What is Creative Commons? How CC came to be V1 (June 2020) on Vimeo

“This video was made for the Creative Commons Certificate course for Librarians in June 2020.

A basic understanding of copyright is necessary to understand why and how Creative Commons was founded. This video starts with a few of the notable events in the history of copyright and ends with the Creative Commons, the licenses, the organisation and the community.

This video is work in progress and might be updated in the near future.

Full text: docs.google.com/document/d/1J5R-qk8T3PwHajkd-icryrvQ2D7zMrrP8sw6J4Vn4ng/edit?usp=sharing …”

CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday!

At the end of April, CC Search officially celebrated its first birthday! After releasing the search tool last year on April 30, we eagerly watched as it was put to use. Now, with a year behind us and over 2.8 million users across 230 countries and territories, we’re gathering and examining search data to better … Read More “CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday!”
The post CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday! appeared first on Creative Commons.

CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday!

At the end of April, CC Search officially celebrated its first birthday! After releasing the search tool last year on April 30, we eagerly watched as it was put to use. Now, with a year behind us and over 2.8 million users across 230 countries and territories, we’re gathering and examining search data to better … Read More “CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday!”
The post CC Search Celebrates Its First Birthday! appeared first on Creative Commons.

Why Sharing Academic Publications Under “No Derivatives” Licenses is Misguided

The benefits of open access (OA) are undeniable and increasingly evident across all academic disciplines and scientific research: making academic publications1 freely and openly accessible and reusable provides broad visibility for authors, a better return on investment for funders, and greater access to knowledge for other researchers and the general public. And yet, despite OA’s obvious advantages, some researchers choose to publish their research papers under restrictive licenses, under the mistaken belief that by doing so they are safeguarding academic integrity

Academic fraud, whether in the guise of cheating, copying, plagiarism or using the services of essay mills, is no doubt a serious issue for the academic community the world over. This age-old problem has been happening since long before digital technologies and open licenses (such as CC Licenses) were on the scene, however. Clearly, OA is neither to blame for academic fraud nor does it invite it or make it worse. 

In this blog post, we explain that applying restrictive licenses to academic publications is a misguided approach to addressing concerns over academic integrity. Specifically, we make it clear that using Creative Commons “No Derivatives” (ND) licenses on academic publications is not only ill-advised for policing academic fraud but also and more importantly unhelpful to the dissemination of research, especially publicly-funded research. We also show that the safeguards in place within truly open licenses (like CC BY or CC BY-SA) are well-suited to curbing malicious academic behavior, above and beyond other existing recourses for academic fraud and similar abuses. 

No Derivatives licenses (CC BY-ND and CC BY-NC-ND) allow people to copy and distribute a work but prohibit them from adapting, remixing, transforming, translating, or updating it, in any way that makes a derivative. In short, people are not allowed to create “derivative works” or adaptations.

Researchers are the ultimate remixers

Researchers publish to be read, to have impact, and to make the world a better place. To accomplish these important goals, researchers need to enable reuse and adaptations of their research publications and data. They also need to be able to reuse and adapt the publications and data of others. Isaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists of all time, famously declared: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” meaning the production of new knowledge can only be achieved if researchers can rely on the ideas and publications of their peers and predecessors and revisit, reuse, and transform them, adding layer upon layer of new insights. Researchers are the ultimate remixers—OA is the ultimate way to make remixing possible. 

ND licensed publications are not Open Access

Articles published under an ND license are not considered OA, as first defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative and in its 2012 recommendations. ND licenses overly restrict reuse of content by fellow researchers and thus curtail their opportunity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge. This is the main reason why it is inadvisable to apply ND licenses to academic publications. Although ND licenses are used for certain types of content, such as official documents that are not meant to be substantively modified, using them to forbid adaptations of academic publications flies in the face of the ethos of academic research. If anything, the ND element harms researchers.

For instance, ND licenses prevent translations. Hence, given that English is the dominant language of academia, ND licenses place barriers to accessing knowledge by non-English speakers and limit the outreach of research beyond the English-speaking world. ND licenses also prevent the adaptation of the graphs, images or diagrams included in academic articles (unless separately licensed under a license permitting their adaptation), which are essential to achieve wider dissemination of the ideas expressed therein. 

Reusers might also be discouraged by how differently “adaptations” might be defined under copyright law in different jurisdictions and how differently exceptions and limitations (E&L) might apply. A notable example is the use of text and data mining (TDM) processes to generate new knowledge. Some laws are very clear about the ability of researchers to do TDM as an exception to copyright even when an adaptation is arguably made during the TDM process, and even when the output can almost never be said to constitute an adaptation of any one input. The use of an ND license might be erroneously interpreted to discourage such perfectly lawful activity altogether, and therefore present another hurdle to the progress of science. 2

Some remixes are still possible under ND licenses

Be that as it may, ND licenses do not completely bar the possibility of reusing and adapting academic publications. First, the licenses do not limit the rights that users have by virtue of the application of copyright’s exceptions and limitations, such as quotation, review, criticism or under the general doctrines of fair dealing or fair use. Further, our FAQ clarifies that, generally, no derivative work is made of the original from which an excerpt is taken when the portion is used to illustrate an idea or provide an example in another larger work. This is solely an act of reproduction, not of improving upon the pre-existing work in a way that could create an adaptation in violation of the ND license. All CC licenses grant the right to reproduce a CC-licensed work for noncommercial purposes (at a minimum). 

Moreover, anyone wishing to adapt ND-licensed publications can seek authorization from the author, who may grant an individual license. This, however, adds unnecessary transaction costs for reusers, who might choose to use different sources rather than go through the often tedious process of requesting permission. 

Despite the ways other researchers are legally able to reuse ND-licensed works, they leave much to be desired in the academic context.

All CC Licenses require attribution 

Multiple protections against reputational and attribution risks are embedded in all CC licenses, which have a strong legal history of enforcement actions against reusers that violate the licenses’ terms. These safeguards, that are in addition to and not in replacement of academic norms and practices, are in place to provide an additional layer of protection for the original authors’ reputation and to alleviate their concerns over changes to their works that might be wrongly attributed to them, such as:

  • Attribution is a requirement for all six CC licenses. Attribution (often called a “citation” in the academe) must be provided to the extent reasonable with regard to the means, medium and context of the reuse, absent a request by the author not to do so (in cases where the author believes the use is one from which s/he wishes to distance him/herself, licensees must remove attribution to the extent reasonable). 
  • Reusers are prohibited from using attribution in any way that suggests the author endorses the views of the reuser.
  • Changes made to the original licensed works must be indicated by the reuser and a link back to the original must be provided. This allows further reusers to see what was modified and, thus, what can only be attributed to the reuser and not the original author. For details, see section 3.a of the Legal Code for CC BY 4.0 licenses

Copyright is not the best framework to uphold academic integrity

Overall, copyright law and CC Licenses are not the most appropriate frameworks to address problems of academic integrity. Better results can certainly be achieved through compliance with and enforcement of relevant, well-established and enduring institutional and social norms, ethics policies, and moral codes of conduct. All told, researchers are not doing themselves or the global academe a favor when they share their publications under ND licenses. To optimize their dissemination and increase their social impact, we recommend sharing academic publications under the most open terms possible, i.e. by applying a CC BY license to the article and CC0 to the data.

We’re happy to provide further assistance and support in the interpretation of CC licenses, as well as in understanding open access for researchers. If you need help, get in touch ?info@creativecommons.org.


  1. Academic publications broadly include scholarly, academic, scientific and research books, journals, and articles/papers. Academic publications are often publicly funded.
  2. All 4.0 ND licenses permit text and data mining even if adaptations are created during the process, or as an output; however, adaptations may not be shared further and may only be used for internal or personal purposes.

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Tech Giants Join the CC-Supported Open COVID Pledge

Momentum continues to swell in support of the Open COVID Pledge, with the announcement today by Amazon, Facebook, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, and Sandia National Laboratories, that they are pledging their patents to the public to freely use in support of solving the COVID-19 pandemic. Following in the footsteps of Intel, Fabricatorz Foundation, and many others, these companies join as Founding Adopters of the Pledge by releasing hundreds of thousands of patents for use worldwide by researchers, scientists, and others who are working to end the and minimize the impact of the disease, including through research, diagnosis, prevention, and containment.

Creative Commons announced its formal support for the project earlier this month, joining forces with legal experts, researchers, and scientists to create the pledge and licenses. This included the publication of two new licenses last week. The licenses now give adopters the ability to choose between licensing all of their copyrights and patents, and licensing only their patents. You can learn more about the licenses on the website.

CC’s involvement in this coalition is a natural fit given our goal of supporting and promoting the sharing of intellectual property freely with the public in order to advance the dissemination of knowledge. Our work since the announcement has focused on building informational resources including a new set of FAQs, drafting and updating the licenses, connecting with those wishing to adopt the pledge and license their IP, and strategizing with other members of the coalition about how the project can best connect adopters with those using the licensed IP to maximize impact. We look forward to continuing this work and sharing these success stories.

Companies, universities, organizations, and individuals can make or support the Open COVID Pledge by visiting https://opencovidpledge.org or contacting opencovidpledge@gmail.com.

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Bassel Khartabil Fellowship Awarded to Tarek Loubani—Using Open Access to Combat COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Tarek Loubani (CC BY)

We are thrilled to announce today that Dr. Tarek Loubani has been awarded the 2020 Bassel Khartabil Fellowship. Loubani is the medical director of Glia, a project focused on using Open Access manufacturing and distribution in order to provide lower costs and vastly increase the accessibility of urgently needed medical supplies and gear.

The Fellowship award will allow Loubani to Combat COVID-19 through the release of Open Access plans for medical hardware, so that vital equipment may be produced cheaply by anyone with commonly available 3D printers. Loubani’s approach enables high quality devices to be made available during periods of global supply chain disruption, and in areas with limited access. Glia has released face shields already being used in the battle against COVID-19, as well as other hardware including stethoscopes, tourniquets, and otoscopes. Additional devices including pulse oximeters, electrocardiograms, and dialysis products are currently in development. See the full press release for more information about Loubani’s work and how the fellowship will support his efforts.

The Bassel Khartabil Fellowship is a project of Fabricatorz Foundation, with partnership and support provided by Creative Commons and Mozilla Foundation. The fellowship honors the work and legacy of our friend Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian technology innovator, artist, open source advocate, and Creative Commons community leader who was “disappeared” in 2012 then executed by the Syrian regime in 2015. The fellowship provides funding, mentorship, and general support to individuals and teams whose work embodies the ideals of free culture and Open Access—ideals that Bassel dedicated his life to.

The post Bassel Khartabil Fellowship Awarded to Tarek Loubani—Using Open Access to Combat COVID-19 appeared first on Creative Commons.

Now Is the Time for Open Access Policies—Here’s Why

Over the weekend, news emerged that upset even the most ardent skeptics of open access. Under the headline, “Trump vs Berlin” the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that President Trump offered $1 billion USD to the German biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure their COVID-19 vaccine “only for the United States.”

In response, Jens Spahn, the German health minister said such a deal was completely “off the table” and Peter Altmaier, the German economic minister replied, “Germany is not for sale.” Open science advocates were especially infuriated. Professor Lorraine Leeson of Trinity College Dublin, for example, tweeted, “This is NOT the time for this kind of behavior—it flies in the face of the #OpenScience work that is helping us respond meaningfully right now. This is the time for solidarity, not exclusivity.” The White House and CureVac have since denied the report. 

Today, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history—we must cooperate effectively to respond to an unprecedented global health emergency. The mantra, “when we share, everyone wins” applies now more than ever. With this in mind, we felt it imperative to underscore the importance of open access, specifically open science, in times of crisis.

Why open access matters, especially during a global health emergency 

Scottish minister talks with health workersNHS24 thanks” by Scottish Government (March 4, 2020) licensed CC BY-NC.

One of the most important components of maintaining global health, specifically in the face of urgent threats, is the creation and dissemination of reliable, up-to-date scientific information to the public, government officials, humanitarian and health workers, as well as scientists.

Several scientific research funders like the Gates Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust have long-standing open access policies and some have now called for increased efforts to share COVID-19 related research rapidly and openly to curb the outbreak. By licensing material under a CC BY-NC-SA license, the World Health Organization (WHO) is adopting a more conservative approach to open access that falls short of what the scientific community urgently needs in order to access and build upon critical information. 

All publicly funded organizations should: 1) Adopt open access policies that require publicly funded research to be made available under an open license (e.g. CC BY 4.0) or dedicated to the public domain. In practice, this means research articles and data can be freely reused by others, thereby enhancing collaboration among scientists and accelerating the pace of discovery. 2) Ensure all educational resources (such as videos, infographics and other media tools) are also openly licensed to facilitate dissemination of reliable, practical information to the public.

The current race to find a vaccine for COVID-19 exemplifies why rapid and unrestricted access to scientific research and educational materials is vital in the most open terms possible. Due to the very nature of the illness, including the fact that it was completely unknown to scientists before the outbreak and is now global, it’s impossible for just one organization, institution, and/or government to tackle this crisis alone. In fact, current global efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19 wouldn’t be possible without Chinese health officials and researchers initially sharing critical information on the nature of the virus in December 2019.  

We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history—we must cooperate effectively to respond to an unprecedented global health emergency. The mantra, “when we share, everyone wins” applies now more than ever.

Novel CoronavirusNovel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2” by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) licensed CC BY.

With cases of COVID-19 quickly surpassing 200,000 globally, there is a growing urgency for the entire scientific community to work together with health officials worldwide to find and make available treatments and vaccines. On March 13, government science advisors from 12 countries published an open letter asking publishers to make scientific research and data on COVID-19 open access. “Given the urgency of the situation,” the letter said, “it is particularly important that scientists and the public can access research outcomes as soon as possible.” Additionally, educational materials made available by intergovernmental organizations such as the WHO should be made openly available without any restrictions—this is not only necessary in this global emergency, but is consistent with their public mission and mandate.

Before this open letter was published, many scientists had already begun making their work and data open access using preprint platforms like bioRxiv, ArXiv, and Gisaid. This past week, the nonprofit organization Free Read received over 32,000 signatures on its petition to “unlock coronavirus research.” In response, publishers like Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Springer Nature, and The Lancet began removing paywalls from COVID-19 related articles. Media outlets across the world, including the New York Times, Bloomberg, The Atlantic, Clarin, Publico, Globo, and Folha are also removing paywalls from their COVID-19 content. Individual scientists, in collaboration with media outlets, have even started to release informative graphics communicating complex scientific concepts under open licenses. For example, this GIF by infectious disease expert Dr. Siouxsie Wiles illustrating how we can “flatten the curve” was released under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY-SA 4.0).

“Flattening the curve” by Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris licensed CC BY-SA.

Many open science advocates applaud these efforts to open access to scientific research on COVID-19, but they argue this is something we should’ve been doing all along. Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley and editor of the open-access science journal eLife told WIRED, “Of course this should be the default for ALL science, not just COVID-19 science, and it should have been the default for the past 25 years. But I’m glad to see this happening now.”

On its website, Plan S argues that paywalls withhold a “substantial amount of research results from a large fraction of the scientific community and from society as a whole.” This, in turn, “hinders the scientific enterprise in its very foundations and hampers its uptake by society.” For example, researchers examining the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa found that access to vital knowledge about the virus and the risk factors prior to the outbreak was inhibited by publisher paywalls. They wrote, “Although access to knowledge would not of itself have prevented or averted the Ebola epidemic, better-informed health officials might have taken timely preventive measures and been better equipped to mitigate risks during and after the outbreak.” 

Now’s the time to implement and improve open access policies

For these reasons, Creative Commons (CC) has urged the adoption of open access policies by organizations and governments, such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). CC is preparing comments to inform UKRI’s consultation process on its proposed open access policy and will soon be sharing similar comments in response to the U.S. Federal Register’s request for information on “Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications, Data, and Code Resulting From Federally Funded Research.” 

CC Licenses have become the international standard in open licensing, and after supporting successful efforts in the creation, adoption, and implementation of open access policies with various governments and institutions, we continue to strongly advocate for open access for the benefit of researchers, industry and the general public. This includes making all information funded by international organizations or national governments available for the broadest reuse. Additionally, CC embraces efforts to clarify how fair use applies in these exceptional circumstances, such as the Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research. This resource was recently published by a group of expert copyright librarians from colleges and universities across the U.S., including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For guidance on implementing an open access policy or using the CC License Suite, please contact us at info@creativecommons.org—we’re here to help. 

? Stop the spread of COVID-19 by taking these steps outlined by the WHO, including washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and social distancing.

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Announcing the CC Catalog API, Version 1.0

The Creative Commons Catalog Application Programming Interface (CC Catalog API) gives developers the ability to create custom applications that utilize CC Search, a rich collection of 330 million and counting openly licensed images. We have spent the last two years gathering this data from a diverse set of 28 sources, ranging from curated collections assembled by the Met Museum to user-generated content on Flickr. 

Integrating the API into your application will give your users access to the largest collection of openly licensed images ever released on the internet.

While the API has been publicly available for some time now, the release of CC Catalog API, Version 1.0 marks a new milestone in the stability and reliability of the tool and a guarantee that we will not change the existing interface without ample warning and a long sunset period. It’s also important to note that the API is open source and the code is available under the MIT license on GitHub

Applications of the CC Catalog API

One of the best ways to understand what capabilities can be enabled by the API is to look at already existing applications. For example, every time you visit CC Search and type something into the search box, your browser is talking directly to the API to fulfill your request!

CC Catalog API (screenshot)An exciting milestone for us was seeing Google Summer of Code participant Mayank Nader implement his excellent CC Search Browser Extension, which uses the API to put CC Search at your fingertips via your browser. Other community-built applications include the CC Search WordPress plugin by the Greek School Network and Curationist by the MHz Foundation.

We think there are ample opportunities to integrate the API into your own applications. For example, CC Search could be particularly useful for content management systems to help users find images they can use royalty-free. Another possible application is in image editing programs, which would give users easy access to images where derivative works are allowed.

How to use the CC Catalog API

The API is free to use and open to the public. Anybody can visit the API homepage and start making HTTP queries. Still, we strongly encourage you to follow the instructions for signing up for an API key, which will impose fewer restrictions on your use of the API and give us a way to increase your rate limit if needed. We may impose stricter rate limits on anonymous consumers in the future, but registered users will always have preferential access.

We’d love to hear any feedback you have about the API and about the applications you are building using it. Please email us at cccatalog-api@creativecommons.org.

Deprecation of the pre-release version of the API

If you have already started building on the API, that’s great! However, if you are making any calls without “v1” in the URL, you need to update your application to use the new version. Starting in July 2020, we will be sunsetting the pre-release version of the search API. The Version 1 release is largely compatible with the original pre-release version; see the release notes for a full list of breaking changes.

To stay up-to-date on the latest tech developments and resources, including new versions of the CC Catalog API, follow @cc_opensource on Twitter and visit the CC Open Source website!

As the nonprofit organization behind CC Search and the CC Catalog API, please consider donating to Creative Commons so that we can continue building the open access tools and platforms the world uses to share. Thank you! 

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Relaunching the Open Education Policy Registry | OER World Map Blog

by Jan Neumann, Leo Havemann, Javiera Atenas, and Fabio Nascimbeni

The story so far and who we are

Policymaking related to Open Education (OE) has been discussed intensively by a small community of experts during recent years. While it has perhaps been less interesting to the wider group of OE practitioners, a long-standing and important strand of OE work has focused on advocacy for the development of supportive and enabling strategies, policies and infrastructures. Broadly speaking, OE policymaking refers to (top-down) activities of governments and institutions which aim towards mainstreaming open educational practices, often with a particular focus on the facilitation of creation, adaptation and use of Open Educational Resources (OER). Keeping in mind that organic growth and bottom-up development have been characteristic elements of most variants of OE, it should be clear that implementing change from top-down is not an easy thing to do, and always carries the risk of cultural clashes. Nevertheless, policymaking is widely considered to play an important role if OE is to grow sustainably, as it should ensure provision of resources and shape the regulatory framework to support OE mainstreaming.