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.

Logo for International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
Logo for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations. Access it here.

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 celebration and acknowledge that, internationally, measures need to be taken to protect Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests in their unique cultures. One measure, which intersects with our policy work at CC on Open GLAM, addresses the open, online sharing of Indigenous cultural heritage cared for within cultural heritage institutions. 

Creative Commons and the Open GLAM movement

Many galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (known collectively as “GLAMs”) work hard to make cultural heritage collections available to the public. For these institutions, providing access to knowledge and culture is a core aspect of their duty and public interest mission. Many institutions are digitizing and making cultural heritage collections available online in an effort to both preserve and openly share cultural heritage materials. The Open GLAM movement acknowledges this mission and actively promotes this premise, helping GLAMs make the most out of CC licenses and tools to communicate what users can do with digitized material. At CC, we strongly advocate for open access to public domain material held in GLAM collections for the benefit of all. CC firmly believes that digital reproductions of public domain material within these collections should remain in the public domain and be accessible online as openly as possible.

Indigenous cultural heritage and Open GLAM

Reuse freedoms associated with public domain materials, and fostered through digitization, can create tension when it comes to Indigenous cultural heritage. Existing copyright law, steeped in Western concepts and values, does not adequately protect Indigenous traditional cultural expressions, nor does it sufficiently reflect or account for Indigenous cultural values. By default, many forms of Indigenous heritage or “traditional cultural expressions” (which may include secret, sacred, or sensitive content) are inequitably deemed public domain under conventional copyright law.1 One of the challenges is that the copyright system does not properly account for the ways in which traditional cultural expressions are created, collectively held, and transmitted through the generations. The copyright eligibility criteria, such as originality and authorship, are often at odds with Indigenous notions of creativity and custodianship over a community’s cultural heritage. As a result, it may seem that such heritage is freely available for use and reuse, when in truth this may not be the case. Permitting this level of access and use raises ethical concerns which must be fully considered.2

Existing copyright law, steeped in Western concepts and values, does not adequately protect Indigenous traditional cultural expressions, nor does it sufficiently reflect or account for Indigenous cultural values.

The notion of the “public domain” is relevant within the confines of the copyright system. So, while Indigenous cultural heritage may be regarded as public domain under copyright rules, and thus free to use, other rights and interests may still attach to it, stemming from various sources. These include other legal restrictions like privacy rights, other intellectual property rights (including sui generis rights to protect traditional cultural expressions), and personality rights, as well as Indigenous customary laws and protocols. In practice, this means that access to and use of Indigenous materials may be limited, and justified, on grounds found outside of the copyright system. Because these rights and interests are not protected under copyright law, they are not licensed under CC’s licenses and tools, which operate solely within the copyright system. This means that specific terms or conditions on access and use that are based on Indigenous rights, interests, or wishes are not fully addressed when applying CC licenses and tools only and that additional measures might be advisable to correctly reflect the conditions associated with access and use of traditional cultural expressions. Local Contexts, a labeling system inspired by Creative Commons, was designed to address this issue by alerting reusers to local protocols established by communities.

GLAMs are in a pivotal position to take active steps in support of Indigenous cultural interests and values. Through thoughtful, intentional, and respectful decision making, GLAMs can enable the ethical treatment of cultural heritage materials, going beyond the application of conventional copyright law and the determination of a work’s public domain status. GLAMs should take account of Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests, particularly regarding digitization, access, and reuse of Indigenous cultural heritage. 

Ndebele Tribe in South Africa
A South African woman from the Ndebele tribe stands in front of a house in 1983. This picture was provided by the UN Photo/P Mugubane and shared via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

A study of GLAM policies on Indigenous cultural heritage

In an effort to better understand how GLAMs are tackling this tension, we undertook desk-based research aimed at surveying and analyzing GLAM policies and practices dealing with the treatment of Indigenous cultural materials.3 After collecting a diverse range of resources from various GLAMs located in different world regions, we studied them to find common trends, best practices, strategies and rationales. 4

We found that some institutions attempt to strike a balance between their aim to share collections openly and the need to prioritize Indigenous peoples’ interests in their cultural heritage. The policies in place at Auckland War Memorial Museum (discussed here with Open GLAM on Medium), Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences are great examples of institutions working to strike this balance. 

Additionally, we were able to identify three key themes in the surveyed policies: 

  1. Acknowledgment—GLAMs should recognize and affirm the interests Indigenous peoples have in their cultural and intellectual property, existing both inside and outside conventional copyright law.
  2. Consultation—GLAMs should form authentic and meaningful relationships with source communities, understanding customary law and protocols, and determining community needs and wishes with regard to their cultural heritage. 
  3. Guardianship—GLAMs should actively respect community decisions regarding digitization, access, and use, giving Indigenous communities full agency over how their cultural material is treated.

While this research provides us with initial insight, it is only the first step in understanding the important but complex interrelations between the goals of the Open GLAM movement and the celebration of the public domain on the one hand, and the ethical, and at times legal, obligation to respect Indigenous cultural heritage. Looking at institutional policies probes a narrow aspect of a much larger conversation. More work needs to be done, and CC will continue to explore ways to bring attention to this issue. In the meantime, we remain convinced that as far as Indigenous cultural heritage is concerned, GLAMs should acknowledge that access and reuse restrictions might be justified in certain situations. With continued efforts, we hope to better inform the Open GLAM movement of best practices when digitizing and making material available online, accounting for more than just the “public domain” status of Indigenous cultural heritage. 

We remain convinced that as far as Indigenous cultural heritage is concerned, GLAMs should acknowledge that access and reuse restrictions might be justified in certain situations.

Moving forward, we at Creative Commons intend to explore paths to find ways to resolve this tension in the GLAM space and beyond. Ideally, we would like to conduct further research to develop informed policy options, hold open conversations and consultations with relevant stakeholders on these important issues based on the principles of collaboration, inclusivity, and transparency, and continue to clarify how CC licenses and tools work and develop ways to better reflect and account for Indigenous rights and interests in their cultural heritage.

Notes

1. Some countries have sui generis (tailor-made) systems of protection in place designed specifically to protect traditional cultural expressions from misappropriation and misuse. For further information, see WIPO’s “Compilation of Information on National and Regional Sui Generis regimes for the Intellectual Property Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions.” However, no such regime exists at the international level. The Intergovernmental Committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization is the forum in which negotiations take place to develop a sui generis international legal instrument for the protection of traditional cultural expressions.
2. In the case of museums, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics provides one basis for recognizing Indigenous cultural interests as an ethical consideration.
3. For the sake of compatibility, we modeled our approach on the Open GLAM survey.
4. Note that the sample of policies reviewed was relatively small next to the large number of GLAMs. As such, the results are not comprehensive nor are they necessarily representative of GLAM practices more broadly.

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Nearly 500 CC-licensed Education Images are Now Available!

The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) just released the second edition of their openly licensed digital image collection, “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.” This edition features nearly 500 high-quality images of teachers and students licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 (CC BY-NC 4.0).

A screenshot of the digital collection from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Captured by Allison Shelly (photojournalist and co-founder of Women Photojournalists of Washington) and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, these images portray “deep learning” both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic at the UCLA Community School in Los Angeles and Sutton Middle School in Atlanta. 

“These are some of the final images we have of classroom-based instruction prior to the coronavirus sending students and teachers home for months of online instruction,” said Deborah Delisle, All4Ed president and CEO. “The idea of deeper learning is evolving as schools across the country rethink how they deliver instruction, and we are excited to see what that shift produces in thoughtful, innovative ways of engaging students.”

Browse the free collection!

Here at Creative Commons, we’re especially excited to use these images in relation to our work in Open Education. As we continue advocating for and supporting the development of open education policies globally, the images we use should accurately illustrate the messages we send. That’s why openly licensed stock photography collections (like this one!) that are inclusive and representative is imperative.

Congratulations to the Alliance for Excellent Education on a great collection! 

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From Educators to Illustrators: Meet the Users of CC Search

Have you ever wondered who looks for openly licensed images? Or how those images are used? Before we launched CC Search in April 2019, we assumed that the search engine would serve three broad groups of creators:

  • Those making designs, imagery, and art
  • Those illustrating text, such as bloggers, journalists, or educators
  • Those creating videos

It’s been over a year since CC Search moved out of beta (we just celebrated its first birthday!), and we now have a better idea of who we serve and their needs thanks to user feedback and insights derived from anonymized data. We’re excited to share with you what we’ve learned!

Who are our users?

Thanks to extensive feedback and user interviews, we have a better sense of the broad groupings our core users fall into, including 1) educators, 2) students, 3) creators, 4) illustrators, or 5) professionals. By collecting examples indicating how CC-licensed content is used, we also have a clearer picture as to how these groups use the content they find and what they need from us to ensure an even better experience. 

Image: “wocintech stock – 148” by WOCinTech Chat is licensed under CC BY 2.0, found via CC Search.
  • The Educator is someone who teaches, trains, or coaches at any level of schooling, from early childhood through adult education. They use CC Search to create or illustrate educational materials, such as presentations, handouts, worksheets, and videos. The Educator can be a creator, or an illustrator, but identifies as an educator first, and so the purpose and impact of their work is explicitly defined as for education. Approximately 30% of our users identify as educators. The size and impact of this group is deeply compelling as we structure our ongoing efforts.
  • The Student is most commonly someone who is instructed to use CC Search as part of a defined curriculum (such as Code.org) or as part of a class assignment. They are directed to CC Search when learning about copyright or creating something to turn in to their teacher. Teachers using CC Search tell us it is their first choice because they see it as the safest, most comprehensive collection of openly licensed images. Approximately 30% of our users identify as students. One user, a Digital Creativity Advisor at a university in the United Kingdom told us, “I use the Creative Commons search engine with students to help them find great resources for use in their digital artworks but also to help explain the tricky concepts behind Creative Commons licensing. I’m so glad it’s there to make both so much easier.”
  • The Creator is a musician getting cover art for their album or a filmmaker adding images to videos or a designer getting inspiration or material for adaptation. They’re not mainstream creators with large budgets, but rather artists pursuing passion projects. This group makes up about 10% of our users. We see this group as distinct from those with an explicit education focus.
  • The Illustrator is an author, writer, journalist, blogger, or editor who is looking for a visual accompaniment to a written work. They’re looking for something they can freely use for personal and professional projects alike, some of which may be commercial. About 10% of our users fall into this group.
  • The Professional is someone who is using CC Search for business purposes, most commonly for marketing materials, website assets, or merchandise creation. They need content that can be freely used for commercial purposes. The filter mechanisms on CC Search and clear explanations of license restrictions allow this group to reuse with great confidence. About 10% of our users fall into this group.

The remaining 10% or so of our users self-report as other types, often planning to use the work they’ve found for personal reasons, like social media backgrounds, internal decorations, or birthday cards.

While we’ve been able to broadly group our users, which helps us understand their needs and motivations, we’ve also learned that the use cases of openly licensed images are wider than we can possibly imagine or represent through these groupings. We find it particularly heartwarming when a grandparent reports that they are making a picture card for their grandchild and inspiring when a teacher shares a link to a slide deck being used for a history lesson. We’re sincerely grateful to the users who share with us how they’re using the images they find.

Where are they based?

Our goal is to serve a global audience, and we’re actively working to make CC Search more usable in languages besides English. Despite our current limitations, we’re thrilled to see that CC Search is crossing borders. Here are the top 10 countries that users access CC Search from:

  1. United States (40%)
  2. Israel (6%)
  3. United Kingdom (4%)
  4. Canada (4%)
  5. Spain (3%)
  6. Australia (3%)
  7. Germany (3%)
  8. Brazil (2%)
  9. France (2%)
  10. India (2%)

In total, we’ve had visitors from 200+ countries and territories. Over 65% of our users were searching in English, with Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, and Russian making up over 20% combined. Over the next few months, we’ll be working to internationalize CC Search so that we can more effectively serve the growing number of users from non-English speaking countries. 

What have they taught us?

Student studying
Image: “Student Studying” by UGA CAES/Extension is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, found via CC Search.

There are several ways we keep in touch with the users of CC Search. Some folks send us emails or submit feedback forms, while others chat with us on Twitter or through our Community Slack. Which we welcome you to join! We also have a standing invitation for user interviews to help improve the usability of CC Search and other products we’re building. Our favorite conversations are with users, as we work to understand their pain points and collect candid feedback. These conversations inform what features we focus our efforts on.

In recent months, we’ve had the chance to dig into the myriad of ways that openly licensed images are used, what other types of content would be useful to our current users, and what users miss most about the old search portal for CC-licensed content. We’re happy to report that we’re working on meeting the needs of those who want other sources of content and other types of content.

We’ll soon be rolling out a meta-search feature, both for additional image sources as well as audio and video. This will look familiar to those users who’ve used the old search portal to confidently put the necessary filters in place before searching for CC-licensed content on the broader web. This new feature will allow for a quick jump to results from the likes of Google Images, SoundCloud, YouTube, and more directly from the CC Search interface. We’re also working hard to prepare for the indexing and discovery of CC-licensed audio, which we expect we’ll be able to support by the end of 2020—stay tuned! 

To stay up-to-date on the technical updates that we’ll be making to CC Search throughout 2020, be sure to follow Creative Commons Open Source on Twitter, join #cc-usability in the Creative Commons Slack, or keep an eye on the Active Sprint and Backlog in GitHub! If you want to share your thoughts on CC Search with us directly, fill out this feedback form or schedule a user interview with one of our team members. We’d be thrilled to hear from you!

📸: Featured image has icons by Valerie Lamm from the “Person” collection licensed CC BY via Noun Project.

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CC License Suite 4.0 and CC0 Are Now Available in Romanian!

Creative Commons is excited to announce the publication of the Romanian language translations of version 4.0 of the CC License Suite and of the CC0 public domain dedication. These translations will enable approximately 30 million people to understand our licenses in their first or second language! 

CC BY in RomanianWe could not be more pleased to see this effort reach a successful conclusion after one year of collaboration among experts from the European Commission. The translations were provided by official translators of the European Commission, coordinated by Pedro Malaquias (Legal Officer – Intellectual Property). The translations were reviewed by George Hari Popescu, our Translation Assistant.

The translations followed the guidelines set in the 3.0 version and kept the same translations for most of the legal words and phrases. The most important change in the 4.0 version is for the word “Share.” The 4.0 suite is an exact translation of the English original version, without adaptations to national laws. Since “Distribuire” is a word used in the Romanian copyright law, the word “Partajare” was chosen for the 4.0 version.

You can find the translations below:

Congratulations to everyone who worked on these translations! For more details and links, check out the dedicated Wiki page.

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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 Beard
Luke 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 Homepage
Exposure 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 Agreement
An 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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Meet CC Italy, Our First Feature for CC Network Fridays!

Did you know that the Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN) consists of 43 CC Country Chapters? Spread across the globe, these CC Chapters are the home for a community of advocates, activists, educators, artists, lawyers, and users who share CC’s vision and values. They work to implement and strengthen open access policies, copyright reform, open education, and open culture in the communities in which they live.

To help showcase their work, we’re excited to introduce our blog series and social media initiative: CC Network Fridays. At least one Friday a month, we’ll travel around the world through our blog and on Twitter (using #CCNetworkFridays) to a different CC Chapter, introducing their teams, discussing their work, and celebrating their commitment to open! 

First up is CC Italy!

The CC Italian Chapter was formed in December 2018. Its Chapter Lead and representative to the CC Global Network Council is lawyer Deborah De Angelis. From the beginning, the Chapter has been involved in many fields of the open movement but over the last year, in particular, it has enhanced its activities covering almost all CCGN Platforms. To learn more about their work, we reached out to CC Italy to ask a few questions. They responded in both English and Italian! 


CC: What open movement work is your Chapter actively involved in? What would you like to achieve with your work?

CC Italy: The Italian Chapter is involved in advocating for CC licenses, in the process of the DSM Directive implementation in Italy, and has formed an Open GLAM group and an Open Education group. Our goal is to achieve more openness and the widespread adoption of CC licenses in Italy.

Il Capitolo italiano divulga le licenze CC, è coinvolto nel processo di implementazione della Direttiva DSM e recentemente ha costituito al suo interno due gruppi di lavoro, uno dedicato all’Open GLAM e uno dedicato all’Open Education.

CC: What exciting project has your Chapter engaged in recently?

CC Italy: The Chapter participated in the hearing at the Italian Senate for the DSM Directive implementation. It is working on a common appeal for the free re-use of cultural heritage images in the European Union and writing a proposal to the Italian Ministry for the Open Education policies implementation.

Il Capitolo italiano ha partecipato alle audizioni al Senato per l’implementazione della Direttiva DSM. Attualmente sta lavorando ad un appello per il libero riuso delle immagini dei beni culturali nell’Unione Europea e ad una proposta indirizzata al Ministero italiano dell’Istruzione e dell’Università e della ricerca per l’implementazione di politiche di Open education.

CC: What projects in your country are using CC licenses that you’d like to highlight?

You can find some Italian private and public organizations that share their works with CC licenses, here. We would like to mention that the National and Central Library of Rome (not present in the list above) shares its digital content under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Potete trovare qui alcune realtà italiane pubbliche e private che condividono le proprie opere con le licenze CC. Vorremmo citare anche la Biblioteca nazionale Centrale di Roma (non presente nell’elenco) tra coloro che condividono i propri contenuti digitali con licenza CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

CC: What do you find inspiring and rewarding about your work in the open movement?

CC Italy: We strongly believe in the importance of sharing knowledge and culture in order to create a fairer world through a democratic and safe digital space. We work very hard for this purpose and we are rewarded by every small step forward we’re able to achieve.  

Crediamo fortemente che la condivisione della cultura e della conoscenza siano fondamentali per la creazione di un mondo più equo anche attraverso uno spazio digitale  sicuro e democratico. Lavoriamo molto in questa direzione e ci sentiamo pienamente ricompensati da ogni passo avanti che riusciamo a raggiungere con il nostro lavoro.

CC: What are your plans for the future? 

CC Italy: The future is now! We are deeply involved in so many projects and we really hope to achieve even just a part of our goal, and to enlarge and strengthen the Italian CC community. For updates about the CC Italian Chapter’s activities, visit our website or contact us

Il futuro è adesso! Stiamo lavorando su tantissimi progetti e speriamo di raggiungere anche solo una parte dei nostri obiettivi e di ingrandire e rafforzare la comunità italiana di Creative Commons. Per aggiornamenti sulle attività del Capitolo italiano CC, visita il nostro sito Web o contattaci!

Thank you to the CC Italy team, especially Laura Sinigaglia and Deborah de Angelis for contributing to the first CC Network Fridays feature, and for all of their work in the open community! To see this conversation on Twitter, click here. To become a member of the CCGN, visit our website

📸: Featured image has icons by Guilherme Furtado and Vectors Point via Noun Project (CC BY 3.0).

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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 mission of Creative Commons. During her tenure, she has successfully redefined OKF’s vision and mission, reengaged its global chapters, and increased its international profile.

Photo by David Iliff (CC BY-SA)

Prior to her work with OKF, Catherine was a longtime Member of the European Parliament. As one of Scotland’s most respected legislators, she was active on digital policy issues including copyright reform, citizen privacy and data protection, and improving public access to digital tools. Among her many achievements, she founded the Parliament’s All-Party Library Group, promoting and advocating for the importance of libraries in the digital age.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know Catherine, and hearing her ideas for how Creative Commons can make a meaningful and long-lasting impact in a moment of tremendous global change. The CC Board has been so impressed by her inclusive and collaborative leadership skills, her vision for the future of our organization, and her passion for CC’s mission of eliminating legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges. We, along with the CC staff, are truly thrilled to begin working together with her.

Next year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Creative Commons. That’s two decades of making the world a more open and equitable place through sharing. It’s a huge milestone for CC and the perfect time to welcome a new leader to guide us into our next era. It coincides with events that make the need to remove unnecessary obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity clearer and more urgent than ever. Our current health and environmental emergencies, including the emergency of systemic racism and inequality, are global crises that require collective action and wisdom. CC’s modest but critical role in addressing these crises is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and creativity that empower that collective action and nourish that collective wisdom.

We enter this next chapter at Creative Commons with gratitude to our Interim CEO Cable Green, who will resume his critical leadership role as Director of Open Education; to former CEO Ryan Merkley, now a key collaborator in his role at the Wikimedia Foundation; and to the Open Knowledge Foundation, with whom we look forward to continued collaboration. Thanks also to the Creative Commons staff, CC Global Network, funders, and Board of Directors; as well as Kathleen Yazbak and her team at Viewcrest Advisors. All of their insights shaped our search process and will lay the foundation for our future success.

Catherine will officially join us on August 17. Until then, please join me in welcoming her to Creative Commons.

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Say What? Jonathan Poritz Records All CC Certificate Content As Openly Licensed Audio!

Image: Jonathan Poritz, Director of Teaching and Learning and an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics, both at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Creative Commons provides educators and the expertise they need to harness Open Educational Resources (OER). We strive to make education more accessible to more people around the world. One way we do this is through our CC Certificate training, which is licensed CC BY 4.0 and available for use. 

Today, we’re delighted to announce our training materials are now available as audio files licensed CC BY 4.0. Thanks to the fantastic work of Jonathan Poritz, we can now offer materials in another format for learners. Jonathan Poritz has been contributing to open education efforts for nearly a decade* and facilitates CC Certificate courses regularly.

To celebrate the recent additions to our open licensed CC Certificate resources, we asked Jonathan a few questions. Our interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.


CC: Thank you for your hours of work making the CC Certificate OER available in a new format, and improving the accessibility of our resources. What a gift. Can you tell us about your process for this? 

Poritz: So the process was pretty simple: I just went into my clothes closet and read the whole thing to my laptop.  The clothes closet seems to be the place with the best acoustics in my house.

Editor’s note: Jonathan elaborated in a conversation with CC Certificate participants, noting: “I would go in there, close the door, and record for a while. … when I was too hot…I’d take a break out in the world!”

I’m actually not being facetious here. I work a lot in Open Educational Resources (OER) at my university and in my home state (Colorado, USA).  When I talk to people about making and using OER, one thing I like to emphasize is that only OER gives teachers and learners real agency: because of the open licensing—Creative Commons licensing, which enables OER—a teacher can retain, reuse, redistribute, revise, and remix OER.  In other words, only OER allows for real pedagogical academic freedom, real autonomy, and agency for teachers and learners. 

I think of myself as a “Z-professor,” in that I only use OER in my teaching. The “Z-this” and “Z-that” terminology is used in the OER world to describe things like zero textbook cost degree programs, also called “Z-Degrees” or “Zed Creds.” These programs use entirely OER or other zero-cost resources, so I’m used to having that kind of agency.  When it occurred to me that an audio version of the CC Certificate materials should be made and that it would enable more learners to access this fantastic resource, I just went into my closet and recorded it!

A Zed Cred/Z-Degree is a “set of courses in a specific program area that allows a student to earn a credential, such as an associate degree or certificate program, with zero textbook costs by way of using open educational resources and/or free library materials.” Source: BCcampus Open Education program.

I knew I didn’t need to ask permission to do this because the CC Certificate materials are licensed CC BY 4.0, so I have all the permissions I need. Regarding the technical process, I happened to already have a pretty good external microphone, and the Audacity audio editing software, which is FLOSS (free/libre/open-source software).

CC: Do you have other ideas for how CC might increase the accessibility of our training resources? Or, ideas for people who are curious about accessing the CC Certificate course content? 

Poritz: Another version of the audiobook! When I got to the end of the full reading, I had more experience doing this than when I started, so I will do a better job the next time.  Fortunately, the CC team around the CC Certificate course regularly revises and improves the course materials, so I will have a chance to do a new audio version in a few months.

In a larger sense, it might be a good idea to get a real accessibility expert to look over the materials—I certainly do not have such expertise!  I knew about reading books out loud because I used to read math books for Reading for the Blind when I was a university student myself (100,000 years ago), but a real accessibility expert might have things to say.

Image: Jonathan Poritz recording audio in his closet at home! This image is licensed CC BY 4.0.

It seems to me that another thing CC can do is along the lines of that periodic revisit and improvement of the CC Certificate course materials.  It means that the materials are always tracking the best and most current knowledge about law, practices, policies, resources, etc.  I know that there are also discussions about how to improve the course in other ways (e.g. to use more methods of open pedagogy, to make it more relevant to a very international audience, etc.). This is a highly non-trivial task!  There are so many different legal systems around the world, and so many local traditions of educational and cultural production and consumption, it is hard for CC to make something that is localized to every one of those situations.  But (as you know!) there are some steps in this direction already.  For example, facilitators accept assignments from participants in their local languages, when the facilitators can read the languages, or when the participant attaches an automatic translation which they have checked for reasonable accuracy.  And, I understand, there are some additional translations of the course materials into other languages coming out soon!

To your second question: CC has given the world an amazing gift by releasing these materials with a CC BY license. It should go a long way to making this knowledge more widely accessible, across geographic and economic barriers.  The cost of formally taking the CC Certificate course does remain an obstacle, although the scholarship program has made tremendous inroads into that.

I do believe that taking the course provides benefits that just reading the CC BY licensed materials does not. Aside from the direct interaction with the other participants (and the section facilitator), there is always a sense of joining an absolutely amazing global community around openness that comes from working together on the course.  I’m humbled by the privilege of meeting and learning about these truly amazing groups of people and what they are doing, every single time I facilitate a course.

CC: After so many hours sweating in your clothes closet, what’s next? What do you hope to see in Open Education efforts given the “great pivot” to online teaching we’ve seen? 

Poritz: I have great hope, but also great fear about what’s happening right now in this great pivot.  As should be clear from the things I’ve said above, I think Open Education has a lot of solutions to offer to many issues in education.  In fact, as a “Z-professor,” I think “open” is the only way to go with education!

This crisis could help educators work (rush!) toward more open practices, or move in the opposite direction.  We in open communities must work to clarify and promote the solutions that open education offers—and a great many of us already are. We also need to highlight how problematic the closed approaches are to learners.  

If I had to list the issues which bedevil open education right now, my list might include: 

  • General lack of knowledge of open practices with which things like the CC Certificate course can help enormously. 
  • Lack of ancillary materials (automatic homework systems, test banks, etc.) for many OER, which many people are working to overcome.
  • Difficulty in finding existing OER for particular purposes, which again, people are improving. For example, there are various OER search tools, and CC Search is getting better all the time. 
  • Complex platforms to create and remix OER: also an area of rapid work and improvement.
  • Spotty record on accessibility for OER, although commercial resources are actually not all that much better!

I think the community can step up to improve accessibility, similar to how a random person with a quiet clothes closet can record any work with an open license and make it accessible to more people.

I’m headed back to the closet to record!  Maybe I’ll tackle a math OER textbook I wrote next—it should be an interesting challenge to try to describe all the equations, graphs, and diagrams!

CC: Thank you so much, Jonathan!

You can access the audio files on the CC Certificate website, or on Jonathan’s website!

*In addition to his work with the CC Certificate, Jonathan is the Director of Teaching and Learning and an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics, both at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is also a member of the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s Open Educational Resources Council. Learn more about Jonathan here

The CC Certificate is an in-depth course about CC licenses, open practices, and the ethos of the Commons. The course is composed of readings, quizzes, discussions, and practical exercises to develop learners’ open skills. We provide personalized engagement with expert facilitators and copyright lawyers in the field. 

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Introducing the CC Global Network Platforms!

We’re excited to introduce the three Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN) Platforms: Open Glam, Copyright, and Open Education! These Platforms are created with our community in mind, and everyone is free to join.

Open GLAM Network Platform

Following the work that started in 2017, the Open GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) Platform is currently working to provide a space to share resources, enhance collaboration, and raise awareness on open access to digital cultural heritage, working with GLAM professionals and open advocates. The plan for 2020 includes the publication of the Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage and a White Paper that informs the Declaration. We also plan on providing the community with different channels to engage, network, and discuss issues regarding open GLAM.

With this year’s funding, we have put together a plan that sets out to:

  • Build a map and visualization of GLAM institutions that are implementing open access policies and initiatives around the world
  • Document case studies and stories of open GLAM, with a special focus on countries in Africa, as well as underrepresented communities across the world
  • An open call for projects

Anyone can engage with this Platform by:

Copyright Network Platform

The Copyright Platform brings together experts in copyright law and policy to push for policy, legislative, and regulatory change in copyright at the international and national levels that upholds the public interest, as well as enriches and protects the public domain. For details on the Platform’s goals, principles, objectives, and rationale, click here. In 2020, this Platform will undertake projects and activities aimed at fulfilling these goals and principles.

For example, the Platform could act as:

  • A forum to exchange good practices, case studies and practical examples
  • A network of contacts, local focal points, and experts
  • A place to collaborate on projects and activities

Priorities and activities for this year will be proposed, discussed, and agreed upon collectively by the Platform members. The current plan serves as a wellspring of ideas and proposes a process to allocate $20,000 USD for selected activities.

Anyone interested in joining the Platform and taking part in its activities can:

Open Education Network Platform

The Open Education Platform brings together a global open education community (1000+ members from 75+ countries) to support and facilitate multinational, collaborative open education content, practices, and policy activities. We envision a world in which everyone has universal access to effective open education resources and meaningful learning opportunities. For details on the Platform’s goals, principles, and objectives, click here.

In 2020, this Platform will undertake projects and activities aimed at fulfilling these collaboratively developed goals and principles. Activities will be proposed and decided by Platform members and funded with $20,000 USD. We’re currently finalizing the Platform’s activities timeline.

Anyone interested in open education is most welcome to join the Platform and take part in its activities by:

  • Joining the #cc-openedu Slack channel
  • Joining the Open Education Platform mailing list
  • Participating in Platform meetings (past and future meetings listed here)

Have questions? Please email us for more information or check out the Creative Commons Global Network (CCGN) website

This announcement was a collaborative effort with contributions from Scann, Brigitte Vézina, and Jennryn Wetzler. Thank you! 

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The CC Global Summit Is Going Virtual—See Our Latest Call for Proposals!

It’s official, the 2020 CC Global Summit, to be held 19-24 October 2020, will be entirely online and free of cost! After consulting with our community, we’ve also decided to hold the event in a variety of timezones and include programming in five languages: Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, and Spanish. By doing so, we hope this virtual version of the CC Global Summit will provide the open community with an intimate and localized space to gather and connect.

Send us your proposals!  

After revising the CC Global Summit, we’ve decided to once again open our Call for Proposals (CFP) to better reflect the dynamics of our world today, including proposals that address issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the global movement against racial injustice. This CFP also welcomes proposals that take into account the changing medium of the CC Global Summit, from an in-person gathering to a virtual event. Finally, while the official language of the event is English, we highly encourage proposals in any of the five languages we’re supporting this year: Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, and Spanish.

In this CFP, we’re asking for proposals that address the topics and issues outlined in the tracks below with a focus on actionable insights and outcomes—from case studies to workshops and storytelling sessions. 

  • Creators of the Commons – The faces, work, and stories of those building the Commons 
  • Powering the CommonsExploring the tools, technology, and communities that power the Commons
  • Open Education and Open Scholarship Supporting communities that practice open access to education and scholarship
  • Open Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums – Improving and expanding open access to cultural heritage
  • Policy and Advocacy promoting the Commons – Strategies for legal action and copyright reform

We’re very excited to host the CC Global Summit virtually this year and for the opportunity to once again gather the open community under the umbrella of learning, sharing, and creating to begin an exercise of internal reflection on how to build a more equitable, inclusive and accessible world. 

The deadline for proposals is 17 July 2020. Please review the guidelines before submitting your proposal!

👋As part of our initiative to support multiple languages, you can view this blog post in عربى | Français | Español | 简体中文

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