Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are using CC to share research, data, and educational materials they produce. IGOs, like all creators who want wide dissemination of their content, realize they can benefit greatly from the use of Creative Commons licenses--maximizing the impact of their resources and efforts. A number of IGOs believe that as publicly minded institutions, adopting an open licensing policy for at least some subset of their publications is the preferred mechanism for ensuring the broadest and most widespread use and reuse of the information they publish.
This page explains some of the benefits for IGOs choosing to publish content under Creative Commons licenses, clarifies some unique legal considerations, provides case study of IGOs already using CC, aggregates relevant frequently asked questions, and addresses common licensing scenarios and options available to IGOs.
FAQ: Why CC Licenses Work for IGOs
IGOs are unique in several respects from individuals and other organizations. Below are some common questions about how CC licenses work for IGOs.
Anyone may use CC licenses for works they own, including governments and IGOs. The reasons for doing so vary, and often include a desire to maximize the impact and utility of works for educational and informational purposes, and to enhance transparency.
Creative Commons licenses have desirable features that make them the preferred choice over custom licenses. CC licenses are standard and interoperable, which means works published by different authors using the same type of CC license can be translated, modified, compiled and/or remixed depending on the particular license applied. Creative Commons licenses are also machine-readable, allowing CC-licensed works to be easily discovered via search engines such as Google. These features maximize distribution, reuse and impact of works published by governments and IGOs.
Creative Commons recommends that IGOs use the international (formerly known as the "unported") licenses. While no CC license (ported or unported) waives privileges and immunities that may apply to IGOs, the international licenses may be preferred because they have not been adapted to the laws of any particular jurisdiction. Using these licenses instead of a license adapted to the implementation of copyright law in a particular jurisdiction (a “ported license”) avoids any implication (however remote or unlikely) that an IGO has consented to jurisdiction or forum for resolution of disputes arising under the licenses, or has agreed that disputes arising under the licenses should be resolved in accordance with a particular jurisdiction’s laws.
No. CC licenses do not impose obligations on licensors, but instead grant others permission to use the licensed works consistent with license terms and conditions. The only exception is the undertaking by licensors not to enforce their copyright as long as the license terms are respected. CC licensors have the choice of enforcing (or not) any copyright licenses they grant.
This point is worth stressing. CC licenses impose no affirmative obligations of any kind on licensors. There are more than 500,000,000 CC-licensed texts, photos, websites and other works. Since the licenses were first published more than 8 years ago, CC has not been made aware of any claim made against a licensor under the licenses. The reason is simple: licensors are only agreeing to forego their right to enforce copyright under certain conditions, not accepting any affirmative duties or obligations in the license itself. This makes CC licenses qualitatively different from the kinds of contracts or agreements that could subject IGOs to liability, or to the jurisdiction of any particular country or legal process.
As still further protection, in the unlikely event a claim is made against an IGO under a CC license, nothing in the license waives applicable privileges and immunities.
What law would be applied if an IGO itself chooses to enforce the terms of the license against a violator?
None of the CC 3.0 international licenses contains a forum or jurisdiction selection clause. The only ported 3.0 licenses that contain a forum selection clause are the Hong Kong 3.0 licenses. This suite is not recommended for use by licensors who want to preserve their right to bring an action in another forum.
A few of the ported licenses contain a choice of law provision. For this reason, CC suggests that IGOs use the international licenses because those licenses squarely leave the decision of which forum and law to apply to the tribunal in which enforcement of the license is sought by the IGO.
Those responsible for setting intellectual property or publication policy within an IGO should consider making these points clear in their copyright notice. One suggested implementation is:
© YEAR by ORGANIZATION. TITLE OF PUBLICATION is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (international): http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/. For the avoidance of doubt, by applying this license ORGANIZATION does not waive any privileges or immunities from claims that it may be entitled to assert, nor does ORGANIZATION submit itself to the jurisdiction, courts, legal processes or laws of any jurisdiction.
Featured Intergovernmental Organization Case Studies
The Commonwealth of Learning has incorporated CC BY-SA as part of its open educational resources (OER) policy.
Additional Examples of CC License Use by Intergovernmental Organizations
Commonwealth of Learning
- The Commonwealth of Learning has incorpoated CC BY-SA as part of its open educational resources (OER) policy: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/27703.
- Interview with Sir John Daniel about the policy: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/28384
- COL's guidelines for open educational resources (OER) in higher education: http://www.col.org/resources/publications/Pages/detail.aspx?PID=364
European Cultural Foundation
- The European Cultural Foundation's project Labforculture.org releases materials under a CC BY-NC-ND license.
- http://www.communia-project.eu/about COMMUNIA - The European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain, funded by the European Commission (the executive of the European Union), CC BY-SA (Unported).
- European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) - CERN publishes its book catalog online as open data using the CC0 public domain dedication and the results of some Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments are published under various Creative Commons licenses.
Inter-American Development Bank
- The Inter-American Development Bank is requiring the adoption of Creative Commons by the organizations that receive funding from the Bank in the context of the FOMIN (Fondo Multiateral de Inversiones) initiatives, particularly the ICT4BUS, a fund that promotes the adoption of e-commerce in the American continent, which has financed more that thirty initiatives in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Banks require those initiative to use the GPL to license any software developed by organizations receiving support from the bank, and CC to license the documentation related with those computer programs, such as user manuals.
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
- The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an IGO that supports sustainable democracy, and licenses selected publications under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.
- UNESCO OER documentation and toolkits - http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/
- United Nations University OpenCourseWare - http://ocw.unu.edu/Courses_listing
- United Nations University Media Studio - http://mediastudio.unu.edu/en/about/
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Knowledge Platform - http://logosundp.org/; http://logosundp.org/about/terms
- The UNDP Virtual School for Latin America and the Caribbean - http://www.escuelapnud.org/
- The World Bank has incorporated CC BY into its Open Access Policy and as a default for Bank-produced research and knowledge products via its OPen Knowledge Repository: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/32335.
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- This page was last modified on 6 March 2013, at 17:15.