Dec 092015

ombCreative Commons USA has submitted a comment to the White House Office of Management and Budget for its review of Circular No. A-130: Managing Information as a Strategic Resource. Circular No A-130 establishes policies for the planning, budgeting, governance, acquisition, and management of the Federal government’s information resources. It was last revised in 2000, and the current revision aims to address new realities in today’s rapidly evolving, information-centered economy.

The comment from Michael Carroll and Meredith Jacob centers around two principles: “1) that information policy needs to deal with terms of use in addition to the terms of access, and 2) that publicly funded information resources should be made openly available for public use, not just public access.”

Click here for the comment as a PDF


Mr. Tony Scott
U.S. Chief Information Officer
Office of Management & Budget
1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20503

December 5, 2015

Re: Proposed Revisions to Circular No. A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource

Dear Mr. Scott,

We are writing on behalf of Creative Commons United States (CC-USA) to comment on the proposed revisions to Circular No. A-130, Managing Information as a Strategic Resource. Creative Commons United States is the U.S. affiliate of Creative Commons Inc., and operates in Washington, DC as a project of the Program on Information Justice & Intellectual Property at American University Washington College of Law.

Our comment has one main point: the proposal should be revised to be more explicit about why and how agencies should make Federal information resources reusable by the public. Paragraphs 4(c), (d), (k), and (l) of the proposal all assert that making Federal information resources usable by others furthers the national interest. However, the proposal does not provide direction to agencies to ensure that Federal information resources are usable in light of the application of the Copyright Act of 1976.

In that Act, Congress recognized the importance of reuse of Federally created information resources by enacting Section 105, under which all copyrightable works created by Federal employees within the scope of their employment are in the public domain in the United States (with the exception of certain standards created by employees of the National Institute of Standards and Technology). However, any other information resource that falls within the scope of Circular A-130 created by non-Federal employees is automatically subject to the restrictions imposed by Section 106 of the Copyright Act. The only way to make these resources fully reusable by the public is to require that non-Federal persons who create resources that fall within the scope of Circular A-130 with Federal funds grant sufficient permission to the public to make these resources reusable.

In sum, our comments on the proposed revisions to Circular A-130 reflect two broad principles implicit in the proposal: 1) that information policy needs to deal with terms of use in addition to the terms of access, and 2) that publicly funded information resources should be made openly available for public use, not just public access.

General Comments

In the current form and in the suggested revision, OMB Circular A-130 focuses almost exclusively on the terms of access to covered information resources, while the terms of use are equally important in maximizing public benefit from that access. Copyright applies to a large part of the Federal information resources, and therefore copyright law provides the default terms for the use of these resources.

The Copyright Act deals with the terms of use for Federal information resources created by Federal employees by placing these works directly in the public domain. Circular A-130, however, covers a larger category of Federal information resources, including those created under Federal grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. To accomplish the goals of giving the public meaningful access and enabling broad reuse, revisions to Circular A-130 should add terms of use for Federal information resources. In the case of copyrighted content, those terms of use should take the form of a standard open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution license. (See Appendix 1 for more information on the Creative Commons licenses.)

The approach of using open licenses to enable public use of Federal Information Resources has already been adopted by grant programs within the Federal government, such as the Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program. An agency-wide policy that would require information resources produced with direct grant funds to be openly licensed has been proposed at the Department of Education (Department of Education Open Licensing Requirement for Direct Grant Programs, 80 Fed. Reg. 67,672 (proposed Nov. 3, 2015) (to be codified at 2 C.F.R. pt. 3474).

Revision to the proposed amendments to Circular A-130 should: (1) identify that agencies will need to adopt policies that address the automatic application of copyright to information resources produced by non-Federal employees; (2) identify open licenses as a means that some agencies already have adopted to address legal barriers to access and use of information resources; and (3) require agencies to explain their reasoning for how they address the management of copyright in covered resources.

Comments on Specific Provisions

4. b. (p. 7, ln. 217) The government agency responsibility to openness should include facilitating public use of Federal Information Resources, not just public access.

4. d. (p. 7, ln. 226) Government commitment to making information resources “usable” should include removing or reducing legal as well as technical barriers to use and reuse.

5. d. 2. l. (p. 14, ln. 529) The design of information systems and information resources procurement should use standard open licenses to facilitate legal interoperability, access, and usefulness of information, in addition to considering technical interoperability and usefulness.

5. h. (p. 18, ln. 630) As written, this provision focuses on access to information and technical standards, without focusing on the legal restrictions that are automatically placed on information resources produced by non Federal employees. The section should be amended to include throughout the presumption that copyrightable Federal information resources created through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements should be released under a standard open license.

5.h. 5. (p. 20, ln. 701) The list of agency principles should be amended to add “k) Considering open licenses as the default choice for copyrightable Federal information resources created under grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements, to facilitate public use of Federal information resources.”

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.


Professor Michael Carroll
Meredith Jacob
Creative Commons United States
Program on Information Justice & Intellectual Property
American University Washington College of Law
4300 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20016

Nov 022015

department_of_educationOn Thursday, October 29, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education announced the #GoOpen campaign, which it defined as a major commitment to “significantly expand and accelerate the creation, curation, use, and sharing of openly licensed educational resources in our schools.”  To further promote OER, the Department is proposing a regulation  that  would  “require  all copyrightable  intellectual  property  created  with  Department  grant  funds  to have  an open license.”

Creative Commons-United States participated in the Open Education Symposium co-hosted by the Department of Education and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Meredith Jacob, from the CC-USA Legal Team said “we applaud the Department of Education’s support for Open Educational Resources.  The #GoOpen campaign recognizes the potential of OER to improve teaching and learning, and to fostering equality of access for all students.”

Speakers including Secretary Arne Duncan described the multiple benefits of OER adoption, including increased equity among students, saved money for school systems, empowered teachers (who can adopt the texts to suit classroom needs), and the ability of teachers and others to keep OER texts up to date and relevant (as opposed to traditional textbooks, which are “perpetually out of date”).

For more on the initiative, see

Oct 132015
Photo: Mollyali, Link, CC-BY-NC 2.0

Photo: Mollyali, Link CC-BY-NC 2.0

[Timothy Vollmer, Creative Commons HQ, (CC-BY)] A few months ago the United States Copyright Office issued a request for comments on an extended collective licensing (ECL) pilot program they are considering for mass digitization projects. The Office thinks that such a program would permit greater access to cultural works by allowing institutions to engage in mass digitization and then licence those digital collections for a fee. Creative Commons and Creative Commons USA submitted comments to the Copyright Office in coordination with Wikimedia and Internet Archive.

We urged the Office to reconsider the pilot because the fair use doctrine has actually been strengthened in the U.S. due to recent court cases. This has increased the certainty with which a number of entities can engage in mass digitization. And even though the Office points toward similar pilots in Europe, their reliance on ECL is a response to the inflexibility of the current EU copyright framework. Some European cultural heritage institutions are willing to accept the ECL framework because they have no other option. U.S. institutions—such as university libraries—can rely on fair use.

The ECL system as proposed by the Office would not work well to support mass digitization projects. Many authors are not primarily interested in financial rewards—for example those that write scholarly books. And if there is no expectation of revenues for the creator, paying a collective rights organization collect fees to use such works is inefficient and in opposition to the intentions of these authors.

The proposed ECL scheme in the U.S. would be more powerful if it could do more, but the Office has chosen to favor a pilot program that would “facilitate the work of those who wish to digitize and provide full access to certain collections of books, photographs, or other materials for nonprofit educational or research purposes.” By limiting the proposed ECL scope to noncommercial uses, the Office inadvertently makes a stronger case that the activities of digitizers and users will be considered a fair use and that the ECL is not needed in the first place.

We explained that if the Office ultimately pursues an ECL pilot, it should affirmatively exclude works that are publicly licensed and allow other authors who wish to be excluded to apply a Creative Commons license to their work.

In the end, we agreed with many of the libraries that if the Copyright Office is serious about helping to increase legal mass digitization of our shared cultural heritage, it should instead focus on: 1) Encouraging the application of fair use to digitization projects; 2) Promoting the development of better copyright ownership and status information through enhanced registries, rethinking recordation, and asking copyright owners to identify themselves and their works through an internationally-compliant formalities system; and 3) Providing better access to existing copyright ownership and status information by digitizing or encouraging others to digitize and provide free access to all of the Copyright Office’s records.

Comments of Creative Commons and CC USA (PDF)

TAACCCT Standout Vignettes

 Posted by on March 11, 2015
Mar 112015

TAACCCTStandouts3[Paul Stacey, Creative Commons, Link (CC-BY)] Starting with the first round of grants in 2011 Creative Commons and a team of partners have been actively supporting US Department of Labor (DOL), Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grantees. This multi-year, nearly $2 billion grant program provides funds to US community colleges who in partnership with industry, employers, and public workforce systems create stackable/latticed credentials that can be completed in two years or less. The goal of TAACCCT is to expand targeted training programs for unemployed workers, especially those impacted by foreign trade and to move unemployed workers into high wage, high skill jobs in high growth industry sectors.

There are many unique aspects to the TAACCCT program. Creative Commons involvement stems from the DOL requirement that grantees allow broad access for others to use and enhance project products and offerings by licensing newly developed materials produced with grant funds with a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). DOL is the first US department to require this in such a large grant program. Its size makes TAACCCT the largest Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative in the world.

There is a high interest in seeing curricula and course materials coming out of TAACCCT. This is partly due to the high level of investment but also due to the high growth industry sectors for which curricula is being created including health, IT, energy, transportation, and advanced manufacturing – areas where little prior OER exists. However, grantees get 3-4 years for development so examples of work are only now emerging.


In Oct-2014 at the TAACCCT-ON convening in Topeka Kansas, Creative Commons hosted a round 1 TAACCCT grantee showcase fair. All round 1 grantees were invited to showcase, share, and describe some of the best work coming out of their projects.

Using a participatory process all the other grantees attending were invited to visit round 1 TAACCCT grantees at their showcase table to see and learn more about the work they are doing. To make it interactive and fun we asked grantees to put stickers on round 1 TAACCCT projects that were standouts for them. We sought standouts noteworthy for the way they fulfill TAACCCT grant priorities and standouts by industry sector.

TAACCCT Priorities

From that process, based on grantee selection, nine round one TAACCT grantee projects emerged as standouts. For each of the nine standouts we created a vignette with a video interview, a written story, and a graphic visualization of the project.

We’re pleased to share the results with all of you – see TAACCCT Standout Profiles. These nine round 1 TAACCCT vignettes are a small, early sampling of the work coming out of the TAACCCT program. All TAACCCT grant projects are standouts in their own way. We hope these early examples satisfy some of the interest around seeing TAACCCT work and wet your appetite for seeing even more.

Special thanks to all the grantees for agreeing to be interviewed and profiled in this way. Special thanks to Giulia Forsythe for the visuals she created to graphically illustrate each project, to Hal Plotkin for writing the stories, and to Billy Meinke for managing the whole production process. And most of all special thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding our support of TAACCCT grantees.

We hope to see similar vignettes for rounds 2, 3 and 4.

More information on the support Creative Commons and its team of partners provide to TAACCCT can be found at


Feb 262015

Photo: Glyn Lowe (CC-BY)

This week, the House Rules Committee agreed to allow the full House to consider an Open Education amendment proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).  The amendment would permit funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (H.R.5) to be used for “Awarding grants for the creation and distribution of open access textbooks and open educational resources.”

CCUSA Director Michael Carroll issued the following statement:

Representative Polis’s amendment is a welcome recognition of the power and impact of open educational resources, including textbooks, which are up-to-date, high quality materials, that improve educational outcomes and save school districts millions of dollars that are better spent on teachers and students. The amendment uses the language of “open access textbooks” and ‘open educational resources’, and it should be clear that Creative Commons licenses are the standard for making textbooks or other educational resources ‘open.’ 

For an example of how granting states the ability to invest federal funds in open educational resources to produce significant returns on investment, see the work done in Utah. The Polis amendment would also provide support for these state-initiated policy developments to improve educational outcomes while saving significant amounts in the materials budgets, see this report by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under a copyright license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.  Creative Commons USA has more information on Open Educational Resources on our OER page.

Nov 212014

gates-foundation-logoThe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced  an Open Access Policy to grant “unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.”  Under the policy, “all publications shall be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC-BY 4.0) or an equivalent license.”  There will be a two year transition period during which publishers can apply a 12 month embargo on Gates Foundation-funded publications. Effective January 2017, the transition period ends, and all publications must be open.

CCUSA Director Michael Carroll issued the following statement:

The Gates Foundation deserves great credit for understanding how full open access provides the best return on its investment in research. By requiring the researchers it funds to make their results available under full open access terms, the Foundation has concluded that there are enough open access publishing options available to provide the public with immediate access while assuring that researchers will receive the credit they deserve for the advances in human understanding that their research makes.

For more on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Open Access Policy, see

Nov 212014

Photo: (CC-BY-NC-ND)

For More Information Please Contact: Meredith Jacob

Creative Commons USA is pleased to announce that longtime open education advocate Hal Plotkin has accepted a position as our first Senior Open Policy Fellow. Plotkin served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, from 2009 to 2014.

Creative Commons USA is the United States’ national affiliate of the Creative Commons Affiliate Network, which works to inform and educate policymakers and the public about the benefits and uses of sharing content through open copyright licenses. In particular, the opportunities and benefits of sharing educational resources through Open Educational Resources in the United States are an area of focus. As Senior Open Policy Fellow, Hal Plotkin significantly increases the profile and capacity of Creative Commons USA to engage in these activities.

Hal Plotkin

During his five years of federal service, Plotkin was widely recognized as a principal architect of the Obama administration’s groundbreaking progress in the area of open education, TAACCCT. As a federal official, Plotkin helped develop and oversee the first major U.S. government job training and education grant programs that require the use of open licenses in order to ensure that members of the public have the right to freely use, reuse, improve, and customize learning materials developed with public funds.

“We are delighted to have Hal join our team as our first Senior Open Policy Fellow,” says Michael Carroll, Professor of Law and Director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University School of Law, member of the Board of Directors of Creative Commons and the Public Lead of Creative Commons USA.  “For the past five years, Hal has been a leading voice in promoting open education within the federal government and internationally. Among other initiatives, Plotkin chaired the special session at UNESCO in 2012 that led to the adoption of the Paris-based organization’s Declaration on Open Educational Resources. He also helped initiate and guide the open educational resources research program currently underway under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). We are pleased to name someone with Hal Plotkin’s demonstrated ability to shape the national and international dialogue about how technology and open licenses can be used to create more accessible, cutting-edge, cost efficient educational opportunities.”

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Plotkin served as President of the Board of Trustees at the Silicon Valley-based Foothill-De Anza Community College District where, in 2003, he initiated the District’s innovative Policy on Public Domain Learning Materials, which was the first formal governance policy in the nation to mandate administrative support for faculty members who wish to create, maintain, share and improve free and open digital learning materials. He is also the author of Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Higher Education Governance Officials.

Plotkin started his career as a talk show host on local FM radio in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1970’s. He joined the public broadcasting family in 1987 as one of the founding editors of Marketplace, and later served as Silicon Valley Correspondent for and as the Tech Beat columnist for, the web site of the San Francisco Chronicle. Plotkin is the author of more than 600 publications for a wide variety of publishers including Harvard Business School Publishing, Inc. Magazine, International Business magazine and Forbes ASAP. Publications citing Plotkin’s work include Die Welt, Mac Week Japan, Brazil’s 80/20, The Taipei Times, The Industry Standard, Le Monde,,, and The National Review. More recently he has been a contributor to the blogs at the U.S. Department of Education and the White House.

In his new role at Creative Commons USA, Plotkin will be responsible for promoting awareness of newly created federally funded open educational resources, help develop new tools that identify existing resources that can be used to fund and support the creation and continuous improvement of renewable open educational resources, and mentor new emerging leaders of the open education resources movement.

Creative Commons USA is the affiliate of Creative Commons, a global non-profit public benefit organization that provides open licenses and promotes their use to enable collaborative progress in science, education, technology and culture. Plotkin’s position is made possible thanks to generous support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.


Oct 022014

department_of_educationYesterday, the U.S. Department of Education announced the awarding of $75 million in educational grants to 24 universities through its First in the World (FITW) program.  FITW provides “grants to institutions of higher education to spur the development of innovations that improve educational outcomes and make college more affordable for students and families, and to develop an evidence base of effective practices.”

The FITW program includes the requirement that any works created with its funds be made available under an open license.  The requirement reads:

To ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, FITW grantees will be required to license to the public all intellectual property … created with the support of grant funds, including both new content created with grant funds and modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds. That license must be worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and grant the public permission to access, reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, adapt, distribute, and otherwise use the intellectual property referenced above… for any purposes, conditioned only on the requirement that attribution be given to authors as designated.

The FITW grant announcement came right on the heels of the Department of Labor’s fourth round of grant awards through its Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program.  The TAACCCT grants are given to community colleges and other institutions to expand and create education and career training programs, and include a similar requirement for the open licensing of works created with government funding.

CCUSA is highly supportive of the licensing requirements in both FITW and TAACCCT, which will allow people to share and build upon the works created through federal funding.  We hope future federal funding programs will adopt similar licensing requirements.

Sep 262014
Obama at OGP

White House photo of President Obama addressing UN OGP.

This week, President Obama spoke at the United Nations Open Government Partnership, where he described his Administration’s efforts to “open up government data to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth, modernize our Freedom of Information Act with input from experts, and harness American ingenuity to solve important problems.”  During his speech he made a new commitment to “promote open educational resources to help teachers and students everywhere.”

In response, Creative Commons USA Public Lead Michael Carroll has issued the following statement:

“Creative Commons USA is pleased that the Obama Administration has included commitments to increase its investments in open educational resources in its most recent National Action Plan in support of the Open Government Partnership. Open Government is about more than transparency.  It is also about making sure that members of a society have the ability and rights to access and use the informational resources created with public funds. CC USA looks forward to working with the Administration, Executive Branch agencies, members of Congress, and state and local governments to understand and use the power of the openness that CC licenses provide to make most effective use of open educational resources. Investments in OER can improve educational outcomes while providing significant savings to students, parents, and taxpayers by avoiding unnecessary costs imposed by the inefficient and misdirected textbook publishing system that we have in the United States. We will shortly be announcing some specific initiatives that will highlight the value of the U.S. Government’s $2 billion investment in OER through the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT), which requires that grantees make the educational resources they produce with federal dollars available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This program serves as a model for other federal, state, and local investments in the production of educational resources, training materials and other informational resources.”

The President’s announcement of new initiatives in the National Action Plan begins with the following specific commitments related to OER:

Promote Open Education to Increase Awareness and Engagement

Open education is the open sharing of digital learning materials, tools, and practices that ensures free access to and legal adoption of learning resources. There is a growing body of evidence that the use of open education resources improves the quality of teaching and learning, including by accelerating student comprehension and by fostering more opportunities for affordable cross-border and cross-cultural educational experiences. The United States is committed to open education and will:

Raise open education awareness and identify new partnerships. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will jointly host a workshop on challenges and opportunities in open education internationally with stakeholders from academia, industry, and government. The session will foster collaboration among OGP members and other interested governments and will produce best practices to inform good policies in open education.

Pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning. The State Department will conduct three pilots overseas by December 2015 that use open educational resources to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts. The pilots’ results, including best practices, will be made publicly available for interested educators.

Launch an online skills academy. The Department of Labor (DOL), with cooperation from the Department of Education, will award $25 million through competitive grants to launch an online skills academy in 2015 that will offer open online courses of study, using technology to create high-quality, free, or low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials. This academy will help students prepare for in-demand careers. Courses will be free for all to access on an open learning platform, although limited costs may be incurred for students seeking college credit that can be counted toward a degree. Leveraging emerging public and private models, the investments will help students earn credentials online through participating accredited institutions, and expand the open access to curriculum designed to speed the time to credit and completion. The online skills academy will also leverage the burgeoning marketplace of free and open-licensed learning resources, including content developed through DOL’s community college grant program, to ensure that workers can get the education and training they need to advance their careers, particularly in key areas of the economy.

This afternoon, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced “additional momentum and progress by federal agencies on open education, including anticipated NIH funding for open educational resources on Big Data in Biomedicine, and the” creation of platforms to facilitate use and sharing of open educational resources.”

Jul 242014

department_of_educationToday, Creative Commons and Creative Commons U.S.A. are sending a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supporting the Department of Education’s (DOE) adoption of the Hewlett Foundation’s definition of Open Educational Resources, and asking the Department to require open licenses for works funded by its grants.  The full letter is available here.  An excerpt follows:

Thank you for continuing to support Open Educational Resources (OER) as an important priority the Department’s discretionary grant funding. We are especially pleased to see that the Department’s definition is now fully aligned with the definition championed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and open education advocates in the United States and around the world:

Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.

A strong definition is crucial to ensure that creators and users know the legal conditions under which Department-funded materials will be made available to the public. Creative Commons licenses are the global standard for open content licensing, and are easy to understand and use.We hope that the Department will consider extending the example already set by the First in the World Program and the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. Both of these grant programs requires grantees to share grant-funded works under open licenses. We hope that open licensing of publicly funded educational resources will be extended across all other Department of Education programs to ensure the ability to find, access, reuse, and remix publicly-funded educational materials. When publicly funded resources are openly licensed, all universities, colleges, and schools can use and revise Department-funded resources.

Download the letter (PDF).