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Existing Funder Policies


Many governments have implemented CC licenses and tools, such as the CC0 public domain dedication, in their policies for the release of public sector information, educational materials, scientific articles and geographic data, and other culturally relevant content. See the current scratchpad for known government uses of CC on our wiki, in addition to a government landing page at


Some foundations have developed extensive open licensing policies for grant recipients, while others encourage the use of open licenses. Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society completed an An Evaluation of Private Foundation Copyright Licensing Policies, Practices and Opportunities that examine the open licensing policies of the foundations below. This report was updated in February, 2011.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Open Educational Resources Program requires the use of Creative Commons licensing.

"In every grant where Foundation resources are used to create products, agreement about the licensing of these products must be made explicit in the grant application. Products include but are not limited to reports, papers, publications, content, and software. If you are developing content or producing articles, reports, white papers, or other written materials, please identify which of the Creative Commons licenses you will use to license the content. We strongly prefer Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. See for more information."

The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation’s Intellectual Property Policy encourages openness generally via Creative Commons licensing.

"The Foundation encourages openness in research and freedom of access to underlying data by persons with a serious interest in the research. Grantees are also encouraged to explore opportunities to use existing and emerging internet distribution models and, when appropriate, open access journals, Creative Commons license or similar mechanisms that result in broad access for the interested field and public."

For some programs, open licensing is required, such as for grant output of MacArthur’s Digital Media and Learning competition.

"Copyright in the products produced as a result of the award shall remain with the successful Applicant subject to the terms of the Competition. Each Applicant must agree, however, that if it receives an award it will license the use of the product in accordance with a Creative Commons License (Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, ShareAlike) or be Open Source."

The Shuttleworth Foundation

The Shuttleworth Foundation's policy is the most aggressive in its requirement for open licensing. The Foundation maintains a specific page on their website that describes their Open Resources Policy.

"The Foundation is committed to opening intellectual resources created or co-created by the Foundation, in Foundation projects or with Foundation funds (Foundation resources). Intellectual resources include software, project reports, manuals, research results and the like which are ready to be communicated to the public. Foundation resources shall be open resources as far as reasonably possible. Resources are open resources when they are available for revision, translation, improvement and sharing under open licenses, open standards and in open formats, free of technical protection measures. All Agreements entered into by the Foundation which include the creation of resources shall ensure that the resources are open resources, and shall record how the Intellectual Property in the resources is owned and licensed. The Foundation recognizes that there are a number of legitimate reasons when resources may not be made open. When documents are not made open then they may, when suitable, be made available on an open access basis, which permits copying but does not allow any changes. Considerations of privacy, confidentiality, security and utility may preclude making certain documents or information available outside the Foundation."
"Software created by the Foundation, in Foundation projects or with Foundation funds is released under the GNU General Public License, or other suitable Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) license. Copyright works, other than software, are released under appropriate open licenses; Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license (CC BY SA) or the GNU Free Documentation license (GNU FDL), or into the Public Domain...If there is sufficient justification an 'alternative license' other than Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike or the GNU FDL may be used, for example to allow the better integration of a resource into a larger resource pool."

Creative Commons provides legal and technical tools that can help foundations increase the impact and scale of the work they fund. CC licenses lower the transaction cost normally associated with having to ask for permission to use resources by granting some rights in advance. CC licenses are easy to apply and use, and flexible enough to reflect a range of project considerations. CC licensing is already in use by some foundations, and other funding organizations should strongly consider requiring Creative Commons licensing for the public output of their grantees.