CC Open Education Platform Activities Fund: Six Winners!

Creative Commons is proud to announce six winning project proposals from the inaugural round of the CC Open Education Platform Activities Fund!

Openness and Collaboration by Paul Downey (CC BY 2.0)Credit: “Openness and Collaboration” by Paul Downey (CC BY 2.0).

The CC Open Education Platform is a vibrant, international network of over 1120 open education advocates, educators, librarians, lawmakers, graduate students, and more, spanning 79 countries. This year, CC launched an activities fund to support Platform members’ good work to further open education in their countries. The activities fund offered up to $5,000 USD to community members who proposed efforts that: 1) Build and sustain community; 2) Increase educational access and equity; and/or 3) Use policy to open education opportunities for all. Accepted proposals focus on work supporting these goals in Brazil, Chile, Francophone Africa, India, Ireland, and globally. 

While we would have liked to fund nearly all of the projects, we are delighted to announce the following proposal winners: 


  • “Teaching materials introducing copyright to 9 to 15-year-olds in French-speaking Africa.”

Proposed by Isla Haddow-Flood and Florence Devouard (at Wiki In Africa), this project will create and pilot introductory materials and assignment models to support teachers instructing 9-15-year-old students in French-speaking Africa about CC licenses and their use. Across Africa, teachers do not have access to online materials to explain Copyright or CC licenses to their students, and especially not in French. The materials created will begin to fill the gap. The materials will be initially piloted in Benin as part of the WikiChallenge Bénin competition. The project will integrate feedback initial testing before distributing teaching materials among the Wikimedia and CC communities across Francophone Africa. 

  • “Inventory and evaluation of existing social-emotional learning resources for the transition to open digital learning.”

Shivi Chandra proposed this project recognizing that a global mandate for “twenty-first century skills” has pushed social-emotional learning (SEL) materials–those which promote “well-being, connectedness, and success” (OECD)–to the forefront of many national educational strategies working to help students make sense of recent global crises, social movements, and COVID-19. These materials could be anything from public health guidance to conversation starters on domestic violence to current events news articles for kids.This project from Learning Equality will develop and share a gap analysis and preliminary audit of existing SEL resources either open or accessible on the internet. This work supports any organization looking to improve their general understanding of SEL resources, understand those available, advocate for openness in the SEL community, and develop such resources during and post COVID-19.

  • “Oficinas Wikimedia & Educação: a educação livre no Brasil e as plataformas Wikimedia (EN: Wikimedia & Education Workshops: free education in Brazil and the Wikimedia platforms).

Giovanna Fontenelle proposed this project to help Brazilian educators and institutions searching for new formats and teaching alternatives. The Wiki Movimento Brasil User Group will organize a series of online workshops and develop accompanying resources such as an audio description for an educational brochure, open-licensed videos of the workshops, reference materials for educators, participant lists for networking, and Outreach Dashboard metrics.

  • “Open Reading Lists @UCD: Phase One.”

Proposed by Susan Reilly, this project will offer a training and mobilisation workshop for librarians supporting a shift to OER, an awareness-raising campaign targeted at faculty and course coordinators, and a video tutorial on finding and assessing OER. The rapid shift to online and blended learning necessitated by COVID-19 demonstrated the need for more open and participatory engagement online and more sustainable access to diverse learning materials. This project aims to increase OER as a percentage of material on reading lists in University College Dublin, Ireland. 

  • “Offline OER to enhance K-12 math in Chile.”

Werner Westermann proposed this project to help deliver customized OER content, responsive and aligned to the official Chilean “prioritized” curriculum, a core group of learning outcomes for math, highlighted during school disruption during COVID-19. Ideally, this curriculum will be used to support learners using Kolibri, meeting the needs of learners with limited or no Internet connectivity during COVID-19 and beyond.

  • “Open Pathology Education Project.”

Netha Hussain proposed this project focused on curating and annotating pathology images from Wikimedia Commons. Drawing from India’s Calicut Medical College and Dr. Yale Rosen’s collections, this project will use Wikidata as a tool to organize and categorize images for medical students to use as educational resources. As Wikidata doesn’t yet have robust pathology related information, images and descriptions from Wikimedia Commons will be first linked with Wikidata, and then used for the Open Pathology Project. The final resource will serve medical students from around the world.

We are delighted to fund projects that range from work with off-line open math and developing OER for medical education to fueling additional work with sister communities such as Wikimedia. 

We also want to recognize our decision committee (listed alphabetically), members of the CC Open Education Platform who dedicated hours to application review—difficult job considering they read, scored, and deliberated over 20 amazing proposals from platform members.

  • Cindy Domaika
  • Geoff Cain
  • John Okewole
  • Jonathan Poritz
  • Mohammed Galib Hasan
  • Neil Butcher
  • Paola Corti
  • Paul West
  • Rachel Wexelbaum
  • Shanna Hollich

To our decision committee, platform colleagues who submitted inspiring proposals, and the fantastic CC Open Education Platform community—thank you! We look forward to seeing project results in December 2020, and we expect these projects to fuel more open education advancements in 2021 and beyond. 

Learn more about the CC Open Education Platform and how to get involved! 

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Creative Commons Is Now Leading the Open COVID Pledge—Here’s What That Means

We’re pleased to announce today that Creative Commons is taking on leadership and stewardship of the Open COVID Pledge.

Earlier this year, CC joined forces with an international group of researchers, scientists, academics, and lawyers seeking to accelerate the development of diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, medical equipment, and software solutions that might be used to assist in the fight against COVID-19. The result was the Open COVID Pledge, a project that offers a simple way for universities, companies, and others to make their patents and copyrights available to the public to be utilized in the current public health crisis.

Users of Creative Commons licenses will be familiar with the Open COVID Pledge’s approach. Like CC licenses, the Open COVID Pledge offers free, standard, public licenses that anyone can use to remove unnecessary obstacles to the dissemination of knowledge.

Amazon, Facebook, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NASA JPL, Sandia National Laboratories, and Uber are among the dozens of companies and institutions that have used the Open COVID Pledge to make their patents and copyrights open to the public in support of solving the COVID-19 pandemic. As Creative Commons takes on this new leadership role in the project, we’re energized by the potential to expand its international scope, reach, and impact.

We’ll continue working with large companies to unlock their intellectual property (IP) rights in the pursuit of saving lives. But we also aim to team up with smaller startups, universities, and even individual innovators—especially in parts of the world that aren’t well-represented by the project’s current list of pledgors and supporters and that hold patents and other IP critical to the fight against  COVID-19. We’ll achieve this goal by collaborating with members of our worldwide community, including leading organizations in the international arena working on copyright and IP policy, such as the WHO and other UN bodies. We will also leverage the expertise and our deep relationships with the Creative Commons Global Network. Stay tuned for more information on these internationalization efforts, including ways to get involved in expanding the project in your country and region.

We believe this initiative will have a profound impact beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The common set of values, tools, and principles for the responsible use of IP in the public’s interest formed during this particular crisis can and should be used as a necessary model for addressing other crises, such as climate change. We hope to carry this conversation and model forward.

As CC takes on leadership and stewardship of the Open COVID Pledge, we are mindful of the many who contributed to its beginnings. In particular, we thank our co-collaborators for their expertise and collaboration in forging this project and helping it come to life. They have provided and will continue to provide critical strategic input into the future of this project and its growth. 

You can support the effort by encouraging your company, university, or research team to make the Open COVID Pledge. Visit opencovidpledge.org or contact us at ocpinfo@creativecommons.org for more information.

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Creative Commons: Das Städel Museum stellt mehr als 22.000 Kunstwerke zur freien Verfügung | Städel Museum

From Google’s English:  “The Städel Museum makes more than 22,000 works of art freely available in its digital collection with the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0. This enables a broad public interested in art to reproduce and share the public domain images of the works, naming the Städel Museum, and to use and edit them for any purpose. Popular works of art by the Städel, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Ideal Feminine Portrait (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as a Nymph) (approx. 1480), Franz Marc’s Lying Dog in the Snow (approx. 1911), Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Lying Man under a Blooming Tree (1903), Rembrandts Self-portrait leaning against a stone wall (1639) or Johannes Vermeer’s The Geographer(1669) are thus made available for free download via the digital collection. The aim is – in line with the founding idea – to make the Städel collection accessible to the public and, furthermore, to strengthen participation in the collective cultural property.”

From CC’s New CEO: Working Towards Our Shared Future

It is an honor to be joining the Creative Commons team on the eve of its 20th anniversary year.

For nearly two decades, this organization has worked to make the world a more open and equitable place.

When CC first launched in 2001, I was a recently-elected Member of the European Parliament at a time when copyright and access issues were beginning to receive attention.

But throughout my 20 years as a legislator, directly representing over five million people in Scotland and delivering change for over 500 million Europeans, I took on the task of championing digital policy issues including copyright reform, citizen privacy and data protection, and improving public access to digital tools.

As I reflect, we today find ourselves in a very different world. And as I look to the future, I know the work of CC has never been more important.

We have the opportunity to play a leading role in the global fight to remove obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity.

This matters because of the pressing challenges facing us, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak human and economic devastation across the globe.

Inequality is on the rise, and injustices have been exposed.

The tragic killing of George Floyd sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, while there have been pro-democracy protests in several countries, including in Belarus only last week.

CC stands with those grieving and protesting against injustices, and with those fighting for justice, representation, and equality around the world.

The challenges and the crises we have witnessed during this extraordinary year have raised legitimate questions about power and privilege.

Who has access to knowledge in our unequal society?

We know that too often it is the hands of the few, not the many, and access is often denied to women, people of color, LGBTQI communities and people from the global South.

We have a role to challenge power and privilege, and the solution to that is to open up access and share knowledge.

During the coronavirus crisis, we saw some progress being made.

Paywalls came down, and research was shared. The race to find a vaccine for COVID-19 demonstrates why rapid and unrestricted access to scientific research and educational materials is so vital.

It’s a shame that it took a global pandemic to realize this, but I hope the lesson has now been learned.

Yet for every step forward there is also a step backwards.

Some nations have imposed restrictions on the right to information and not all have reinstated them.

And too much knowledge remains out of reach, with museum and library doors still shut in many countries, and digital access not available for so many.

Breaking down barriers is not easy.

Take the example of the National Emergency Library, designed by the Internet Archive to make over 1.3 million e-books available for checkout, free of charge during the pandemic.

A consortium of four publishers filed suit and the library was forced to close. This demonstrates the challenges that remain.

But there is also hope.

I have been a longstanding champion of the need to unlock digital access to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity for everyone in society.

I’m excited by the opportunity to make a difference.

The work of CC has already proved crucial during this devastating pandemic. The Open COVID Pledge has made it easier for universities, companies, and other holders of intellectual property rights to support the development of medicines, test kits, vaccines, and other scientific discoveries.

And we have worked to make publicly funded educational resources openly licensed to help the public access reliable, practical information.

There is much more to do.

Our world faces an uncertain future and it is vital that open access policies are adopted by organizations and governments.

Technological advances have brought many people closer together, and yet also pushed too many apart.

Our mission is to build a shared future for all, and I can’t wait to get started.

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Sharing Indigenous Cultural Heritage Online: An Overview of GLAM Policies

This post was co-authored by CC’s Open Policy Manager Brigitte Vézina and Legal and Policy Intern Alexis Muscat. Tomorrow is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day that seeks to raise awareness of and support Indigenous peoples’ rights and aspirations around the world. We at Creative Commons (CC) wish to highlight this important … Read More “Sharing Indigenous Cultural Heritage Online: An Overview of GLAM Policies”
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The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard

Over 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day. Yes, just Facebook. Once other social media and photo-sharing platforms like Flickr, Unsplash, Instagram, etc. are taken into account, that number quickly grows into the billions. 

A lot has changed since the dawn of photography in the 19th century—when Nicéphore Niépce (a.k.a. the “Father of Photography”) peered through his camera obscura from his upstairs window in France and created the oldest surviving photographic image in 1826. At that time, and for over a century, photography was restricted to (primarily white and Western) wealthy hobbyists and career professionals. However, photography has become more democratized, digitized, and open over time. This process began in the 1940s with Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, then quickened with the invention of the digital camera in the late 1980s, and finally culminated with the smartphone in the early 2000s. In 2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population has a smartphone. This means that billions of people have access to a camera! 

Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827)Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826 or 1827), the world’s oldest surviving photographic image, made using a camera obscura. Original plate (left) by Niépce; colorized reoriented enhancement (right) by Nguyen. Licensed CC BY-SA.

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing (the CC License Suite was first released in 2002) and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites (Flickr was founded in 2004). Although these trends have many benefits, they’ve generally made professional photographers feel uneasy. As photographer and filmmaker Erin Jennings wrote in a 2019 essay, “Not only has accessible digital photography threatened the commercial photography industry, it has also thrown into question the very self-worth of many photographers whose identities were mired in the exclusivity of the analog process.” As a photographer, I understand this uneasiness as well as the apprehension that comes with publishing images under open licenses. I’ve certainly wondered: Is it OK that I’m willingly handing organizations and companies the ability to use my work for “free”? Will this lead to the expectation that photography should always be free? Does this devalue professional photography?

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites; although these trends have many benefits, they’ve also made professional photographers feel uneasy.

Luke BeardLuke Beard, Photographer and Designer; CEO and Founder of Exposure.

Over time, I’ve learned more about the purpose of open licenses and the rights photographers are guaranteed under them. For instance, the attribution requirement under CC licenses can actually help maintain the connection between photograph and photographer because the photographer’s name must be attributed if their work is reused. In the age of image theft and image overload, that’s significant. The range of licenses available also gives photographers more freedom to determine how their photography can be used beyond “all rights reserved,” and clarify that to potential users. For up-and-coming photographers, this can be especially useful for building a personal brand and an audience of potential clients.  Personally, I try to always openly license my work—something I recently learned was possible on Exposure, a storytelling platform for photographers and visual storytellers. After using the platform for years, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company had enabled CC BY-ND as a licensing option. It also made me curious: Why did a platform that serves as a creative outlet for professional photographers and storytellers decide to allow open licensing as an option?

To find out, I contacted Exposure Founder and CEO Luke Beard via email. A photographer himself, I also wanted to know his personal thoughts about open licensing and the democratization of photography. Our conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 


VH: The growing democratization of photography has led to a plethora of images online, primarily through free photo-sharing and stock photography websites. Has this trend impacted your identity as a professional photographer? Do you think it’s harming the industry? 

LB: I’d argue that Instagram has done more to change photography in the last decade than legacy and fledgling photo communities built around free sharing or stock [photography]. Instagram has a fairly large conversion rate. Its scale, reach, and impact on photography still feels unprecedented. It’s effectively one of the biggest stewards of the medium the world has ever seen.

The “professional photographer” part of my identity has a strong feeling around giving anything away for “free.” There are both potentially good and potentially negative outcomes, but it also depends on the context. You certainly learn a lot about what feels right or worth it by exploring free avenues. The communities that grow around services like Flickr can be incredible, and I’m sure many working photographers today got their start there. The proliferation of ways to discover photography though free, stock, or sharing [platforms] has certainly raised the bar both competition-wise and creativity-wise, and I’d say it has been a net positive.  

VH: There’s an ongoing debate within photography circles about open licensing and whether or not it harms professional photographers. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

LB: The value of photography has simultaneously been raised and lowered as the internet economy has grown. As a visual medium—with amazing screens in the hands of ~3.5 billion people—photography has so much to offer for the foreseeable future.  

Exposure's HomepageExposure houses creative works from individual photographers, non-profit organizations, governments, and more.

Open licensing also has a lot to offer photographers who are looking for new and interesting ways to share their craft and earn work. On the one hand, you have platforms with a huge reach that take on the hard work of distributing and hosting your photos in exchange for an open license (e.g. Unsplash). The long-tail upside might be that someone thinks your style of photography is perfect and hires you for a shoot. The flip side is that free and openly licensed photos may lose all concept that there is a photographer behind the photo. This devalues both the photographer and the photo. I personally struggle with the idea of normalizing good photography as something that has no cost or doesn’t require credit—although, it’s important to point out that CC licenses do require attribution. A comparison would be this one: it’s hard to make good software, but free applications normalize the idea that software should cost nothing. 

There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools.

Without openly licensed photos, however, we wouldn’t have visually rich Wikipedia pages or great collections like NASA’s image gallery. For individual photographers, I think there still has to be a better way. Maybe the answer is a blockchain solution through micropayments or maybe just a better marketplace platform. There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools. I’m hopeful the benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives. 

VH: Can you explain why Exposure decided to offer an open licensing option and if there were any specific challenges when making and implementing that decision?

We have taken baby steps into offering an open license as a feature. For context, it’s a toggle you can switch “on” or “off” for specific stories. As the creator, you agree to a CC BY-ND license for your photography within that story. This idea initially came about because we wanted to give Exposure members the ability to allow their family, friends, or clients to download their photos. Since the launch, however, we have seen it used for academic and non-profit purposes too, so we plan on expanding it this year by adding more licenses and the ability to license entire stories (including written content) and not just the individual photos. Our non-profit customers have expressed how helpful this would be to share their cause.

VH: Does Exposure educate users on this open licensing option or advertise it in any way?

The photo downloads feature is advertised as a paid feature because there is an infrastructure cost associated with allowing photos to be downloaded. When the feature is enabled by the member, we give a full legal description of how the license works and also a “basic” description in simpler terms. When a visitor downloads any photo that is under the open license they also see a similar dialog and download agreement that indicates the requirements of the license, including attribution to the photographer/source. This way, they know how and where they can use the photo before they actually download it.

Exposure Screenshot of Download AgreementAn example of Exposure’s Download Agreement and use of CC BY-ND. Source: “The Space People” by Victoria Heath (CC BY-ND).

VH: Taking a step back from open licensing, can you share with us one or two of the most impactful stories that have been shared on your platform?

That’s a tough one, as there have been thousands over the years, but right now I’m extra proud to host and share stories on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this story from Doctors without Borders (MSF) which shares the struggle to get the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 in Yemen; this piece by the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Office telling the story of climate-resilient farming and food security in the outer islands of Kiribati; and this story of Black Lives Matter protests in Cobb County, Georgia by a local photographer.  

VH: The goal of the open movement is to build a more equitable, inclusive, and innovative world through sharing—do you believe sharing photography, and creative content more broadly, has a role in achieving that goal?

Openly sharing information has always happened within communities. I strongly believe the open movement has achieved great things since the first few days of ARPANET and the birth of the modern internet. Creative content still has room to mature to be a truly accessible, inclusive, and equitable medium as more people get access to the internet. But as a whole, visual content has had a huge impact by engaging most of the world—now more than any other time in history. There are things that worry me about our ability to achieve any sort of “open web” goal, these include the consolidated power of “Big Tech,” eroding net neutrality, and the disparity of access to reliable and affordable (if not free) internet connections—as recently seen with the impact of COVID-19 on students without a reliable internet connection at home.

VH: Photography as a profession has suffered from a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity which has led to a mirrored lack of diversity in the images created (e.g. stock photos). What actions do you think individual photographers like yourself, and platforms like Exposure, can take to help increase diversity in the industry?

A quote mentioned in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist has recently been very impactful in my thinking about just this. The quote is credited to Harry A. Blackmun from the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Blackmun wrote, “…in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard.

When I think about how this could be implemented in photography and the platforms that support it, I see several paths to a more equitable community: actively raising, promoting, and empowering the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and gender diverse photographers; giving resources to those same communities to enhance their ability to work, and; public platforms taking a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and racism of any kind. There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard. Exposure, as a platform, can do more on all these fronts, but the future looks bright for more giving and more empowering initiatives. Our Black Lives Matter support statement outlines what we are doing right now, and there is more to come in the future. 

VH: Luke, thank you for speaking with me! By the way, there are a growing number of openly licensed collections that are working to increase diversity in stock photography. These include Nappy, the Gender Spectrum Collection, Disabled and Here Collection, and Women in Tech. Check them out!

?: Featured image by Kollage Kid, titled “Lighthouse” and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard

Over 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day. Yes, just Facebook. Once other social media and photo-sharing platforms like Flickr, Unsplash, Instagram, etc. are taken into account, that number quickly grows into the billions. 

A lot has changed since the dawn of photography in the 19th century—when Nicéphore Niépce (a.k.a. the “Father of Photography”) peered through his camera obscura from his upstairs window in France and created the oldest surviving photographic image in 1826. At that time, and for over a century, photography was restricted to (primarily white and Western) wealthy hobbyists and career professionals. However, photography has become more democratized, digitized, and open over time. This process began in the 1940s with Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, then quickened with the invention of the digital camera in the late 1980s, and finally culminated with the smartphone in the early 2000s. In 2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population has a smartphone. This means that billions of people have access to a camera! 

Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827)Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826 or 1827), the world’s oldest surviving photographic image, made using a camera obscura. Original plate (left) by Niépce; colorized reoriented enhancement (right) by Nguyen. Licensed CC BY-SA.

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing (the CC License Suite was first released in 2002) and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites (Flickr was founded in 2004). Although these trends have many benefits, they’ve generally made professional photographers feel uneasy. As photographer and filmmaker Erin Jennings wrote in a 2019 essay, “Not only has accessible digital photography threatened the commercial photography industry, it has also thrown into question the very self-worth of many photographers whose identities were mired in the exclusivity of the analog process.” As a photographer, I understand this uneasiness as well as the apprehension that comes with publishing images under open licenses. I’ve certainly wondered: Is it OK that I’m willingly handing organizations and companies the ability to use my work for “free”? Will this lead to the expectation that photography should always be free? Does this devalue professional photography?

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites; although these trends have many benefits, they’ve also made professional photographers feel uneasy.

Luke BeardLuke Beard, Photographer and Designer; CEO and Founder of Exposure.

Over time, I’ve learned more about the purpose of open licenses and the rights photographers are guaranteed under them. For instance, the attribution requirement under CC licenses can actually help maintain the connection between photograph and photographer because the photographer’s name must be attributed if their work is reused. In the age of image theft and image overload, that’s significant. The range of licenses available also gives photographers more freedom to determine how their photography can be used beyond “all rights reserved,” and clarify that to potential users. For up-and-coming photographers, this can be especially useful for building a personal brand and an audience of potential clients.  Personally, I try to always openly license my work—something I recently learned was possible on Exposure, a storytelling platform for photographers and visual storytellers. After using the platform for years, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company had enabled CC BY-ND as a licensing option. It also made me curious: Why did a platform that serves as a creative outlet for professional photographers and storytellers decide to allow open licensing as an option?

To find out, I contacted Exposure Founder and CEO Luke Beard via email. A photographer himself, I also wanted to know his personal thoughts about open licensing and the democratization of photography. Our conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 


VH: The growing democratization of photography has led to a plethora of images online, primarily through free photo-sharing and stock photography websites. Has this trend impacted your identity as a professional photographer? Do you think it’s harming the industry? 

LB: I’d argue that Instagram has done more to change photography in the last decade than legacy and fledgling photo communities built around free sharing or stock [photography]. Instagram has a fairly large conversion rate. Its scale, reach, and impact on photography still feels unprecedented. It’s effectively one of the biggest stewards of the medium the world has ever seen.

The “professional photographer” part of my identity has a strong feeling around giving anything away for “free.” There are both potentially good and potentially negative outcomes, but it also depends on the context. You certainly learn a lot about what feels right or worth it by exploring free avenues. The communities that grow around services like Flickr can be incredible, and I’m sure many working photographers today got their start there. The proliferation of ways to discover photography though free, stock, or sharing [platforms] has certainly raised the bar both competition-wise and creativity-wise, and I’d say it has been a net positive.  

VH: There’s an ongoing debate within photography circles about open licensing and whether or not it harms professional photographers. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

LB: The value of photography has simultaneously been raised and lowered as the internet economy has grown. As a visual medium—with amazing screens in the hands of ~3.5 billion people—photography has so much to offer for the foreseeable future.  

Exposure's HomepageExposure houses creative works from individual photographers, non-profit organizations, governments, and more.

Open licensing also has a lot to offer photographers who are looking for new and interesting ways to share their craft and earn work. On the one hand, you have platforms with a huge reach that take on the hard work of distributing and hosting your photos in exchange for an open license (e.g. Unsplash). The long-tail upside might be that someone thinks your style of photography is perfect and hires you for a shoot. The flip side is that free and openly licensed photos may lose all concept that there is a photographer behind the photo. This devalues both the photographer and the photo. I personally struggle with the idea of normalizing good photography as something that has no cost or doesn’t require credit—although, it’s important to point out that CC licenses do require attribution. A comparison would be this one: it’s hard to make good software, but free applications normalize the idea that software should cost nothing. 

There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools.

Without openly licensed photos, however, we wouldn’t have visually rich Wikipedia pages or great collections like NASA’s image gallery. For individual photographers, I think there still has to be a better way. Maybe the answer is a blockchain solution through micropayments or maybe just a better marketplace platform. There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools. I’m hopeful the benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives. 

VH: Can you explain why Exposure decided to offer an open licensing option and if there were any specific challenges when making and implementing that decision?

We have taken baby steps into offering an open license as a feature. For context, it’s a toggle you can switch “on” or “off” for specific stories. As the creator, you agree to a CC BY-ND license for your photography within that story. This idea initially came about because we wanted to give Exposure members the ability to allow their family, friends, or clients to download their photos. Since the launch, however, we have seen it used for academic and non-profit purposes too, so we plan on expanding it this year by adding more licenses and the ability to license entire stories (including written content) and not just the individual photos. Our non-profit customers have expressed how helpful this would be to share their cause.

VH: Does Exposure educate users on this open licensing option or advertise it in any way?

The photo downloads feature is advertised as a paid feature because there is an infrastructure cost associated with allowing photos to be downloaded. When the feature is enabled by the member, we give a full legal description of how the license works and also a “basic” description in simpler terms. When a visitor downloads any photo that is under the open license they also see a similar dialog and download agreement that indicates the requirements of the license, including attribution to the photographer/source. This way, they know how and where they can use the photo before they actually download it.

Exposure Screenshot of Download AgreementAn example of Exposure’s Download Agreement and use of CC BY-ND. Source: “The Space People” by Victoria Heath (CC BY-ND).

VH: Taking a step back from open licensing, can you share with us one or two of the most impactful stories that have been shared on your platform?

That’s a tough one, as there have been thousands over the years, but right now I’m extra proud to host and share stories on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this story from Doctors without Borders (MSF) which shares the struggle to get the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 in Yemen; this piece by the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Office telling the story of climate-resilient farming and food security in the outer islands of Kiribati; and this story of Black Lives Matter protests in Cobb County, Georgia by a local photographer.  

VH: The goal of the open movement is to build a more equitable, inclusive, and innovative world through sharing—do you believe sharing photography, and creative content more broadly, has a role in achieving that goal?

Openly sharing information has always happened within communities. I strongly believe the open movement has achieved great things since the first few days of ARPANET and the birth of the modern internet. Creative content still has room to mature to be a truly accessible, inclusive, and equitable medium as more people get access to the internet. But as a whole, visual content has had a huge impact by engaging most of the world—now more than any other time in history. There are things that worry me about our ability to achieve any sort of “open web” goal, these include the consolidated power of “Big Tech,” eroding net neutrality, and the disparity of access to reliable and affordable (if not free) internet connections—as recently seen with the impact of COVID-19 on students without a reliable internet connection at home.

VH: Photography as a profession has suffered from a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity which has led to a mirrored lack of diversity in the images created (e.g. stock photos). What actions do you think individual photographers like yourself, and platforms like Exposure, can take to help increase diversity in the industry?

A quote mentioned in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist has recently been very impactful in my thinking about just this. The quote is credited to Harry A. Blackmun from the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Blackmun wrote, “…in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard.

When I think about how this could be implemented in photography and the platforms that support it, I see several paths to a more equitable community: actively raising, promoting, and empowering the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and gender diverse photographers; giving resources to those same communities to enhance their ability to work, and; public platforms taking a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and racism of any kind. There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard. Exposure, as a platform, can do more on all these fronts, but the future looks bright for more giving and more empowering initiatives. Our Black Lives Matter support statement outlines what we are doing right now, and there is more to come in the future. 

VH: Luke, thank you for speaking with me! By the way, there are a growing number of openly licensed collections that are working to increase diversity in stock photography. These include Nappy, the Gender Spectrum Collection, Disabled and Here Collection, and Women in Tech. Check them out!

?: Featured image by Kollage Kid, titled “Lighthouse” and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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Announcing Creative Commons’ New CEO, Catherine Stihler

I’m delighted to announce that Creative Commons has selected Catherine Stihler to be its next CEO. Catherine has been a champion for openness as both a legislator and practitioner for more than 20 years. She currently serves as CEO of the Open Knowledge Foundation, an organization whose work is fully aligned with the values and … Read More “Announcing Creative Commons’ New CEO, Catherine Stihler”
The post Announcing Creative Commons’ New CEO, <br> Catherine Stihler appeared first on Creative Commons.

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 …”