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Last modified: August 22, 2008
Creative Commons Project


Creative Commons, a Massachusetts-chartered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation, uses private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare 'some rights reserved.' Thus, a single goal unites Creative Commons' current and future projects: to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules. Creative Commons' first project, in December 2002, was the release of a set of copyright licenses free for public use. Taking inspiration in part from the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), Creative Commons has developed a Web application that helps people dedicate their creative works to the public domain — or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions.

Unlike the GNU GPL, Creative Commons licenses are not designed for software, but rather for other kinds of creative works: websites, scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, courseware, etc. We hope to build upon and complement the work of others who have created public licenses for a variety of creative works. Our aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier. To this end, we have also developed [XML-based] metadata that can be used to associate creative works with their public domain or license status in a machine-readable way. We hope this will enable people to use our search application and other online applications to find, for example, photographs that are free to use provided that the original photographer is credited, or songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled with no restrictions whatsoever. We hope that the ease of use fostered by machine-readable licenses will further reduce barriers to creativity... Creative Commons looked for the best way to express the intent behind the licenses in machine-readable form. We feel that our system provides the best of all possible worlds: RDF, XML, and even plain text-based tools can easily process our metadata files because we provide them with a structured format

Science Commons is a project from Creative Commons, dedicated to the advancement of science by removing unnecessary legal and technical barriers to scientific collaboration and innovation. Built on the promise of Open Access to scholarly literature and data, Science Commons identifies and eases key barriers to the movement of information, tools and data through the scientific research cycle. The long term vision is to provide more than just useful contracts: Science Commons will combine publishing, data, and licensing approaches to develop solutions for a truly integrated and streamlined research process.

Creative Commons Description and Milestones

[December 16, 2002]   Creative Commons Project Offers RDF-Based Licenses for Rights Expression.    The Creative Commons Project has announced its first official product in the form of machine-readable copyright licenses which support a distributable, royalty-free, legally clear, XML-based mechanism for digital rights expression. Creative Commons licenses "allow copyright holders to easily inform others that their works are free for copying and other uses under specific conditions. The licenses cover several kinds of creative works, including websites, published scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, and courseware. Fundamental legal concepts that inspire Creative Commons are documented on the project website: the public domain, the commons, open content, and intellectual property conservancies. Creative Commons is working to provide simple RDF descriptions of its licenses. These descriptions will put the important points of the license in a way that makes it easy for machines to process and work from. Unlike Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which tries to restrict use of digital works, Creative Commons is providing ways to encourage permitted sharing and reuse of works." Users of the system select from a list of licenses or public domain dedications and receive support to express these declarations in three formats: "(1) a Commons Deed is a simple, plain-language summary of the license, with corresponding icons; (2) the Legal Code incorporates the fine print needed to fine-tune the copyright statements; (3) the Digital Code consists of a machine-readable translation of the license that helps search engines and other applications identify the work by its terms of use."

[September 09, 2002] Founded in 2001 with support from the Center for the Public Domain, the Creative Commons Project "promotes the innovative reuse of all sorts of intellectual works. [It] is a non-profit corporation founded on the notion that some people may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. Creative Commons works within the copyright system to help reduce barriers to creativity. Its first project is to offer the public a set of copyright licenses free of charge. It will provide a free set of tools to enable creators to share aspects of their copyrighted works with the public. The Contributor Application will help people create what we call a Commons Deed -- a document that uses plain English and intuitive icons to summarize the terms under which a contributor has offered a work; the Search Application is designed to help people (educators, authors, filmmakers, musicians) easily locate the Commons Deeds for works available under terms suited to their individual needs. Creative Commons also announced its longer-term plans to create an intellectual property conservancy. Like a land trust or nature preserve, the conservancy will protect works of special public value from exclusionary private ownership and from obsolescence due to neglect or technological change. The conservancy will house a rich repository of high-quality works in a variety of media, and help foster an ethos of sharing, public education, and creative interactivity..."

"In addition to making it easy for people to find the copyright licenses best for them, Creative Commons is working to provide simple RDF descriptions of these licenses. These descriptions will put the important points of the license in a way that makes it easy for machines to process and work from. Unlike Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which tries to prevent people from doing things with digital works, Creative Commons is working towards promoting these uses of works."

"The license metadata can be used for a number of purposes, some basic ones are for search engines and other systems to highlight works in the Public Domain or under generous licenses. Also, users will also want to restrict their search to only things that match their required license criteria (such as only works that are available for commercial use, etc.). It could also be the basis of a system to describe the licensing of a work in plain English, to save people from having to read the increasing number of different licenses... By standardizing a way to describe this information and providing large quantites of RDF to build on, we hope to encourage new and innovative ways to develop the commons..."

"Creative Commons plans to maintain a database of metadata for every work licensed or dedicated to the public domain with the Creative Commons Contributor Application. We will make that metadata available and searchable using a variety of human-and machine-readable interfaces. Our goal is to help potential users easily search for and identify public domain and custom-licensed works. From the Creative Commons database, we will be able to generate a variety of data and metadata formats including RDF metadata and application-specific XML vocabularies. This data and metadata will be made available for use by third-party software applications..." [adapted from the website 2002-09-09]

[September 20, 2002] A posting of 2002-09-18 from Aaron Swartz announces the release of an updated version 1.0b3 Creative Commons Metadata Specification. "If you run a search engine, you might use license metadata to highlight public domain and generously-licensed works. If you write a public file sharing server, you might offer to search the users hard drive for works that allow distribution. If you write a magazine, you might use a CC-enabled search engine to find pictures of candy bars that you can legally include..." Changes in version 1.0b3 include (e.g.,) a new cc:Agent class which replaces w:Person; addition of titles and descriptions for everything in the schema; 'Copyleft' has been renamed 'ShareAlike'; dc:rights now points to the copyright holder; recommendation that developers use real RDF parsers; sample python code; clarification on the use of multiple license tags. Dan Connolly (W3C) has contributed to the version 1.0b3 metadata specification.

Principal URIs

General References

  • [August 22, 2008] W3C Member Submission for Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (ccREL). Cover Pages news story. On August 20, 2008 W3C published the text of a Member Submission from Creative Commons: ccREL: The Creative Commons Rights Expression Language. ccREL builds upon the astronomical success of Creative Commons licenses, which are embeddable machine-readable legal instruments allowing authors to express permissions for others to share, remix, and reuse content. ccREL is a new XML/RDF machine-readable language to express copyright licensing terms and related information. As summarized in the W3C Team Comment on ccREL, the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language "provides a comprehensive approach, covering an abstract model using RDF, a definition of basic properties and classes that can be extended and reused by third parties, and recommended practices to serialize this abstract model. The abstract model separates the concept of License, which can be characterized by a number of predefined properties with possible values, and so called 'work properties', i.e., properties that relate a specific work to a specific instance of a License. ccREL is firmly rooted in RDF, meaning that the various syntax possibilities for ccREL are also bound to possible RDF serializations. For (X)HTML documents, RDFa is the preferred serialization format (discontinuing the previous practice of adding RDF/XML code as an HTML comment in the HTML source), and the document gives several examples of how to do that in practice. For other document formats, usage of GRDDL, direct embedding of RDF data, XMP, etc, are also described. The separation of the abstract RDF-based model from the specific syntax is rewarded insofar as many different syntaxes become possible depending on the underlying Web resource format. This is also a major step forward compared to the earlier Creative Common license recommendations..."

  • [June 30, 2008] "Creative Commons Launches Global Case Studies Project." Announcement June 24, 2008. "Creative Commons (CC), in association with Creative Commons Australia, has officially announced the release of the Case Studies Project, which is a large-scale community effort to encourage all to explore and add noteworthy global CC stories. Creative Commons provides free tools to allow copyright-holders to clearly show rights associated with creative works, and now this project shows how notable adopters like author Cory Doctorow, web video-sharing company, and open film project "A Swarm of Angels" have successfully used CC licenses. This wiki project aims to examine the motivations and outcomes of CC license adoption in a variety of different situations and highlights the work being done by the creators and content aggregators in the CC community. Anyone can explore the global CC landscape by browsing with a variety of filters including the license-types used, the media created, and whether the project curates or creates material. Some examples include the Google Summer of Code program, the Big Buck Bunny 2nd Open Source 3D animation led by the Blender Foundation, and Sony's EyeVio video sharing social network service. Beyond easily viewing the compilation, the Case Studies Project encourages users to edit the wiki and add innovative and noteworthy CC projects happening in jurisdictions worldwide. To lower the barriers for participation, the Case Studies Project provides contributors with an easy form to enter data into the wiki and examples of other featured initiatives... The initiative will also find its way into the print medium regularly. Working with the user-generated Case Studies material, CC Australia is releasing "Building an Australasian Commons Booklet," the first of a number of planned printed publications based on the project. The book is a first attempt to chronicle the tales of the Australasian commons. Featuring over 60 case studies, it maps the current state of play surrounding free culture in the region. From private individuals to large corporations, the studies clearly show the mechanisms and motivations to share and experiment without the restrictions of the pre-digital era. Across the domains of democratic change, filmmaking, music, visual arts, libraries, museums, government, education and research, the book will explore how Australasian creators working with CC licensing are making their mark..."

  • [April 28, 2007] "Free Thesis Project Released Today." By Elizabeth Stark. Posting to list Access to Knowledge '' (April 27, 2007). "We released our Free Thesis Project site at Harvard today, a site where we encourage seniors to upload their theses and make them available under Creative Commons (CC) licenses. We also published a related op-ed on open access in the Harvard Crimson. While our site is currently only open to Harvard students, we're working on making a version of the software available for other schools to easily download and install. It's also OAI-complaint, so that other sites can easily index it. We're hoping to release the broader project at the National Free Culture Conference at Harvard on May 26, 2007..."

    The article referenced in Harvard Crimson (Online Edition) is "Access For All," by Gregory N. Price and Elizabeth M. Stark, published April 27, 2007. Excerpt: "Our professors do the research. They write the papers and proofread them. They even do the peer review. Then they sign the copyright over to publishers, who don't pay them a dime — they're paid by grants and salary, our taxes, and tuition. Harvard then pays again for the journals — many of them over $10,000 each — and most of us feel personally the bite each term when we buy our sourcebooks. Many of these cost upwards of $100 not because they're on paper rather than online (printing costs pennies a page), but because of the fees charged by publishers like Elsevier (1,387 journals ranging across academia) and Wiley (348 journals), some higher than $1 per page. That's three ways we pay for the same research, writing, proofreading, and peer review. Even Harvard has found the cost too high, and has cut down on its subscriptions. This same issue of access to scholarship hits even harder on people outside of our well-funded elite universities. Most universities cannot begin to afford the journal prices for which even Harvard strains to pay...

    In 2003, Donald Knuth, a laureate of computer science's highest honor, the Turing Award [Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, author of The Art of Computer Programming], wrote a long letter to his colleagues on the editorial board of Elsevier's Journal of Algorithms in protest of climbing prices and restrictions on access. After consultation, they followed a dozen other journals' editors before them by resigning [as editors] en masse and forming a new open-access journal with a friendlier publisher. Similarly, the Open Access Law Program has 34 law journals (and counting), pledged to making the legal scholarship they publish freely available. [See: Science Commons and the announcement Creative Commons and Science Commons Announce Open Access Law Program.]

    Other researchers, in fields from philosophy to biology, have gone further still, setting up new peer-reviewed journals founded on open access. [See Directory of Open Access Journals: on 2007-04-28, it listed 2656 journals and 131577 articles.] Among these are top journals in some fields, including the Journal of Machine Learning Research founded at MIT, and flagship journals PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine of the Public Library of Science [covering also Computational Biology, Genetics, Pathogens, Neglected Tropical Diseases] led by Nobel laureate and former National Institute of Health director Harold Varmus. A handful (like the PLoS journals) are funded from their authors' research grants; the rest operate on minimal university or foundation subsidies or even on no budget at all — after all, at any journal the real work is done by unpaid authors, editors, and reviewers.

    Many physicists and mathematicians now go furthest of all, resolving the access question on their own: Even before submitting to a journal, they make all of their work freely available at the repository, providing inestimable benefits to the rapid communication of one result and advancement to the next. Similarly, computer scientists almost universally put their papers on their personal, school-based websites. Peer review is as important as ever — nobody gets credit for work that doesn't pass that scrutiny — but as these scientists have discovered, it doesn't have to get in the way of open access. Students can make several big contributions to this movement. Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) [1], a bipartisan bill to make taxpayer-funded published research — most scientific work in the U.S. — freely available...

  • [June 21, 2006] "Microsoft and Creative Commons Release Tool for Copyright Licensing. The Organizations Announce Availability of Microsoft Office Add-In that Enables Easy Access to Creative Commons Copyright Licenses." - "Microsoft Corp. and Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that offers flexible copyright licenses for creative works, have teamed up to release a copyright licensing tool that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular Microsoft Office applications. The copyright licensing tool will be available free of charge at Microsoft Office Online,, and The tool will enable the 400 million users of Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office PowerPoint to select one of several Creative Commons licenses from within the specific application... The goal of the Creative Commons licenses is to give an author a clearer ability to express his or her intentions regarding the use of the work. The Microsoft Office tool allows users to choose from a variety of Creative Commons licenses that enable an author to retain copyright ownership, yet permit the work to be copied and distributed with certain possible restrictions, such as whether or not the work can be used commercially and whether or not modifications can be made to the work. The full list of licenses available from Creative Commons is available online at The tool also provides a way for users to dedicate a work to the public domain..."

  • [August 10, 2005] "[Atom] Feed License Link Relation." Edited by James M. Snell [alt]. IETF Network Working Group, Internet Draft. Reference: 'draft-snell-atompub-feed-license-00.txt'. July 02, 2005, expires January 02, 2006. 6 pages. "This document specifies a mechanism that allows the feed publishers the ability to associate copyright licenses with feeds and entries. Licenses associated with feeds and entries using these mechanisms MAY or MAY not be machine readable and are intended to communicate the various rights and obligations others may have with regards to given resource. specification defines one new Atom link relation type to be registered in the IANA Registry of Link Relations as defined by Atompub version -10." According to the August 09, 2005 posting: "As a reminder, the license extension provides a link relation for associating a copyright license with a feed or entry. The most common use case will be to associate creative commons licenses with feeds." See also the author's note in a blog: " [I] published the first draft of the Atom License Link Extension. This allows you to associate copyright licenses (e.g., Creative Commons) with Atom entries. It will definitely be changing slightly over the coming days — namely to allow multiple licenses to be associated with an entry." See: "Atom Publishing Format and Protocol."

  • [July 7, 2005] "ODRL Initiative Publishes Creative Commons Spec." By Bill Rosenblatt. From DRM Watch (July 7, 2005). "The ODRL Initiative announced that it has developed a representation of the Creative Commons (CC) content licensing scheme as a Profile of the ODRL (Open Digital Rights Language) rights expression language. This relatively straightforward technical achievement ought to set off some interesting ripples in the so-called copyright wars. Creative Commons, the brainchild of 'copy left' avatar Lawrence Lessig of Stanford University, is a scheme that implements several laudable goals: to make copyright issues for online content comprehensible to those without training in intellectual property law, and to help automate the creation of licenses that support a compact set of useful licensing terms, such as retention of copyright ownership and attribution requirement. The CC scheme stops short of being proactively enforceable through technology, i.e., through DRM. The scheme's designers no doubt view this as a positive thing. However, we have always believed that DRM should facilitate just this type of licensing flexibility for the content creators who are CC's 'target audience'... this announcement is a welcome step towards finding common ground between the two sides in the copyright wars. The ODRL Initiative has a more academic and less commercial orientation than its 'competitor,' ContentGuard, which advocates for the MPEG REL and is jointly owned by Microsoft, Time Warner, and Thomson. We will be interested to see what further dialog and practical steps this development induces, if any..." See: (1) ODRL Creative Commons Profile; (2) "ODRL Initiative Releases Draft Specification of ODRL Creative Commons Profile."

  • [June 21, 2005] Update on the ODRL/CC Profile. Renato Iannella posted a "Review Summary for the ODRL/CC Profile draft specification, created by the ODRL/Creative Commons (CC) Profile Working Group. He noted that the reviews were positive; "I will make these changes and post the final version as a "Specification"... Congratulations — the first official ODRL Profile!" See the March 07, 2005 story.

  • [April 28, 2005] "Creative Commons prez asks for some lurv." By John Oates. From The Register (April 28, 2005). "Creative Commons president Paula Le Dieu was in London last night to chair a panel debate on what Creative Commons licenses mean to the music industry. Judging from the views expressed by some senior music industry figures there is clearly a need for just such an explantory approach. Le Dieu explained that CC licenses aimed to do something that existing copyright is failing to do. She pointed to 12m pages of content on Yahoo, acceptance by 70 countries and the BBC's use of a CC-type license for its archive as evidence of the strength of CC licenses. Although the evening narrowly avoided descending into stereotypical mud-slinging, Fran Nevrkla — ex-chairman of the British Phonographic Industry and representing the dinosaurs — did lower the tone by dismissing the importance of CC licensing, the culture it comes from and its relevance to the real world. Nevrkla continued to insist that CC licensing was the product of 'learned professors living in rarified luxurious environment supported by public funds' and that promoting CC licenses as a business model was 'nonsense'. He stuck to his guns despite the repeated, polite explanations from his neighbour Neil Leyton who runs his record label Fading Ways Records on just such a basis. He explained that part of the reason for choosing CC licenses was to allow the fans to copy and share music without being sued by over-active music industry lawyers. Emma Pike, director general of British Music Rights, took the unusual step of recomending musicians use Kazaa rather than a CC license..."

  • [April 04, 2005] "Some Rights Reserved: A View of the UK Creative Commons Project." By Becky Hogge. From O'Reilly Policy DevCenter (April 04, 2005). "After half a year of solid work by the legal team at Oxford University's Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, the Creative Commons project has finally been ported into U.K. law. The appearance of John Perry Barlow to launch the licenses was the cherry atop a multi-tiered cake of potential presented by the arrival of Creative Commons (CC) in the U.K. On its way to embodiment in U.K. law, the Creative Commons licenses have negotiated a legal terrain significantly different from their birthplace in the corridors of Stanford University in the U.S. The regional nature of the U.K. court system has meant that two different licenses have been drafted: one for England and Wales and another for Scotland, with work on a third for Northern Ireland expected to begin after the Easter break. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the most influential public service content provider in the world, has been behind the project from the start and is using the Creative Commons ideology as a lynchpin for its core digital project, the Creative Archive. Beyond this, institutions such as OfCom, Research Councils U.K., JISC, the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, The National Health Service, and the British Library are all making mention of CC in policy documents mapping the future dissemination of knowledge and culture. All in all, the future looks positive for Creative Commons in the U.K. With unprecedented institutional backing and a grassroots creative scene willing to take up the challenge, the U.K. is set to contribute more than its share to the global project of 'some rights reserved'..."

  • [March 24, 2005] "Yahoo Adds Search For 'Flexible' Copyright Content." By Matt Hines. From CNET (March 24, 2005). "Yahoo has added a feature that lets people search content hosted by Creative Commons, a nonprofit group that specializes in copyrighting material so that it's available for some reuse. The search giant launched a beta, or test version, of the function on Thursday. Yahoo said the search tool links to millions of Web pages featuring the unconventional content-licensing agreements. Most of the content available through the search feature can be licensed for free under noncommercial-usage or other guidelines. Creative Commons' mission is to carve out new ways to share creative works. For example, one alternative the group offers is 'attribition only' distribution — the copyright holder lets others copy, distribute, display and perform his works, but only if users give the author credit. Yahoo said that it too is dedicated to promoting a 'more flexible set of copyright laws.' The company also says it hopes that more-flexible agreements will create a 'remix culture' that reflects a new generation of creative works. Creative Commons has also been delving into the patent arena, calling for more flexibility in sharing scientific data and discoveries. The group says the current patent process has become too inflexible and often awards too much protection to ideas that aren't genuinely unique..." See also the Yahoo! Search for Creative Commons FAQ document and the Creative Commons Search (BETA).

  • [March 16, 2005] "UK Gets Its Own Creative Commons." By Graeme Wearden. From ZDNet UK (March 16, 2005). "A version of the Creative Commons licensing scheme adapted for the UK's legal landscape will be formally launched in London on Wednesday evening. It's a groundbreaking licensing scheme that lets content be both shared and safeguarded, adapted to UK law. Creative Commons was first developed by US academic Lawrence Lessig as a more flexible alternative to the traditional copyright laws. It allows content creators to grant some rights to the public while keeping others — for example, allowing anyone to republish their material as long as it is attributed. The Creative Commons movement began in 2001, but the original versions of the licence were written to comply with US laws. The UK-specific version has been some 15 months in the making, and has already attracted interest from some major British organisations. The BBC is expected to use the UK Creative Commons licences for its Creative Archive, in which it will throw open its back catalogue of broadcasting material. Christian Ahlert [Oxford Internet Institute] said that communications regulator Ofcom and think tank Demos have both shown interest in the UK Creative Commons licences..."

  • [March 07, 2005]   ODRL Initiative Releases Draft Specification of ODRL Creative Commons Profile.    The ODRL Initiative has announced the release of the ODRL Creative Commons Profile as a Draft Specification. The draft "describes the semantics of the Creative Commons licenses and defines how they can be represented using a Profile of the ODRL rights expression language." The goal is to enable those who require more advanced rights expression language (REL) mechanisms "to utilize both the Creative Commons license semantics and the ODRL REL features. The purpose of the ODRL Profile is not to replace the standard CC licenses, but to allow additional semantics to be expressed in separate ODRL offers or agreements." The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) specification is a publicly available XML-based "standard language and vocabulary for the expression of terms and conditions over assets. It covers a core set of semantics for these purposes including the rights holders and the expression of permissible usages for asset manifestations. Rights can be specified for a specific asset manifestation (i.e., format) or could be applied to a range of manifestations of the asset. ODRL is focused on the semantics of expressing rights languages and definitions of elements in the data dictionary, and can be used within trusted or untrusted systems for both digital and physical assets." The ODRL Creative Commons Profile Working Group was formed as one of several planned ODRL Profiles groups, chartered to develop an extension of the ODRL rights expression language to capture the semantics of Creative Commons licenses. The WG is defining the core CC license semantics in terms of the ODRL REL using an XML Schema, allowing for additional expressiveness around the CC semantics. 'Reproduction' in Creative Commons licensing "includes the right to copy the work, and to shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy. These features allow the typical private end-use rights, which ODRL makes more explicit in its Play, Display, Execute, and Print Permissions. The CC 'Distribution' also includes the right to distribute the work, to display or perform the work publicly, and to make digital public performances of the work (e.g., webcasting). Both Reproduction and Distribution are examples of new semantics that are captured in the ODRL/CC Profile." The ODRL Creative Commons Profile draft contains three normative appendices. Appendix A "ODRL/CC Profile Data Dictionary" provides the Creative Commons Profile data dictionary definitions for Reproduction, Distribution, DerivativeWorks, Sharing, NonCommercialUse, NonHighIncomeNationUse, Notice, ShareAlike, SourceCode — representing the Permission, Constraint [CC: Prohibits characteristic], and Requirement types. Normative Appendix B "ODRL/CC Profile XML Schema" contains the Creative Commons Profile data dictionary XML Schema; Normative Appendix C "CC License Mapping" presents the the Creative Commons License definitions (by URI) and the corresponding XML elements required to express the license. ODRL Profiles were first announced at the ODRL International Workshop in April in Vienna (2004) as a formal means of showing how to use ODRL in specific technical environments. Profile Working Groups have now been formed to create ODRL Profiles for Geospatial Data, for Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) encoding, and for Creative Commons licenses.

  • [December 31, 2004]   Science Commons Develops Legal and Technical Tools for Sharing Scientific Innovation.    The Creative Commons Project has announced the January 1, 2005 launch of the Science Commons as an exploratory project to "apply the philosophies and activities of Creative Commons in the realm of science." Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization building technical and legal tools that that offer a flexible copyright for creative work. Building upon the legal principles of traditional copyright which knows only about "all rights reserved," Creative Commons licenses and tools support an alternative "some rights reserved" framework for authors, artists, and schentists to share resources on the Internet and to search for shared resources based upon encoded metadata. The Creative Commons open source tools for embedding licenses, publishing resources, and searching for shared resources are based upon XML and RDF standards. The licensing and distribution model makes it unnecessary to involve commercial intermediaries and proprietary DRM software. The mission of the new Science Commons is "to encourage scientific innovation by making it easier for scientists, universities, and industries to use literature, data, and other scientific intellectual property and to share their knowledge with others. Science Commons works within current copyright and patent law to promote legal and technical mechanisms that remove barriers to sharing." Creation of the Science Commons endeavor is based upon the recognition that the sciences "depend on access to and use of factual data. Powered by developments in electronic storage and computational capability, scientific inquiry is becoming more data-intensive in almost every discipline. Whether the field is meteorology, genomics, medicine, or high-energy physics, research depends on the availability of multiple databases, from multiple public and private sources, and their openness to easy recombination, search and processing."

  • [September 29, 2004] "Creative Licensing Scheme Grabs Artists' Attention." By Chris Nolan. In eWEEK (September 29, 2004). "An intellectual property licensing scheme known as Creative Commons brings copyright flexibility by giving artists more control. The current copyright scheme is an all-or-nothing proposition: users must pay a predetermined fee for use, regardless of what they plan to do with the material or their audience. By contrast, Creative Commons licenses allow flexibility. Artists can give away some rights (permission to copy a song and use it on a school project, for example) and keep others. The idea is to permit student use of a work for free but keep the right to charge a higher fee if, for instance, Coca-Cola wanted to use that same song. 'I think it's practical,' says Danny Weitzner, technology and society domain leader at the World Wide Web Consortium. 'It's building on the open-source model, which is saying, 'We all have a way to collaborate.' The Creative Commons licenses suggest a variety of ways in which writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers can control how that idea is used by others. And as evidence of the idea's popularity, Weitzner cites a recent decision by Congress to require the National Institutes of Health to make the papers and studies it funds open and free to the public, not just available through journals or other costly or limited-circulation publications..."

  • [April 28, 2004] Delivering Classics Resources with TEI-XML, Open Source, and Creative Commons Licenses. The Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University has adopted an innovative technological program for free online publication of books, articles, and databases designed to make resources in the classics more visible and accessible. A second issue of the online Classics@: The Electronic Journal of the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University features articles about "Ancient Mediterranean Cultural Informatics." It is published under the Creative Commons 'Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike' license allowing others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the authored work, and to create derivative works in non-commercial settings. The Harvard CHS publication process is based upon TEI-XML encoding and "uses open source tools to convert proprietary word-processing files to TEI-XML and to publish the result." Consistent with the intellectual mission of the CHS editorial group to expedite online publication and collaborative research, the team is developing a process and tools "that others can adopt or modify to produce online and print books rapidly, beautifully, and accurately." Erik Ray and Benn Salter have assisted the CHS technical team in the development of Perl and XSLT transformation tools to convert word-processor data into TEI-XML format; publication of the materials online involves the use of the open source Apache Cocoon web development framework. Classics@ Issue Two was published directly from source files encoded in TEI-conformant XML, using publication mechanisms available in the CHS TextServer protocol. CHS is also "committed to experimental uses of online publication to complement print publication as well as innovative arrangements with traditional academic publishers in the interest of generalizing its goals to the academic community and of making creative classical scholarship available to the widest possible audience."

  • [September 26, 2003]   RoMEO and OAI-PMH Teams Develop Rights Solution Using ODRL and Creative Common Licenses.    Project RoMEO (Rights Metadata for Open Archiving) has completed its first year of operation with funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and has published a rights solution report. A sixth interim Study and the Final Report describe an XML-based system for the expression of rights and permissions governing metadata and resources in institutional repositories. A principal goal of RoMEO, like that of the Creative Commons, is to neutralize the negative effects of (default) copyright law and controlling intermediaries in order to facilitate easy, open access to protected digital works. On this model, consumers do not need to ask permission for use of resources because permission in various forms has already been granted. The RoMEO Project team sought to develop an interoperable set of metadata elements and methods of incorporating the rights elements into document metadata processed by the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The goal is to protect research papers and other digital resources in an open-access environment. The project team has developed an XML metadata notation using the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) and Creative Commons licenses for disclosure of the rights expressions under the OAI-PMH. The markup model covers both individual digital resources and collections of metadata records. A new 'OAI-RIGHTS' Technical Committee has been formed by members of the RoMEO and OAI project teams to further develop the proposals and to publish generic guidelines for disclosing rights expressions.

  • [July 22, 2003]   RSS 2.0 Specification Published by Berkman Center Under Creative Commons License.    The RSS Version 2.0 specification originally developed and maintained by Userland's Dave Winer has been transferred to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and has been republished under the of the Attribution/Share Alike Creative Commons license. Under the Attribution/Share Alike license, "The licensor permits others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work; in return, licensees must give the original author credit. The licensor also permits others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the one that governs the licensor's work." RSS ('Really Simple Syndication' or 'RDF Site Summary') has been issued in at least seven versions, by different informally constituted groups. Despite the lack of convergence, RSS is rapidly gaining in popularity as a news syndication format. At the same time, new syndication formats are being proposed, including a front-runner documented on the (Pie/Echo/Atom) project wiki. This promising initiative has completed several key specifications as it seeks to "develop a common syntax for syndicating, archiving and editing episodic web sites."

  • [May 13, 2003] "Thinking XML: The Commons of Creativity. How Machine-Readable Licenses Can Foster Creative Output and Exchange." By Uche Ogbuji (Principal Consultant, Fourthought, Inc). From IBM developerWorks, XML Zone. May 12, 2003. ['Many artists independent of big media concerns seek to collaborate with others and make their work more widely available. They are often willing to offer less restrictive contractual terms than those that consumers have recently been forced to accept. Creative Commons, which Uche Ogbuji introduces in this article, seeks to address this need by providing a way to express copyright license terms that are both human-readable and machine-readable. The machine-readable form uses RDF and thus makes available the network effects that have been covered throughout this column.'] "From independent filmmakers, musicians, and authors to the open source and Weblog communities, there has long been a push to advertise and distribute material on the Internet, and usually at much lower cost and less restrictive terms than more commercial content. This push has had aspects of politics, economics, and technical problem-solving, raising questions like the following: Can the wider spread of less restricted content put pressure on policymakers and big media companies to lessen restrictions on consumers' rights? Would this pressure increase if the variety of rights and restrictions on content were better communicated to consumers? Would independent producers be able to reach a wider audience, and thus earn a better living, if they had a better way to advertise their output and perhaps attract business by declaring less restrictive licenses? Will a technical network of machine-readable metadata help to improve the tools and communications channels between producers and consumers of content? To answer these questions and others, a coalition of independent content producers, technologists, and lawyers banded together last year under the umbrella of the Creative Commons project to produce technology for machine-readable copyright licenses. This project employs RDF to describe the various rights and restrictions for a particular license using a vocabulary that was developed by the project's legal wizards. This enabling technology is intended to make it easy for people to find content to share and collaborate on in a peer-to-peer environment. As Creative Commons folk like to say, it allows producers and consumers to skip the intermediaries. In the common scenario, my favorite indie band signs on to a small music label, which then signs a distribution deal with a large label, which then distributes CDs to a large music retailer, which I then visit to make the purchase. I pay a price premium for each layer in that intermediary chain, and I am forced to swallow usage terms that are set by very expensive lawyers who do not have my interests in mind, nor usually those of the original producer. In the Creative Commons world, I go online to see the sort of music I like and who may be producing music that I can enjoy on what I consider fair terms. I can then make my commerce directly with the producer. In this article, I shall introduce the data formats used by Creative Commons... Creative Commons is perhaps the most impressive embodiment of the ideas and potential behind RDF and related technologies. The vocabulary is anchored in authority developed by a team of lawyers -- and lawyers, of course, are the profession most associated with nailing down semantics. More important, the project is showing remarkable growth and providing clear benefits to a very broad variety of artists, developers, lawyers, and consumers..." See also "Resource Description Framework (RDF)."

  • [February 22, 2003] "Some Rights Reserved: Cyber-Law Activists Devise a Set of Licenses for Sharing Creative Works. [Staking Claims.]" By Gary Stix. In Scientific American Volume 288, Number 3 (March 2003). "On December 16, 2002, the nonprofit Creative Commons opened its digital doors to provide, without charge, a series of licenses that enable a copyrighted work to be shared more easily. The licenses attempt to overcome the inherently restrictive nature of copyright law. Under existing rules, a doodle of a lunchtime companion's face on a paper napkin is copyrighted as soon as the budding artist lifts up the pen. No '©' is needed at the bottom of the napkin. All rights are reserved. The licenses issued through Creative Commons have changed that. They allow the creator of a work to retain the copyright while stipulating merely 'some rights reserved'... A copyright owner can fill out a simple questionnaire posted on the Creative Commons Web site ( and get an electronic copy of a license. Because a copyright notice (or any modification to one) is optional, no standard method exists for tracking down works to which others can gain access. The Creative Commons license is affixed with electronic tags so that a browser equipped to read a tag -- specified in XML, or Extensible Markup Language -- can find copyrighted items that fall into the various licensing categories. An aspiring photographer who wants her images noticed could permit shots she took of Ground Zero in Manhattan to be used if she is given credit. A graphic artist assembling a digital collage of September 11 pictures could then do a search on both 'Ground Zero' and the Creative Commons tag for an 'attribution only' license, which would let the photographer's images be copied and put up on the Web, as long as her name is mentioned. Lessig and the other cyber-activists who started Creative Commons, which operates out of an office on the Stanford campus, found inspiration in the free-software movement and in previous licensing endeavors such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's open audio license. The organization is receiving $850,000 from the Center for the Public Domain and $1.2 million over three years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation... Some legal pundits will question whether an idea that downplays the profit motive will ever be widely embraced. Creative Commons, however, could help ensure that the Internet remains more than a shopping mall..."

  • [January 17, 2003] "Creative Comments: On the Uses and Abuses of Markup." By Kendall Grant Clark. From January 15, 2003. ['Creative Commons is a project that provides a new set of licenses for web content, and is gaining considerable adoption. This week Kendall Clark examines not the licenses themselves, but the mechanism by which their machine-readable versions are intended to be linked into HTML content, and finds it makes little sense. Kendall proposes some alternatives more suitable for the future machine-readable web.'] " Whether you think of the Semantic Web as a new and exciting promise or as a fantastic and impractical threat, it will not be a separate web but, rather, overlay the existing one. The Semantic Web isn't a replacement, it's a supplement... As every programmer who's tried to screen scrape someone else's web site knows, HTML isn't a very good way to express information to a machine. When it works, it does so only because of considerable, daily care and feeding. The Machine Web's dominant agent is a computer process, a machine. The information contained in the Machine Web is intended for machine consumption. RDF, the Machine Web's primary language, at least for now, is best suited to describing information for machine agents... In the remainder of this article I want to draw your attention to the transitional period -- the period during which the Machine and Human Webs will begin to inhabit the same conceptual space and technical infrastructure. We are now living in the early days of this transitional period and there are some issues specific to it which may be worth considering... The issue I want to raise here is the increasingly widespread practice of embedding information -- mainly using, but not limited to, RDF -- intended for machine consumption in a format, HTML comments, which is intended for human consumption. When I realized people were embedding RDF in HTML comments, claiming that the resulting document is part of the Semantic Web, I was confused. Surely, I wondered, they know that putting RDF into HTML comments is an inelegant way of relating human and machine-consumable resources? Creative Commons, which has taken on the laudable task of creating RDF descriptions of common licensing terms for intellectual property, suggests its users associate machine-consumable licensing terms [...] with the web resources to which they apply by embedding RDF directly in HTML comments... For what it's worth, Movable Type's TrackBack system also works by embedding RDF descriptions of web resources into (X)HTML comments; most of what I say about the Creative Commons case applies to TrackBack, too... The point of HTML comments is to allow humans to include information which is solely intended for human-consumption in a resource. In short, markup language comments are for communicating with humans, not with machines. The problem with incoherent strategies is that it's not always possible to predict all the ways in which they will fail or go bad..."

  • [January 06, 2003] "Returning Creativity to the Commons." By Richard Koman. From The O'Reilly Network. January 03, 2003. "It was Eldred reunion night December 16 [2002] at the SomArts performance space in San Francisco's South of Market district to celebrate the rollout of Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons organization... Creative Commons is trying to build, or rebuild, the enabling of the public domain. It starts with two efforts, both of which allow creators to say, 'I want to be compensated (perhaps financially or perhaps just with credit) for my work, and I want to enrich the public domain with my works.' These two efforts are: [1] The Creative Commons license, which includes 'legal code' (assuring creators that the rights they assert will be legally protected), a 'commons deed,' (a simple statement of which rights are asserted and which are ceded, which anyone can understand), and 'machine-readable code,' (some metadata in the form of RDF, so that computer programs can understand the terms of the work.) [2] The Founders Copyright, under which publishers and creators agree to limit their copyright protections to 14 years, renewable to 28 years. O'Reilly & Associates has pledged to convert some 200 works to Founders Copyright within the next month..." In Spring 2003 the Creative Commons Conservancy "will take donations of content and make it available to others under the terms of the donation. The project will function like a 'land trust,' holding and defending copyright or patent rights donated to the Conservancy." See recently "Creative Commons Project Offers RDF-Based Licenses for Rights Expression."

  • [December 17, 2002] "Creative Types: A Lot in Common." By Kendra Mayfield. In Wired News (December 16, 2002). "Roger McGuinn, founder of legendary folk-rock band The Byrds, has made over 25 albums in his recording career. But besides modest advances, he's never made money on record royalties. When McGuinn decided to record new versions of traditional folk songs, he made these songs available as MP3s for free download on his website and on He's since made 'thousands of dollars' from the sale of these recordings. Like McGuinn, many artists are turning to the Web to maximize exposure, yet retain some control over their work. McGuinn is just one of the artists who will publish works under a new set of licenses that offer an alternative to conventional copyright. On Monday, Creative Commons will release its collection of free, machine-readable licenses. The idea is to give copyright holders another way to get the word out that their works are free for copying and other uses under specific conditions... While industry organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America try to curtail the distribution of copyrighted works, Creative Commons' licenses will complement existing efforts to make online sharing and collaboration easier. Open-source movements like the Free Software Foundation's General Public License inspired the Creative Commons' model... Creators can decide whether they want to release their work into the public domain or license it with one of Creative Commons' custom licenses. Authors can use Creative Commons' site to dedicate their works to the public domain without restriction, declaring 'no rights reserved,' Brown said. Alternatively, they can select among four different licensing tools, or they can mix and match preferences. Each license grants the public the right to copy and redistribute a work freely, but under certain conditions..."

  • [July 24, 2002] "Free Culture." Flash presentation from Lawrence Lessig's keynote at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference, July 24, 2002.

  • [June 2002] From "A Future Tense Special Report: Digital entertainment: Rights and Responsibilities." - Creative Commons Presentation. Minnesota Public Radio. June 2002. "Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, executive director of Stanford University-based Creative Commons talks about her site, where artists who do not wish to exercise their copyrights can post their material." Audio.

  • [June 03, 2002] "Creative Commons Nurtures the Public Domain." By Wallys W. Conhaim. In Information Today (June 03, 2002). "...The organization's initial thrust is to develop two Web-based tools, for which prototypes have already been built: (1) Contributor Application: To be available at no cost, will assist artists, authors, software developers, and other creators in legally defining acceptable uses of their work through execution of Common Deeds or 'custom licenses.' A custom license allows a person to retain copyright, but might grant permission for others to copy, distribute, display, or perform a work; create derivative works; or restrict usage in terms of requiring proper credit, allowing use only for noncommercial purposes or not allowing derivative works. (2) Search Application: Freely available on the Creative Commons site, this will enable the public to find works that are entirely in the public domain or available for use with some restrictions. Creative Commons will not host the works themselves. The Contributor Application template is easy to use and consists of checklists, pull-down menus, and fill-in-the-blanks sections. No lawyers are needed to execute these legal documents, making the system free and affordable by all. The fact that a document or other work has a custom license or is in the public domain will be noted on each electronic document by a symbol linked to its digital license. The machine-readable license will indicate how a work could be used and shared with the public. Metadata containing the license provisions and generated through a Web-based application will be distributed, then recognized by search engines and digital rights management systems, thus making it clear how each work displaying them is to be used..."

  • Uche Ogbuji created a record for 4Suite based on the Creative Commons metadata specification draft [an RDF vocabulary for describing information about licenses and the works they apply to...]

  • [May 27, 2002] "Creative Commons Redefines Intellectual Property Use." By Ann Harrison. In Network World (May 27, 2002). "A nonprofit intellectual property conservancy, called the Creative Commons, has been formed to help artists set more generous terms for their works. Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is chairman of the Commons, is hoping that it will help artists and authors give some or all of their intellectual property rights to the public for free. Details of the Creative Commons project were presented recently at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in Santa Clara. According to its creators, the Commons will release a software application this fall that permits a work to be copied under certain conditions. The Creative Commons Web site will offer a selection of custom licenses that allow artists to indicate, in a machine-readable format, how their work can be used. The licenses set terms for copying and distribution of various types of digital material from music to photographs and can indicate whether the work can be used for commercial or noncommercial purposes. Under this system, potential users of digital (and physical) material could go to the Creative Commons Web site and search for the terms under which they can be used. The licenses offered by the Commons will have machine-readable tags (metadata) that allow search engines, file-sharing applications and digital rights management tools to recognize these licensing terms when attached to the desired material. The Commons also allows creators to donate creative property into a public trust that encourages further sharing of the data. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, and, are helping the Commons identify how this licensing metadata can be used within content delivery systems and search applications. In a statement, executive director of the Commons, Molly Van Houweling, noted that the aim of the project is, 'Not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier'..."

  • [May 16, 2002] "Creative Commons: Using and Sharing Emerging Technologies to Enrich the Public Domain." Presented by Molly Shaffer Van Houweling and Lisa Rein at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (May 16, 2002). See also the session description. [source .PPT]

  • [May 15, 2002] "Net Clearinghouse for Creatives." From Associated Press. "The Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization based at Stanford University and formed by legal scholars and Web publishers, will encourage authors and other creative people to donate selected writings, music, video and other works for free exchange...The scope of copyright law has grown over the years. Initially, a book's author or publisher had to register works with the U.S. Copyright Office. Now, a copyright is automatic. And while copyrights lasted 14 years in 1790, Congress gradually extended them. A 1998 law protects works owned by individuals for 70 years after their death and those owned by corporations for 95 years. The extension means that websites must wait longer to legally post works that would have soon entered the public domain. Web publisher Eric Eldred, a board member for the Creative Commons, is among the plaintiffs challenging the 1998 extension in the U.S. Supreme Court. Several groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have pledged administrative support. O'Reilly and Associates, a technical publisher, plans to donate some of its books, while the Internet Archive and Prelinger Archives are looking to contribute their archives of moving images, Van Houweling said. The Creative Commons will need much more to be useful. Organizers are hoping to get more contributions over the next several months and begin allowing exchanges by the fall. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a University of Wisconsin professor critical of modern copyright laws, praised the initiative for enabling creators to become less beholden to traditional publishers and distributors..."

  • [May 13, 2002] "A New Direction for Intellectual Property." By Amy Harmon. In NT Times (May 13, 2002). "...The firm's first project is to design a set of licenses stating the terms under which a given work can be copied and used by others. Musicians who want to build an audience, for instance, might permit people to copy songs for noncommercial use. Graphic designers might allow unlimited copying of certain work as long as it is credited. The goal is to make such licenses machine-readable, so that anyone could go to an Internet search engine and seek images or a genre of music, for example, that could be copied without legal entanglements..."

  • "'Creative Commons' Seeks Copyright Compromise." In [Indiana] SLIS Faculty News. Spring 2002. "Americans have to find a balance between intellectual property and the public domain, says Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, who's working on a project designed to find that middle ground. 'We are a house divided, we Americans, when it comes to our views about how culture gets built and creativity gets encouraged,' he says. 'We speak of the importance of 'freedom,' yet we embrace a wildly protectionist view of copyright law.' Lessig's new venture, Creative Commons, seeks to offset such extremism by offering an alternative to traditional copyrights and a compromise between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain. The nonprofit corporation plans to provide flexible intellectual-property licenses that can be customized, allowing writers, artists, and others to define the legally acceptable uses of their work. As their work moves into the public domain, creators of intellectual property could establish some protections, such as specifying that their work cannot be altered or used for commercial purposes. It's merely a matter of these innovators' selecting their options online and receiving made-to-order licenses without having to pay legal fees..."

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