous peoples – continues.

There is an enormous need to support Indigenous communities as they build their own unique IP strategies and provide resources that assist in this project. At Local Contexts we are committed to this work and we provide as many resources as we can towards this end. Importantly we work directly with communities, and the resources we produce and offer come from these partnerships. We continue to develop tools and resources from direct engagement with communities. Partnering with the Penobscot Nation we just received an IMLS grant to run IP training and support workshops for US based tribes over the next two years. These trainings center Indigenous experiences with copyright law and the difficulties communities have negotiating with cultural institutions over incorporating cultural authority into how these Indigenous collections are to be circulated into the future.

The 6 CC licenses are designed to be simple and self-explanatory, but there are 17 Traditional Knowledge labels and four licenses, creating an intentionally local and culturally dependent information ecosystem. As a project both inspired by the Creative Commons licenses and in conversation with them, how do these labels better serve the contexts in which you work?
The 17 TK Labels that we have reflect partnerships that have identified these protocols as ones that that matter for communities in the diverse circulation routes for knowledge. What is important about the TK Labels part of the Local Contexts initiative is that they are deliberately not licenses. That is, we are not limited by the cultural (in)capacities of the law. Indigenous protocols around the use of knowledge are nuanced and complex and do not map easily onto current legal frameworks. For instance, some information should never be shared outside a community context, some information is culturally sensitive, some information is gendered, and some has specific familial responsibilities for how it is shared. Some information should only be heard at specific times of the year and still for other information, responsibility for use is shared across multiple communities.

The Labels embrace this epistemological complexity in a different kind of way – and they allow for flexibility as well as community specificity to be incorporated in ways that settler-colonial law cannot accommodate.

For instance, a central pivot of the TK Labels project from CC is that the TK Label icon remains static, but the text that accompanies each Label can be uniquely customized by each community and they maintain the control and the authority over the text. This is the sovereign right that every community has to determine and express their unique cultural protocols. Alongside this, the TK Labels also expand the meaning of certain kinds of legal terms, which have been historically treated as normative – for instance, attribution. With the TK Labels – attribution is usually the first label that a community identifies and adapts for their own purposes. This is because it has been Indigenous names – community, individual, familial that have been left out of the catalogue and the metadata. For example, the Sq’ewlets, a band of Sto:lo in Canada translated attribution as skwix qas te téméxw, which literally means name and place. (See how they use their labels.) For the Passamaquoddy Tribe in Maine, attribution is Elihatsik translated “to fix it properly”. The intention in the Passamaquoddy meaning of attribution is a specific call out for addressing mistakes in an institutional and therefore also in settler cultural memory.

What is one interesting outcome of your recent work?
One of our most important recent projects has been working with the Passamaquoddy Tribe to digitally repatriate and correct the cultural authority that the Passamaquoddy people continue to assert over the first Native American ethnographic sound recordings ever made in the US in 1890. When these recordings were made by a young researcher who visited the community for three days, they functioned as a sound experiment allowing for greater documentation of Indigenous peoples languages and cultures. The recordings were never made for the Passamaquoddy community but for researchers in institutions. This is evidenced by the fact that these recordings were not returned to the community until the 1980s – some 90 years after they were made. When this initial return, on cassette tapes, happened in the 1980s, the quality of the sound was poor. For community members thrilled to hear ancestors again after so long it was simultaneously heartbreaking not being able to hear what was being said.

From Passamaquoddy People Website

In 2015, the Library of Congress’ National Audiovisual Conservation Center (NAVCC) included these cylinders in their digital preservation program for American and Native American heritage. At the same time as this preservation work was initiated, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Local Contexts and Mukurtu CMS joined together for the Ancestral Voices Project funded by the Arcadia Foundation. This project involved working with Passamaquoddy Elders and language speakers to listen, translate and retitle the recordings in English and, for the first time in the historical record in Passamaquoddy; explaining and updating institutional knowledge about the legal and cultural rights in these recordings; adding missing and incomplete information and metadata; fixing mistakes in the Federal Cylinder Project record and implementing three Passamaquoddy TK Labels. These add additional cultural information to the rights field of the digital record – in both the MARC record and in Dublin core – and provide ongoing support for how these recordings will circulate digitally into the future.

Library of Congress record with TK labels

Changing how these recordings are understood in the Library of Congress and in the metadata into the future was only one part of this project. A complimentary part was working with the Passamaquoddy community to create their own digital platform for the cylinders, embedding them and relating them to other Passamaquoddy cultural heritage. The Passamaquoddy site utilizes the Mukurtu CMS platform and allows for differentiated access at a community level and for various other publics. It does not assume that everything created by Passamaquoddy people is for everyone, including non-Passamaquoddy people. It embeds Passamaquoddy cultural protocols as the primary means for managing access according to Passamaquoddy laws. This is then what is also translated into the Library of Congress through the TK Labels.

Working with Passamaquoddy Elders and language speakers to decipher the cylinders and for tribal members to now be singing these songs and teaching them to their children was what the work within this project required. When the Passamaquoddy recordings with community determined metadata and TK Labels were launched at the Library of Congress in May 2018, Dwayne Tomah called on the strength of his ancestors, and sang a song that had not been sung for 128 years. The ongoing strength of Passamaquoddy culture, language and Passamaquoddy survivance was felt by everyone who was in the room that day. The TK Labels were an important piece of this project as they functioned as a tool to support the correcting of a significant mistake in the historical record: namely that the Passamaquoddy people unreservedly retain authority over their culture which had been literally taken and authored by a white researcher from 1890 until 2018. (Read more in the New Yorker.)

What are you working on now?
At an international and national level, the TK Labels are an intervention directed at the level of metadata—the same intervention that propelled CC licenses to the reach they have today. Our current work at Local Contexts is threefold. We are finalizing the TK Label Hub. This will allow for a more widespread implementation of the TK Labels. It will be the place where communities can customize their Labels and safely deliver them to the institutions that request them and are committed to implementing them within their own institutional infrastructures and public displays. Our current work with the Abbe Museum in Maine will see the TK Labels integrated into the Past Perfect software as well, allowing for implementation across a wide museum sector. We continue to expand our education work on IP law and Indigenous collections for communities as well as institutions. More generally we believe that any education on copyright must have the history and consequences of excluding Indigenous peoples from this body of law incorporated into how it is taught and understood.

Finally we just developed 2 specific labels for cultural institutions. The Cultural Institution (CI) Labels are specifically for archives, museums, libraries and universities who are engaging in processes of collaboration and trust building with Indigenous and other marginalized communities who have been excluded and written out of the record through colonial processes of documentation and record keeping.

These CI Labels, alongside the TK Labels for communities and our education/training initiatives help close the circle, so that the future circulation of these cultural heritage materials, that have been held outside of communities, can be informed through relationships of care, responsibility and authority that reside within the local contexts where this material continues to have extensive cultural meaning.

Read more about the role that CC licenses play in the dissemination of traditional knowledge from our research fellow Mehtab Khan and listen to Jane Anderson speak about her work with the Passamaquoddy archives on the podcast “Artist in the Archive.”

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CC0 at the Cleveland Museum of Art: 30,000 high quality digital images now available

The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of the most visited art museums in the world, and soon it will become one of the most important online collections as well. Today, we are announcing a release of 30,000 high quality, free and open digital images from the museum’s collection under CC0 and available via their API. CC0 allows anyone to use, re-use, and remix a work without restriction.

In line with the museum’s mission to work “for the benefit of all people in the Digital Age,” the Cleveland Museum is leading the charge for comprehensive metadata and open access policy. The museum sees its role as not only providing access, but also creating sincere partnerships that increase utility and relevance in our time.

Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley joined museum director William M. Griswold and Chief Digital and Information Officer Jane Alexander at the CMA to announce this release. “I hope this model of working closely together with visionary organizations will be one that we can replicate with other museums, and that this will become the new standard by which institutions share and engage with the public online,” he said. The museum’s leadership echoed the sentiment.

“Open Access with Creative Commons will provide countless new opportunities to engage with works of art in our collection. With this move, we have transformed not only access to the CMA’s collection, but also its usability—inside as well as outside the walls of our museum,” said Griswold.

The newly released images and their associated metadata can also be viewed on CC Search, the Creative Commons image portal that provides access to millions of CC Images from 21 providers. This portal is currently in development and growing, and the Cleveland Museum of Art’s images provide another access point for billions of learners around the world to experience and enjoy cultural heritage. In this release, the CMA joins other institutions that have made the choice to share, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Highlights from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection include Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies (Agapanthus)”, William Merritt Chase’s “Portrait of Dora Wheeler,” Albrecht Dürer’s “The Four Horsemen, from the Apocalypse”, and many important works of Indian, African, and Asian art. Our profound thanks to the staff of the CMA for making this partnership possible. This release was due to their hard work and leadership, and we look forward to continued partnership with this important cultural institution.

Watch our social media and Slack for collection highlights and more information, and experience the collection yourself at CC Search.

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We’re gonna party like it’s 1923

January 14-18, 2019 is #CopyrightWeek, and today’s theme is Public Domain and Creativity, which aims to explore how copyright policy should encourage creativity, not hamper it. Excessive copyright terms inhibit our ability to comment, criticize, and rework our common culture.

On January 1, tens of thousands of books, films, visual art, sheet music, plays, and other works passed into the Public Domain in the United States for the first time in twenty years. It’s time to celebrate!

Join us for a grand reopening party in San Francisco on Friday, January 25 from 10AM-7PM.

Co-hosted with the Internet Archive, this celebration will feature keynote addresses by Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow, lightning talks, demos, multimedia displays and more to mark the “re-opening” of the public domain in the United States. The event will take place at the Internet Archive.

In preparation for this event, we asked a few Creative Commons community members to provide reflections on some of their favorite works that have entered the Public Domain this year!

Shanna Hollich, Collections Management Librarian at Wilson College
The Prophet by Khalil Ghibran

I spent a lot of time in my late teens and early twenties feeling lost and alone and confused (as so many of us do). I often looked for solace in books, and it was at a used bookstore in Boston that I found The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I had never heard of it before, but I took it home on a whim and read it over and over and over again, finding human connection and comfort in the words of this long-dead Lebanese-American poet. I have treasured my dog-eared copy of that book for many years. Now that it’s in the public domain, I’m excited to have the opportunity to give the work new life and new meaning now that I can legally use, remix, and share these words that meant so much to me.

Eva Rogers, Development Manager at Creative Commons

Indestructible Object 1923, remade 1933, editioned replica 1965 Man Ray 1890-1976 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 2000

Man Ray’s Object to be Destroyed (1923) — later destroyed and remade as Lost Object (accidentally printed/labeled Last Object) and, even later, as Indestructible Object — combines a metronome, an object that marks consistent time for musicians, with a photograph of an eye affixed to its ticking arm. Man Ray would set the piece going when he painted — a rhythm, an audience; keeping time, keeping watch. What does it mean for an art object — a destroyed art object, at that — to enter the public domain? What, now, belongs to the public? Can I recreate it? What if I accidentally (intentionally?) recreate a later iteration? Shall we the public gleefully apply the name Object to Be Destroyed to any number of our creations, which we will subsequently destroy and remake? You may destroy the metronome and the staring eye, but you cannot stop the ticking arm of time. Welcome to the public domain, Object to be Destroyed!

Ramona Ostrowski, Producer, Howlround Theater Commons

By Source, Fair use,

I saw an amazing production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan by NYC-based theatre company Bedlam in Cambridge about four years ago. They had four actors portray all the roles, with one woman playing Joan and three men covering everyone else. Seeing the story this way emphasized Joan’s power but also her humanity, and made her the true emotional center around which the inventive production whirled. I’m so excited that this play has now entered the public domain, because it’s the story of a woman clinging to her convictions and speaking her truth boldly even as the male power structures vilify her for it. It doesn’t take more than a quick scroll through Twitter or glance at Fox News to see the contemporary resonances. I can’t wait to see how inventive artists legally remix and riff off of this text in the coming years.

Jennie Rose Halperin, Senior Communications Manager, Creative Commons

In college I used to go to a long-defunct bar in Greenwich Village for a variety show curated by the old-time musician Eli Smith. (Himself a great interpreter of works in the public domain.) One night, a mostly xylophone band called the “Xylopholks” took the stage and performed “Yes, We have no Bananas!” while attired in banana costumes. Needless to say, they brought the house down. Some day, I hope to recreate this special moment, but until then, I have to enjoy the fact that I can legally use, remix, and reproduce this fabulous tune.

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Openness, Mapping, Democracy, and Reclaiming Narrative: Majd Al-shihabi in conversation

Majd Al-shihabi, the inaugural Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellow, is a Palestinian-Syrian systems design engineer focusing on the role of technology in urban systems and policy design. He is passionate about development, access to knowledge, user centered design, and the internet, and experiments with implementing tools and infrastructures that catalyze social change. He studied engineering at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and urban planning at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon.

The following is a conversation between Christine Prefontaine and Majd Al-shihabi, reflecting on his work and experiences as a Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellow.

The Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship

The Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship awards $50,000 + support to an outstanding individual developing open culture in their communities. This unique and life-changing fellowship promotes the values important to Bassel’s work and life: open culture, radical sharing, free knowledge, remix, collaboration, courage, optimism, and humanity. The Fellowship supported Majd Al-shihabi, the inaugural recipient, on two projects: Building an open source platform for oral history archives, to be used by the Syrian Oral History Archive, and digitizing, releasing, and improving the accessibility of previously forgotten 1940s British Mandate-era public domain maps of Palestine. The common thread: Preserving memory based on openness and collaboration and advancing visions for re-building and moving Palestinian and Syrian societies towards an open, fair, and free future.

Evidence Majd’s Story

Can we start with a basic overview of your work and then maybe dig into the fellowship projects that you’re working on?
I’ve been loosely involved with the open community for a long time. When I was studying in Canada at the University of Waterloo, the pressure of school limited my involvement. As soon as I finished I was like, oh, finally I can do the things that I actually am interested in doing. So, slowly that’s how I got involved with the a few open communities locally.

Throughout my studies I’ve mostly worked as a developer so I’ve been using a lot of open source software. That helped me improve my understanding of the open source community. It is not just about the code of the open source software, but also about how community dynamics in its community work, who can contribute, who doesn’t, and so on. So that has been the formation that has guided my work so far.

When I moved to Lebanon, I moved specifically to work with a project called the Arab Digital Expression Foundation youth camp. ADEF is the organization. This camp is at 10-day camp in the summer for people 18 and up. We had some participants that were 19 and 63 years old. It’s about the intersection of art, technology and politics, especially in this region, especially about the production of knowledge and content in the Arabic language.

That was the entry point for me in the Arab open source community — because the camp was very explicit about using open technologies and using open approaches to knowledge production and media production. That was the first time when I was like, I’m producing something that can benefit my community in a very explicit way.

I curated that camp, and then I stayed here and I was like, we have a lot work on openness in this community in Lebanon so let’s start with this. So I worked on a few smaller projects related to mapping. We worked on the Beirut Evictions Monitor, where we ran workshops to map housing evictions in Beirut because it has been undergoing a lot of pressure on real estate and housing — to think about how to map it and publish what is appropriate of that data.

Working on those projects were the first steps. I started thinking about how to activate the community around the mapping and issues of mapping. Because, for example, there is no one authoritative map of Beirut that you can get, especially of buildings of Beirut. On OpenStreetMap there are areas where some active mapper lives, so you can find all of the buildings in their neighborhood. But they’re drawn from satellite imagery so they’re not very accurate. But there’s no comprehensive map of Beirut. I’m trying to think about how can we use OpenStreetMap to engage the community in mapping efforts to make sure that their communities are on the map — literally — and connecting that with other sources of data, so that organizations like like the Beirut Evictions Monitor can use it.

The next step was when my collaborator Ahmad Barclay found the historic maps of Palestine, from just before the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in the archives. We were like, we can use those maps. They’re really precious. As Palestinians, most of us have not seen what our villages look like. Before I saw those maps, I only knew of one surviving photo of my village and now I have a more textured view. We got really excited by the potential of those maps and we said, what can we do with them? That’s where the Palestine Open Maps project started. Visualizing Palestine hosted a lab with Columbia Studio X in Amman where we developed a prototype, which we carried on to what you see now on the platform.

At the same time, I was also interested in oral history archives. One of my main collaborators and friends has worked on the Palestine Oral History Archive at the American University of Beirut. She has also been a consultant for a few oral history projects and did an assessment of the Syrian Oral History Archive. Often what happens with those archives is that everyone gets really excited about collecting and then they have like 500 hours of recordings and they don’t know what to do with them. So she did that assessment. Then she was like, you guys need to think more explicitly about what to do with this collection and how to archive it. She said, you should not use Omeka as your only solution. And think about a more refined way of addressing the special needs of an oral history archive.

Those two projects were in the background of my mind when the fellowship was announced and I was like, this sounds like the right place to get sustainability while I work on these projects that are really exciting to me. Also, those two projects are very closely linked and both have great potential. For example, if you think about Palestine Open Maps and the Palestinian Oral History Archives — specifically the use of them after they’ve been archived — can you use the maps as a way to spatially navigate an oral history archive? One of my plans is to make that link between the two. To me they’re related in the long term.

The Palestine Open Maps Project has five different archival map sets that show Palestine before it was ethnically cleansed. We’ve been trying to combine those with census data sets and the locality name data sets. And now you can view it on That was what I presented at MozFest. That’s the project that I’ve been working on for the first part of my fellowship. For the second part, I’ll focus more on building the oral history platform.

We ran a few design workshops with the Syrian Oral History Archive to extract a workflow from the practices of the archivists. The idea was to enhance the workflow and make it applicable to all oral history archivists, but at the same time to make it as tailored as possible to oral history archiving. It’s a delicate balance that we had to hit. Then I did a few sessions with Palestine Oral History Archive and also talked with the Knowledge Workshop, here in Beirut, as potential users of the platform. Now we have a community that’s excited about finally having a way to archive and publish their collections.

From the outcome of the workshops, I started to build a user interface with a company called Calibro that does user interface design. The interface addresses each one of the phases of the archival process. And that’s where I am right now. I just started experimenting with a little bit of code in the past few days, but the majority of the code will be written between now and the end of my fellowship.

Hearing about the mapping project, what stuck out for me was the ability to anchor a story physically in a place. It’s one thing to hear it, but it’s another thing to have the opportunity to go to a place — physically or digitally. It grounds the story. Literally. It’s profound.

My grandmother is still alive and she was born in Palestine. She was one of the people that was ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and she hasn’t been back since. She was 11 years old when it happened so she remembers what it was like. I grew up listening to her talking about our house in Palestine and I know that the village doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been completely destroyed and in its place there’s a forest, a South African memorial forest, a European pine forest. She can name a few places but because they don’t exist anymore you don’t know what those places are. Because she was only 11 years old she doesn’t have that grasp on geography.

But when I got the maps I looked them up. Last summer I was visiting my family — they live in Kitchener/Waterloo, close to Toronto. My grandma was there and I was asking her, Teta, can you describe your house to me again? So she started describing and she was like, oh, it’s on top of the hill called El Khirba. And I looked at the map and there it was: El Khirba. It was labeled on that map. Then she was like, if you look from our house qibli (in the direction of Mecca, south) you would see Esh Shajara, the other village, and sure enough it’s on the map. If you go there right now wouldn’t see it but on the map it’s right there. It’s directly south. She would describe all of those landmarks and those features and, sure enough, they’re on their map.

To me, it’s extremely profound. Finally I know what my grandma’s talking about. Even if I can’t access it today, at least there’s this physical remnant that has been left to us. It’s particularly interesting if you’re thinking about archives. I learned this because I’m more of a technical person so I’m not as well-versed in the terminology of the philosophy of archives. But my collaborator, Hana Sleima [see also: Constructing a Palestinian Oral History Archive], taught me this term: “reading against the archival grain”.

Those maps were made by colonizers. During the British Mandate, they went in and decided that now the land of Palestine is theirs and they are going to map it. They made highly detailed maps and now, as the victims of that colonization, we Palestinians can read those maps with a purpose that’s completely different from the purpose that they were intended for by the colonizers. We’re reading those maps in a way that is not in alignment with their original purpose.

This is common among people of the South when they’re reading their archives, especially in colonial archives. That’s one of the really powerful things that we’re enabling through this project: You can understand your own history and you can have a different understanding of your own history by taking a critical look at the archives.

Can you hone in on a moment where you felt a sense of success with this project?
Both projects are a work in progress, but the biggest sense of success that I have is when I demo those project to people. Especially the Palestine Open Maps project — when I demo it, especially people who are descendants of Palestinian refugees and I ask them, what’s the name of your grandparents village? All of them know the name but they don’t know where it is geographically. It could be in the north, it could be in the south, they don’t know. I take my phone and I show them, this is what it was like.

People are kind of shocked and taken aback. They spend a surprisingly long time just navigating their map, zooming into details like, you can see where the school was. I was looking for another map and it had a museum there. It’s a small village that has a museum — why? There are all of these nuances about our lives as Palestinians that have been systematically erased that we can actually extract again out of these maps and reconstruct.

One of my goals is to combine this archive of the maps with another archive — the Palestine Oral History Archive — because they have a collection of interviews with people who knew Palestine before the Nakba. Whenever a place is mentioned in those narratives and those interviews, can we have it pinpointed on the map? And then can you hear the story about that place?

People get so excited about this and that, in turn, excites me. I think that’s the biggest success of this project: Using the power of technology, turning this abstract concept of Palestine that we’ve been told about as children — this is your homeland and this is the place where you belong — turning that into something that’s really tangible.

As I’m listening to you, there was a connection that came up in my head. Dave Isay, the person who started StoryCorps has a TED Talk where he describes documenting people’s stories — and sharing them back. When he did that, one of the participants grabbed the printed story and started screaming, “I exist! I exist!” [See minute 2:10] For me, this connects to both the mapping and the oral history. When you do your demo and someone says, this was the name of the place. And you show them: Here it is! It’s not just in your head. The place exists and your story exists.
Totally. I hesitate to talk about this because it always brings weird critiques. But, the central premise of the creation of Israel is that this is a land without a people for people without a land. But if you look at those maps it just shows so clearly that there were people in that place.

If you positioned this project in an intellectual history of the Palestinian struggle, to me it’s a descendant of a project called The Atlas of Palestine by Salman Abu Sitta. The book is in two parts. One is the atlas which compiles the paper maps of Palestine and records about localities and census and so on. It’s a paper book that’s really thick and huge and heavy. And the other component of that book is called The Return Journey. It proposes that the land of the historic Mandate Palestine, between the Jordan River and the sea, can fit everyone. It can fit the four and a half million Jews who live in that land right now, and all of the Palestinian refugees that have been ethnically cleansed.

There’s no need for anyone to have to be forced to leave. We can all live there in a democratic state where everyone is an equal citizen. This project is a small step towards furthering that goal. All of us are equal human beings and we should have equal rights to live in the lands where we belong. [laughing] It gets really heavy whenever you’re talking about Palestine!

That is a beautiful and admirable sentiment. Thinking again about these projects, can you hone in on a moment where you faced a challenge or a struggle?
On the Palestine Open Maps project, even something as simple as getting those maps was a struggle. We kept reading references to those maps in various books about Palestine, but we never actually saw them. We’d see small scans of a single village but we’d never get the access to the whole map.

Then eventually, ironically enough, we found them in the Israeli National Library Archives. They’re all scanned at very high resolutions, which is perfect for us. But if you go to the website, the content management system that they use doesn’t give you the entire image. You can’t just download the entire image. If you right-click on it, it gives you a smaller section. Also: You can’t access .il Israeli domain names from Lebanon because the two countries are at war. So we have to circumvent that and use Dropbox to download all of the files, and write a script that takes every tile, stitches them together, and saves them back to Dropbox. It was a very elaborate process technically to circumvent all of those restrictions — whether they’re technical or political — and get those maps. So that’s one thing.

And then in the Arab world, there’s a lot of technical people, but the good geeks — the nerds that we rely on to build our tools — everyone just leaves and goes to Europe or North America. There is a huge brain drain and when you want to start building a platform like this one, especially when we first started — before I got the fellowship that’s helping me build the platform now — I didn’t have much time to develop it.

It was a very slow process of me wrangling in a few hours here and there to work on development. It was also trying to get people to learn front-end frameworks for Javascript so that we could build it in a modular way that doesn’t turn into spaghetti code and become completely unsustainable a year later. I had to convince people to learn Vue.js as a front-end development framework. We just don’t have enough technical people who could help us grow this project to its full potential.

The project has so much potential, and it gets people excited so much, but we don’t have the technical capacity to take it to the next step because it’s just me and a couple of other people very-part time right now. Everyone else who can help is in a different country and is unable to help on this.

Then, one of the scary things for me is that I don’t want this project to die after my fellowship is over. It’s always so difficult to fund anything that’s related to Palestine. In terms of sustainability and in terms of funding, I’m kind of scared of not being able to find funding for it over the long-term.

Also, if we talk about the Oral History Archives, there is the question of finding developers to help me out because I’m going to be doing it all by myself. Finding developers to help me out will be difficult. I found someone from Mozilla who was willing to do code reviews for me, which is awesome. But I envisioned this as an open source project that is sustainable over the long term.

The front-end framework that I’m using just announced plans to make another major release which breaks backwards compatibility in mid-2019, which is around the time that the platform is going to be released. That means that immediately — as soon as it’s released — the next version of the front-end framework that we’re using is going to be outdated, which breaks backward compatibility. So we’ll need to work on an update.

All of this means that the only way to make this project sustainable is to turn it into an open source project that has a lot of different institutions invested in it so that we can have a front-end developer and a back-end developer who can spend one or two days a week making sure that it’s running smoothly. A big challenge for me is figuring out how can we activate an open source community around this project — specifically in this region. We need to consolidate the power of the open community so that our projects become more sustainable over the long term, both technically and financially.

What kind of funder support would help you take your work to the next level?
We can split that for the two different projects. For the Palestine Open Maps Project, the project is not about the maps themselves, it’s about the story that they tell. How can we build storytelling tools based on those maps that reveal the nuance of Palestinian life over the long term? To do that, you need a team of three people: a user experience designer, a front-end developer, and maybe a researcher who could extract all of the narratives. At least three people, maybe more. So we would need funding for that team to sit down together and collaborate — let’s say for a year — and make this project reach its full potential.

The cool thing about this project is that it’s providing the raw data, a base that other projects can build on. In the current phase of the Palestine Open Maps Project, we’re vectorizing all of the map data. You can already download all of the data and it’s all licensed as CC0 — no rights reserved.

One of my major inspirations is the New York Public Library’s NYC Space/Time Directory, which digitized maps of New York that were made by fire insurance companies. One of my favorite geographers and cartographers, her name is Leah Meisterlin, has done amazing work on cross-referencing different data sets with the fire insurance maps data set. So, after it was vectorized by the Space/Time team, she overlaid that data with other data and she came up with this really nuanced vision of what New York looked like in the 1800s. Where the rich people lived, where the poor people lived, as well as the class distribution. It’s so fascinating!

This place where we walk right now, it used to be inhabited by people and this is what the character of this neighborhood looked like 100 years ago, 150 years ago. If I can do the same thing with Palestine Open Maps for Palestine, that would be an amazing thing for me.

One of the major goals for the oral history archival tool is that we wanted to point out all of the epistemological decisions and ontological decisions that an archivist has to make when they’re creating an archive. So something as basic as do you do transcription or do you do segmentation? It’s a big question mark because there are schools of people who are very strict adherents of one way or another of doing oral history archiving. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and there is no correct answer. Hana and I tried to incorporate those decisions in the platform.

How do segmentation and transcription differ, for those of us who are not familiar?
Transcription is when you take every single word and you write it down. With segmentation, the goal is to preserve the orality of an oral history testimony. So if you transcribe, you can read the text and you know the content, but you lost the orality — the tone, the nuance of the language, the intonation, and so on. But it’s really good for searching. You can just search for a keyword, then you find all its appearances in the text.

With segmentation you say, okay, from this second [timestamp] in the interview the person was introducing themselves and explaining where they’re from. And then from this second to this second they’re talking about the chemical attacks in Ghouta, for example. You have keywords and subject headings for each one of those segments. You don’t have a word-for-word transcript, but what you do have is an index of the content of that segment. You can still search it, but you are forced to listen to it so that you can get the texture of the sounds.

So segmentation is like a metadata approach?
Totally. I think that this platform is really useful in pointing out the decisions that an archivist has to make. We’re trying to create a guide that accompanies the use of the platform so it’s not just stand-alone software, it sits in the context of this debate in the oral history community.

How can it be sustainable on both fronts: in continuing the conversation on an intellectual level of how to archive an oral history collection, and how can we make sure that the actual code is sustainable?

Hana Sleiman is my collaborator on the MASRAD: Platform for the Syrian Oral History Archive project [website will be live soon!]. Ahmad Barclay and Hanan Yazigi are my main collaborators on the Palestine Open Maps project. With two other people we’re starting to think about how to create a collective that embraces those two projects plus our other projects around knowledge production and knowledge dissemination, especially in the Arabic language but generally around this region. I see MASRAD, which is the name of the collective that we’re trying to create, as a sustainable vehicle for the Syrian Oral History Archive project — but it’s not the ultimate answer.

Beyond the money, what would you say that the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship contributed to your work?
The first thing that I should say is that I recognize the importance of our people to us. Bassel Khartabil, who my fellowship is named after, I was not around when he was around. I was studying in Canada. But I knew of him and everyone I’ve talked to in our community right now has had some interaction with him. His legacy is still there. If there’s one thing that this fellowship has given me, it’s access to that network of people who have similar beliefs, who have been touched by the same values that Bassel was striving towards. Access to all of the people in his community.

I’m afraid of idealizing him. Of course he was an amazing guy, but he’s not a perfect guy. He was a very active member in our community, and if you want to kill a movement, you kill its leaders. That’s what happened to the Palestinian movement in the eighties — there was a series of assassinations of Palestinian leaders all over Europe by the Mossad. Car bombs and poisonings and so on. This is what happened when we lost someone like Bassel.

What this fellowship has given me is access to that network and a chance to connect people and disparate projects together with the weight of the three big organizations that are sponsoring this fellowship: MozillaCreative Commons, and WikiMedia.

When I went to MozFest I was meeting my people! Especially Jon Phillips and Mahmoud Wardeh— he’s “@lurnid” on the internet. We had this really beautiful moment of connecting over Palestinian-ness and our desire to push for openness and for that connection in our community.

It’s those beautiful human interactions that the community has given us.

Right. It’s like, these are my people. It comes back to “I exist, we exist.”
Yeah, that’s so true.

The movement you were talking about, how would you describe it? What is that legacy?
It has a couple of aspects to it. One is the bigger umbrella that is the struggle for democracy in our region. In 2011 we were so hopeful. I can’t even tell you the level of hopefulness that was engulfing the entire region. I was living in Italy when Mubarak stepped down and I could feel it from there. Then that quickly collapsed over the next few years.

But we still believe, regardless, that the tool to accomplish our goal, which is having democratic representation of ourselves, is openness, with all of its permutations. Whether we’re talking about open source, having access to the inner workings of the tools that we are using, or whether we’re talking about open institutions, having access to archives of the state and having access to data that’s being produced by the state.

There’s an idiom in English: sunlight is the best disinfectant. So the more open that we are, the more capable we are at disinfecting our region from the corruption that is very deeply situated in it.

That’s the legacy: How can we use the tools of openness to extend our goals of democracy and participation and representation?

Those are all the questions I have for you, but is there anything more you want to tell me?
This is a lot more emotional than I thought it was going to be!

I feel you on the emotional bit! These are challenging and profound issues that go beyond one people. Your vision for what you want to achieve and your values touch everybody. What you’re discussing is very profound for everyone. As you were talking about how there’s space for everyone, I had a vision of being able to use those stories that are grounded in specific places to enter into dialogue with the people who now live there. Sharing stories can be the beginning of a truth and reconciliation process. They help people to listen to each other, make space for each other, and go forward.
One of the things that happened at MozFest, I was doing the demo at the science fair and three things stood out for me. One of the things that’s really cool at MozFest is that there was a lot of ethnic diversity. It was just not Europeans and North Americans. It was everyone and that was really cool.

Among those people who came were lot of South Asians. Personally, I feel a lot of solidarity with South Asian people because we’ve both been colonized by the United Kingdom. One of the lines that I had in my demo is, the British loved making maps. And there’s always this mutual look of recognition whenever there is a South Asian person in the crowd that I’m demo-ing to. They smile and I can catch it and there’s this moment of solidarity between us. There’s mutual understanding even if we don’t have to explicitly say it.

Only two people had a negative reaction to the project and one was this young woman. I’m happy for people to ask questions and learn from my experience, but she was asking them in a very aggressive way. Questions like, “Is it normal for people to be ethnically cleansed during a war?” It’s not normal. Even if it was normal, it shouldn’t happen! Then she was asking me all of these basic questions that showed she didn’t actually know anything about the conflict. And as she was asking me all of these questions there was this other guy who immediately identified himself as an Israeli and he kept saying things like that were denying my Palestinian-ness. Like, “Why do you call yourself a Palestinian refugee? You don’t count as a Palestinian refugee.” I said, “I have the goal of keeping your right of return to what you consider your Jewish homeland. I want to keep that. In return, give me my right of return as well. Your right of return is 2000 years old. My right to return is 70 years old. This desire to return is a mutual feeling between us and you should be as understanding of it and of me as I am of you.” That was what I was trying to convey to him, but he was very rooted in his denial of this.

I wonder if this project, if it combines with oral history, if it combines with other programs that add nuance and texture to Palestinian life, can stand in opposition to narratives that just say “Palestinians want to kill us and throw us in the sea.” If we can use all of these tools to enhance the image that Israeli Jews have of of Palestinians then maybe we can reach a solution before it’s too late.

The first step of hate speech is to dehumanize and I see your work as infusing that humanity back in by replacing the texture — by replacing the depth from mundane observations like, “From my village here, I could see that village there.” It’s memory, it’s not political. And it creates the opportunity for a bridge. Thank you.
Thank you for being a great listener.

 Photo of Majd above copyright by Cynthia Kreichati, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

The post Openness, Mapping, Democracy, and Reclaiming Narrative: Majd Al-shihabi in conversation appeared first on Creative Commons.

Building CC’s Network at scale for a new era of growth and opportunity

Creative Commons Global Network Strategy by Giulia Forsythe. CC0 Source: Flickr

How can we build a Global Network at scale, empower members and communities to lead, and drive a new era of growth and opportunity for Creative Commons and its community? CC has been engaged with this question over the past few years as we rebuild our Global Network to work better together. Today, we’re celebrating 306 individual members and 42 institutional members! Membership is distributed across 68 countries, and 31 chapters – a truly global movement for the Commons.

Structured membership has been the key to the network’s growth. With a network site and robust vouching system, our members are self-organizing in platforms, committees, and chapters with clear, inclusive pathways for contribution.

In November, the network’s governing council met to solidify and approve network activity, which means that now is a great time to join the platform of your choice. The list of platforms, working documents, and invitation to get involved is below:

  1. Open Education Platform
    • Platform working document
    • 845 members from 55+ countries
    • platform vision, mission, scope, goals, principles approved
    • Working on process to propose, select, fund and launch international open education activities / projects
  2. Copyright Reform Platform
    • Platform working document
    • 150 members
    • Platform rationale, goals and objectives, areas of engagement approved
    • Working on drafting collaborative projects
  3. Community Development Platform
  4. Open GLAM Platform
  5. Culture Platform

Whether you’re a CC Newbie or a seasoned Commoner, you’re invited to join the platform of your choice to connect, build, and grow. Want to jumpstart your involvement? Register for the CC Summit today and meet community members from around the world.

Other ways to get involved:

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CC’s 4.0 license suite now in Greek

Guest post by Ioanna Tzagaraki from the University of Cyprus.

All six of the Creative Commons licenses v4.0 are now available in Greek as a result of the joint and volunteer effort of the University of Cyprus, the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus, and the legal firm Ioannides Demetriou LLC. The multi-year process began when the first draft translation of the Creative Commons license into Greek was submitted to CC HQ in 2016.

Working under the supervision of Dr. Eleni Tatiana Synodinou, Associate Professor of the Dept. of Law at the University of Cyprus, the Greek Creative Commons licenses were drafted by volunteer law students of the University of Cyprus:

  • Alexander Gioumouxouzis, LL.B University of Cyprus
  • Constantina Markou, LL.B. University of Cyprus
  • Eleni Koumidou, Legal Consultant, LL.M Queen Mary University of London – Banking and Finance Law
  • Georgina Athanasiou, Attorney at Law, LL.B. University of Cyprus
  • Ioanna Georgiou, Attorney at Law, LL.B. University of Cyprus, European Master’s Degree on Human Rights and Democratisation, European InterUniversity Center
  • Ioanna Tzagkaraki, LL.B. University of Cyprus, Head of the Translation Working Group
  • Maria Spurou, Attorney at Law – Legal Consultant, LL.B. University of Cyprus.

The finalization of the Creative Commons licenses in Greek was succeeded in cooperation with CC Greece – EELLAK, represented by Alexandros Nousias.

With the Greek translation now published, Creative Commons Cyprus will continue communicating the Creative Commons licenses to local creators, users, and cultural institutions. To this end, the University of Cyprus, in coordination with the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus, has already organized a series of conferences, seminars, and workshops in order to reinforce the message of “some rights reserved” and open access in Cyprus.

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