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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 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07614

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, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19774072

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 PalOpenMaps.org. 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.

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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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Join us for A Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain

On January 1, 2019 in the United States, tens of thousands of new works will join iconic pieces such as Katsushika Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa as a part of the public domain.

Save the date! Please join us on January 25, 2019 for a grand day of celebrating the public domain.

Co-hosted by Creative Commons and the Internet Archive, this celebration will feature a keynote address by Lawrence Lessig, 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 San Francisco, and is free and open to the public.

RSVP now before the tickets run out.

The public domain is our shared cultural heritage, a near limitless trove of creativity  that’s been reused, remixed, and reimagined over centuries to create new works of art and science. The public domain forms the building blocks of culture because these works are not restricted by copyright law. Generally, works come into the public domain when their copyright term expires. But U.S. copyright law has greatly expanded over time, so that now many works don’t enter the public domain for a hundred years or more. Ever since the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, no new works have entered the public domain (well, none due to copyright expiration). But for the first time this January, hundreds of books, films, visual art, sheet music, and plays published in 1923 will be free of intellectual property restrictions, and anyone can use them for any purpose at all.

Join creative, legal, library, advocacy communities to celebrate the public domain growing again for the first time in decades, and come network with an amazing lineup of people and organizations who will help us welcome this new class of public domain works.  Presenters include Larry Lessig, academic, political activist, and founder of Creative Commons, Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and co-editor of Boing Boing, Pam Samuelson, copyright scholar, Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, Jamie Boyle, the man who literally wrote the book on the public domain, and many others.

In the evening, the celebration continues as we transition to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for the World Premiere of Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky’s Quantopia: The Evolution of the Internet,

a live concert synthesizing data and art, both original and public domain materials, in tribute to the depth and high stakes of free speech and creative expression involved in our daily use of media. Attendees of our Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain event can get discounted tickets here. If you can’t make the daytime event, separate tickets for Quantopia are available here.

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Welcome Kriti Godey, CC’s new Director of Engineering

I’m very excited to announce a new addition to the Creative Commons team. Please join me in welcoming Kriti Godey, who will be taking on the role of CC’s Director of Engineering.

Kriti joins our staff after four years in engineering leadership roles at Ridecell and a CTO role at CasaHop. We asked Kriti if she’d be up for writing a brief bio for the CC site. It’s pretty terrific, so I’ll share it here:

==

Kriti Godey (credit: Joseph Spiros, CC BY-ND)

Kriti shipped her first website when she was ten years old and has been coding ever since. Prior to joining CC, she focused on leading happy and productive distributed engineering teams at startups, and has enjoyed architecting and building both consumer-facing and enterprise software.

She is a firm believer in the value of remix culture and free software and is excited to expand its reach and accessibility through her work at CC.

Kriti grew up in southern India and moved to the U.S. to attend Oberlin College, where she majored in computer science and mathematics. She is now a proud American citizen, and lives in Oberlin with her husband and 13 overflowing bookcases.

==

I also want to thank the departing Paola Villarreal for her work as CC’s first Director of Product Engineering. It’s been my great pleasure to work with her, and I’m incredibly proud of all she has done in the position, and grateful for the team she’s helped build. CC will miss you, Paola, and we wish you great success in your new role.

The post Welcome Kriti Godey, CC’s new Director of Engineering appeared first on Creative Commons.

CC Certificate Changes and Improvements for 2019

Background: The CC Certificate provides an-in depth study of Creative Commons licenses and open practices, developing participants’ open licensing proficiency and understanding of the broader context for open advocacy. The course content targets copyright law, CC legal tools, values and recommended practices of working in a global commons. The CC Certificate is a 10-week online course for educators and academic librarians.

2018 was a big year for the Creative Commons Certificate program! We beta-tested the first two CC Certificate courses for educators and academic librarians, updated our course content, licensed it CC BY, and shared it with the world; we launched nine official courses for 225 participants, and have since iterated on almost every aspect of the Certificate based on feedback from the global community. As we approach 2019, we are taking stock of 2018’s learnings and now proudly announce updates for the new year.

Our approach to the CC Certificate is one of iteration based on community needs. Each year, we will evaluate what works and what can be improved, based on participant, instructor, and broader community feedback. Thanks to your input and our own lessons learned in 2018, we are making the following changes and improvements:

1) We’re updating our pricing. Why? First, because this program has to be sustainable – our new price will ensure we cover 100% of CC’s cost of delivery, including paying all community instructors who teach, technology and content maintenance, and program expansion and updates, including reaching new audiences and new languages. CC is a non-profit, and we want this program to thrive.

Second, from our initial launch, we knew that there would be some who couldn’t afford to pay full price for the program. As promised, we are creating a scholarship program so the Certificate can be more inclusive of colleagues with less ability to pay, especially CC’s vibrant communities in the Global South. Our new price allows us to build and replenish an annual scholarship fund, offering subsidized CC Certificates to as many participants as possible. Those who pay full price for the course subsidize those who are less able to do so. We will offer at least 15 scholarships in 2019, and hope to provide more as the program grows.

In 2019 and in years to come we will continue to make the CC Certificate both self-sufficient and financially accessible for our global audience.

2) There is more community demand for the Certificate training than CC can currently accommodate. To address this, we have built and will beta-test a CC Certificate Facilitator Training starting in January 2019. Ensuring there are more well-trained and knowledgeable facilitators will allow us offer more CC Certificate courses in the future.

3) While the Certificate program has hosted participants from every global region, we have drawn more participation from the U.S. and Canada. Because the Certificate program is global, we will continue to engage a more global, diverse community by:

  • Developing a scholarship program to support community members’ enrollment, particularly community members from the Global South (as mentioned above).
  • Supporting translations of Certificate content. Community members have already volunteered to translate the Certificate in multiple languages, from Bahasa to Italian to Arabic. We will support translations in a responsible way, ensuring languages are aligned with course developments and annual updates.
  • Developing more local case studies about copyright law and open licensing in different countries. Thanks to participants’ help, we have several case studies drafted.
  • Launching in-person Certificate trainings, or “bootcamps” specialized for select groups that need CC Certification in a short time-frame.
  • Assisting participants with new ways to learn and share with each other, since there is not one platform that works for everyone. For example, we learned a participant in China could only access our epub OER content (available here) rather than content on our main learning platform, Canvas. While we explore new avenues for learning and collaboration, we celebrate the ways participants are already doing this: hosting workshops and conference sessions, developing OER courses, and creating informational flyers for their institutions.
  • Revising the CC Certificate must balance a global, inclusive, and iterative approach with focused, specialized expertise. While we continue to gather participant recommendations and feedback from the global community, we will also launch a CC Certificate Advisory Board of legal and instructional design experts. The Advisory Board will provide input for annual content updates and engage with participants in online course webinars throughout the year.

We are proud of the Certificate we’ve built together so far. We accept anyone interested in taking the Certificate course; our costs are as low as possible, while still offering a scholarship program and maintaining quality content and services; and the course is supporting learners beyond the certification program — several other programs are freely remixing portions of our CC BY licensed Certificate OER for their own audiences. We couldn’t have done it without the contributions of dozens of experts, CC community leaders, and over 100 beta testers from all over the world. Thank you.

We will continue offering the CC Certificate with the greatest flexibility, openness and affordability we can. As such, it is important to us to keep improving the CC Certificate course with community input.

Opportunities for your engagement

In addition to the developments mentioned above, we will explore other improvements to the program in 2019 — making the CC Certificate more inclusive and globally accessible, while ensuring self-sustainability. Have ideas for us?

  • Share your ideas with #cccert on Twitter.
  • Continue to make notes and recommendations via Hypothes.is.
  • Use our CC BY licensed, downloadable and editable CC Certificate content, then let us know what is most useful to you.
  • Sign up to take a Certificate course and engage with the growing Certificate community of participants, alumni, mentors, facilitators, and content experts. Registration for courses in 2019 is open here.
  • Join us for an online Certificate overview and brainstorm session, exploring how to better deliver the Certificate and support open communities: 18:00 EST/ 23:00 UTC on https://www.uberconference.com/creativecommons. If you cannot join, please share questions in advance and we will share a recording. We look forward to working with you!

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CC Summit registration is now open!

Great news! We’re excited to announce that registration for the 2019 Creative Commons Global Summit is now open.

The Creative Commons Global Summit will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, 9-11 May 2019.

Join us for three days of dynamic programming at Museu do Oriente, with a special keynote evening event held at the historic Cineteatro Capitolio.

We’ve grown the CC Global Summit every year as hundreds of leading activists, advocates, librarians, educators, lawyers, technologists, and more have joined us for discussion and debate, workshops and planning, talks and community building. Whether you’re new to the community or a long-time contributor, the CC Global Summit is a can’t-miss event for anyone interested in the global movement for the commons.

Your Participant Pass includes: 

  • Access to all conference programming including workshops, talks, and keynotes (full schedule to be announced in early 2019)
  • Breakfast, lunch, and snacks served onsite every day
  • Evening events showcasing local Lisbon artists

Please be sure to read the event’s Code of Conduct. All attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers at our conference are expected to cooperate to help ensure a safe environment for everyone.

Submit a proposal for the CC Global Summit program!

As always, the summit’s programming is built out of ideas from you. Are you an activist, artist, educator, creator, partner, community member, lawyer, journalist, or CC enthusiast? Submit a proposal for a summit session. We’re accepting proposals through December 10, 2018.

A huge thanks to the CC Portugal team for their ongoing support in co-hosting the event. We’re excited to see you in Lisbon in May!

Photo in graphic by Aurélien Maillet (aka sharkgraphic), used under CC0. Thanks, Aurélien!

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EU’s proposed link tax would [still] harm Creative Commons licensors

Chains by Christina McCarty, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In September 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. Now the Parliament and Council (representing the Member State governments) are engaged in closed-door negotiations, and their task over the coming months is to come up with a reconciled version of the directive text, which will again be voted on in the European Parliament next year.

Article 11: The wrong solution to a real problem

A major provision that will be discussed is Article 11, the new “press publisher’s right” (also known as the link tax). Both the Parliament and Council have already approved versions of this unnecessary and counterproductive “publisher’s right,” which would require news aggregators that wish to index or incorporate links and snippets of journalistic content to first get a license or pay a fee to the publisher for their use online.

The Parliament’s version of Article 11 says Member States must adopt the new right so press publishers “may obtain fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications by information society service providers.”

Article 11 is ill-suited to address the challenges in supporting quality journalism, and it will further decrease competition and innovation in news delivery. Spain and Germany have already experimented with similar versions of this rule, and neither resulted in increased revenues for publishers. Instead, it likely decreased the visibility (and by extension, revenues) of published content—exactly the opposite of what was intended. Just last week a coalition of small- and medium-sized publishers sent a letter to the trilogue negotiators outlining how they will be harmed if Article 11 is adopted.

Collateral damage: those that want to share under CC

Not only is a link tax bad for business, it would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached, such as creators who want to share works under open licenses. This could be especially harmful to Creative Commons licensors if it means that remuneration must be granted notwithstanding the terms of the CC license. This interpretation is not far-flung. As IGEL wrote last week,

“the Parliament’s proposal makes it clear that press publishers should receive financial compensation from search engine providers in particular when they display links to publishers’ websites. Member States, however, could now come up with the idea that this goal could be achieved most effectively if publishers could not waive their right to remuneration. Only the amount of the remuneration claim would then still be negotiable, but not its assertion.”

As we’ve said before, such a right “directly conflicts with publishers who wish to share freely and openly using Creative Commons licenses. Forcing publishers who use CC to accept additional unwaivable rights to receive payment violates the letter and spirit of Creative Commons licensing and denies publishers the freedom to conduct business and share content as they wish.”

When an author applies a Creative Commons licenses to their work, they grant to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. The license text specifically states, “To the extent possible, the Licensor waives any right to collect royalties from You for the exercise of the Licensed Rights, whether directly or through a collecting society under any voluntary or waivable statutory or compulsory licensing scheme.”

For example, the Spanish news site eldiario.es releases all of their content online for free under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. By doing so, they are granting to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. Other news publishers in Europe using CC licenses that could also find themselves swept up under this new provision include La Stampa, 20 Minutos, and openDemocracy. These outlets have made a conscious decision to share their works for free under Creative Commons licenses without having to jump through additional hoops of charging aggregators or search engines for displaying links and snippets to their stories. If Article 11 would be deemed an unwaivable right, would it prevent these news publishers from using CC altogether since the license would conflict with the legal requirement?   

We firmly believe the author’s right to choose to share, or to seek compensation for all or some uses of their works. At the same time, the EU copyright directive must find a solution that also honors those authors who choose to share with few or no restrictions.

What can be done?

Article 11 should be deleted. Publishers already benefit greatly from the copyrights they have in their content, and don’t need an additional exclusive right to protect or exploit those rights. It’s clear that an additional right for press publishers will not support quality journalism, increase the diversity of media content, or grow the digital single market. Instead, it will negatively affect access to information and the ability for publishers to share using the platforms, technologies, and terms beneficial to them.

For years academics and public interest advocates have advocated for an easier and more effective way to promote the aims of quality journalism and the ability of press publishers to sustain their efforts without a new press publishers right. This approach was presented in the Parliament by former JURI Rapporteur Comodini, and that would rely on a presumption that publishers are the rights holders, thus making it easier for these entities “to conclude licences and to seek application of the measures, procedures and remedies.” The Parliament’s own research even recommended such an approach. This framing, which draws from Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, already provides a robust legal framework for the protection of content without the negative aspects of introducing a new right.

If including some version of Article 11 is unavoidable, the Council version should be prioritised, since it already includes some protections for works under open licenses, or in the public domain. For instance, the previous Council text includes the following provision: “When a work or other subject-matter is incorporated in a press publication on the basis of a non-exclusive licence, the rights […] may not be invoked to prohibit the use by other authorised users [or] works or other subject-matter whose protection has expired.” In addition, the Council text only permits a 1 year term of protection, as opposed to the 5 year term offered by the Parliament version.

So far, the direction of the EU copyright directive reflects a disturbing path toward increasing control of the web to benefit only powerful rights holders at the expense of the open internet, freedom of expression, and the rights of users and the public interest in the digital environment. In the current negotiations, the Parliament and Council should not double down and punish Creative Commons licensors and others who want to share broadly with the world. These authors and creators have made a deliberate choice to use CC legal tools so that others may benefit. Their contributions to the commons should be respected and protected.

Authors:

Timothy Vollmer is Senior Public Policy Manager at Creative Commons. 

Dr. Till Kreutzer is a lawyer,  journalist, and Creative Commons Global Network Council Representative for CC Germany. He leads the Initiative Against An Ancillary Copyright For Press Publishers (“Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht”, or IGEL).

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CC Working with Flickr to Protect the Commons

Flickr is one of the most important platforms to host and share CC licensed works on the web, and over 400 million of the photos there are CC licensed – representing over a quarter of all CC licensed works on the web. When Flickr was acquired by online photography service SmugMug last year, we were excited to see that a family-owned values-driven company had purchased it.

When I visited the SmugMug offices, I met a group of people with a deep passion for photography communities and a love for Flickr. They were also worried about its future after many years of neglect and a lack of a viable business model. They were committed to getting the service back on track — doing all the necessary back-end engineering, fixing things that users hated like Yahoo! login, and protecting and expanding the Commons.

For the first time in a long time, I was optimistic about Flickr and its future. I still am.

Today, Flickr announced that they will be limiting the number of photos in their free accounts to 1,000 images, and offering an extended Pro service for $49.99 a year. Users have 3 months to consider their options. Many users are concerned such a limit on free account capacity might cause millions of CC images to be deleted from the Commons. A lot of people have reached out to us directly and asked what we can do. I’m confident that together we can find solutions, if we assume goodwill and bring our collective creativity to the problem.

Creative Commons is working closely with Flickr and its parent company SmugMug to find ways to protect and preserve the Commons, and ultimately help it grow and thrive. We want to ensure that when users share their works that they are available online in perpetuity and that they have a great experience.

At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that the business models that have powered the web for so long are fundamentally broken. Storage and bandwidth for hundreds of millions (if not billions) of photos is very expensive. We’ve all benefited from Flickr’s services for so long, and I’m hopeful we will find a way forward together.

I’m glad that Flickr hasn’t turned to surveillance capitalism as the business model for its own sustainability plan – but that does mean they’ll have to explore other options. No one wants to see works from the Commons deleted, and we’ll be the first ones to step forward to help if that ever were to happen.

I have confidence in Don and Ben and the SmugMug and Flickr teams: they want to do right for the Commons, and they understand how deeply CC and the photo Commons is integrated into the goodwill that Flickr has retained over all these years. We welcome your ideas on how we can help Flickr support the Commons, and hope we’ll be able to share something with you soon.

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Congratulations to the Graduates of our July 2018 Certificate Courses!

From July 16-September 23, Creative Commons hosted two Educator Certificate courses and two Librarian Certificate Courses. Participants from Bangladesh, Canada, China, Great Britain, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, and the US engaged in rigorous readings, assignments, discussions and quizzes. See examples of the assignments that participants participants’ assignments they’ve publicly shared under CC licenses. With the course now complete, we are thrilled to announce 83 new graduates.

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

Interested in taking the CC Certificate, yourself? Visit our Certificate website at the end of this month for updates! We will share new updates and open registration for 2019 courses by 31 October.

Also, stay tuned for an updated list of our Certificate graduates by the end of the year. CC kicked off five new Educator and Librarian courses with 125 participants from 14 countries on 1 October and we look forward to welcoming more Certificate graduates at the end of these courses.

We are inspired by our 83 recent graduates, and filled with gratitude for their amazing work. We congratulate them on successful completion of the Certificate, and look forward to their future open efforts!

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What’s next with WIPO’s ill-advised broadcast treaty?

Broadcast Tower by Alex, BY-NC-ND 2.0

Six years ago we wrote a blog post titled WIPO’s Broadcasting Treaty: Still Harmful, Still Unnecessary. At the time, the proposed treaty – which would grant to broadcasters a separate, exclusive copyright-like right in the signals that they transmit, separate from any copyrights in the content of the transmissions – had already been on WIPO’s docket for several years. It’s still on the table today, and now some countries are calling for actions to finalise the agreement.

The broadcasting treaty is still harmful and still unnecessary.

The current text contains many of the same damaging provisions, such as long term of protection (possibly 50 years) and little to no support for limitations and exceptions to the right which could provide needed protections for activities such as news reporting, quotation, education, personal use, and archiving.  

But the dealbreaker for CC is the fact that the treaty would essentially invalidate the permissions that users of Creative Commons grant when they share their creativity under open licenses, and instead gift new and unwarranted rights to broadcasting organizations that have added little or no value to the underlying work being transmitted. This is because the rights provided to broadcasters in the treaty would apply separately from copyright, thus permitting them to restrict how the content is shared even if the creator of the video or audio content has already released it under a Creative Commons license, or if it’s already in the public domain.

This week CC CEO Ryan Merkley presented at a seminar in Geneva hosted by Knowledge Ecology International. The event examined the broadcast treaty in relation to access to culture.  

Below is an excerpt from Ryan’s talk. You can watch the entire event online (Ryan’s remarks begin at 2:05:50).

Journalists, documentary filmmakers, podcast creators and others are using CC licenses to share their works broadly, and some of this media are used by traditional broadcasters too. These creators who choose to share their works and enable some permissive uses expect their works to be broadly accessible to the public under the terms of the CC license they chose. And they should be applauded for sharing works under permissive terms so their audiences can view and use them.

All Creative Commons licensors permit their works to be used for at least non-commercial purposes. When an author applies a CC license to her work, she grants to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. And many authors simply want to share their creativity freely under open terms to benefit the public good. For example, educators and scholarly researchers create and share works primarily to advance education and to contribute to their field of study—not necessarily for financial remuneration.

CC has pushed back on other policy changes in the realm of IP that would downplay or break how the CC licenses work, or enclose works that should be in the public domain. I remain concerned that the current draft would have a number of negative impacts, because it grants rights that reach overtop of those of creators.

The broadcasters argue that their investment should give them this right. But this shouldn’t be the test. The same argument could be used to give Museums rights over the works on their walls (which of course they want, and which at least one museum in Germany has successfully argued for in their courts), Movie theatres a right over the light particles that pass from the projector to the screen, or Booksellers the right over the books they put on their shelves, or even the trucking company that moves the books from the warehouse to the bookstore. Promoting and delivering content should not convey rights over the content itself — whether we call it the signal or not.

One alarming element in the proposal gives rights over the broadcast signal of works that are in the public domain or openly licensed.

In no cases should the treaty give broadcasters post fixation rights in works that are in the public domain, or openly licensed. It violates the spirit and wording of Creative Commons licensing, and creators who wish to have their works travel freely without additional strings attached. Broadcasters don’t own the content, and have no rights to the content of public domain and Creative Commons licensed works.

Works in the public domain should be free of these copyright-like restrictions, as we’ve argued in other areas – such as the notion that digital reproductions of works in the public domain should also be in the public domain (and not give rise to new copyrights).

Supporters of the broadcast treaty have failed to make a compelling, evidence-based case for a separate right, to identify the specific causes and resolutions for harm, and to show likely positive impacts of the treaty. However, there is significant risk that granting this new broadcasting right will limit access to information and culture.

Broadcasters already have legal remedies available to them to combat signal theft, and copyright law covers infringement in the underlying content.

WIPO should halt the proceedings of the broadcast treaty. With each passing year, it looks more and more like a solution in search of a problem.

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We are seeking a new Director of Engineering

Photo by WOCinTech Chat / CC BY

A couple of weeks ago, I stepped into the role of Director of Product and Research. We are now in the middle of our second sprint for CC search (see results from the last one here) and seeking a new Director of Engineering. Paola Villarreal, our current Director of Product Engineering, will be leaving us in December for a new opportunity. While we are sad to see her leave, we are excited to shape and launch a new phase for Creative Commons that aligns our vision and strategy for product with real world user needs.

The new Director of Engineering will work closely with me, the Director of Product and Research, to lead the technical design, development and implementation of CC’s products and services. Right now that primarily means CC search and its supporting parts (the CC catalog and API), and in the future that may mean new product ideas resulting from user research and pending alignment with our new product vision and strategy (read more about current usability prototypes and research here).

The Director of Engineering will also work closely with our newly formed Tools and Product team, which consists of the following fantastic people:

Sophine Clachar (Data Engineer building the CC catalog that fuels CC search), Alden Page (Software Engineer that is working on all things backend to CC search, in particular making the CC catalog accessible via an API), Steven Bellamy (Front-end Engineer that is making CC search elegant and usable for real people), Diane Peters (General Counsel that makes sure CC is legally covered across all its tools and product offerings), Sarah Pearson (Senior Counsel that also serves as product counsel for CC search), and myself. A Core Systems Manager will also be joining our team next week.

You will be stepping into a role with a lot of moving parts, but with lots of support and excitement from your peers. We look forward to your application! 

Job Opportunity: Director of Engineering

 

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Latvian 4.0 and Basque 4.0 and CC0 translations now available

Creative Commons is proud to announce the release of the official translations of the Latvian 4.0 licenses and Basque 4.0 licenses, as well as the Basque CC0 translation.

After one and a half years and many rounds of consultation, the Latvian 4.0 translation is now published on the Creative Commons site and will benefit almost 2 million native speakers. We would like to thank Toms Ceļmillers and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia for their dedicated efforts in coordinating this translation.

Thanks to an ambitious team, the Basque 4.0 and CC0 translations took only about six months of production. The translation team was comprised of Marko Txopitea, Gotzon Egia, and Ignasi Labastida i Juan. There are around 750,000 native Basque speakers in the world and almost 2 million passive speakers.

With the Spanish (Castellano) translation of 4.0 recently published and the Catalan translation underway, the CC licenses will be officially translated into three of the most frequently spoken languages in Spain.

If you are interested in helping with CC’s translation work, please join our Translation Working Group on Slack, where you can stay informed about materials that need to be translated and/or suggest new materials for the community to translate.

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CC submits proposed Amicus Brief to 9th Circuit on Proper Interpretation of BY-NC-SA 4.0

Photo copier by David Hall, CC BY 2.0

Creative Commons (CC) has asked a U.S. appeals court for permission to file an amicus brief in a lawsuit brought by Great Minds against Office Depot, to aid the court in its proper interpretation of the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

This case involves a dispute between Great Minds, the creator of educational materials paid for with public funding and licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license, and Office Depot, a commercial copyshop hired to make copies of those materials by public school districts. Great Minds claims here, and in an almost identical lawsuit brought against FedEx Office, that the schools cannot hire outside help to make the copies they need to use the materials for their non commercial purposes in the classroom. Notably, Great Minds explicitly did not object to the idea of a school board employee going to an Office Depot and using a self-serve copier (where copies are sold to customers at a profit). It was only when they engaged an Office Depot employee to make the copies that GM objected.

In the litigation against Office Depot, the district court in California ruled in favor of Office Depot, just as the New York district court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in FedEx Office’s favor. The California court agreed that so long as a copyshop is acting at the request of a non commercial actor, here the school district, the shop can make the copies and charge for and receive a profit to do so, without violating the license. This is because the copyshop is not acting on its own accord but as a delegate of school district, just as a paid employee of the school might when making copies for use in her classroom.

The brief we request be accepted reinforces what is already the established legal precedent established by the FedEx Office case in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States (spanning New York, Connecticut, and Vermont), as well as the law in the district court in California that Great Minds is now appealing.

CC supports the decision of the California court, which found Great Minds’ lawsuit was an attempt to re-argue the same facts in a different court – a previous lawsuit it had filed, appealed, and lost in the 2nd Circuit against FedEx Office. (See the court order requiring Great Minds to pay Office Depot’s attorney fees for having done so). As both the 2nd Circuit concluded in a case involving FedEx Office [pdf] and the district court concluded in California [pdf], a bona fide non-commercial user may engage contractors to exercise the licensed rights on their behalf and at their direction, irrespective of whether the contractor is itself a non-commercial actor. Notably, in the course of all of its litigation, Great Minds has never objected to the idea of a school board employee going to an Office Depot and using a self-serve copier (where copies are sold to customers at a profit). Its concern has been limited to the nearly identical circumstance a school district employee paying an Office Depot employee to make the copies instead. Were Great Minds’ theory to prevail, it would require every re-user to own the means for reproducing NC-licensed works and avoid using any for-profit actor in doing so, a result that our licenses never intended.

This is not a change from how our licenses have always worked. This does not mean, for example, that a commercial copyshop can independently make copies of NC-licensed textbooks and turn around and sell them. Nor does it mean a teacher can sell an NC-licensed textbook to her neighbor that she previously received from her school district to use in the classroom. In those cases, both the copyshop and the teacher are bound by the NC restriction because they are acting on their own and thus are licensees, in their own right, and the NC restriction would almost certainly be violated.

The filing and acceptance of amicus briefs is standard practice in U.S. appellate courts. Unfortunately, Great Minds has opposed our request on grounds that CC’s interpretation of the very licenses that we wrote and steward will not be of assistance to the Court. Filing such an opposition is rare, and CC has filed a short reply in response.

The outcomes of this case against Office Depot and the prior case against FedEx Office demonstrate the strength of the CC licenses, and we look forward to a successful conclusion in the 9th Circuit.

Finally, we want to thank Andy Gass and his team of lawyers at Latham & Watkins for their expertise and valuable insights in connection with both lawsuits.

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New NAFTA Would Harm Canadian Copyright Reform and Shrink the Public Domain

Late yesterday the U.S., Canada, and Mexico reached an agreement on a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The agreement (now rebranded as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or “USMCA”) obligates Canada to increase its copyright term by an additional 20 years if the deal is passed.

Canada currently observes the minimum term of copyright as required by the Berne Convention, which is life of the author plus 50 years. USMCA requires all signatories to agree to a term of at least life of the author plus 70 years.

The extension of already-lengthy copyright terms will discourage new creativity in Canada. It will further prevent Canadians from accessing and using the rich pool of resources in the public domain, which means they can be used free of any copyright protections. Creativity always builds upon the past, and the public domain is our shared cultural commons used to create new works of art and science. Like a sedimentary rock, the “Commons” in Creative Commons starts with the public domain. Fulfilling our mission of protecting and expanding the public domain is why we’ve developed tools to better mark and dedicate content to the public domain. We continue to advocate for changes to copyright policy that promote a robust and accessible public domain.

During the opaque renegotiation of NAFTA, we urged negotiators to ensure that the copyright provisions in the agreement should not be expanded to create new (and likely more onerous) copyright rules. We worked with international groups to release the Washington Principles on Copyright Balance in Trade Agreements to restate the obvious fact that further copyright term extensions make no sense: “there is no evidence to suggest that the private benefits of copyright term extensions ever outweigh the costs to the public.”

The end of copyright protection in a work allows for the production of new works. That is why term length is a balance to be struck — and one which Canada has handled well. Ian Fleming’s literary character James Bond, for example, entered the public domain in Canada on January 1, 2015. This allowed Canadian authors David Nickle and Madeline Ashby to produce License Expired, an anthology of unauthorized 007 stories for ChiZine Publications.

The introduction of the life +70 year copyright term is particularly damaging for Canada, which is in the middle of a national copyright reform process. Before these negotiations took place, an increase in copyright term was not  on the agenda for the Canadian reform. Last year, Canadian ministers responsible for the copyright review indicated some support of the public domain, stating that an updated law “should ensure […] that users benefit from a public domain.” In our submission to the public consultation, we wrote:

We believe that Canada has been right to push back against any extension of copyright term or expansion of the scope. The copyright term of life of the author + 50 years is already far too long. Extremely long copyright terms prevent works from entering the public domain, where they may be used by anyone — including CC licensors — without restriction as the raw material for additional creative works.

If the USMCA is adopted, it will clearly violate the direction of the Canadian copyright reform, which decided to leave the existing term as is.

The USMCA text shows the powerful hand of U.S. copyright interests. A copyright term extension was floated in earlier versions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Creative Commons joined with dozens of other organisations to push back on it then. After President Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP last year, many of the most damaging intellectual property provisions were suspended, including any call for a copyright term extension. But USMCA shows a swing back in the other direction, almost surely a result of U.S. pressure to ratchet up copyright protection and enforcement measures.  

There are countless competing interests in a massive new trade agreement like the USMCA, and this concern is only one. But from a copyright perspective, it is discouraging to see the inclusion of yet another ill-advised term extension, especially at a time when Canada is actively debating a more progressive future for its own copyright law.

There is no reason for any more copyright term extensions, which would harm the commons and are contrary to the policies and values supported by the Creative Commons community.

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Board statement on harassment, openness, and CC community

Creative Commons is firmly committed to a workplace, community, and culture of mutual respect, free of harassment. We take all allegations of harassment and misconduct very seriously. We care deeply about the pain and anguish that is felt by victims of harassment, even many years after the fact.

CC has recently become aware that former intern and employee, Billy Meinke, has published an open letter to the Board of Directors about his experience working at CC from 2012-2013. Mr. Meinke also blogged in 2017 about his experiences. In response to that post last year, the Board carefully reviewed all the facts and processes related to Mr. Meinke’s 2014 complaint to ensure the matter had been handled appropriately and fairly. We were confident that Mr. Meinke’s claims were promptly and thoroughly investigated when first reported, that CC’s response was appropriate, and that all processes and procedures were properly followed.

We take our role as a leading organization in the open community very seriously. Our strategy, policies, content, and code are all shared in an open community. These are our values, and our commitment is to be as open as we can in all of our work, because we believe it builds healthy, collaborative communities. However, sharing anything related to such sensitive matters must always be done with proper respect for the privacy and safety of the individuals involved. In light of Mr. Meinke’s decision to make his allegations public last year, we wanted to make it clear to the community that CC responds quickly to such claims and that harassment has no place in our workplace or community. We also wanted to ensure that our policies — which are overseen by the Audit Committee of the Board — are well-communicated to our employees and the public. At the time, CC shared as much detail as we felt we could in response to Mr. Meinke’s public post.

The Board has continued confidence in our leadership and staff for their response to these matters, and their efforts to ensure a positive and safe work environment for CC staff and community. Our policies apply to all staff, board members and officers, and to community members who participate in our global network and public events. These policies are designed to prevent harassment, protect victims, respond to complaints, and ensure the fair and prompt resolution of all allegations. Our policies are available for public review on our website, and are also aggregated on our public policies page.

Any member of the public may submit complaints about misconduct via email to the CC Audit Committee at audit@creativecommons.org. Complaints received by the Committee at that address are promptly handled in accordance with our policies and procedures.

Sincerely,

Creative Commons Board of Directors (Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Chair)

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Findings from the Discovery phase of CC usability

In January, Creative Commons kicked off an exciting new initiative called CC usability with two primary goals:

  1. To update the experience of CC licensing and discovery to reflect the realities of how people are sharing in 2018
  2. To anticipate and design for the future of digital content sharing

In the next two sections, I provide background on the initiative and the process we used to conduct the research. If you’re short on time, you can skip all of it and go directly to the findings. You can also peruse this slide deck for a quick visual summary.

I’m also pleased to announce that in order to further this work, I have stepped into a new role at CC. As the Director of Product and Research, I will lead the strategy, design, and implementation of CC’s product vision for CC Search and related products. Our work will be driven by a research-based approach, which you can learn more about below.

Background

“Relevance to the real world is what separates innovation from invention. Understanding why and how people do what they do today is essential to making new concepts fit into their lives tomorrow.”

— Erika Hall, Director of Strategy at Mule Design, Just Enough Research

The driving motivation behind this initiative is relevance. CC was founded in 2001 and launched its first licenses in 2002, and in the 16 years since, the landscape of the internet has changed a great deal. The CC licenses have been versioned several times over to adapt to international copyright laws and trade agreements, and we’ve developed some new tools (Public Domain Mark, CC0). Lots of programs have been founded and re-founded, driving growth of a global commons of 1.4 billion works, fostering collaboration across an international network of advocates and practitioners, and shifting norms and policies within governments and educational institutions.

But one thing that has not changed in the past decade or so that I’ve been with Creative Commons is how to actually CC license a work. Or for that matter, how to figure out which license is right for you. Or how to add license information so that your computer can detect it. And really, the following things have not changed much either: How to find licensed works. How to attribute authors. How to know whether your application of a CC license is even the right call, since your work may very well fall into the nebulous land of “emerging media and technology” that didn’t exist 16, ten or even a few years ago.

All of this is to say that while the internet and platform technologies for sharing content have changed pretty drastically — the trend towards a few major companies monopolizing content sharing and distribution, machine algorithms determining the content you consume, mobile becoming ubiquitous, media emerging that didn’t exist before like 3D printing and virtual reality — the technicalities and user experience of CC licensing and discovery have remained largely the same, raising the question of CC’s relevance in the internet of 2018.

Is CC still relevant? CC’s tools are used in many different fields, so there’s no one answer on how to be relevant, but in all fields we know the landscape has changed. The way content is created and shared has changed, and even the number and composition of the communities who do the creating and sharing has changed.

I’m happy to report that after six months of user research, I do think CC is still relevant, namely because 80+ people told us as much, and we did not just speak with the choir.

The catch? In order to remain relevant, CC will have to evolve.

Human-Centered Design

“Human-centered design is all about starting with people and building deep empathy; generating lots of possible ideas; building and testing prototypes with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting new solutions out into the world to improve lives.”

— IDEO.org

We adapted human-centered design principles to conduct our research. HCD is a philosophy and set of tools that have permeated all aspects of user experience and product design today. The specific term — human-centered design — was popularized by IDEO, the design consulting firm, which became known for its multidisciplinary approach to solving real world problems. HCD consists of three phases: discovery, design, and development. Discovery is research, including ongoing background research and reading, but most importantly, talking directly to the people who you are designing for, which in our case are the actual users and creators of digital content.

From February through July, we conducted a total of 81 interviews, in addition to pulling 36 interviews from relevant publications (CC Talks With, Humans of the Commons, Made with Creative Commons). We interviewed super, expert, and future users and creators of all kinds of media, including images, text, data, audio, 3D designs, games, virtual and augmented reality assets. We defined super users as those creators or users who have been using CC for years. We considered expert users people at the forefront of their fields, like academics and company founders, who think a lot about how CC and their subject matter intersect. And we wanted future users that were both professionals in fields like photography who don’t currently use CC but could, and those who have yet to enter a profession because they are too young, like Generation Z (yes, there is a generation after the oft talked about Millennials!). We talked to each person for roughly an hour about their motivations, behaviors, problems, and ideal outcomes for sharing content online, with and without CC licensing.

Then we aggregated, analyzed, and synthesized everything people said in all 117 interviews.

Findings

“An Insight is both an opportunity and a problem statement — two things with tension, two things where you can’t readily have both. For example, share stuff for free but also make money.”

~ Tom De Blasis, Design Strategy Consultant at (tbd) collective

Working closely with two experienced design consultants, we pulled patterns from the data, ultimately extracting nine key insights pertaining specifically to the sharing of images and longform texts (we tabled the domains of data and emerging media/tech for a later date). Insights fell loosely into three categories:

  • i) insights pertaining to CC’s current tools,
  • ii) insights pertaining to the core experience of sharing content, and
  • iii) insights about futures CC might help build.

The following nine insights are a direct result of many people voicing the same needs and concerns across 117 interviews. To preserve the privacy of our interviewees, we will not share the full interviews, but anonymous quotes are included in the slide deck.

The nine insights are:

  1. People understand that CC stands for free content sharing, but the nuances of the specific licenses are lost on them — including experts and longtime CC users.
  2. People are motivated to license their work under CC, but have a hard time figuring out how to do it.
  3. People are motivated to give credit to other people, but they find attribution complicated and a hassle.
  4. 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 insight incorporated the following two insights:
    • People care that the work they share resonates with people, especially personally, but can only know this if they are told directly by the person it resonated with.
    • People want their work to have real world or social impact, but their sense about what these impacts are are vague. However, people can identify some real or potential outcomes from sharing their work that they enjoy.   
  5. People are often first introduced to CC when they have completed a work, but at that point they are more interested in getting the work out there than thinking through a whole new system for sharing.  
  6. People want to share and find good work, but find it difficult to navigate the abundance of content and information online.
  7. People like the efficiency of sharing via centralized platforms, but are frustrated by the lack of control and ownership over their work, and increasing devaluation of individual creativity.  
  8. People aren’t driven to create for the money, but money is always a good outcome. People like sharing freely, but if someone is making a lot of money off their work, they want to be fairly compensated.
  9. People have a desire to create work that is lasting and meaningful, that eventually has a life of its own, but don’t know what to do with a work beyond publishing it.

Insights 1-3 pertain to CC’s current tools; insights 4-6 pertain to the core experience of sharing content, and insights 7-9 are about futures CC might help build.

Some of these insights may seem obvious. If so, then we did our job by bringing what was obvious to the forefront, but this time backed by data and not conjecture. Other insights are less obvious, such as the one about introducing the concept of CC too late in the process of creation. These are the kinds of insights we relish, and we dug into all insights by developing specific design challenges and generating potential solutions to meet them.

This occurred in a design workshop with CC staff from legal, product, development, and communications. Over the course of 2.5 days, we generated 250+ ideas, heat mapped them to find common issues and approaches, fleshed out the most viable ideas, and decided on nine interventions to bring forward into the Design phase. They are not the only things we’ll ever do, but they are experiments we want to try to see if they can meaningfully address the needs we have identified.

The nine interventions are:

1) New step-through process / Redo language + pathway

Prototype a new pathway and educational tool that clearly communicates the licenses and leads the creator to the appropriate license for her needs. (Insights addressed: 1, 2)

2) Publish a “How To Guide” for where to find your work

Develop and publish a guide to finding where your CC-licensed work was used online, e.g. via reverse image search. (Insights addressed: 4)

3) Button for contact

Prototype an easy way for a user to get in touch with a creator and/or vice versa that ties to a CC license or tool. This could be done in a number of ways, including a button that is chosen from a new CC chooser, a deed + platform solution that connects users to creators, or a separate “contact me” button. (Insights addressed: 4)

4) Archiving

Prototype a few concepts that provide creators with the choice of archiving a version of their works when CC licensing. This could be an archive we provide as a service, tied to a new chooser tool, a separate web page for preserving your work, and also in partnership with an organization like the Internet Archive. (Insights addressed: 7, 9)

5) Reward & Delight — infuse through all prototypes, esp #1

Use this as a framework for all prototypes we develop. In addition, prototype a small, fun idea that gives reward and delight to users, e.g. a graphic CC mascot overlaid to help users navigate the licensing process. (Insights addressed: All)

6) “Polaroid” watermark

Prototype a CC branded watermark that lives outside the image that can be added on download from CC search, as part of “no click attribution.” (Insights addressed: 3, 4)

7) No click attribution

Prototype a tool that removes all friction for users providing correct attribution. This could play out in a number of ways, including having attribution and related information attach upon download of an image (0 click attribution) in CC search, an attribution filter/plugin service that bulk links attribution, or a credit that is automatically added by a platform or related service. (Insights addressed: 3)

8) Narrow use case search

Prototype in CC search a way to search for specific materials to use for specific types of projects, starting with the most popular use cases, e.g. CC music for videos or podcasts. (Insights addressed: 6)

9) Obtain a unique ID to track your work

Prototype a CC unique ID registry that links to the CC catalog and provides information about each CC work through the ID, e.g. CC/12345 would display information such as author, number of shares, etc. (Insights addressed: 3, 4, 6)

What’s next

These nine interventions will be developed or prototyped over the next 3-6 months (pending alignment with CC’s overall product strategy given my new role). Ready prototypes, including those built related to CC Search, will be demo-ed and tested at the Mozilla Festival and Nonprofit Software Development Summit in October and November. Following the design phase, CC will reassess prototypes along user feedback and against new organizational objectives to decide which to phase into development. It’s important to note that some of these ideas might not work out, and might not solve the problems they seek to address. That’s part of the iterative process of human-centered design. Separately, CC will evaluate findings from usability research that did not make it to the design phase as part of its other organizational objectives.

The question of CC’s relevance to various user groups, particularly mainstream creators, is ongoing. We will bring forward a plan to engage more deeply in that work in the next phase of the initiative in 2019, and will engage the community in that discussion at the CC Global Summit in Lisbon next May.

Get involved

If there’s one thing you can do now, it’s to join the #cc-usability channel over at the Creative Commons Slack (https://slack-signup.creativecommons.org) and say — Hi! I’m interested in providing feedback on CC search and usability prototypes as you roll them out — or something to that effect. I’d just like to get to know you and where you’re coming from, like we got to know the 81 people we talked to earlier this year.

You can also follow me (@janedaily) on Twitter, where I’ll post updates and conferences I’ll be at.

If you’re a developer, or versed in the ways of developers, you can follow our progress on each prototype at CC’s public Github repos. We have one specifically for intervention #4 (Archiving) at https://github.com/creativecommons/cc-archive, and will be posting the rest as part of other repos at https://github.com/creativecommons.

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