Dear not-for-profit community, thanks for all the great work you do in the public interest. As I stumble across your sites in web searches, or check them out on the advice of friends, I note that many of you are using CreativeCommons licenses, which is great. I’m a long-time supporter of CC licenses, in fact I spent a number of years doing voluntary work to increase awareness and use of the CC licenses in Aotearoa (NZ). It’s always exciting to see people making creative use of CC licenses, placing their work under a Some Rights Reserved model that is more in tune with the digital age than the ARR (All Rights Reserved) copyright automatically applied in many jurisdictions.

Just to be clear; I am not a laywer, and this letter is not legal advice. It’s just my opinion as an activist and a support of the digital commons. However, if you’re still using version 3.0 (or earlier) of the CC licenses, or you’ve chosen one of the licenses with NC (NonCommercial) or ND (NoDerivatives) clauses, I’d like to suggest a couple of changes to your choice of license. There are two parts to this, and I’ll explain them both as best I can from an activist perspective.

The first, and simplest part, is the upgrade from version 3.0 of the CC licenses to version 4.0. A number of improvements were made to the wording of the license texts in version 4.0, to bring them up-to-date with changes in copyright law, and further clarify things like what is and isn’t counted as “commercial use” of a licensed work. The biggest change between these versions is that from version 4.0 onward there is one international version of each CC license, instead of having to “port” each license to make it compatible with the copyright law of each jurisdiction, as was the case in previous versions. This is a welcome change, as it makes more sense for international media like the internet and the web. A summary of the differences between the various versions can be found on the CC wiki (just a guide, not legal advice).

So if the CC license you chose still reflects the ways you do and don’t want the work on your site to be used, I suggest upgrading to version 4.0 of that license. See the upgrade guide also on the CC wiki (also not legal advice) But if you chose a license with an NC or ND clause, does the license you chose really reflect the ways you do and don’t want the work on your site to be used? This brings me to the second part of my license upgrade suggestion. Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of using a CC license that includes the NC or ND clauses.

The CC wiki summarizes the meaning of the NonCommercial clause. NC is confusingly named, because it’s useful mainly to creators whose work is intended for commercial sale. For example, NC can be used by musicians, film-makers, or novelists, creators who have to invest significant resources to get their work ready for distribution, to prevent anyone selling copies in competition with them (and any distributors they have negotiated commercial contracts with). The idea that NC marks a work as having a not-for-profit goal is such a common misconception that serious thought was given to renaming it “Commercial Rights Reserved” in version 4.0 of the licenses. While the decision was made to keep the existing wording, for the sake of consistency between license versions, CC encourages us to use the “Commercial Rights Reserved” wording to help make the purpose of the NC clause clearer. Some arguments against using the NC clause can be found on the website of the Definition of Free Cultural Works.

Turning to the NoDerivatives clause, perhaps the best argument for ND restrictions comes from gnu.org, the website of the pioneering GNU Project:

“Works that express someone’s opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions: just the permission to copy and distribute the work verbatim.”

But it can also be argued that the ND clause is pointless for works that consist mainly of text. By using an excerpt from a gnu.org work, as I’ve done above, I’ve arguably made a “derivative work”. But this is allowed, because of the long-standing convention that one can reproduce any portion of a text, as long as it is placed within quote marks, and attributed to the original author. The one thing that All Rights Reserved copyright definitely says people can’t do with text - reproducing the entire work in its original form (even with quotes and attribution) - is the one thing that any CC license definitely allows.

One major downside of using a license that includes the ND clause is that it stops people translating your work into other languages, without first getting your permission to create a derivative work. Another problem with ND is that it stop works being included in free commons licensed under BY-SA or BY licenses, from online reference works like Wikipedia.org or Appropedia.org, to Open Educational Resources like WikiEducator or open textbooks, and many, many more. This is also true of the NC clause. Is restricting uses like these what you had in mind when you chose an NC or ND license? If so, then you chose the right license for your project. If not, it might be time to think about other options.

If your work has any commercial value to corporations, or anyone else who might try to extract value from your common work without voluntarily contributing back, the SA (ShareAlike) clause can be used to mitigate this. With an SA license, like the BY-SA license used by Wikipedia, anyone who reproduces the work, or makes a derivative work, must make any changes they’ve made available under the same license terms. If someone publishes a derivative work, you can choose to incorporate any of the changes or improvements you like back into your version of the work.

I originally dipped my toes into the water of creative commoning by putting my own writing at Disintermedia.net.nz under an NC license, but for the reasons given above, I decided on a change of license. All the work I write for Disintermedia, Counterclaim, and any other not-for-profit projects, is now licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (unless there is a very strong argument for doing otherwise). So in summary, based on my experiences as a commoner and a CC advocate, my suggestion is that you consider talking to the people who shared in the creation of the work on your website about the possible benefits of relicensing to CC BY-SA 4.0.

One other thing, I notice some sites make it very hard to understand which CC license applies to their site (I’ll restrain myself from making an example of anyone here). To avoid confusion, please:

  • Indicate the name and version number of the license you’ve chosen in a prominent place on your site, and link it to the appropriate license page on the CreativeCommons website (eg CreativeCommons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0).
  • Make sure if the license is given in more than one place, for example on a copyright page *and* at the bottom of each page, that the license name and version number is the same on both, and they both link to the correct license page.
  • Use the correct CC license icon for the license you’ve chosen, and make sure that links to the correct license page too.
  • Check that the icon and link indicate the same license everywhere they appear, except where they indicate work under a different license from the rest of the site. When that’s the case, it’s best to make the license exception clear in an introduction or footer text, giving attribution to the creator, and if possible, linking to the original.

Keep up the good work!

Filed December 19th, 2018 under free culture

To whom it may concern,

For some time now, I have been trying to make contact with whoever is administrating lists.ibiblio.org. The Wikipedia article for Ibiblio says:

“It is run by the School of Information and Library Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with partners including the Center for the Public Domain, IBM, and SourceForge.”

So I am writing to each of these organizations about this. If your organization is no longer involved with the Ibiblio project, it might be a good idea to update this article. Otherwise, I would really appreciate it if you could pass on this message to the appropriate person, or at least to someone who is involved in the day-to-day operations of Ibiblio.org, whether in an organizational or technical capacity.

The problem I’m struggling with, is that I have been receiving ever increasing floods of spam via the mailserver at lists.ibiblio.org. A number of years ago, I was a list admin for a mailing list (cc-nz) hosted at lists.ibiblio.org. I am no longer in this role, and in fact this list is no longer in use, having been moved to a new host some years back by the organization using it. However, my email address is still listed as an admin on the list information pages at lists.ibiblio.org, and I still receive any email sent to the admin address for the cc-nz list.

I have done everything I can think of to make contact with the sysadmins in charge of these listservers and mailservers. I have pored over all the pages accessible from the lists.ibiblio.org domain, and tried sending email to every address there that might direct mail to an admin. I have tried joining any lists that seem to be used for admin communication. All with no success. I have tried looking for admin contact information on ibiblio.org, with no success. I have tried answers.ibiblio.org, but I was unable to sign up for an account, or login with any of the other login mechanisms (OpenID, WordPress etc), so I couldn’t ask a question there.

If you have any idea who is in currently charge of the services hosted at ibiblio.org and its subdomains, can you please ask them to make contact with me. Also, you might suggest that they take steps to update these services, so that anyone struggling with similar issues with Ibiblio don’t have to go on an epic quest to find a human to talk to about them.

Warm regards,

Danyl Strype

Filed December 11th, 2018 under free culture

Update 2018-12-11: I corrected “Project Lead” to “Public Lead”, which was the formal title used by CreativeCommons for the non-legal coordinators of local “porting” and advocacy projects, and while I was at it I decided it was remiss of me not to mention NZ GOAL, so I added a mention.

—————–

In June, while I was preoccupied with preparations to travel to London for the Open 2018 conference on Platform Cooperativism, a significant announcement flew under my rader. The team running what was CreativeCommons Aotearoa/ New Zealand (CCANZ) have announced that “Tohatoha” is the new name for the organization. Tohatoha is the word for “sharing” in Te Reo Māori, the indigenous language of Aotearoa.

It’s now common for public organizations in Aotearoa to have a Te Reo Māori name, as well as an English name, in recognition of the bicultural origins of our country. I’ve long advocated for the organization that promotes the CreativeCommons licenses in Aotearoa to follow this convention. But I remember suggesting some words in Te Reo as potential names in the early years of the project, and being reminded by the first CC ANZ Public Lead (2007-2010), Dr Brian Opie, that it’s more culturally appropriate if such a name is gifted, rather than simply chosen. Now that I’ve caught up with the renaming news, I’m curious to learn more about the origins of the new name. 

For more than a decade now, CCANZ has served as the formal hub in Aotearoa/ NZ for a range of work supporting and promoting the use of the CreativeCommons licensing framework. It emerged from a network of free culture, open access, open source, and open government activists, which I helped to prepare the ground for in early 2006, beginning with the establishment of the cc-nz email list on Ibiblio.org (now hosted by OnlineGroups.net).

The first major projects as CCANZ were establishing the creativecommons.org.nz website (now tohatoha.org.nz), which went live in July 2007, and recruiting and overseeing the legal team drafting the NZ “ports” of the CC licenses, formally launched in October of that year. These projects were coordinated by Dr Opie under the umbrella of Te Whāinga Aronui, the Council for the Humanities (which later became part of the Royal Society of NZ). Perhaps the most significant achievement of this period was the formalization of the NZ GOAL (Government Open Access and Licensing) framework, approved in July, 2010 by Cabinet, the executive body of the NZ Government (the NZ Goal Software Extension came later, in 2016). Subsequent Public Leads, Jane Hornibrook, Matt McGregor, and Mandy Henk (now Chief Executive of Tohatoha), have overseen a number of changes of Hosting Institution, first to the Royal Society, after Te Whāinga Aronui decided to merge with it, then to the Open Educational Resources Foundation, and now to being an independent entity (thus the new name).

Prior to the recent announcements, there had been very little public comment from anyone involved in CC ANZ since the announcements in November 2017 of a new strategic plan, and a 10th birthday party. The cc-nz list and the CC ANZ Loomio group (neither of which have yet been updated to reflect the name), have been quiet since the end of last year too. The only information on the rebranded website about how to get involved is a webform where visitors can submit an indication of interested in a special meeting to take place in 2018, but there is no information about when it is, or if it already took place. If there is still an active community of kiwi CC advocates, it’s a bit unclear how, or where, interested people can join the discussions.

But after years of supporting CCANZ, I’m aware that behind the publicly-available information that makes up the visible part of the iceberg, there is always a huge amount of hard work going on beneath the water line. Reading between the lines, it looks like the release of the strategic plan was followed by a lot of work to secure funding, to recruit and orientate the new staff members, and to carry out the re-organization and rebranding that the transition to self-hosting as Tohatoha required. Now that this work is complete, I look forward to seeing a revitalization of CC advocacy work in Aotearoa.

For the first time in a few years, two new case studies on local CC use have appeared on the website. One is on Isa Pearl Ritchie’s novel ‘Fishing for Maui’ (licensed CC BY-NC 4.0), and one on Siobhan Leachman’s citizen science work with “Wikimedia, the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the USA-based Smithsonian Institution”, both posted in the last few months. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Filed December 3rd, 2018 under free culture
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