Intergovernmental Organizations

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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.

Why Intergovernmental Organizations Benefit from Using CC

IGOs' missions are aligned with sharing information and resources

Disseminating useful information globally is aligned with the mission and work of most IGOs. Sharing information and content -- ranging from education assessment metrics to cultural heritage resources to research studies on the environmental impact of fossil fuels to health information -- is central to the success of IGOs. Information and content that IGOs create can be made maximally useful to the diverse communities they serve, helping citizens, governments, civic institutions, and businesses across all sectors.

CC helps clarify rights to users in advance

Materials like reports, photographs and videos released under the default All Rights Reserved copyright require the end user to ask permission in order to use the resource in the absence of some applicable exception or limitation under applicable copyright law. This framework means IGOs must dedicate resources to review and approve those requests. From the user perspective, the time and effort required to obtain the permission can be significant. The result is that resources are less likely to be used, shared, or repurposed, significantly diminishing the potential impact of information published. (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has described the challenges to dissemination of information under the All Rights Reserved copyright framework as follows: "While information technology makes it possible to multiply and distribute content worldwide and almost at no cost, legal restrictions on the reuse of copyrighted material hamper its negotiability in the digital environment ... [T]he Creative Commons license is by far the best-known license for such content, the use of which is growing exponentially." OECD (2007) Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources, p.13.

Creative Commons licenses offer a simple, standardized way to grant flexible copyright permissions in advance. The adoption of Creative Commons licenses increases the dissemination, discoverability, reuse, and translatability of research and education materials. CC licenses are the global standard for open content licenses, and are leveraged by corporations, institutions, and government bodies worldwide. Creative Commons licenses lower the transaction costs normally associated with seeking and granting permission to use resources by granting limited permission in advance.

CC helps ensure IGOs receive credit for the resources they create

IGOs who use CC licenses get the credit they deserve for the work they create. All CC licenses require that attribution be given to author in the manner specified. IGOs also need not worry about expending resources crafting custom terms of service specifying how their works can be used. Creative Commons licenses contain vetted, legally robust standard copyright terms and conditions. These common features serve as the baseline, on top of which IGOs can choose to grant additional permissions if desired.

FAQ: CC Licenses and IGOs

IGOs are unique in several respects from individuals and other organizations. Below are some common questions about how CC licenses work for IGOs.

Can intergovernmental organizations ("IGOs") use CC licenses?

Anyone may use CC licenses for works they own, including 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 published a 3.0 ported license suite specifically intended for use by IGOs. These ported licenses -- known as the 3.0 IGO ported licenses -- grant all of the same permissions as our international (unported) 3.0 licenses; however, they have two unique provisions. First, unlike all other 3.0 licenses, where the licensor is an IGO then unless otherwise mutually agreed, disputes are resolved by mediation or, if that is unsuccessful, through arbitration. This provision was included in response to the challenges IGOs face with enforcing their copyright. IGOs have privileges and immunities from national legal processes, including judicial processes. Waiving that immunity so they can bring suit in a national legal forum can be exceedingly difficult. Instead, IGOs typically use mediation and arbitration as the preferred means to resolve legal disputes.

Second, unlike the other 3.0 licenses, the 3.0 IGO ported licenses contain a cure period just like CC's new 4.0 licenses. If a licensee fixes a license violation within 30 days of discovery, the license automatically reinstates. The inclusion of the provision is intended to help reduce the likelihood that mediation and arbitration become necessary.

What should I know before I use a work licensed under the IGO 3.0 ported licenses?

You should be aware of the dispute resolution mechanism in the license, which is contained in Section 8(h). Disputes involving works licensed by IGOs under the licenses are resolved by mediation and arbitration.

Generally, mediation is a process used to avoid settling a dispute in court. The process typically involves a neutral third party (called a mediator) who tries to help the parties resolve the dispute. Mediation is not binding, however, unless the parties agree otherwise. Arbitration is also used to avoid settling a dispute in court, but the third party (called an arbitrator) has authority to make a decision in favor of one party. Arbitration tends to be more formal than mediation.

Before using any work licensed by an IGO under the IGO 3.0 ported licenses, be sure you understand what the mediation and arbitration processes are that have been chosen by the IGO and know what they mean for you. IGOs typically designate those in the copyright notice attached to the work.

How does the mediation and arbitration provision work?

Assuming a violation of the license has occurred and the dispute cannot be amicably resolved, the process starts with mediation. The IGO/licensor sends a notice of mediation to the licensee designating the mediation rules if those are not already identified in the copyright notice accompanying the work. If mediation is unsuccessful, then either the licensor or licensee can chose to commence arbitration. If arbitration becomes necessary, then those proceedings allow for remote participation (e.g., by teleconference, written submissions, etc.) whenever practicable.

IGOs have the ability to designate the particular mediation and arbitration rules in the copyright notice attached to the work, though the licensor and user of the work can always agree otherwise. If none is designated and no agreement is reached, then the mediation rules will be those identified in the notice of mediation sent to the licensee. If the matter progresses to arbitration, then unless otherwise stated in the copyright notice the rules that apply are the current Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (known as the UNCITRAL arbitration rules). The UNCITRAL rules are widely used by IGOs and others.

Note that Creative Commons does not endorse any particular mediation or arbitration rules. Creative Commons has published special deeds for the IGO 3.0 ported licenses that emphasize that disputes are resolved by mediation and arbitration. You should always take note before using a work by an IGO whether the license used is an IGO 3.0 ported license.

Do the 3.0 IGO ported licenses operate differently in other respects?

No, the only differences are the mediation and arbitration processes and the ability to cure a violation and regain your rights as a licensee. CC and the IGOs took great care to ensure that the interpretation of the licenses are no different otherwise than the 3.0 international licenses. The adjudicating body (the mediation or arbitration tribunal) will interpret the scope of the license and remaining obligations in accordance with general principles of international law. Exceptions and limitations remain unregulated by those licenses as well.

Note that the IGO 3.0 port is designed so that only IGOs as defined in the license are able to use mediation and arbitration. It is not available to anyone else using the licenses.

Examples of CC License Use by Intergovernmental Organizations

Commonwealth of Learning

European Cultural Foundation

European Funded

  • 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.

European Space Agency

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


World Bank