Dr. Lucie Guibault on What Scientists Should Know About Open Access

In response to the global health emergency caused by COVID-19, we’ve seen an array of organizations, publications, and governments make COVID-19 related research open access. For example, the U.S. National Library of Medicine recently released the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19)—a machine-readable coronavirus literature collection with over 29,000 articles available for text and data mining (TDM). 

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

These actions are not surprising given the urgency of the current situation. In our previous post, “Now Is the Time for Open Access Policies—Here’s Why” we explain that rapid and unrestricted access to scientific research and educational materials is necessary to overcome this crisis. However, while we applaud the recent moves by organizations, publishers, and governments to open access to scientific research related to COVID-19, we believe the same level of sharing should be applied to all scientific research. Not only for the public good but also for the good of science. Science can only function properly if results, data, and insights are made openly available. “Universality is a fundamental principle of science,” explains the open access consortium cOAlition S, “only results that can be discussed, challenged, and, where appropriate, tested and reproduced by others qualify as scientific.”

Put simply, open science is the best way to do science. This is why CC has consistently recommended the following best practices for sharing research openly:

  • Zero embargo period so the public has immediate access 
  • CC BY on the article so it’s available for TDM
  • CC0 on the research data so other scientists can scrutinize the conclusions, replicate the study, and advance the science

In order to examine this issue further, as well as provide some guidance for scientific researchers and organizations specifically, we reached out to intellectual property and copyright law expert Dr. Lucie Guibault, an associate professor at the Schulich School of Law and associate director of the Law & Technology Institute at Dalhousie University.

Our conversation below is slightly edited for clarity and length. 

CC: Why does open access to scientific research and data matter in moments of crisis?

Dr. Guibault: When time is of the essence, like now with the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific research results must be made available as soon as possible so that other scientists, policymakers and the general population can rely on sound scientific data in their decision-making process. Contrary to the traditional publishing model, which puts scientific publications behind a paywall or puts a 6 to 12-month embargo on self-archiving (depositing scholarly research in an online repository or open archive), open access allows for immediate, worldwide access to scientific and scholarly publications. Actions based on new findings can be immediate. For example, open access to a broad corpus of articles can certainly help reduce duplication of work, but most of all it enables easy text and data mining (TDM) which leads to new insights and knowledge. Through TDM scientists can make predictions on where a virus will emerge, when it might peak, what drug might work, etc.

CC: Why do you think organizations are adopting open access policies and actions in response to this crisis?

Dr. Guibault: It must be because, in their line of activity, these organizations have discovered the tremendous advantage of having immediate, free access to current, replicable, reliable, verifiable scientific results upon which they can base sound and informed decisions. This would most likely not be possible if the vital research results were not made available under open access conditions, as the alternative is either to pay for access, to wait for the expiration of the embargo period, or to base their decision on less reliable sources.

CC: If an organization is interested in adopting an open access policy, what are the steps they need to take?

Dr. Guibault: Institutions should become more familiar with open access policy documents before making decisions about it. Administrators should read on and about the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. Once they know more about the issue, they should consider adhering to these three declarations. The next step is to develop a realistic implementation strategy.

CC: What advice would you give to researchers who are unaware or unsure about open access?

Dr. Guibault: Individual researchers who are unaware or unsure about open access should try to become familiar with the advantages and drawbacks of open access. Of course, it’s easier for a researcher if their institution has adhered to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment because it guarantees that the researcher’s individual efforts in publishing articles and releasing data under open access conditions will be rewarded. When the institution employing the researcher has no clear open access policy, researchers may be more hesitant to publish in open access journals, especially if high author processing charges are involved. Nevertheless, they should at least endeavor to always self-archive their publications.

CC: What impact do you think the COVID-19 crisis will have on open access policies? 

Dr. Guibault: Open access is in itself such a worthwhile goal that it shouldn’t need a catastrophe like the COVID-19 virus to push it forward. But if it did, it would be a very small consolation.

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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Collaborate With Us as a Google Summer of Code or Outreachy Participant

We are proud to announce that Creative Commons (CC) will once again be participating as a mentoring organization for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) and Outreachy.

GSoC and Outreachy are both programs focused on introducing open-source software development to a wider audience. They provide stipends to work on a 3-month project for the open source community. GSoC is open to all university students whereas Outreachy recruits anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry of their country.

Vocabulary landing pageCC has had great success with GSoC and Outreachy in the past. We’ve mentored for GSoC in eight previous years, and with the help of last year’s interns, we were able to release our WordPress plugin, the CC Search browser extension, The Linked Commons, and Vocabulary, as well as rewrite our license chooser tool. Our interns from Outreachy’s December 2019 to March 2020 round just wrapped up their work, making improvements to the new version of the license chooser and Vocabulary, and creating a new version of our Platform Toolkit.

We’ve compiled a list of project ideas for students to choose from when submitting their work proposal. These range from improvements to CC Search and adding sources to CC Catalog, to building on previous projects like Vocabulary and the Linked Commons. There is room for creativity—the project ideas are defined in broad terms and applicants may choose to submit a proposal for an original idea.

If you’d like to stay updated on the work we’re doing, please join our developer community or follow our technical blog. And of course, we encourage you to read our applicant guide and submit a proposal if you’re eligible! It’s a great way to get an introduction to open source software, build real-world skills, work on interesting technical challenges, and help advance CC’s mission.

The deadline to apply for Google Summer of Code is March 31 and the deadline to apply for Outreachy is April 7.

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

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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 workers
NHS24 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 early January 2020.  

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 Coronavirus
Novel 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 Sharealike 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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The Unicode Standard Now Includes CC License Symbols

Last week, the Unicode Consortium released the latest version of the Unicode Standard—the universal character coding system used in computer processing (which includes the international emoji portfolio 😎). We’re thrilled to announce that Creative Commons (CC) license symbols were included in this new release.

The latest Unicode Standard adds 5,930 characters, including 4 new scripts, 55 new emoji characters, and the following CC license symbols:

Graphic from Emojipedia. Read their great overview of the new Unicode release.

This is the result of years of hard work by several members of CC’s staff, including our former Director of Product and Research Jane Park who submitted our initial proposal in October 2016 and our second proposal in July 2017.

What is Unicode?

Unicode is the standard for encoding characters into text. Typical examples of encoded characters that we use every day are @, $, &, #, and %. Other examples are writing scripts, like Arabic (العربية) or Devanagari (देवनागरी). Due to the nature of the internet, more characters are created every day—like the mechanical arm emoji 🦾so the Unicode Standard must be regularly updated. 

Put simply, the Unicode Standard enables virtually all text-based editing platforms and tools  (e.g. WordPress, Gmail, Twitter, etc.) to use the same characters and symbols.

Why we proposed adding CC license symbols to Unicode

Way back in 2017, we surveyed more than 700 people to understand how they marked their works with CC licenses. We found that more than half (62%) use the CC license icons or buttons, which must be downloaded from our website or made accessible via an external plugin (e.g. CC WordPress Plugin). However, many more (96%) said they would like to be able to place the CC license symbols directly in their text to indicate the particular CC license being applied—hence the need for our proposal.

Font developers—please be sure to include the CC symbols in your fonts! With the CC license symbols being added to the Unicode Standard, you can help make it much easier for people to mark their work with a CC license.

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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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We’re a Fully Remote Nonprofit; Here’s Some Advice on Working From Home

Over the last few days, a growing number of organizations have shut down their offices and told employees to work from home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here at Creative Commons (CC), we’ve also taken necessary precautions such as postponing all work-related travel and canceling the in-person component of the annual CC Global Summit in May. 

Fortunately, however, our daily operations haven’t been disrupted to the same extent as other organizations because CC has been a global, fully remote nonprofit since 2015. Our staff is spread across Europe, North America, and South America; and although this working environment presents incredible benefits, like flexibility and rich cultural exchanges, it also presents unique challenges. For example, staff on the west coast of North America are often just waking up as staff in Europe are signing off! 

In the spirit of open access and promoting good health, we’d like to share some tips for both organizations and individuals on the subject of remote work. 

For organizations

  • Create clear policies and guidelines that are accessible to all staff. Make sure to anticipate questions and/or concerns that your staff may have, and include answers in a FAQ.
  • Craft an internal communications strategy that maintains clear, reliable, and regular communication across the organization and within teams. In fact, don’t be afraid of  “overcommunication.” 
  • Schedule video conferencing—encourage leadership and/or management to schedule informal video conferencing with their team members to maintain team morale and cohesiveness.
  • Don’t assume all staff has access to the latest technology—in particular, don’t assume all staff members have access to high-speed internet. If they don’t, work with them to figure out alternatives or to set expectations.
  • Ensure contact information is up-to-date—for emergency purposes, ensure that all staff’s contact information is correct.
  • Assess and adjust expectations and deadlines on projects that may be impacted by the lack of in-person engagement or by a disruption in schedules due to schools closing, individuals becoming ill, etc.
  • Provide mental health resources—it’s important to provide staff with appropriate resources in case they begin to feel isolated and/or depressed while working remotely.
  • Showcase flexibility, patience, and empathy—leadership and/or management should showcase these qualities in order to reduce employee anxiety and stress under challenging circumstances.
  • Give regular updates, either via email or through video check-ins, on the status of COVID-19.
  • Don’t micromanage your staff’s activities—instead, set realistic goals and trust they’ll get their work done.

For individuals 

  • Keep your normal workday morning routine—this includes brushing your teeth, changing your clothes, eating breakfast, etc.
  • Do work in another room, not in your bedroom—if you live in a small apartment, try to create a space that you can designate as your “office.”
  • Take breaks throughout the day—make some coffee, go for a walk, read a book, or stretch.
  • Keep in touch with coworkers outside of formal meetings—this can help prevent social isolation, anxiety, or depression. CC staff, for example, schedule “lunches” over video or take “walks” together while talking over the phone. 
  • Create boundaries between your life and your work—stick to your regular work hours and set expectations about email response times. This is often one of the biggest challenges of working from home!
  • Find other remote workers in your town—schedule coworking days with them or meet up for lunch (if it’s safe)!
  • Don’t buy (only) unhealthy snacks—you will eat them! Make sure you buy healthy snacks that will keep you energized throughout the day.
  • Be wary of your tone—especially when communicating through messaging applications (e.g. Slack) because these forms of communication can feel impersonal and cold.
  • Log off distracting websites—social media sites are especially distracting, so either log off of them or use a browser plugin to help you stay focused.
  • Be proud of working from home—just because you don’t go to an office doesn’t mean your work is less important or you’re less productive.

Here’s the gist: On an individual level, try to create a routine that makes you feel productive, included, and motivated. On an organizational level, actively listen to and check in with staff to ensure everyone feels supported and included. Most importantly, as the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “Be safe. Be smart. Be kind.”

For more insights on remote working that our staff has found helpful, check out this article from Deekit, this guide from Trello, this guide from GitLab, and this podcast from Remoter. Also, this post is licensed CC BY, so please remix and reshare it! 

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The Hewlett Foundation Shares Women’s Stories Through Openly Licensed Images

Storytelling is a powerful tool because it can change perceptions and inspire action—and images are an essential component. As Depression-era American photojournalist and documentarian Dorothea Lange said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” 

Unfortunately, finding high-quality and diverse openly licensed images, particularly those of women, is a difficult task for activists and nonprofit organizations. Either they don’t exist or they’re behind expensive paywalls. Thankfully, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation—one of Creative Commons’ institutional supporters—is making that task easier with Images of Empowerment, a CC-licensed stock photography collection that shares women’s stories from across the world.

Opening access to women’s stories through Images of Empowerment

Jyotsna Mahendra is a teacher at BALSEWA Daycare
“Jyotsna Mahendra” by Paul Bronstein (2015), CC BY-NC. Jyotsna Mahendra is a teacher at BALSEWA Daycare. The BALSEWA Center, run by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), holistically addresses the issues of women working in the informal sector by providing affordable daycare, health check-ups, and educational programs.

In 2015, the Hewlett Foundation approached Getty Images to “tell the important story of women’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa through powerful, positive images.” According to Sarah Jane Staats, communications manager for the Hewlett Foundation’s Global Development and Population Program, the Foundation recognized that “…too often the images most available to us in commercial stock photography collections or in the media focus on disaster, poverty, or reinforce outdated gender stereotypes.”

“Nonprofits around the world can access powerful, positive images to help tell the story of their work and why it matters.”  

The Foundation decided to publish the images under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license so that “nonprofits around the world can access powerful, positive images to help tell the story of their work and why it matters.” This decision was in line with the Foundation’s open licensing policy, and its support of CC’s open licensing and open education work for over a decade.

By 2017, the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) added photographs from Colombia, Ghana, India, Peru, South Africa, and Thailand showcasing women’s “informal work” (e.g. cleaning homes, collecting recyclables, etc.). In 2018, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation became a collaborator as well, adding photographs from Bihar, India and from Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States.

Chanda Burks with her sons
“Chanda Burks” by Nina Robinson (2018), CC BY-NC. Chanda Burks with her two sons. Chanda is a youth program specialist with Total Community Action, Inc. (TCA), a non-profit community-based agency dedicated to serving the needs of the disadvantaged. TCA partners with the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) to provide reproductive health education to the youth of the community.

According to Emily Bosworth, communications manager at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, these images could have a profound impact on gender inequality and bias. “The photos we use to tell stories matter. Images quickly connect to our emotions and leave a lasting impression,” Bosworth explained, “Affordable, easy access to high-quality images that accurately portray women and girls as they are—in decision-making roles, as active participants in their communities—has tremendous power in challenging gender stereotypes and reinforcing asset-based narratives.”

“The photos we use to tell stories matter. Images quickly connect to our emotions and leave a lasting impression.”

Today, the Images of Empowerment collection includes over 2,000 images licensed CC BY-NC 4.0 from across Colombia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States. The images in the collection show women as “active participants in their communities, accessing and providing quality reproductive health information and services, and advocating for better working conditions.”

Now you can search these images more easily through the Images of Empowerment website

Just in time for International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, the Hewlett Foundation launched a dedicated stock photography website for the Images of Empowerment collection.

Users can now easily search and download these images for use in their nonprofit work, as well as learn more about each photo thanks to the detailed captions that identify the individuals in the pictures and provide additional context. Incredibly, they’ve also included accompanying videos for each collection that share the experiences of the photographers involved.

Medical Students for Choice (MSFC)
“Medical Students for Choice” by Yagazie Emezi (2019), CC BY-NC. Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) leaders from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania pose for a portrait after the second regional MSFC conference. Medical students and practitioners from ten African countries gathered at the convening, where they learned best practices around contraceptive use and safe abortion.

Images from the collection have been used by nonprofits across the world for conference materials, research and policy briefs, social media content, and more. Media organizations have also utilized the images, including The New York Times, Vox, Time, and the Guardian to explain the impact of certain policy issues (e.g. reproductive health).

Bosworth noted that the images from Bihar, India (photographed by Paula Bronstein) have made a noticeable impact. “By capturing the strength and resilience of women and girls in Bihar,” she wrote, “the images challenge false stereotypes about the role of women and deliver a more accurate message about the remarkable individuals that call this region home.” 

Explore the Images of Empowerment collection!

We believe this collection demonstrates how open access can help create a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world through sharing. Please consider donating to Creative Commons so that we can continue stewarding the CC licenses and building the open access tools and platforms individuals and organizations, like the Hewlett Foundation, use to share.

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Important CC Global Summit Update

Since the early days of the Creative Commons movement, the annual CC Global Summit has been one of the most important vehicles for bringing people in our community together to share their work, ideas, and vision for the future of Open.

Unfortunately, given the current concerns around the global spread of COVID-19 (and in the wake of scores of major conferences being canceled around the world), we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s in-person Summit.

This is obviously an unfortunate and disappointing outcome, but we feel strongly that it is the right call. The health and safety of our global community are of paramount importance.

If you registered for the Summit, you will of course be reimbursed any fees you paid. We will be in touch with you shortly with details.

We are considering ways to keep the energy and collaboration of the Global Summit alive in 2020. We’re excited to engage with the CC community on thinking through what this might look like.

In the meantime, thank you for all the hard work and enthusiasm you bring to this community. We look forward to seeing you in-person once again at Creative Commons Global Summit 2021.

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Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images + Data into the Public Domain Using CC0

Smithsonian Open Access (Social Graphic)The Smithsonian—the world’s largest museum and research institution—announced yesterday  Smithsonian Open Access, an initiative that removes copyright restrictions from 2.8 million digital collection 2D and 3D images and nearly two centuries of data.

This major initiative uses CC0—Creative Commons’ public domain dedication tool—to make millions of images and data freely available to the public.

“Our goal for Smithsonian Open Access is to make the nation’s collection available to people around the world for any purpose…,” explained Effie Kapsalis, the senior digital program officer at the Smithsonian who led the strategy and implementation of Smithsonian Open Access for over a decade. “Over 100 staff members met every two weeks over the past year to create the specs and platforms,” wrote Kapsalis, “and I am extremely proud of the Smithsonian Open Access Values Statement that reflects our responsibilities as stewards of the nation’s collections, and that will be a guiding star as we move to future phases.”

Smithsonian Open Access Gallery (screenshot)
A screenshot of the Smithsonian Open Access homepage, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking.

Included in the collection are high-resolution images from all of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, and archives (including from the National Zoo); from portraits of historic American figures to 3D scans of dinosaur skeletons. Research datasets and collections metadata are also included, which users can download and access through the Application Programming Interface (API) and GitHub data repository.

CC0 is once again being used to remove barriers to artistic and cultural artifacts.

We’re excited to see this initiative come to fruition as members of the Creative Commons team, including our Interim CEO / Director of Open Education Cable Green, General Counsel Diane Peters, and CC GLAM platform lead Evelin Heidel have worked with the Smithsonian for the past few years on its open access policy. Thanks also to all of the CC alum (Jane Park, Ryan Merkley and more) who worked with the Smithsonian in prior years.

“Today’s announcement matters because the Smithsonian is dedicating its works to the public domain using CC0, communicating to the world’s museums that digitizing and using the right legal tools can and should be done,” remarked Green at the Smithsonian Open Access launch event, “The Smithsonian is a leader in this space, and it is leading.”

Watch video from the Smithsonian Open Access launch event here.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be working to share all of the Smithsonian’s millions of newly released works through CC Search, our tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. Additionally, we are pleased to be working with the 3D content platform Sketchfab to make all of the Smithsonian’s 3D scans and models available for download and reuse through CC Search. This coincides with Sketchfab’s announcement that the platform has added formal support for CC0 so that any cultural institutions can now easily dedicate their 3D scans and models to the public domain.

This is an extraordinary time for open access and the public domain, as the Smithsonian joins a growing list of other major cultural institutions that recognize the importance of removing barriers and increasing accessibility to artistic and cultural artifacts.

Let us know how you reuse, remix, and reshare these resources from Smithsonian Open Access by tagging us on Twitter @creativecommons and using the hashtag #SmithsonianOpenAccess!

We hope to encourage more cultural institutions to embrace open access initiatives by offering support, training, and education activities. This is a core aspect of our partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation in the OpenGLAM space. We’re currently preparing a Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage that we expect will help cultural institutions understand how open access to cultural heritage is key to achieving knowledge equity.

If you are affiliated with a GLAM institution and would like guidance on using CC0, or any of our CC licenses, please email us at info@creativecommons.org We’re here to help!

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The Public Domain is Alive and Well (for Now)

Public domain advocates celebrated on January 1 because, for the second year in a row, published works newly entered the public domain in the United States due to copyright expiration.

To mark the occasion, Creative Commons (CC) collaborated with the Internet Archive, the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Creative Commons USA, the Institute for Intellectual Property & Social Justice, and SPARC to hold the Public Domain Day (PDD) celebration on January 30 at the American University Washington College of Law. 

“This is a ‘good news’ story,” exclaimed Brewster Kahle (Founder and Digital Librarian, Internet Archive) at the start of the 1920s themed soiree, “Another year of the public domain!”

Celebrating another year of the public domain

“The Navigator,” 1924 film poster by Buster Keaton in the public domain

Indeed, there is a reason to celebrate. As we noted last year, January 2019 marked the first time works entered the public domain since the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act—which extended copyright terms “to the life of the author plus 70 years, and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever end is earlier.” 

The Copyright Term Extension Act ultimately halted the flow of published works into the public domain for 20 years. “The celebration of the public domain used to be a sad affair…,” remarked panelist Julia Reda (Fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society). However, as of 1 January 2019, works from 1923 became freely accessible and reusable by anyone, anywhere. This year, works from 1924 followed suit; from George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to Buster Keaton’s The Navigator.

“We have to be constantly vigilant. Settled expectations can be disrupted, and thus need to be defended.” Michael Carroll

Despite the progress that’s been made since the re-opening of the public domain, Reda told attendees that they still have to create “strategies to limit the damage of long copyright terms.”

Echoing Reda’s concern that the public domain is still at risk, panelist Michael Carroll (Director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, American University Washington College of Law) warned, “We have to be constantly vigilant. Settled expectations can be disrupted, and thus need to be defended.” 

Contributing to the public domain through art

Beyond providing an important discussion space for public domain advocates and researchers, we also wanted to highlight the work of artists who contribute to the public domain. Therefore, we were excited to showcase the creative works of six local artists: Darnell Gardner, David Amoroso, Laci Jordan, Naturel, Rikasso, and Tenbeete Solomon. These artists were asked to “remix” art in the public domain and invited to share their creative process during the event.

A remix of Diego Rivera’s 1924 piece, “Day of the Dead” by Trapbob.

For example, Tenbeete Solomon, aka Trapbob, remixed Diego Rivera’s 1924 piece, Day of the Dead. “I love the celebration of something that’s dark,” explained Solomon, “[I wanted to] bring the piece into the now, so I decided to make women the focal point.”

When asked what he would like to ask the artist of the original piece, Natural, who remixed  Contrasts by Kandinsky Vasily, responded, “How would it feel to know your work is being shared with the world a second time?” 

Too important to “protect”

As the event drew to a close, many attendees were left wondering what’s in store for the public domain. Although its future appears secure and stable for now, that can quickly change. Further, panelist Amanda Levendowski (Director, Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic,  Georgetown University) pointed out that the public domain remains largely “white, wealthy, and Western.” With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to reframe and broaden the fight for the public domain as a global fight for “user rights” and “free speech.”

The public domain should be a treasure trove of humanity’s remixes; artifacts that are arguably too important to be “protected” by copyright because we all benefit when knowledge, culture, and history are made accessible and shareable.

“Everything we do is a remix,” Natural remarked, “we need cultural anchors to communicate.”

To watch and listen to all of the presentations and panels from the 2020 Public Domain Day celebration, access the webcast here. Thank you again to all of our collaborators for this event, as well as the participants and attendees. See you next year! 

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