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Measuring Up: Impact Factors Do Not Reflect Article Citation Rates

Plos -

This special blog post is co-authored by PLOS Executive Editor Véronique Kiermer, Université de Montréal Associate Professor of Information Science Vincent Larivière and PLOS Advocacy Director Catriona MacCallum. It accompanies the posting on BioRxiv of a research paper on citation distributions.

Journal-level metrics, the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) being chief among them, do not appropriately reflect the impact or influence of individual articles—a truism perennially repeated by bibliometricians, journal editors and research administrators alike. Yet, many researchers and research assessment panels continue to rely on this erroneous proxy of research – and researcher – quality to inform funding, hiring and promotion decisions.

In strong support for the shedding of this misguided habit, seven journal representatives and two independent researchers – including the three authors of this post – came together to add voice to the rising opposition to journal-level metrics as a measure of an individual’s scientific worth. The result is a collaborative article from Université de Montréal, Imperial College London, PLOS, eLife, EMBO Journal, The Royal Society, Nature and Science, posted on BioRxiv this week. Using a diverse selection of our own journals, we provide data illustrating why no article can be judged on the basis of the Impact Factor of the journal in which it is published.

The article presents frequency plots – citation distributions – of 11 journals (including PLOS Biology, PLOS Genetics and PLOS ONE) that range in their Impact Factor from less than three to more than 30 (the analysis covers the same period as the 2015 Impact Factor calculation.) Despite the differences in Impact Factors, the similarities between distributions are striking: all distributions are left-skewed (a majority of articles with fewer citations than indicated by the JIF) and span several orders of magnitude. The most important observation, however, is the substantial overlap between the journal distributions. Essentially, two articles published in journals with widely divergent Impact Factors may very well have the same number of citations.

Share and share alike

By publishing this data, we hope to strengthen a call for action originally voiced by Stephen Curry, one of the authors, and to encourage other journals to follow suit. In the spirit of this call we present below the plots for all seven PLOS journals [see Fig. 1]. Needless to say, there are no surprises. Despite widely different volumes, all distributions show a marked skew to the left (low citations) with a long tail expanding to the right (high citations)—a pattern obscured by use of the JIF.


Fig. 1: Citation Distributions of the PLOS Journals. Citations are to ‘citable documents’ (as classified by Thomson Reuters), which include standard research articles and reviews; distributions contain citations accumulated in 2015 to citable documents published in 2013 and 2014. Data was extracted using the “Purchased Database Method” detailed in the V. Larivière et. al. BioRxiv article. To facilitate direct comparison, distributions are plotted with the same range of citations (0-100) in each plot; articles with more than 100 citations are shown as a single bar at the right of each plot. Copyright held by Thomson Reuters prohibits publication of the raw data but aggregated data behind the graphs is available on Figshare.


We do not deny there are differences among journals, which reflect the different article types, editorial criteria, scope and volume of each publication. These effects are notable, for instance, when considering PLOS ONE—where articles are selected on the basis of being technically sound and robustly reported rather than on perceived impact or general interest. Such criteria enable the publication of small studies or those with negative, null or inconclusive results, which might not garner many citations but are crucial in mitigating against publication bias. The journal scope comprises disciplines with different citation habits and niche areas of research as well as social sciences, where citation rates are typically lower. And since volume of publication is not artificially limited, these factors provide an explanation for the relatively higher number of articles with few or zero citations (a similar explanation can account for the distribution of citations in Scientific Reports). This does not mean that PLOS ONE (or Scientific Reports) does not publish many highly-cited articles. To the contrary, a 2013 study indicated that PLOS ONE publishes its fair share of the top cited papers in the literature (relative to the number of papers it publishes). In the 2015 distributions, the volume of papers making up the high-citation tail of the PLOS ONE distribution is again substantial.

The sway of influence

What motivates our initiative to raise awareness is that despite calls to the contrary, the JIF remains a prevalent tool in evaluating scientists. Often it comes down to convenience, lack of time and appropriate alternatives, but it is also a question of culture. The misuse of the Impact Factor has become institutionalized in the research assessment methods of many universities and national evaluation panels, leading to a perverse incentive system.

For researchers, the career advancement and reputational reward of ‘aiming high’ when choosing a journal is too great to ignore, even when the consequences are to work one’s way down the Impact Factor ladder one step at a time, rejection after rejection. This sequential submission pattern not only puts an enormous burden on journal editors and reviewers, it also causes unnecessary and unacceptable delays in making results available to the wider scientific community and the public. Worse are the stories of researchers who feel compelled to alter their experimental or analytical approach to make the manuscript more attractive to one journal or another. The profound consequences are manifest in other ways—a strong disincentive to pursue risky and lengthy research programs, to publish negative results or to pursue multidisciplinary research. They also provide a potent motive to flood fields that are already over-crowded and entrench a hypercompetitive system that increasingly disadvantages graduate students and early career researchers.

Action in process

There is no escaping the fact that a paper can only be properly evaluated by reading it. However, there are tools to help filter the scientific literature for reach and impact that an article might have, and not just within the scholarly research community. Several platforms offer article-level metrics, including PLOS’ own ALM service, which provides citations and other indicators of readership and social attention. The open source software Lagotto powering PLOS ALMs underpins Crossref’s Event Tracker to capture a range of usage activity linked to any digital object identifier, including datasets.

No single metric, however, can accurately reflect the diverse impact of different research outputs (as clearly laid out in the Metric Tide report and the Leiden Manifesto for research metrics). Ultimately, the scientific community needs a better means of capturing and communicating the assessment of validity, reliability, significance and quality that takes place over time, when experts engage deeply with and build upon the results of their peers.

We also need more granular and robust ways of describing and assigning credit to the myriad different contributions of individual researchers to articles, data, software, research projects, peer review and mentoring students. Towards this aim, PLOS and other publishers are starting to require that authors register for an ORCID ID, and are introducing the CRediT taxonomy to recognize the individual contributions of authors to an article. In the EU, Science Europe has just issued a report on how to evaluate multidisciplinary research that includes a recommendation for funders to evaluate applicants on a range of outputs, rather than just on publication record.

These are all welcome steps but ultimately, the culture will only change when the institutions responsible for overseeing the assessment of researchers and those who constitute the evaluation panels take active steps to change how they assess scientists.

Meanwhile, the message from journal editors and publishers that show their citation distributions is clear: we select and publish diverse articles that attract a wide range of citations, and no article can be adequately judged by the single value of the Impact Factor of the journal in which it is published.


Image Credit: Gerd Altman,


Open Innovation and the Creation of Commons -

In March we hosted the second Institute for Open Leadership, and in our summary of the event we mentioned that the Institute fellows would be taking turns to write about their open policy projects. Below is a guest post by IOL Fellow Katja Mayer, a postdoctoral researcher in Science, Technology and Society at the University of Vienna.

IOL2 at work by Cable Green, CC BY 2.0

As a sociologist of science, I am interested in how scientific research, technological innovation, and society are linked together. I was always fascinated by the open source movement, and this fascination grew into a strong advocacy when I started to use free and open source software myself to collaborate with fellow scientists. When I first heard about the open science movement several years ago, I was immediately convinced that it not only makes an interesting object of research (I’m currently working on open research data practices), but also that I would like to help to spread open science practices to my communities. In addition to integrating open science related topics and methods into my teaching, I joined collective efforts to push for open science in national and European science and research policies. I am an active member of the open science workgroup of Open Knowledge Austria, and became a member of the Open Access Network Austria as a member of the steering group for implementing a national open access strategy.

Being able to join the Institute for Open Leadership in March 2016 boosted both my professional development and my confidence in working on a transition to open science. The wonderful feedback I got from this group of inspirational individuals from all over the world still resonates, and continually helps me to shape my vision for the project that I’ll start in September: Exploring best practice examples of Open Innovation and the creation of Commons.

IOL2 Fellows by bella_velo, CC BY 2.0

The idea for this project was developed in Cape Town as a reaction to European policy rhetoric at the time appropriating terms such as “open science” and “open innovation”. We heard pronouncements like, “Europe is not productive enough. In Europe we are not succeeding in transforming research into innovation. Our knowledge is commercialized elsewhere.” These and similar descriptions of Europe’s problematic standing with regard to innovation form the main narratives in policy strategy documents that suggest the solution lies in the “open”. In other words, open innovation and open science should help to create jobs, spur economic growth, and make Europe competitive in terms of the commercialization of knowledge production. What was so alarming in this rhetorical policy move was its monopolization of the term “open” and its one-eyed description of knowledge circulation and sharing. It is one-eyed because its focus rests on a specific economic theory of open innovation, rather than the diverse and longstanding types of openness already practiced by countless people around the globe.

It’s a worthwhile idea that we should enable broad access to knowledge by fostering a stronger culture of entrepreneurship that can lead to the development of new products and services. But this approach lacks an understanding of the potential interplay of traditional and alternative markets, and new and unusual forms of value creation beyond the typical exploitation of intellectual property rights. Also, this framework for “openness” remains vague in its description of the relationship between science and business, and in how collaboration could result in forms of value capture that benefits all relevant stakeholders, especially those who funded the research. Open licenses and open policies are only rarely mentioned. When they are, it’s only in the context of best practices of others such as the Gates Foundation (see i.e. Moedas 2016)

Cape Town present for IOL2 Fellows by tvol, CC BY 2.0

The objective of my open policy project is to crowdsource the collection of best practices of the creation of common goods and shared resources—beyond the one-eyed economic vision currently used to describe open innovation. I wish to investigate how such projects and models have created new markets and new opportunities. By end of September 2016 I will launch a website with a form to input basic information and media of open projects that would widen our understanding of what is possible in support of open innovation. Besides a database where such best practices are stored, I hope to create an interactive diagram with the help of other IOL participants. The diagram will depict selected open projects in relation to each other and across core characteristics of open innovation and the open movement. This way, politicians, administrators, and scientists can have a good sense of the existing open innovation ecosystem today. If you are interested in collaborating, please send me a short email at

“New knowledge is created through global collaborations involving thousands of people from across the world and from all walks of life.” – Commissioner Carlos Moedas, May 2015

Envisioning an interactive diagram as a tool for understanding the potential of the open innovation movement results from my wish to make it more coherently visible in teaching. To counter a uniform narrative of open innovation, it’s important to show the manifold dimensions of the open movement. Furthermore, I am particularly interested in the multiplicity of dimensions of openness, including which forms of openness are realized depending on the kind and scope of resources, projects, or works.

In his 2003 book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, Henry Chesbrough defined “open innovation” as innovation transcending the boundaries of the organization conducting it and hence as motor of productivity and growth. His notion of openness argues against the characterization that innovation is a linear process. Instead, open innovation introduces new forms of cross-sector and cross-organizational collaboration in knowledge production and design processes. (Note: We still see a linear innovation model today because of current measurement methods and statistical indicators. See Godin, 2006 for more).

Today, a broader conceptual framework for open innovation is embedded in an integrated approach to openness. It is a vital element of the open movement and should not be taken out of this context.

Graphic by Katja Mayer, CC BY 4.0

Open innovation is transcending the boundaries of traditional knowledge production and fosters cross-fertilization of knowledge. It can serve both as a trigger for change towards openness and a cross-connector of multiple segments of the open movement.

In an ideal interpretation of open innovation, we would follow the Open Definition, which means that anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share the content for any purpose (while preserving provenance and openness). But in practice, openness—in its many shades—cannot be reduced to a singular definition. However, we can emphasize its main characteristics:

The open movement rests on common principles such as sharing and collaboration, transparency and participation, quality improvement and enhancement of positive societal impact by co-created shared values. Its core focus is on the actors and communities of openness, their skills and their mind-sets, and their abilities to openly innovate. Without an open ecosystem comprising important elements such as open policies and open licenses, open education, open source, open standards, and open science, open innovation would not be possible. Although it can create and shape markets, fostering the diversity of open business models, open innovation is offering more than just economic impact: it has the potential for structural change in open societies (which goes far beyond the idea of rapid adoption of new technologies).

Similarly, the open science movement is based on the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the research process. The future of scholarly communication – as envisioned by the Vienna Principles – is based on open access to scientific publications and research data. Even more radically, it calls for the participation of all relevant stakeholders in research design and evaluation. Open scientific methodology enables new forms of participation and interaction in order to build and maintain sustainable eco-systems for co-creation. In an innovation context, emphasis should not only be put on the traditional commercialization of research outcomes. Open innovation in science should enable new public spheres, the creation of common goods, and other benefits enabled by an information commons—as explored by Ostrom in her 1990 book Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action.

Open science and the knowledge commons are already highly impacting innovation in society through the development of initiatives such as the Human Genome Project. Collective efforts to study the Zika virus or the US presidential call for an open cancer research initiative will foster new forms of open knowledge production and dissemination, as will any science policy with a strong mandate for open access and open research data. I think it will be of utmost importance to make the case for multiple knowledge markets—where open knowledge practices and commercialization can work in tandem for the benefit of rights holders and the broader public. Therefore, policy urgently needs to address open licensing models. Open innovation should strive to achieve the synergy of commercial and alternative markets, and support new, participatory forms of knowledge production and dissemination. By collecting past and present best practices (and also failures) from the open movement, I hope we can come to a better understanding about open innovation in service of a collaborative and productive commons in the future.

Please join us in our effort to make the open innovation and open science multiple more visible by collecting infos on best practices. If you are interested please send a short notice to and you will receive updates about the project kickoff in September.

Katja Mayer 
Twitter: @katja_mat

Further reading:

Fecher, B., & Friesike, S. (2014). Open science: one term, five schools of thought. In Opening science (pp. 17-47). Springer International Publishing.

Chesbrough, H. (2003). Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. Harvard Business School Press.

Godin, B. (2006). The Linear model of innovation the historical construction of an analytical framework. Science, Technology & Human Values, 31(6), 639-667.

Mayer, K. (2015). Open Science Policy Briefing. ERA Austria

Mayer, K. (2015). From Science 2.0 to Open Science: Turning rhetoric into action? STCSN-eLetter, 3(1).

Nielsen, M. (2011). Doing science in the open.

Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press.

Have a look at the diagram by the P2P foundation:

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Spotlight on Gage Skidmore, political photographer -

Gage Skidmore is a photographer and freelance graphic designer living in Phoenix, Arizona whose high-quality photos of politicians and pop culture have been featured in diverse publications including The Atlantic, MSNBC, Fox News, and The World. The ubiquity of Skidmore’s photos are a testament to his extraordinary success through open licensing.

The 22-year-old started taking photos in 2009 during Rand Paul’s Senate campaign, uploading all of his photos under a CC BY-SA license. Since then, he has accumulated over 1 million photo credits and 1.2 million views on his page. In addition to political photography, Skidmore has been the official photographer for a variety of events and publications, uploading over 45,000 photos to his Flickr account.

Skidmore answered questions over email from CC’s Eric Steuer, discussing his success as a photographer, passion for politics, and how the CC license fuels his work.

What was the first photo you made of a politician? What were the circumstances surrounding that shot?

The first ever political event I attended was an event in Louisville, Kentucky in November 2009, when I attended a healthcare town hall being hosted by the U.S. Senate campaign of then-ophthalmologist Rand Paul. I was a big supporter of his dad, Ron Paul, in his 2008 campaign, and at the time I lived in Indiana, so I was only a couple hours from Kentucky. Over the course of that year I decided to start documenting his campaign, mostly as a supporter, and attended a couple events a month. I uploaded all of these photos onto Flickr under a Creative Commons license for people to use.

Rand Paul at Volunteer Phone Bank, Manchester, NH, Photo by Gage Skidmore CC-BY-SA 2.0

How many political photos have you published since then? What is your typical process for getting these shots?

I’m not entirely sure on the exact amount. The two main things that I cover are politics and pop culture conventions like Comic Con. I’ve uploaded close to 45,000 photos, and most of them are probably politics related.

When did you decide to start using CC licenses to make your photos available to the world? And why did you make this decision?

I saw Creative Commons as a vehicle to help get my photos disseminated easily very early on. Through my involvement with projects like the Wikimedia Commons, I learned about Creative Commons licensing, and chose the license that I thought best fit my desire for my photos to be used in the proper manner. Attribution was very important to me, and still is.

Hillary Clinton with supporters, Photo by Gage Skidmore CC-BY-SA 2.0

Since then, your photos have been used in a variety of ways. Do you notice that they’re mostly used by media outlets? What other ways have you noticed people using your work?

My photos have been used by a lot of different websites, news sites, and sites like Wikipedia, and I’m very happy to see this. I really enjoy seeing my photos being used, especially if they comply with the CC-BY-SA license and attribute me.

Do people typically contact you to let you know they’ve used your work? Have there been any particularly interesting conversations (or stories or even commissions?) that have come out making your work available to the world?

I’ve had people email me just to make sure that I am attributed properly, or to ask permission to use my photos. I was involved with documenting the 2016 campaign, so I did have interactions with some of the campaigns who wanted to use my photos while also abiding by the photo license.
One misconception that a lot of people have asked me about is in regards to the main photo on Donald Trump’s website. It is one of my photos, and his campaign actually attributed me at the bottom of his website. Many people assumed from this that I was a supporter of his, or worked for him in some way, neither of which is true. The Trump campaign simply found my photo, used it on their website, and attributed me for my work.

Donald Trump Campaign Website Banner, Photo by Gage Skidmore CC-BY-SA 2.0

At CC, we’re specifically interested in how creators contribute to a culture of sharing and gratitude by making their work available under CC. What’s been your experience as someone who puts a lot of high value work out there under CC licenses? Do you find that people are grateful for your contributions?

I’ve had a great amount of positive reception from people thanking me for providing quality images of certain people over the years under a Creative Commons license. Wikimedia Commons is one such community that I believe truly embraces its contributors and tries to create a library of images that are Creative Commons or public domain. I’m very much glad to be a participant in this project.

Has the approach you employ helped create any opportunities that might not have been available to you otherwise?

Since I started I’ve had people recognize my name and actually get in contact with me to offer photography gigs, mostly in the Phoenix area where I live now. Getting my name out there helped people get a sense of my work, and that has translated into a lot of paid opportunities to be an official photographer for various events. Some of these include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Western Journalism, Conservative Review, Reason Magazine, the Mises Institute, Campaign for Liberty, the Iowa GOP, several different centers at Arizona State University, and some freelance work that has allowed me to photograph people like the President of the United States.

I’m always excited to see what presents itself day by day, and it really all goes back to my involvement with Creative Commons that first allowed me to get my name out there and break into a field that is constantly changing and evolving.

Bernie and Jane Sanders, Photo by Gage Skidmore CC by SA 2.0

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New Chilean law would make it harder for authors to freely share audiovisual works -

2° Feria Tecnológica Audiovisual DuocUC by il_tommy, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In May we learned that Chile’s Chamber of Deputies approved an amendment to a bill that would create a new, unwaivable right of remuneration for authors of audiovisual works. The law would apply to all audiovisual works, even those published under open licenses. This would mean that audio and video creators are supposed to be compensated even if they do not wish to receive royalties. Creative Commons and CC Chile are concerned that the bill could create unnecessary complexity for authors who want to share their works under CC licenses.

Of course authors should be able to be paid for their work. But with over 1 billion CC licensed works on the web, we also know that many authors simply want to share their creativity freely under open terms to benefit the public. For example, educators and scholarly researchers create and share works primarily to advance education and to contribute to their field of study—not necessarily for financial remuneration.

All CC licensors permit their works to used for at least non-commercial purposes. When an author applies a Creative Commons licenses to her work, she grants to the public a worldwide, royalty-free license to use the work under certain terms. The license text specifically states, “To the extent possible, the Licensor waives any right to collect royalties from You for the exercise of the Licensed Rights, whether directly or through a collecting society under any voluntary or waivable statutory or compulsory licensing scheme. In all other cases the Licensor expressly reserves any right to collect such royalties.”

Creative Commons and CC Chile sent a letter [English] [Spanish] to the Senate Education and Culture Committee stating our opposition to the legislation. We respectfully requested that the Senate vote against the bill, or offer an amendment so that authors may continue to share audiovisual works under Creative Commons licenses without imposing an additional burden such as having to agree to an unwaivable right for remuneration.

The bill is moving through the senate committee, and you can take action now to tell Chilean lawmakers to keep open licensing options for video creators. 

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Redefining Open: MOOCs and Online Courseware in the Age of Creative Commons and Wikipedia -

The guest post below was written by Peter B. Kaufman of Intelligent Television.

When the Open Courseware movement first started – its Big Bang probably took place in mid-June 2001, when Mellon Foundation president William G. Bowen, Hewlett Foundation’s president Paul Brest, and MIT president Charles M. Vest announced the initiative at MIT – our understanding of rights and licensing and the full range of our opportunities for accessing and sharing knowledge was more primitive than it is today. We didn’t yet know truly how to share knowledge online, nor did we know how to permit, license, and further facilitate the use, reuse, and remix of our content. It would be two years before Creative Commons licenses, also launched in 2001, would grace a million works. And it would be five years before Wikipedia, also founded in 2001, would publish its millionth English-language article.

Today, almost 15 years later, a new order of magnitude is required to calculate the extent of the commons. Wikipedia and its sister projects have seen more than 2.6 billion edits to date; now the online, open encyclopedia gains over 10 edits per second – 20,000 articles per month worldwide – and English Wikipedia alone averages 800 new articles posted per day. Creative Commons has more than a billion licenses in circulation. CC-licensed works were, according to CC, viewed online 136 billion times last year alone, and the growth in the use of this content worldwide, while still challenging to track, appears to be commensurate.

So how is it that today’s edition of open courseware – massive open online courses – don’t really intersect with the commons? Today there are thousands of hours of academy-produced video online – together representing the investment of tens of millions of dollars by universities and other cultural and educational institutions in online educational media. And, since 2001, major philanthropic foundations – Ford, Gates, Hewlett – and U.S. federal government agencies have accelerated open licensing mandates for their grantees. Yet most of the open courses and open courseware projects that universities are producing to date, and most of the ones that they are producing today, are far from truly open: far from being able to be welcomed by the keepers of the commons into the legally shareable universe, far from being licensed in ways that make them free. Open Courseware launched at MIT, where Richard Stallman, the visionary of free software and oft-cited inspiration behind Wikipedia and CC, keeps his office, yet most MOOCs, like most university video, lie outside the commons, and are destined to stay outside unless we do something.

The “Redefining Open” Project, part of a larger advocacy initiative on opening educational video that Intelligent Television is leading with core support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, explores why MOOCs are not open as the open in their name might suggest and puts forth suggestions about what might be done to help. Over the next three months the project will review the licensing frameworks for open courseware to date; analyze the rights anatomy of educational video; describe the state of educational media production and distribution in 2016; and address how production, distribution, archiving, and preservation processes might be changed to achieve greater openness and greater return on investment for many of the institutions funding MOOC development today. In October 2016 the project will present a series of next steps for MOOC producers to realize the promise that the founders of Open Courseware first envisioned 15 years ago.

About the author

Peter B. Kaufman is founder and executive producer of Intelligent Television in New York and former associate director of the Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning. He served as conference co-chair of LEARNING WITH MOOCS II and is the author of, among other works, “Video on Wikipedia and the Open Web: A Guide for Cultural and Educational Institutions” for the Ford Foundation, The New Enlightenment: The Promise of Film and Video in the Digital Age, and, also with the support of the Hewlett Foundation, The Manual of Video Style.

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Tell the European Commission to #FixCopyright -

This post was remixed from the blog of the Communia Association, whose content is dedicated to the public domain.

Through the Communia Association, Creative Commons and several CC Europe affiliates have responded to the copyright reform consultations of the European Commission. Currently, the Commission is asking for feedback on the “role of publishers in the copyright value chain” and on “freedom of panorama”. The window for providing responses ends on June 15. Communia has already submitted its detailed response. We think the Commission should stop the harmful link tax and support commonsense sharing of publicly viewable cultural works.

It’s important that the Commission hears from you! Be sure to submit your responses to the survey by 15 June. There is a guide to assist you in answering the questions at

Ancillary copyright = Link tax

The Commission is considering introducing a new right which would permit content publishers to extract fees from search engines for incorporating short snippets of—or even linking to—news articles. This is why the measure is called a “link tax.”  

Adopting new rights for publishers above and beyond the extensive rights they already enjoy under copyright law would be dangerous and counterproductive. Spain and Germany have already experimented with similar versions of the link tax, and neither resulted in increased revenues for publishers. Instead, it likely decreased the visibility (and by extension, revenues) of their content—exactly the opposite of what was intended.

Not only is a link tax bad for business, it would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached, such as creators who want to share works under Creative Commons licenses.

Adopting a new neighboring right for publishers would harm journalists who rely on information-gathering and reporting tools like news aggregators, services like Google Alerts, and social media. It would have significant negative consequences for researchers and educational institutions by adding an unnecessary layer of rights that will make it more difficult for educators and researchers to understand how they can use content as part of their education and research activities.

Finally, the adoption of a link tax would create additional barriers for users and online information-seekers. Many users that rely on curated news aggregators like Google News, or even RSS readers or other apps that reproduce snippets of content from news articles. If an additional right for publishers is established, users would find that these existing news products and services will likely be disrupted, their prices increased, or even discontinued altogether (as we’ve seen in Spain with Google News). Popular social networking apps and websites used by hundreds of millions of people could be negatively affected too.

Freedom of Panorama: Commonsense rules for sharing culture

Freedom of panorama refers to the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are located in a public place. The sharing of photos taken in public places is an example of an everyday activity that should not be regulated by copyright. We know that the lack of harmonization around the freedom of panorama has negatively affected users who wish to share images of public architecture and sculpture on sites like Wikipedia. We support the adoption of a broad right for freedom of panorama, and it should apply to both commercial and noncommercial uses of images of architecture, sculpture, and other objects in public spaces. The exception should be mandatory across the EU, and should cover both online and offline uses.

Make your voice heard!

Time is running out to tell the Commission to do the right thing: No additional rights for publishers; protect and expand freedom of panorama. Be sure to check out and submit your responses by June 15.

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CC Australia Supports Commission Recommendations for User-friendly Copyright Reform -

This post was contributed by Stuart Efstathis for Creative Commons Australia.

Image by Sierra_Graphic, CC0

The Australian Productivity Commission has recommended important changes to Australian copyright law that support content creators and users in the digital age. On 29 April 2016, the Commission released a Draft Report on reforms to Australia’s intellectual property laws based on the principles of effectiveness, efficiency, adaptability and accountability. Creative Commons Australia strongly supports the passage of the Copyright Amendment (Disability and Other Measures) Bill 2016, as recommended by the Commission. That Bill will introduce extensions to copyright safe harbours and simplify the existing statutory license provisions. We also support the Commission’s draft recommendation to introduce a fair use exception into Australian law.

The Commission’s Recommendations

The Productivity Commission concluded that “Australia’s IP system is out of kilter, favouring rights holders over users and does not align with how people use IP in the modern era”. The Draft Report contained a number of useful recommendations that would make Australia’s outdated copyright laws relevant in the digital age:

  • Australia should introduce a fair use exception to copyright. Fair use should replace the current fair dealing exceptions and ensure copyright laws regulate “only those instances of infringement that would undermine the ordinary exploitation of a work at the time of the infringement”;
  • Under current Australian law, copyright in unpublished works lasts forever. This should be removed, allowing full use of orphan and out of print works;
  • Circumvention of technologies designed to control geographic markets for digital content should not be unlawful. The law requires clarification;
  • All publications funded by State and Federal governments, directly or through university funding, should be free to access through an open access repository within 12 months of publication; and
  • Copyright safe harbours should be expanded to include all online service providers without an expansion of liability for copyright authorisation.
Creative Commons Australia’s Submissions

Creative Commons Australia made submissions in response on 3 June 2016, supporting many of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations. CCAU’s submissions were guided by three key principles: to ensure access to and use of content is not unnecessarily restricted; that creation and innovation is encouraged; and that open access and open licensing is supported.

Fair Use

Australia needs a fair use exception to address the needs of consumers and creators of content in a digital market. Consumers and creators need support for new expression, which necessarily builds upon existing knowledge, culture, and expression. CCAU fully supports the implementation of the replacement of fair dealing with a fair use exception. Fair use is a flexible exception more suited to the digital age and is likely to align better with consumer and creator expectations for reasonable content use. Fair use encourages the use of content for innovative purposes, reflecting the primary objective of copyright. The Australian Law Reform Commission has issued an extensive report recommending the introduction of fair use and the Productivity Commission has supported this.

Copyright Term and international law reform

Australian copyright law has steadily increased its focus on protecting rights holders over the last two decades. The Productivity Commission suggests that this is reflected in the recent extension of copyright terms from life of the author plus 50 years, to life plus 70 years. The Commission notes that this move imposed a significant cost on consumers with no corresponding public benefit. The difficulty in reforming this area is due to an overlapping web of international agreements that entrench the minimum term of copyright protection (including the Berne Convention, TRIPS, the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement). As a result, Australia does not have the ability to independently determine the appropriate extents of our national copyright law. CCAU recommends a start to the difficult process of disentangling intellectual property laws from international agreements that do not advance national interests.

Unpublished Works

CCAU supports the recommendations of the Productivity Commission removing the perpetual copyright protection afforded to unpublished works under Australian law. A significant amount of Australian cultural heritage remains unjustifiably locked up in unpublished work. This content cannot be digitised, archived, preserved, or reused. This can be rectified by the passage of the Copyright Amendment (Disability and Other Measures) Bill 2016.

Geo-Blocking and the ‘Australia Tax’

Australian consumers experience higher prices, long delays, and a lack of competition in digital content distribution markets. This is known as the ‘Australian Tax’. Under current law, it is not always clear whether Australians have the right to circumvent geoblocking technology to access media goods and services sold in other markets. CCAU recommends that Australian law be clarified in this regard, and supports an amendment to the Copyright Act to include exemptions for all types of media, in the encouragement of a competitive digital market in Australia.

Open Access

CCAU supports open access to articles, research and data. Open access improves research efficiency, provides assurance of greater scientific integrity, and reduces the overall costs of research infrastructure. For information to be useful, rights to re-use this content need to be clearly detailed through the use of open licensing. This can be achieved through the use of Creative Commons licensing.

Safe Harbours

Australian creators are currently disadvantaged by safe harbour exceptions that are too narrow to allow distribution of content in the digital market. Safe harbours provide the legal certainty required for content hosts to distribute creator content. Enacting laws which promote legal access and broader use of copyright content is also the most effective way to reduce infringing activity. CCAU supports the extension of safe harbours to all online service providers.

The post CC Australia Supports Commission Recommendations for User-friendly Copyright Reform appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

Ofrer personvern og grunnleggende demokratiske rettigheter i kampen mot terror! -

Denne uken leverte Lysne II-utvalget sine anbefaler til regjeringen om å innføre full overvåking av datatrafikken inn og ut av Norge. Dette er et tiltak som representerer et betydelig inngrep i enkeltmenneskers privatliv, samtidig som det vil kunne få store samfunnsmessige konsekvenser. Skulle forslagene i rapporten bli vedtatt, mener jeg vi vil være vitne til at våre digitalt inkompetente politikere ofrer personvern og grunnleggende demokratiske rettigheter i kampen mot terror.

Dramatisk skifte

Uavhengig av det endelige utfallet av forslaget fra Lysne-utvalget, har vi de siste årene sett en dramatisk endring i den politiske viljen til å ofre personvernet gjennom overvåkning av mennesker som i utgangspunktet ikke er mistenkt for å ha gjort noe straffbart. Internasjonalt har vi sett mange eksempler på misbruk av etterretningsinformasjon og eksempler på at de som utøver overvåkning på ingen måte overholder de lover og regler som er definert for å begrense skadevirkningene. Vi må også kunne stille spørsmål om de politiske organene som skal ha oppsyn med for eksempel E-tjenesten faktisk har tilstrekkelig kompetanse. Rapporten stadfester at E-tjenesten sitter med ledende eksperter på sikkerhet og overvåking. Jeg tillater meg altså å stille spørsmålet om Stortingets kontrollorganene har den samme kompetansen.

Hvor går grensen?

Det blir helt avgjørende at vi får en åpen debatt om disse spørsmålene, og vi må i langt større grad enn Lysne-utvalget gjør i sin rapport, diskutere de viktige prinsipielle spørsmålene knyttet til den massive overvåkningen som enkelte samfunnsgrupper vil bli utsatt for. Hvor går grensen for hva vi som enkeltmennesker skal kunne akseptere av overvåkning og i hvilke situasjoner er det helt avgjørende at statlige organer ikke skal kunne overvåke det vi gjør. Det er for meg komplett uforståelig hvordan man kan foreslå et så radialt tiltak til regjeringen, uten å samtidig være helt tydelig på hvordan man tenker å sikre at for eksempel journalister og politiske partier ikke blir overvåkning. Vi har allerede eksempler i Norge på at film og fotomateriale fra journalister har blitt beslaglagt, noe jeg mener representerer nok en brutt barriere.


Den økende graden av sentral digital overvåkning aktualiserer også behovet for «digitale vernesoner» hvor enkeltmennesker kan ferdes fritt. Konsekvensen ved å ikke ta denne diskusjonen er at en relativt liten gruppe mennesker i PST, E-tjenesten og politiet sitter med utrolig mye makt ved at veldig mange mennesker overvåkes.

Jeg er også meget kritisk til hvordan utvalget kan ta så lett på enkelte veldig viktige spørsmål. I rapporten står det for eksempel: «Hendelser har vist at det ikke er mulig å lage noen elektroniske systemer som er fullt ut sikre mot datainnbrudd. Reduksjon av risiko for at uvedkommende får tilgang til data og utstyr må derfor ha høy prioritet.» Med dette stadfester altså utvalget selv et kritisk problem uten at de adresserer mulige konsekvenser annet en overfladisk. Hva er faktisk konsekvensen hvis disse dataene skulle komme på avveie? Skulle man sammenlignet dette med verning av natur, vil det være som å foreslå bygging av et gasskraftverk på toppen av fuglefjellet ved Runde og bare nøye seg med å si at vi må være snill med Lundefuglene som hekker der.

Rapportens mangler

Etter å ha lest rapporten sitter jeg med noen helt grunnleggende spørsmål som jeg mener utvalgets rapport ikke berører i tilstrekkelig grad:

1. Har denne overvåkningen virkelig den ønskede effekten, altså å forhindre terror? Det finnes mange eksempler som viser at for eksempel «al Qaida», en organisasjon det vises til i rapporten, og andre terrororganisasjoner er relativt kompetente med tanke på å unngå å legge etter seg digitale spor. 
Det er også veldig mange eksempler på at etterretningen har fanget opp informasjon men ikke klart å sette inn tiltak i tide.

2. Hvordan sikrer vi at loven ikke utvides uten tilstrekkelig politisk behandling ettersom nye behov oppstår? Rapporten beskriver dette under punktet «formålsutglidning», og erfaringen fra for eksempel Sverige viser at nettopp denne typen utvidelser relativt raskt blir aktuelt. Rapporten konkluderer vagt med at ikke alle endringer er «feil», noe som i seg selv understreker min bekymring.

3. Hvordan sikrer vi at loven som regulerer overvåkningen faktisk følges. Ser vi på saker knyttet til politiets overvåkning av mennesker i straffesaker finner vi mange eksempler på at politiet på ingen måte følger de lovene som er satt i forbindelse med for eksempel sletting av data.

4. Hvordan sikrer vi full åpenhet rundt kontrollmekanismene knyttet til denne overvåkningen og enda viktigere hvordan sikrer vi at de politiske organene som skal kontrollere har tilstrekkelig kompetanse. Her beskriver rapporten en modell som noen ganger krever forhåndsgodkjenning av domstol mens man i andre tilfeller blir kontrollert i etterkant.

Det er mange dilemmaer når man først gir noen «alle fullmakter». Vi kan prøve å se for oss en situasjon hvor Stortinget gjennom sine kontrollorganer planlegger et ettersyn av E-tjenesten etter at de har bygget en stor organisasjon knyttet til denne massive overvåkningen. Hvordan kan da Stortinget være helt sikker på at de selv ikke blir overvåket av den samme institusjonen som de er satt til å kontrollere?

Relevant lenker:


Digital delingskultur løser problemet for lag og foreninger som kreves for penger etter bilde-tabbe på 17. mai -

Denne teksten ble også publisert på følgende nettaviser første uken i juni 2016: ItPro, Itromsø, Computerworld og Tidens krav.

Aftenposten skriver denne uken om Loddefjord idrettslag som brukte et bilde av det norske flagget i forbindelse med 17. mai uten å spørre fotografen om lov. Dette kostet dem dyrt, noe som er både trist og unødvendig ettersom det finns gode alternativer uten kostnad eller risiko for å havne i retten.

I en verden hvor det har blitt vanlig å dele bilder både på sosiale medier og egne nettsider er det viktig å være bevisst på konsekvensene av å bruke et bilde med copyright uten tillatelse fra opphavsmannen. Dette fikk Loddefjord idrettslag smertelig erfaring med i forbindelse med årets 17. mai-feiring. Etter at de brukte et bilde tatt av fotograf Martine Petra Hoel måtte de punge ut med 5.000 kroner. Fana IL gjorde samme tabben og fikk en regning på 10.000 kroner. Det er mange lag og foreninger over hele landet som har havnet i samme situasjon.

Personlig mener jeg fotografen i dette tilfellet utnytter en utdatert lov og krever en alt for høy sum basert på at noen har gjort en liten tabbe. Det er allikevel lag og foreninger selv som ansvaret her, selv om det er helt unødvendig av dem å sette seg i denne knipen. Det gledelige er nemlig at det finnes en veldig enkel løsningen på problemet. Den digitale delingskulturen er i dag godt utviklet. Denne delingskulturen bygger på at bilder og andre kilder blir underlagt det som kalles en fri lisens.

Den mest brukte av disse er Creative Commons. Denne lisensen gir alle som ønsker det lov til å gjenbruke bilder, film og tekst uten å spørre om lov, men under gitte forutsetninger. Tillatelsen for å gjenbruke har opphavsmannen gitt på forhånd ved å bruke denne lisensen. Denne globale delingskulturen drives frem av frivillige bidragsytere som nettopp ønsker at deres bilder, filmer eller tekster skal kunne gjenbrukes av andre. Nettsider som Wikipedia og tilbyr i dag et stort antall bilder av høy kvalitet under forskjellige frie lisenser.

Ser man for eksempel etter et bilde av det norske flagget på Wikipedia vil man blant annet finne et bilde tatt av fotografen Hans-Petter Fjeld. Hans-Petter er en av mange frivillig som gjør en fantastisk jobb for å sørge for at den norske versjonen av Wikipedia har denne typen bilder.

Foto: Hans Petter Fjeld, CC BY-SA 2.5

Jeg jobber til daglig i Nasjonal Digital Læringsarena (NDLA) som er et fylkeskommunal samarbeid for å utvikle digitale læringsressurser for videregående opplæring. For oss er den digitale delingskulturen en del av vår strategi. Dette betyr i praksis at vi deler det vi selv utvikler av innhold under en fri lisens, samtidig som vi gjerne gjenbruker bilder som andre har delt.

Når vi i redaksjonen hos NDLA trengte et bilde av et flagg til en av våre artikler brukte vi det tidligere nevnte bildet fra Wikipedia som Hans-Petter har delt. For Loddefjord idrettslag eller Fana IL ville det vært helt gratis og fritt å bruke det samme bildet – helt uten risiko for å havne i retten eller motta en stor faktura i posten.

Council of the European Union calls for full open access to scientific research by 2020 -

Science! by Alexandro Lacadena, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A few weeks ago we wrote about how the European Union is pushing ahead its support for open access to EU-funded scientific research and data. Today at the meeting of the Council of the European Union, the Council reinforced the commitment to making all scientific articles and data openly accessible and reusable by 2020. In its communication, the Council offered several conclusions on the transition towards an open science system:

  • ACKNOWLEDGES that open science has the potential to increase the quality, impact and benefits of science and to accelerate advancement of knowledge by making it more reliable, more efficient and accurate, better understandable by society and responsive to societal challenges, and has the potential to enable growth and innovation through reuse of scientific results by all stakeholders at all levels of society, and ultimately contribute to growth and competitiveness of Europe;
  • INVITES the Commission and the Member States to explore legal possibilities for measures in this respect and promote the use of licensing models, such as Creative Commons, for scientific publications and research data sets;
  • WELCOMES open access to scientific publications as the option by default for publishing the results of publicly funded research;
  • AGREES to further promote the mainstreaming of open access to scientific publications by continuing to support a transition to immediate open access as the default by 2020;
  • ENCOURAGES the Member States, the Commission and stakeholders to set optimal reuse of research data as the point of departure, whilst recognising the needs for different access regimes because of Intellectual Property Rights, personal data protection and confidentiality, security concerns, as well as global economic competitiveness and other legitimate interests.

You can read the rest of the conclusions here. Crucially, the Council said that “open access to scientific publications” will be interpreted as being aligned to the definition laid out in the Budapest Open Access Initiative: free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

The post Council of the European Union calls for full open access to scientific research by 2020 appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

Uruguayan rights holders seek to roll back progressive copyright reform -

Law, by Woody Hibbard, CC BY 2.0

Uruguay is in the process of updating its copyright law, and in April a bill was preliminarily approved in the Senate. The law introduces changes that would benefit students, librarians, researchers, and the general public by legalizing commonplace digital practices, adding orphan works exceptions, and removing criminal penalties for minor copyright infringements. University students were the original proponents of the limitations and exceptions bill.

But after its initial approval, collecting societies and publishers created a stir in the media to roll back the bill. And yesterday, a document was released that outlines the views of the author’s collecting society (AGADU), the organization representing book publishers (CUL), and the university students (FEUU).

According to CC Uruguay, these organizations have come to an “agreement” that would remove or modify many of the positive portions of the bill. The changes would have far-reaching negative consequences for users, educational institutions, libraries, and the public. They include:

  • Eliminating the exception that permits copying for personal use. This could make illegal everyday practices such as making personal backups or format-shifting legally-acquired content.
  • Retaining the possibility for criminal penalties for minor infringements. This could mean that users that are technically infringing but who do not create any financial harm to the author could still be liable for monetary damages of up to 45,000 US Dollars, or even imprisonment. This could include harmless, widespread social practices like downloading files without intent to distribute or profit from them. However, it should be noted that the existing Senate bill recommends that such matters be handled via civil—not criminal—law.
  • Drastically limiting the scope of exceptions and limitations for education. Their recommendations seek to eliminate the ability for teachers to make translations or adaptations of copyrighted works within their educational institutions. For those uses that are permitted, they want to restrict the scope of the exemption to cover only reproducing short portions (up to 30 pages) of textbooks and “educational materials”. And the organizations say that only public educational entities should be able to take advantage of the copyright exception. Private and community educational institutions would be excluded. However, the current Senate bill is more supportive of exceptions and limitations for education. It permits both translations and adaptations of copyrighted works within educational institutions. It also does not discriminate against private and community institutions. Furthermore, the Senate version does not limit reproductions to only “educational materials”. This is important in order to take into account the wide variety of resources that are necessary for instruction in higher education today, but which might not fit with a traditional definition of “educational.” For example, music students need access to musical works, and many other subject areas need to be able access and use fragments of literary, scientific, and philosophical works. Finally, the Senate bill does not impose an arbitrary page limit for how much of a copyrighted work may be reproduced. Instead, it allows for greater flexibility in how much may be used; if there is a dispute, a judge will be able to assess whether the use was reasonable—taking into account the specific context of the educational use.
  • Adding severe restrictions on libraries. The recommendations seek to permit public lending only for written works. This would mean that it would restrict the public lending of musical, audiovisual, and photographic works. The Senate bill already legalizes the public lending of software.The coalition suggests that the law should be changed from permitting public lending for nonprofit purposes to to lending “whose activities do not directly or indirectly involve any commercial purpose”. This change could further restricting the ability for libraries to lend materials.Furthermore, reproductions of copyrighted works made by libraries at the request of a user would also be subject to the arbitrary 30-page limit. Finally, the Senate bill allows libraries to make a copy of a work for replacement purposes when the work is no longer available at a reasonable market price. The group of organizations suggesting the changes wants to eliminate this provision.
  • Enacting restrictions on freedom of panorama. The Senate bill legalizes a broad freedom of panorama—which means that anyone is permitted to draw, photograph, film, or create 3D models of architectural works, monuments, and works of arts exhibited permanently in public places. However, the coalition wants to restrict freedom of panorama for only non-commercial uses. This would mean that photographers, filmmakers, or artists who want to market their own works containing public monuments and architecture would be violating the law if they didn’t get permission from the rightsholder in the underlying work.

CC Uruguay believes that the recommended changes would be harmful for users, educational institutions, libraries, and the public. The changes would eliminate two of the most important protections in the Senate reform bill: the decriminalization of non-commercial infringement, and personal-use copying. The changes would also severely restrict other exceptions and limitations to copyright, including those for education, library lending, and freedom of panorama.

Their document recommends scaling back most of the user-friendly provisions in the bill, cuts other items that were drafted by the Council of Copyright in the Ministry of Education and Culture—and which already received unanimous political support by all parties in the Senate.

CC Uruguay thinks that Senate policymakers should view these recommended changes as only one voice among many stakeholders. Decisionmakers must also take into account the diversity of voices from educational institutions, libraries, and civil society organizations. The laws regulating access to creativity and culture should support the needs and interests of the public, and should be reached through a broad and democratic debate among all stakeholders.

The post Uruguayan rights holders seek to roll back progressive copyright reform appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

Easing Discovery: A New Website for PLOS

Plos -

PLOS has a history of moving forward on initiatives designed to benefit diverse stakeholders, from authors, reviewers, editors and librarians to policy makers, educators and the general public. Delivering the best content to the appropriate audience is challenging and our previous website was simply not up to the task. PLOS is excited to announce that the clean design and user-friendly experience recently brought to PLOS Journals, PLOS Collections and PLOS’ new submission system for PLOS Biology authors, Aperta, is in place on the organization’s umbrella website and homepage,

In all of these endeavors, the PLOS Product and Technology teams provide tools that allow quick and easy content updates, enabling PLOS Communications to be as agile as PLOS Journals in delivering fresh content to visitors of on a weekly basis. Read “A New Front Door for PLOS” by Molly Sharp, PLOS Senior Product Manager, to learn more about development of the organization’s new website, truly designed to be a front door to PLOS—from Who We Are and Core Principles to PLOS Publications, Tracking Impact and tips for a Successful Submission.

Advanced search technology provides visitors to easy search across all PLOS content with one click, and from the PLOS homepage Publications menu, readers can easily browse the thousands of articles in PLOS Journals, PLOS Collections and PLOS Currents.

Those interested in learning about PLOS Innovations – past, current and future – can look to Learn Where We’re Headed from the new iconography on the homepage that runs throughout the website, and those wanting a bit more detail on how PLOS works with the broader community to improve the author experience, researcher recognition or data sharing can jump directly from the Blog menu item to The Official PLOS Blog. The PLOS Blog Network has been given more prominence on the publication page; with more than 2 million readers PLOS BLOGS provides a forum for authors, scientific leaders and early career researchers to articulate and communicate their thoughts on current research and issues of interest to the broad scientific community.

To understand the discovery, enrichment and educational benefits of Open Access journals, the Why Open Access page provides a jumping off point to information on the HowOpenIsIt?® Open Access Spectrum guide, downloadable resources, general license and Research Councils UK policy information related to publishing in Open Access journals. New Get Involved! and Advocacy pages provide a range of opportunities and information on how researchers can help move Open Access forward and what PLOS itself is doing in this area.

While publishing more than 165,000 articles (2003-2015) PLOS continues to transform research communication as we accelerate the time from discovery to publication, expand the means by which scientist share their ideas, use technology and the Internet to empower researchers and work to open the restrictions on credit to authors, reviewers and editors. The PLOS homepage Spotlight section is a place where readers can look to stay informed on these and other developments and the Featured Articles section offers quick access to the week’s article of interest from each journal’s homepage. Visit regularly to stay up to date on the latest research and the ongoing dialogue around the work, learn about opportunities to meet PLOS editors and gain a breadth of perspective on topics related to advancing science communication and the ongoing ripples of new initiatives at PLOS.

Controversy: A Recap of the copyright issues surrounding Prince’s estate -

Prince performing in Brussels during the Hit N Run Tour in 1986, CC-by-2.0

Today at Copyright On!, Britton Payne discussed the unique copyright situation surrounding Prince’s estate. This potentially long and bitter battle could shape the future of music copyright to come. Prince fought a number of legendary copyright battles, which makes this current fight over the ownership of his works particularly interesting.
As Payne writes, “Prince was a tireless advocate of his rights as an artist, using copyright law to control and protect his artistic footprint, even when it seemed like it would cost him more than it would gain. For different reasons, it appears that more contentious exploration of copyright law will continue to be part of his legacy.”

The tl;dr of Payne’s post: I Feel for You (I think I want my copyright back): The termination of transfer law After 35 years, artists can reclaim copyright from the copyright holder, which essentially gives them another “bite at the apple” to control their own work. While this law was created to protect artists in 1978 (coincidentally the year Prince’s first album was released), there has been little guidance on the execution of this law.

Prince reworked his contract with Warner Brothers in 2014 to regain access to his early back catalog, which resets the clock on this law. However, every year more of Prince’s back catalog will be up for termination of transfer law, which means that his estate can gain ownership of an increasing number of works, and by extension, control the money that continues to pour in from his most popular titles.

How come U don’t call (a lawyer) anymore: Prince didn’t leave a will

Prince’s will has yet to be found, which means that several conflicting laws surrounding his unpublished back catalog are coming into effect. Because he also left no living heirs, his estate and copyright is now in the hands of his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five recognized half siblings. (More than 700 people have claimed to be Prince’s half-siblings, but none are recognized by the courts.)

However, siblings cannot execute termination of transfer unless they are the “administrator” of the estate. The title of “administrator” is currently in the hands of a “court appointed ‘special administrator’” called the Bremer Trust. In six months, a more permanent administrator will be found (possibly Tyka, Prince’s sister.)

My name is Prince, but also Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind, and Jamie Starr

Prince collaborated with many artists and also wrote music under a series of pseudonyms including Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, and Jamie Starr. These collaborations as well as his “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright statutes than his solo composed music. There are several issues complicating these works:

  • Many of his co-authors are deceased
  • Pseudonymous works have a longer copyright statute than works written under Prince’s own name
  • Prince’s “works made for hire” are covered by different copyright law than his other work

In short, Prince wrote thousands of songs, many of them unpublished, jointly published, written for other artists, or written for hire, and hundreds of them are potentially affected by different copyright laws.

The Beautiful One(s): The PRINCE act and post mortem rights of publicity A new act in Minnesota may protect Prince’s likeness for the next 50 years. This act, called “Personal Rights in Names Can Endure”(PRINCE) will keep Prince’s likeness in the hands of his estate. This precedent will be the first to protect deceased celebrities to limit commercial rights to his likeness, so be sure to hang on to your vintage Purple Rain t-shirt. (It’s worth noting that Prince never endorsed merchandising in his lifetime, so most of the apparel floating around the Web is bootleg.) Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 2086

In 2086, most of Prince’s works will enter the public domain. Copyright law has been progressively expanded to protect the rights of artists, so any changes to the law will likely benefit his heirs.

Prince’s music in the public domain seems like a long way off, but imagine the next generation discovering this video, and it all seems pretty worth it.

Read more at Copyright On!

The post Controversy: A Recap of the copyright issues surrounding Prince’s estate appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

#happybdaybassel -

Bassel Khartabil, CC by 2.0

On May 22nd, more than four years after his detention and six months after his disappearance, Bassel Khartabil (Arabic: باسل خرطبيل‎) will turn 35 years old. Bassel’s imprisonment by the Assad regime is a brutal human rights violation and the continued lack of answers about his fate is a hindrance to the fight for free information in the Middle East and beyond. While Creative Commons has been actively involved in the Free Bassel Campaign since the beginning, Bassel’s rumored death sentence makes today’s call to action particularly pressing.

As Lawrence Lessig wrote in 2012, “We distract ourselves with a million other things, but distraction doesn’t change reality: thousands have died; thousands more are being held; tyranny still lives.”

Bassel Khartabil is a Palestinian-Syrian Free Software and Free Culture activist and project lead for Creative Commons Syria. Bassel’s work on Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Fabricatorz, and other open culture projects with his research company Aiki Labs has been credited by the European Parliament with “opening up the Internet in Syria and vastly extending online access and knowledge to the Syrian people.” Shortly after his detention, Bassel was named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy for “insisting, against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”

This weekend, we’re joining with his friends around the world to continue to demand his immediate return to life as a free global citizen.

Take action at the Free Bassel campaign website.

The post #happybdaybassel appeared first on Creative Commons blog.

The true pioneers of the sharing economy -

The real sharing economy is not about renting out your apartment on Airbnb or offering your services as a taxi driver on Uber. These are both good services but it would be completely wrong to label them as pioneers of the sharing economy.

The true pioneers would be the technological sharing culture with projects like Linux, Wikipedia, Github and Open Street map. The communities that developed the Internet in the 90s and the important work by the free software movement in the 80s built the foundation for one of the largest paradigme shifts in history. The Creative Commons movement that has grown strong over the last 10 years has also played an important role in creating a strong sharing economy.

If one were to look for companies that can be called pioneers in the sharing economy it would have to be Amazon, Google and Redhat.

People like Richard Stallman, Tim Berners-Lee, Lawrence Lessig and Håkon W. Lie are pioneers of the sharing economy trough significant contributions that deserve to be mentioned.

Creative Commons: Remix from Creative Commons on Vimeo.

Don’t let California lock down public access to government works -

If you’re a California resident, act now! Send a message to your state representatives telling them to uphold free, open access to California government works. 

Front of California State Capitol, by David Fulmer, CC BY 2.0

Unencumbered access to public sector information is central to a well-functioning democratic system. And if our government entities believe that transparency, collaboration, and public participation are civic goals worth supporting, then the public should be able to enjoy free and open access to taxpayer-funded government resources.

In February, California introduced a bill that would permit state and local government agencies “to own, license, and, if it deems it appropriate, formally register intellectual property it creates or otherwise acquires.” The law would control access to public sector information developed in California. The bill, called AB 2880, is currently moving through the state assembly. Its origin rests partly in a trademark dispute between the U.S. federal government and a third-party contractor at Yosemite National Park. AB 2880 was introduced to clarify the intellectual property rights held by the state of California.

Most of the intellectual property developed as a result of public funding in the state of California is in the public domain due to the state’s progressive copyright policy. This means that anyone may share and re-use the work of government agencies without having to ask permission or worry about infringing anyone’s copyright.

In its policy analysis of the proposed law, the state attempts to dismiss criticism by pointing out that AB 2880 wouldn’t interfere with individuals accessing information through a California Public Records Act request. While freedom of information requests are an important mechanism to ensure the public’s right to access government records, it’s not a viable or efficient technique for sharing a vast majority of the information the public should have access to by default. And, according to EFF, asking citizens to rely on records requests for access to publicly sector information is not a solution because California would still be able to regulate downstream uses of those materials:

“by explicitly reserving all of the exclusive rights given to a copyright holder, the state and local governments keeps extraordinary powers to restrain the ability for a citizen to distribute documents they obtain through a CPRA request.”

With changes in law and funding requirements, public sector bodies are switching the default from closed to open. Efforts such as Project Open Data, the agency-wide U.S. Department of Labor open licensing policy, the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program, and national level open licensing frameworks for public sector information in Australia and New Zealand are only a few examples.

In its own summary of the bill, the state specifically acknowledged the concern that “allowing state ownership of intellectual property might restrict the dissemination of information.” California should remove this bill from the legislative docket, or amend it in such a way that guarantees that the public is granted free and open access to government funded works.

If you’re a California resident, act now! Send a message to your state representatives telling them to uphold free, open access to California government works. 

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More than 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand -

Quality education should be delivered in the language spoken at home. However, this minimum standard is not met for hundreds of millions, limiting their ability to develop foundations for learning. By one estimate, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand (Walter and Benson, 2012).

A great part of the world’s learning content is written in English or in major languages in the industrial world. We don’t know the exact shares for the most-used languages when it comes to learning related content in particular, but it’s reasonable to assume this to be proximately equal to the most-used languages on the Internet as a whole.

As of 2015, 55.5 percent of all web content was in English, followed by the next four most-used world languages Russian, German, Japanese and Spanish, adding up to an additional 21.5 percent. Compared to this, the lack of digital resources is striking for languages like Swahili, Bangla or Hindi which are mother tongue or commonly spoken languages for an estimated 60+, 200+ and 500+ million respectively.

Principles for digital development -

For any ICT-based project it is crucial to develop technology based on good and sustainable principles, implementing solutions that are user driven and based open standards at the same time addressing concerns like universal design and privacy. There should be no exception for all the projects targeting users in developing countries.    

A growing number of youth in developing countries are online and thereby possibly connected to learning resources on the Internet. By 2025, as many as 4.7 billion people worldwide will be online. Compared to today, about 75 percent of the increase will come in emerging economies. An increasingly digital world brings unprecedented opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. This will result in a large number of projects that develop technologies over the next decade and significant investment from NGOs and governmental organizations.

But to reap these benefits, it will be incredibly important to ensure that technology, data and digital resources are developed based on a sustainable model.

Donor and multilateral organizations have been discussing how to surface and spread best practice in the use of ICT tools as part of development programming for at least a decade. These discussions culminated in the UNICEF Innovation Principles of 2009, the Greentree Principles of 2010, and the UK Design Principles, among others.

At the end of 2015 I came across a project called The Principles of Digital development working to consolidate these efforts. The Principles for Digital Development draw from the processes mentioned above, and are the result of consultation with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and large number of NGOs and governmental organizations.

The Principles for Digital Development are “living” guidelines that can help development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs. They are written by and for international development donors, multilateral organizations, and implementing partners, and they are freely available for use by all. The Principles are intended to serve as guidance rather than edict, and to be updated and refined over time.

The nine principles are:


If you are in the planning stages of an app, a portal or any other project involving technology you should take your time and study the documents and guidelines at 

Open Textbooks 4 Africa -

Open Textbooks for Africa Logo, by: Kelsey Wiens, CC BY 4.0

This is a guest blog post written by Kelsey Wiens, founder of Open Textbooks for Africa and public lead for Creative Commons South Africa. On March 11-12, 45 experts from around the world and across South Africa met to discuss opportunities for Open Textbooks in Africa. The goal of the event was to support the adoption and adaption of currently available open textbooks, as well as build and design a South African focused open textbook.



The first Open Textbook Summit in Africa was hosted in Cape Town on March 11-12 by Open Textbooks for Africa (OT4A). This two-day event bought together 45 local University lecturers, open education practitioners, and open textbooks experts from around the world. OT4A is a pilot project designed to support the adoption and adaption of currently available open textbooks as well as build and design our own textbooks to showcase African knowledge to the world.

Day one included a panel discussion and debate on the challenges of open textbooks in the South African context. Day two was a workshop to develop an astronomy open textbook with a global south perspective. Textbooks currently used by the Astronomy department at the University of Cape Town feature the sky from the northern hemisphere (i.e., upside down). The working group for the open Astronomy textbook has met twice since the workshop, established a work plan, and is anticipating a classroom usable draft by the end of 2016 – for use in the first term of 2017.

The physics group, also based out of the University of Cape Town, is adapting an OpenStax (CC BY licensed) open textbook. They have listed the OpenStax Physics open textbook as a “recommended book” in the second semester of 2016; aiming for full adoption in classrooms in 2017. This shift will save over 180,000 South African Rands to 150 first year students in first year (equivalent to US$11,860) at one institution over one academic year.  Additional meetings are planned with University of Witwatersrand, University of Western Cape & TSiBA to promote open textbooks.

For more details and to inquire about how your university can use open textbooks, please contact OT4A at:

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EU pushing ahead in support of open science -

Laboratory Science—biomedical, by Bill Dickinson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

April saw lots of activity on the open science front in the European Union. On April 19, the European Commission officially announced its plans to create an “Open Science Cloud”. Accompanying this initiative, the Commission stated it will require that scientific data produced by projects under Horizon 2020 (Europe’s €80 billion science funding program) be made openly available by default. Making open data the default will ensure that the scientific community, companies, and the general public can enjoy broad access (and reuse rights) to data generated by European funded scientific projects. The Commission’s actions in support of open science contrasts with the approach taken by the Member States, who—although none deny the momentum to push for “open by default”—are being much more cautious in developing and publishing open science policies.

Also in April, the Dutch EU Presidency hosted an open science conference in Amsterdam. One outcome of the conference was a collaboratively developed document called the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science. The call for action advocates for “full open access for all scientific publications”, and endorses an environment where “data sharing and stewardship is the default approach for all publicly funded research”.

The 12 action items laid out in the document push to increase support for open science in Europe. We offered suggested improvements to a few of the proposed actions. First, in response to the item to facilitate text and data mining of content, we said that text and data mining (TDM) activities should be considered outside the purview of copyright altogether. In other words, text and data mining should be considered as an extension of the right to read (“the right to read is the right to mine”). However, as others have pointed out, the fact that the InfoSoc and Database directives have not been implemented uniformly across all Member States indicates a need to adopt a pan-European exception in order to provide clarity to those wishing to conduct TDM. We noted that any exception for text and data mining should cover mining for any purpose, not just “for academic purposes.” In addition, a TDM exception should explicitly permit commercial activity. Finally, we said that terms of use, contractual obligations, digital rights management, or other mechanisms that attempt to prohibit the lawful right to conduct TDM should be forbidden.

Second, we questioned why the item to improve insight into IPR and issues such as privacy needs to take into consideration activities that “will ensure that private parties will still be able to profit from their investments.” We noted that all of the proposed actions are supposed to serve the identified pan-European goal of full open access to all scientific publications.

Third, we commended the action to adopt open access principles. However, we suggested that any principles developed should tackle a wider set of issues than those identified: “transparency, competition, sustainability, fair pricing, economic viability and pluralism.” We said that open access principles should take into account the long-standing principles described by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and its 10-year update, which includes recommendations on public policy changes, licensing, infrastructure support, and advocacy. In addition, we said that the stakeholders involved in the development of any principles should include researchers, students, and the public.

Finally, on the item of how to involve researchers and new users in open science, we urged researchers to actively engage with other scientists, citizens, and non-traditional audiences. Part of this change means that academics and policymakers need to stop characterizing these other groups as “users [who] might get lost in their search for information, or draw wrong conclusions.” If we presume a default of open, we need to get comfortable with sharing—which sometimes means giving up some control—so that others can benefit. With openness in policy and practice, the communication of science can benefit not only its intended audience, but promote novel and interesting types of re-use across disciplines and and by unconventional users.

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