A case for the use of Creative Commons

Digital | 13 August 2013 |

The UNU took our first tentative step with the adoption of Creative Commons licenses on 14 June 2007. There was an immediate response  from the Creative Commons team and the founder of the movement, Lawrence Lessig, made the following remark:

“The UNU is, in my view, the most important international educational institution, symbolizing in practice and ideals, a world community. To see CC as part of that community is very rewarding to us, and our movement.”

Why did we take this initial step?

The answer is simple. As an international organization our goal is to share the research, data and educational materials we produce as effectively and efficiently as possible. In our view, the “all rights reserved” status guaranteed by regular copyright impacts negatively on this goal, since time and resources are required in order to obtain permission to reproduce the work.

By adopting Creative Commons, we could indicate the conditions by which we are happy to share the content (i.e., you have to give proper attribution, you can’t sell our content, and we encourage you also to share). In this context, those wishing to share our content, don’t even have to get in contact with us.

Expanding UNU’s use of Creative Commons

Our next big adventure with Creative Commons came with the July 2008 launch of Our World 2.0, a webzine and video documentary series produced by UNU.  All Our World 2.0 articles are published under a Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA and the videobriefs use BY-NC-ND. We are delighted that this bold move was picked up again by the Creative Commons community as a case study.

As a result of using CC licenses, Our World 2.0 articles have been syndicated widely on the web to places like the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Solutions Magazine, Resilience and many more.

But it was from October 2010 onwards when things started to get really interesting. This is when our team began working on the redevelopment of the main website for the University. With a quick glance you will see how many lessons learned in the development of Our World 2.0 were applied to the University’s website, including the adoption of CC licenses.

A some times bumpy road, with lots of benefits

It has not always been easy using Creative Commons at the UNU. For instance, concerns have been expressed by our legal team and there are some challenges with respect to the UN’s approach to intellectual property. However, we have been able to successfully navigate these bumps in the road.

As a result, we have seen the use of CC licenses spread across the UNU to our various institutes. We have also noted the increased use of CC by other UN agencies, particularly UNDP and UNESCO. So it looks like the case for the use of CC licenses within the UN is greater stronger day by day.

We should also point that there have been some pretty significant benefits for the UNU with regards to its use of CC licenses. The first is, as mentioned above, we are very confident that our research materials (particularly articles and videos) are reaching an ever-growing online audience through syndication.

Second, we are also thankful to all those photographers out there who use CC for their photographs. As a result, the UNU and many other organizations are able to use those amazing, high quality photos on our website and in publications. The cost saving to the UNU of not having to pay for royalties on the photos is really significant. At the same time, many photographers have written to us to say “thanks for using my photo.”