Tag Archives: open licence

An open letter to Rupa Huq, MP, regarding official Parliamentary videos

Dear Dr. Huq,

I have been very interested to read about your recent call for an end to the prohibition on the use of footage from official parliamentary broadcasts in satirical programmes, made at the behest of your brother-in-law and constituent, the television personality Charlie Brooker.


Rupa Huq 2015

Rupa Huq

I was equally disappointed at the stance of the (Conservative) Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, who said:

it is very important that we make sure the coverage of this House is use in an appropriate way — I am not in favour of it being used for satire programmes.

He is wrong, because satire is not an inappropriate use of such footage, which is made with public funds.

But the right to use it in satire is not enough — we should all be able to use it wherever we want, freely. For example, on Wikipedia, for educational purposes. And for that reason, it should be made available under an “open licence”, allowing anyone to use it, for any purpose (subject, of course, to existing laws such as those on decency and defamation), with the only requirement being to attribute the source. (I have written previously about what open licensing is and why it should apply to media about politicians.)

Please take up Mr Grayling’s suggestion, and pursue your campaign with the Commons’ administration committee — but please don’t limit your request to the right to satirise. Please push for full open licensing.

Thank you.

HLF licensing requirement considered harmful

This morning I attended a very interesting presentation on the availability, in the United Kingdom, of grant funding from the (HLF), for digital heritage projects. I’ve previously worked as Wikipedian in Residence or as a Wikipedia consultant on HLF-funded projects*, helping to disseminate knowledge and content generated by those projects via Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons and via Wikidata.

Badge reads 'Birmingham Socialist A.R.P. Canteen fund' and has a drawing of ARP wardens being served at a mobile canteen

This fantastic image of a World War II badge was taken by Sasha Taylor during a Wikipedia editathon I ran as part of my HLF-funded residency at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. Because Sasha was a volunteer, he’s not bound by HLF rules, so was able to use a CC BY-SA licence, and I was then able to add the image to Wikipedia articles. With an NC restriction, I couldn’t have done so.

As part of the presentation, it was proudly pointed out that the HLF’s current terms of funding include:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) for the life of your contract with HLF, unless we have agreed otherwise

However, I’m really irked by this. I’ve written previously about what this means and why Wikipedia and its sister projects require content to be under a less restrictive licence, allowing for commercial reuse (briefly: people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situations, for example in newspapers, or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices). Others — have — written about why the NC restriction can be harmful.

Of course, mechanical copies of out-of-copyright works should be marked as such, and no attempt to claim copyright over them should be made.

In response to my question, it was confirmed that the terms prohibit less-restrictive licences, even if those doing the work wish to use them.

[Admittedly there is a work-around, which is to dual licence as both CC BY-NC and a less-restrictive version; which technically meets the letter of HLF’s requirement, but is actually nonsensical.]

I can see no earthly reason why HLF would insist on prohibiting a less restrictive licence, if the bodies they are funding choose to use one. If I’ve missed something, I’d be grateful for an explanation.

The phrase “for the life of your contract with HLF” is also nonsensical, since such licences are both indefinite and irrevocable.

I would like to see the above wording changed, to something like:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) or a less restrictive licence (e.g. CC BY, CC BY-SA, or CC0), unless we have agreed otherwise

Better sill, HLF could mandate an open licence, unless agreed otherwise.

How about it, HLF?

* If you’re bidding for HLF funding and would like advice about including a Wikipedia component, please drop me a line#.

# That might lead to someone paying me. Some would argue that that means I can’t use a NC-restricted image on this page.

All your video are belong to us: open licence recordings of local government meetings

I’ve written before about what open licensing is and how to apply it to your pictures; and I’ve called for councils and other public bodies to open licence as many as possible of their photographs.

There’s recently been a welcome and encouraging increase in the number of councils that are live-streaming, or videoing for later consumption, their meetings. Such videos — and similar audio recordings — should also be made available to the public for reuse under open licences, which means no unnecessary restrictions such as “no commercial use” or “no derivatives” (the latter prohibits people from providing edited highlights or making compilations).

Some councils have an old fashioned attitude to the reuse of their videos
Photo by Taki Steve, on Flickr, CC-BY

There are a few reasons why this doesn’t currently happen, and they’re based on reasonable but unfounded concerns. Some council people (employed officers and elected members) are worried that they’ll lose control. They think that people will edit the videos in such as way as to misrepresent what was actually said. And some people will — but such people will do that regardless of the licence in place, and will misrepresent councillors even if only text minutes are available. Councils’ responses should be to point members of the public to the unedited originals, which they will of course host themselves, or on a service such as YouTube, using an account which they control. Are councils really going to resort to copyright law to stifle satire or prevent lobbying? Perhaps they should read about the (where resorting to legislation focusses greater attention on one’s actions than the subject of that action ever could).

Another issue is that some fear that if councillors use videos for political campaigning, that would break the rules on misuse of public money and council resources. The answer is simple: remind councillors of such rules and let them be responsible for their actions.

Such concerns are vastly outweighed by the potential benefits of allowing free (both senses: as in beer and speech) reuse of videos of our democratic processes in action. Bloggers (hyperlocal and others), journalists, lobby groups, Wikipedians and documentary makers will be able to report on the issues discussed by our elected representatives; and this can only encourage more involvement from lay people in the running of the services that they pay for.

Restrictive, non-open licences do not harm mendacious armchair activists, nor satirists, nor rogue politicians; they only hinder people who wish to use the material in a law abiding way to increase such engagement.

What licence is your council using for its videos of meetings?

My thanks to Tom Phillips for suggesting I write this post, for discussion in this evening’s #lgovsm chat on Twitter.

Open Up Your Content – a piece written for Hyperlocal West Midlands

My friends Kate Sahota, Dan Slee and Simon Whitehouse, and Liz O’nions from our sponsors Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and I ran the ‘Hyperlocal West Midlands‘ (‘HyperWM’) unconference today; the third of these annual events, for local government and other public sector workers, and hyperlocal bloggers interested in working with them. As usual, I got to be compère, a role which I greatly enjoy.

It was great to see many old friends, even though the opportunity to chat to them was of necessity limited.

For the event, we produced a newspaper. Yes, a real newspaper, made from dead trees. The idea was to give some information to the many attendees who are not yet fully engaged with the digital world.

Two of my articles were included, a shortened version of my blog post “Tips for Unconference newbies“, and the following, written specially, and reproduced here in its original form, before Dan got his sub-editing mitts on it, and with added links:

Open Up Your Content

No doubt you’ve heard a lot about open data (and if you haven’t, you soon will do). But what about “open content”? And what is open content?

The commonly accepted definition refers to content (text, images, audio or video) which may be used by anyone, freely (free as in speech, and as in beer), under what is known as an open licence. The “four Rs” apply: people should be able to Reuse, Revise, Remix (combine with other content) and Redistribute (give away or sell) the content. There may be a requirement to give attribution (in other words, you have to say who the author or owner of the content is) and an open licence does not negate moral rights (so you shouldn’t misrepresent the author or owner).

Open content sources include all of Wikipedia (except a few images, such as DVD covers), everything on Wikimedia Commons, many images on Flickr (check the individual licences, or use the “Creative Commons” option in their advanced search) and much, much more, and you can use any of that, on your website and in your paper publications and reports. For free!

So how does open licensing work, in the public sector?

Suppose you’ve written an FAQ about food hygiene. If a blogger, or a neighbouring council or health authority, or suchlike, ask for permission to use some or all of it, you’d probably say “sure, just give us a mention”. If you receive a request for a photograph of your new chief executive from the same people, you’d probably provide them with one. You’d do that, even for a local newspaper which makes money by selling adverts, and by being sold in newsagents.

An open licence, such as one of those provided by Creative Commons as a set of boilerplate terms which you can use without paying a lawyer to write them, simply formalises such sensible responses.

Better still, you can apply an open licence in advance of receiving a request, or many such requests, thereby relieving you of a tiresome administrative burden.

If you have useful content (of course you do!), and you’re not going to sell it (of course you’re not!), make it available (on your website, or a third party one like Flickr or Wikimedia Commons), and let the community you serve and the world at large benefit from it. You might be surprised at the uses they put it to, and how you and your customers can benefit from them.

More from HyperWM

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-qV.

Requesting open-licensed, open-format recordings of the voices of Wikipedia subjects for Wikimedia Commons

The Idea

A little while ago, my friend and fellow Wikipedia editor (he’s the Wikipedian in Residence at the British Library!) mentioned to me that Wikipedia could do with more sound files. We discussed recordings of music, industrial and everyday sounds (what does a printing press sound like? Or a Volkswagen Beetle? What do different kinds of breakfast cereal sound like when milk is added?), as well as people’s voices, so that we have a record of what they sound like.

A giant ear-trumpet

Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) By John Baldessari, at the Saatchi Gallery.
Photo by Jim Linwood, on Flickr, CC-BY

In the spirit of Wikipedia, all such recordings would be open-licensed, to allow others to use them, freely. They can then be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons (the media repository for Wikipedia and its related projects) in an open format, namely Ogg Vorbis (that’s like mp3, but without patent encumbrances).

So I’m working on a new initiative to provide short (under ten-second) open-licensed audio clips of examples of the speaking voices of notable people (i.e. people who have Wikipedia articles about them).

What To Do

As a pilot, I’m asking some of my (cough) celebrity friends to kindly record the following, or a variation of their choice, with no background noise:

Hello, my name is [name]. I was born in [place] and I have been [job or position] since [year]

(but without mentioning Wikipedia!) They can do that, in quiet room, with a modern mobile phone, or a computer.

[Stop Press: See update 4, below, for update regarding use of “Vocaroo”, to avoid this step]

Once they’ve done that, they can convert the file to Ogg Vorbis using this free tool and then upload it to Wikimedia Commons, with an open-licence, with no “non-commercial (NC)” or “no derivatives (ND)” restrictions, (e.g. CC-By or CC-By-SA), and add the category “Voice intro project”.

If that’s too much fuss, they can e-mail it, or its URL, to me (andy@pigsonthewing.org.uk), using common file formats like mp3 or .wav, stating that it’s under one of those licences, and CC the mail to: permissions-en@wikimedia.org to formally record the open licence. Then I or other Wikipedia editors will make the conversion.

Alternatively, perhaps, they can point to a suitable, open-licensed, example of their speaking voice, which is already online.

Anyone Can Help

If you’re not the subject of a Wikipedia article, you can still help, by recording and uploading to Wikimedia Commons audio files, as described above, of machinery or everyday activities and occurrences.

Updates

  1. A couple of Wikipedia article subjects have asked why they would do this. In short, so that there is a public — and freely reusable — record of what they sound like, for current and future generations. And so that we know how they pronounce their names.
  2. The uploaded files are now gathered in a Wikimedia Commons category. Thank you to the early contributors.
  3. I’ve been asked about multi-lingual recordings. The best thing would be separate files, one in each language, please.
  4. If you have a microphone on your computer (doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad), it’s possible to record directly into the Vocaroo website, and just email or tweet me a link. But you still need to agree to an open licence!

How eBay could help Wikimedia Commons get more open-licensed images

Here is a screen-shot of a recent eBay auction (ends 18 April):

eBay auction page for '18th Century Token Warwickshire General Elliot Henry Biggs 1792 Birmingham'

It’s for a 1792 trade token, commemorating General Elliot and worth a halfpenny at Henry Biggs, of Moor Street, Birmingham.

Here’s the close up of both sides of the token:

Both sides of the token

I’ve taken the liberty of using the latter image without asking permission, to illustrate the points I’m making in this post, and it’s(permission now obtained) The latter image is one of many I could have chosen — eBay is full of such pictures, of old tokens, coins and medals, old books, documents and ephemera, plus all sorts of other objects. Those images lead transient lives, effectively disappearing when their auctions end.

I’d really like to upload it to Wikimedia Commons, the repository of media for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and freely reusable by anyone.

It could then be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles on the general, trade tokens, and various aspects of Birmingham’s history — and by anyone, on other websites or printed projects. All the benefits of free content would apply.

I’ve written before about open-licensing images, what it means and how to do it.

Of course I could ask the seller concerned for permission to upload their image to Wikimedia Commons, but doing so on an individual basis would be time consuming and require them to send e-mail to a third address, confirming their agreement. Doing this on a large scale is infeasible, and contacting individual sellers many times — or several people contacting them —  would be irritating to them.

I would like eBay to consider (after discussion with me and the Wikimedia community) introducing a feature where their sellers are asked to confirm that they are the author of such images and, if so, to tick a box releasing them under a suitable Creative Commons licence (as described in my earlier post).

These open-licensed images would then be flagged, be searchable, and could perhaps be made available via an RSS feed or feeds.

Wikimedians could then add them to Commons individually, after checking that the subject of the image was not itself subject to copyright (in the case of, for example, a recent book or CD cover). As with uploading open-licensed Flickr images to Commons, tools to expedite this could be written.

Sellers with Commons accounts could even be given the opportunity to upload images to both sites at once.

What about it, eBay? Can someone put me in touch with the relevant people there?

Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please

Politicians, like visits to the dentist and taxes, are a necessary evil. We all moan about them, but someone has to take care of the machinery of state.

So it’s important that we hold them to account, and elsewhere document their activities in a neutral way. Hyperlocal bloggers do the former, and the latter takes place on Wikipedia, and on sites like the excellent OpenlyLocal (both of whose content is open-licensed).

To illustrate such articles, bloggers and Wikipedians need photographs of the politicians (and senior officers). While it’s possible for individuals to take such pictures (and even open-license them, as I described previously), it would be better if such pictures were available from official channels. Such organisations already take or commission professional quality shots and make them available to the press. If they don’t already, they should make sure that their contract with photographers pays for full rights, enabling open-licensing.

I recently asked Birmingham City Council’s press office to make their pictures of members of BCC’s cabinet available under an open licence, and, to their credit, they did so. I was then able to use one of them on :

Wikipedia article using a picture open-licensed by Birmingham City Council

Some might ask “but what if the pictures are misused, to misrepresent those people”. Well, if someone’s going to do that, then they won’t bother about copyright anyway, and other laws (libel, human rights) already enable redress.

So come on all you councils, civil service departments, police forces/ authorities and so on — let us have pictures of your elected members and senior officers, free (i.e. with no “non-commercial” or “no derivatives” restrictions) for reuse on our blogs, Wikipedia and other sites. Major companies, too, could do this for their most-public board members.

Then there’s all public bodies’ other photographs. After all, West Midlands Police kindly agreed to my request to open-license the fantastic aerial shots from their helicopter…

St. Martin in the Bullring Church, Birmingham
Birmingham’s Bull Ring, from the West Midlands Police helicopter. Although this picture is ©WM Police, I can use it, here and on Wikipedia, because they kindly make it available under a CC-BY-SA licence

Open-licensing your images. What it means and how to do it.

I do a lot of editing on Wikipedia. Sometimes I approach someone connected with a subject I’m writing about (or the subject themself), and ask them to provide an “open licensed” image. In other words, an image whose copyright they own, but given a licence which allows anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes.

Noted art historian and television presenter Philip Mould kindly agreed to my request, and released this portrait of himself under a CC-BY-SA licence so I could use it on Wikipedia

With a few exceptions, only images made available under such licences can be used on Wikipedia.

Creative Commons

The commonest form of open licence is Creative Commons — a set of legalistic prose documents which cover various ways of licensing images.

Some Creative Commons include “non-commercial” clauses; these are incompatible with Wikipedia, because people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situation, such as in newspapers or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices (provided they comply with other licence terms).

The Creative Commons licences compatible with Wikipedia are:

  • Attribution Creative Commons (CC-BY)
  • Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA)

In which:

  • “Attribution” means that the copyright holder must be given a credit
  • “ShareAlike” means that if someone uses your picture, anything made with it must have the same licence
  • “NoDerivs” means that people cannot crop, recolour or otherwise change your picture when reusing it.

I took this image of John Madin, architect of Birmingham’s Rotunda and Central Library, and made it available under a CC-By-SA licence. You can use it, free, provided you credit me as the photographer

It’s important that anyone open licencing an image understands what that means. For example, Wikimedia (the organisation behind Wikipedia) suggests that people donating images are asked to agree to the following:

  • I acknowledge that I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product, and to modify it according to their needs, as long as they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
  • I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by me.
  • I am aware that the free license only concerns copyright, and I reserve the option to take action against anyone who uses this work in a libelous way, or in violation of personality rights, trademark restrictions, etc.
  • I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement…

(and yes, that wording has a CC-BY-SA licence!)

Which is the best licence to use?

That depends on the circumstances, but CC-BY-SA fits most cases, giving the re-user the greatest flexibility, while protecting the copyright holder’s right to be recognised.

So, how do I open-licence an image?

There are a variety of ways to open-licence an image. Here are some of the commonest:

  • Upload your images to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • Upload your images to Flickr, specifying one of the above open licences
  • Upload your images to your own website, with a clear and unambiguous statement that they are under a specified open licence

My images are on Flickr, how do I change the licence?

To open-licence a single image in Flickr:

Selecting an open licence in Flickr's pop-up dialogue

  • View the specific image
  • Under “Owner settings”, alongside current licence setting (perhaps “All Rights Reserved”), click “edit”
  • In the pop-up window, check one of the compatible licences
  • Save

[Postscript: My friend John Cummings wrote an equivalent guide for YouTube]

Won’t I lose money doing this?

the ingliston gorilla

kindly made this picture of Nicholas Monro’s statue of King Kong available under a CC-BY-SA licence, at my request, so I could use it on Wikipedia

Not necessarily. Some commercial photographers release low- or medium- resolution copies of their images, and sell high-resolution copies, but most people take images for personal purposes, which have no commercial value, and for which they will never be paid. Open-licensing them enables the community to benefit, at no cost to the photographer. Think of open-licensing your images as a way of giving back to the community which has given you so many open-source tools, without which the web would not work.

If this post has inspired you to openly-licence your images please let me know, in the comments.

And yes you can use other people’s open-licenced images, including many of mine, free. Help yourself!

Caveat

Yes, I know there are other open licences, and more complex use-cases. This is intended as a beginners’ guide. A competent lawyer will be able to provide you with legal advice. I offer more general advice to institutions wanting to open-licence their images or other content, or to work with the Wikipedia community, as part of my professional services.

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-jM.