Grants/CC Commentary

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CC Commentary

Applicants: CC Germany c/o European Academy of Law and Computing (EEAR) and newthinking communications, Berlin
Affiliation:, Saarland University
CC affiliated? Yes
Contact: John Weitzmann
Coordinator: John Weitzmann
Project Start: 2010/10/01
Project End: 2012/09/30,,
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

Legal commentaries, as a format dating back to justinian roman law, are a key asset for legal work when both statutes and case law have to be considered. Just as they make statutory law workable for legal practice, legal commentaries can support working with private order standard systems and thus have developed for instance around the GPL license. For the six core licenses of Creative Commons, however, they don't yet exist in any comprehensive, let alone open and collaborative form. Thus, proposed here is to establish a collaborative, database-driven online commentary of worldwide scope for the six CC core licenses. To make it a sustainable up-to-date resource requires an intuitive web platform for collaboration and a group of international curators with clear rules and responsibilities.

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

The most tangible output would be the launch of a comprehensive web resource (in a first test run f. e. under the URL, aggregating commenting legal texts to all sections of the core licenses, covering the related legislation, case law and scholarly texts. In addition, it would offer structured How-To texts for the most common licensing scenarios in as many languages as possible. The back-end of this resource must be easy to use and allow for multi-lingual editing and peer review processes.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

The primary target groups are legal practitioners who work or advise in the field of IP law and scholars of all disciplines concerned with Open Access. A special subset of this group are professors of law who will very likely be compelled to engage argumentatively with the commentary and contribute to it. At the same time the commentary would also target two additional groups, the first being CC Jurisdiction Projects who could use it as a knowledge base for outreach work, porting and other purposes. The second additional target group is the everyday parties to CC licensing agreements, i. e. authors and users. Thus, the commentary would offer human-readable explanations at least on its most legalese />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

The entity responsible for this proposal is the European Academy of Law and Computing (EEAR). It is a non-profit situated in the Saarland region in south-western Germany and was founded as a public private partnership to build bridges between the worlds of legal pracititioners and IT professionals. This is done through courses, research projects and dialogue sessions with stakeholder in Germany and abroad. The Academy has ties with abroad institutions and individuals in Luxemburg, France, Australia, Russia, Italy and other countries. It co-hosts the main annual conference of experts from the judiciary and public adminitration in Germany. Since 2006 the Academy also hosts the legal project lead for Creatve Commons Germany. This has led to a vast number of cross connections between legal professionals, community projects and online evangelists in Europe, with the Academy fulfilling the role of a facilitator. One of these connections exists between CC Germany and the award winning project. iRights offers an independent online knowledge base on IP law for non-lawyers that in its kind is unique in Europe. This is an ideal nucleus for building the group curating the commentary. Other institutions as well as knowledgable individuals have already indicated interest in contributing to this initiative.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

The impact could best be measured by website traffic and citations of the commentary, both online and offline. The commentary would be equipped with a deep linkable versioning system, allowing to continuously access any state of it for permanent linking to it on websites, in apps, in verdicts and also in paper publications in general. Another way to measure impact could be to assess the group curating the commentary. As there will have to be a merit-based membership policiy regarding this group, the number and quality of applications to join could tell a lot about the overall success of the initiative.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

Initially it will take a rather small group of up to ten persons to get the basic commentary structure off the ground and develop and test the back-end. But as the content grows, especially when going multi-lingual, a larger group must be formed to maintain and update the commentary. To achieve this, a merit-based custodianship for every part of the commentary needs to be established, with the respective custodian making sure that curators are found and the content is correctly marked as up-to-date, outdated or non sensitive to change. This process can supported to quite an extent by automated processes.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

Understanding how licenses are meant to function and how they are actually received in society and legal communities is important to sustain growth of the voluntary commons in the digital age. The commentary format can represent a substantial improvement to this understanding, just to name one concrete example: It would make possible a lateral review of all international case law regarding a specific CC license provision. This brings some additional stability to the legal discourse around the CCPL. It also helps to build up confidence in private order as a concept and improves legal certainty by handing legal practicioners a type of resource that is currently missing.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

The initiative would mainly rely on free software tools like Drupal and LAMP to compile and present the commentary, as well as on collaborative OpenGroupWare for enabling collaboration of the curators group. From other projects the Academy can draw on a group of software developers of its own, of external partners like jurmatix Inc. and on student interns to have the authoring system built (or to adapt existing systems to the needs of the initiative). The skills to manage a project of changing proportions are present both in the Academy and in the project group. The legal tools used for giving freedom to the commentary content would be either CC BY or CC0.

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Two possible challenges come to mind, one being the challenge to reach a basic consensus within the interested community on how the commentary should best be structured. This can probably be overcome by sticking to the well-known structure of the CC license texts and at the same time exerting extra care on clearly resembling that with the first visible prototype, because this will have a convincing effect and show workability of the structure presented. The second possible challenge is to ensure a sustainable selection process for the curators group and to ensure a continuous activity of that group. Depending on the success and impact of the commentary, the interest to become a contributer can range from very little to massive. In the first case, possible contributers must actively be approached and asked to join in, in the second, a staged contribution policy must be devised to optimally harvest the competence offered to the initiative.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

The initiative is costly mainly in the phase when the underlying technology is set up and the basic content structures formed. Later, the costs are limited to maintenance of servers and backups, webspace and domain costs. At this later stage, content contributions are meant to be as much pro-bono as possible. On top of the open access community contributing unpaid time in this way, it should be possible to find institutional support from universities, research institutions, foundations and consumer protection bodies to cover the remaining costs, or to find seed funding for extensions to the commentary. Also, the sale of hard copies of the commentary can possibly generate funds to cover the long term costs.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

Scalability – or in fact the need to scale up – is limited in terms of the complexity of the commentary, because in this it directly corresponds to the CC licensing model which strives to keep complexity low. However, there are three dimensions in which the commentary could later be scaled up: After the basic content structures are established, they can be extended to additional languages, either entirely or in parts. The second scale dimension is that of a structural expansion of the content to cover the national license ports. The third dimension could then also be to expand to other legal tools offered by Creative Commons. To be ready for any of these, the first stage of development should already cover at least two languages, for practical reasons probably being English and German. For further languages and structural expansions, cooperation within the network of CC Jurisdiction Projects or with external projects like Global Voices is probably the best way forward.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

Support from Creative Commons could be given by endorsing the commentary intiative as an integral part of the CC environment. Actual resources would only indirectly play a role, f. e. when CC staff wanted to contribute or review content or help with finding interesting curators around the globe.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

The Academy runs the website of CC Germany and the regional platform CC Europe, offering general information, news and interactive elements to communicate with stakeholders and other CC affiliates. Newthinking, our public lead for CC Germany runs, a high-impact activism hub and the most linked-to blog in Germany. is a website at the very center of independent IP law information on the german speaking web. The people behind all three entities are well known in the relevant communities. You won't find a panel, conference or public consultation touching IP law without at least one or two of them being invited.