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The Open Knowledge Foundation urges the UK Government to stop secret corporate lobbying

Jonathan Gray - December 13, 2013 in Business, Campaigning, Featured, Legal, Open Government Data, Policy

The Open Knowledge Foundation has joined the members of the UK OGP civil society network in signing an open letter which calls on the Government to put an end to secret corporate lobbying.

In its current form the government’s proposed lobbying bill (which is currently going through parliament) will let the vast majority of corporate lobbyists off the hook from being obliged to say who they’re meeting, what decisions they are seeking to influence and how much they are spending. Here are our five reasons why we think this needs to change. If you agree with us, then please sign and share the petition!.

The letter urges Ministers to redraft the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill in order to enable proper public scrutiny of lobbying activity in the UK. Please share this letter (copied below) widely and sign the petition to call on the Government to put a stop to secret lobbying.

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP
Cabinet Office
70 Whitehall
London
SW1A 2AS

Cc: Deputy Prime Minister
12 December 2013

Dear Mr Maude and Mr Lansley,

Response to Mr Maude’s letter of 1 November 2013 to the UK OGP civil society network re the Government’s commitment to lobbying transparency

As campaigners for greater openness in decision making, we applauded the Coalition commitment in May 2010 to ‘regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency’. However, we are extremely concerned that the current plans, in Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trades Union Administration Bill, will fail to deliver the transparency promised. The proposed register is not fit-for-purpose. In the short time the Government has allowed for debate on the bill, it has been heavily criticised by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee and Members of Parliament, as well as representatives of the consultancy industry and a wide range of civil society groups.

We urge you to redraft Part 1 of the Bill to:

  • broaden the definition of lobbyist to include all third party consultants and in-house lobbyists, whether corporate, union or charity;
  • extend the definition to include lobbying of mid-ranking civil servants and special advisors; and
  • introduce fuller disclosure requirements to include the target, topic and estimated cost of lobbying activity.

Central to our concerns is the narrow definition of lobbyist. As drafted, the Bill excludes at least eighty per cent of the industry, notably in-house lobbyists. It will also exclude most key consultant lobbyists through a significant loophole: those who in the course of their lobbying do not make contact with Ministers and Permanent Secretaries will not be required to register. This, as lobbyists and the lobbied well know, is the majority of lobbying activity. The justification for such a narrow definition does not stand up to scrutiny. The Government has defined the problem as a lack of transparency about who an agency is representing when it meets with a Minister. Official meeting lists reveal that this would apply to only a handful of meetings. As many in Parliament have pointed out, if this is a genuine problem, it would be better solved with improved disclosure from Ministers.

Of equal concern to us is the lack of any meaningful information on lobbying activity to be included in the proposed register. It would require lobbyists merely to register their clients, but reveal nothing of their interaction with government (i.e. whom they are lobbying, and what they are seeking to influence). This information is essential if the government is to realise its laudable aim through the register of ‘increasing public accountability and public trust in the UK system of government and improving the efficiency of government policy outcomes’. Fuller disclosure would also bring the UK in line with international standards.

The fundamental purpose of introducing a register of lobbyists is to allow the public to examine and understand the activities of lobbyists, to improve government accountability and ultimately to rebuild public trust. It is imperative to have in mind the widely held public perception of how decisions are taken by government, a view summed up by David Cameron as ‘a cosy club at the top making decisions in its own interest’. This lack of trust must be of serious concern to Government. Proper disclosure rules for lobbyists would go a long way to dispel this perception. The reality of lobbying in the UK, which would be revealed in a robust register of lobbyists, would be far more mundane than is popularly imagined. A refusal to introduce genuine transparency, however, would only reinforce the perception that public scrutiny is something politicians would rather avoid.

The shortcomings of the current Bill are all the more surprising considering the leadership you have shown through the Open Government Partnership and your vocal support for greater transparency. The current proposals threaten to undermine not only your ambition to be ‘the most open and transparent government in the world’, but also detract from the OGP initiative. Civil society groups long ago identified a robust register as a key priority for the Partnership, yet we encountered a surprising reluctance from some Cabinet Office officials to engage with us during the development of the proposals. The result is a register that is wholly inadequate.

The Coalition rightly identified ‘secret’ lobbying as an issue of public concern, one which ‘goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics’. ‘We can’t go on like this,’ said David Cameron. We urge you to now fulfil your commitment with a proper register which will allow public scrutiny of lobbying activity in the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Runswick, Director, Unlock Democracy
Dr Andy Williamson FRSA, Founder, FutureDigital & Chair, Ivo.org
Anne Thurston, Director, International Records Management Trust
Anthony Zacharzewski, democracy campaigner
Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns, Global Witness
Graham Gordon, Head of Public Policy, CAFOD
Jonathan Gray, Director of Policy, The Open Knowledge Foundation
Maurice Frankel, Director, Campaign for Freedom of Information
Miles Litvinoff, Coordinator, Publish What You Pay UK
Simon Burall, Director, Involve
Tamasin Cave, Director, Spinwatch
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19

Creative Commons Version 4.0 Released

Guest - November 28, 2013 in Legal

This is a guest blog post by Timothy Vollmer, Manager of Policy and Data at Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has finally released Version 4.0 of the license suite. It’s been two years since we began the license update process, but now it’s done. The 4.0 licenses are the most global, legally robust licenses produced by CC to date.

You can find highlights of the changes on the website. Probably the most significant improvement is the expansion in license scope to include sui generis database rights–those copyright-like rights that exist in Europe and a few other countries which are granted to those who exert some effort into compiling a database. The 4.0 licenses (of course, those aligned with the Open Definition) are now better suited for use by governments and publishers of public sector information and open data. A few other changes:

A more global license The new licenses have improved terminology that’s better understood worldwide. And there will be official translations of the CC licenses, so that users of around the world can read and understand the complete licenses in their local languages.

Common-sense attribution The licenses explicitly permit licensees to satisfy the attribution requirement with a link to a separate page for attribution information. This was already common practice on the internet and possible under earlier versions of the licenses, and Version 4.0 alleviates any uncertainty about its use.

30-day window to correct license violations All CC licenses terminate when a licensee breaks their terms, but under 4.0, a licensee’s rights are reinstated automatically if she corrects a breach within 30 days of discovering it. This is common sense and how several other open licenses handle inadvertent violations.

Clarity about adaptations The BY and BY-NC 4.0 licenses are more clear about how adaptations are to be licensed. These licenses now clarify that you can apply any license to your contributions you want so long as your license doesn’t prevent users of the remix from complying with the original license.

There is a more in-depth discussion of the various policy decisions and versioning considerations here. We extend our gracious thanks to everyone in the open licensing community who’ve helped bring 4.0 to life.

Image source: By Petey21 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Open and the “Next Great Copyright Act”

Mike Linksvayer - March 20, 2013 in Legal, Open Content, Public Domain


Director of the U.S. Copyright Office Maria Pallante is expected to call today for updates to U.S. copyright law. Her brief
written testimony is already
available

and a longer speech given two weeks
ago

(titled “The Next Great Copyright Act”) provides additional flavor.

Substantial changes to copyright will take years to play out in the
U.S., and similarly around the world. If Open is to impact how
copyright and other knowledge regulation plays out over the next
years, we must assert how and why, and develop our strategies for
making it so. Statements like Pallante’s
provide not-to-be-missed opportunities to contextualize and explain
the importance of Open to the world.

While Pallante’s calls are at best a mixed bag, two items offer
glimmers of hope and are useful for illustrating both the value and
strategy of Open:

Congress also may need to apply fresh eyes to the next great copyright act to ensure that the copyright law remains relevant and functional. This may require some bold adjustments to the general framework. You may want to consider alleviating some of the pressure and gridlock brought about by the long copyright term — for example, by reverting works to the public domain after a period of life plus fifty years unless heirs or successors register their interests with the Copyright Office.

50 years with an option for more is far from anything that might be
considered optimal — OKF’s Rufus Pollock has estimated 15
years
and others
less, even before
accounting for values achieved through openness such as freedom and
equality — and is a dangerous place to start new debate, considering
that Disney lobbyists have not yet weighed in.

But any possibility of mitigating the heretofore relentless march of
copyright term extension and by implication appreciation of the value
of the public domain is welcome, and an opportunity.

Some of the most compelling work by the Open community involves making
public domain works accessible, and celebrating our
bounty
. Compelling for culture — and
critical for policy. What better way to make the case for expanding
and protecting the public domain than to demonstrate and increase the
value of works that are free of copyright restriction even now? Well,
we have to talk about our work in those terms, loudly!
Public Domain Review postcards

Pallante:

And in compelling circumstances, you may wish to reverse the general principle of copyright law that copyright owners should grant prior approval for the reproduction and dissemination of their works — for example, by requiring copyright owners to object or “opt out” in order to prevent certain uses, whether paid or unpaid, by educational institutions or libraries.

Openly licensed works — those that all are free to use, reuse, and
redistribute subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute
and/or share-alike
— unambiguously permit
such uses, right now, and are increasingly becoming expected and even
mandated where public funding is provided or public benefit is a
primary goal. What better way to make the case for liberal policy
where public funding or benefit is at stake than to promote and
demonstrate the value of Open works now? Again, we have to talk about
our usual pro-openness work’s relevance to policy, loudly!

But open licensing is opt-in (even when mandated, it is as if a group
opted-in, still leaving default policy for everyone else), ultimately
limiting its impact. We shouldn’t shy away from that reality — indeed
it is a key reason open licensing can be, if we make it so, a
harbinger of better default policy, but not at all a substitute for
better default policy.

When positioning Open in the context of broader copyright and other
information regulation debates, we shouldn’t be content to merely
address points made in those debates, but from an Open perspective.
We must also raise additional issues that arise from the experience of
Open movements: a knowledge commons requires protection and promotion.

Private enclosure of public domain and Open works, eg through
“copyfraud”, might be addressed through policy. Ensuring the public’s
right to audit, understand, replicate, and modify data and tools such
as software and designs for research and hardware, might be addressed
through policy. Actually we know these can be addressed through
policy, as demonstrated for decades on an opt-in basis through
copyleft, one of the signal innovations of our movements.

Although over 25 years old (starting with free software), open
licenses and the amazing projects that use them (that run the
Internet, and are making governments more transparent, bit by bit, and
so much more) have played almost no explicit role in debates about
default copyright policy. Hopefully you’re beginning to think that we
can change that — with little or no alteration of our existing Open
activities, as we mainly need to appreciate just how provocative and
potent those are, and tell the public, especially the policy world.

Ultimately, we can shift the centrality of “copyright policy” to that
of “open policy” — what information regulation is best for the
knowledge commons — for all humanity’s yearning for freedom,
equality, and well governed institutions.

Content Mining in Europe: Further Licensing is Not The Only Way

Ross Mounce - February 28, 2013 in Access to Information, Legal, Open Science

A significant number of groups who support knowledge policies for the public good, including ourselves, have signed and published a letter of concern arising from one of the working groups of the Licences for Europe – A Stakeholder Dialogue meetings in Brussels.

This particular working group was Working Group 4, which was set to discuss ways and means of enabling Text and Data Mining (TDM) for research. I was present as both a user of mining techniques in my academic research and official representative of the Open Knowledge Foundation, as participant in the discussions.

The letter expresses concerns that in this TDM meeting we were presented “not with a stakeholder dialogue, but a process with an already predetermined outcome –namely that additional licensing is the only solution to the problems being faced by those wishing to undertake TDM”

We believe that this dialogue should fairly include discussion of copyright limitations and exceptions for such TDM activity. The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes (pictured above) made a speech shortly before the working group meeting which indicated this would be an option to consider on the table of discussion:

But keep your minds open: maybe in some cases licensing won’t be the solution

It was also in the notes published in advance of the working group meeting that discussion would explore:

the potential and possible limits of standard licensing models

(emphasis mine)

Yet when we started discussions, all our attempts to discuss copyright exemptions for TDM, as successfully practised in the US, Japan, Israel, Taiwan and South Korea, were quickly shut-down by the dialogue moderators. It was made crystal clear to us that any further attempts to discuss this as a solution to the problems of TDM access would not be entertained. Many of us left the meeting feeling extremely frustrated that we were prevented from discussing what we thought was a reasonable and optimal solution practised elsewhere, and were only allowed to discuss sub-optimal cumbersome options involving re-licencing of content or collective licencing.

Thus the letter of concern finishes with 3 simple requests:

  1. All evidence, opinions and solutions to facilitate the widest adoption of TDM are given equal weighting, and no solution is ruled to be out of scope from the outset;
  2. All the proceedings and discussions are documented and are made publicly available;
  3. DG Research and Innovation becomes an equal partner in Working Group 4, alongside DGs Connect, Education and Culture, and MARKT – reflecting the importance of the needs of research and the strong overlap with Horizon 2020.

The greater than 50 participants & signatories of the letter include a Nobel Prize winner (Sir John Sulston), and top representatives of most European research funders, libraries and even smart tech companies with an interest in this area like Mendeley. We sincerely hope the European Commission takes action on this matter.

 

Did Gale Cengage just liberate all of their public domain content? Sadly not…

Jonathan Gray - January 9, 2013 in Featured, Free Culture, Legal, Open Access, Open/Closed, Public Domain, WG Public Domain

Earlier today we received a strange and intriguing press release from a certain ‘Marmaduke Robida’ claiming to be ‘Director for Public Domain Content’ at Gale Cengage’s UK premises in Andover. Said the press release:

Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is thrilled to announce that all its public domain content will be freely accessible on the open web. “On this Public Domain Day, we are proud to have taken such a ground-breaking
decision. As a common good, the Public Domain content we have digitized has to be accessible to everyone” said Marmaduke Robida, Director for Public Domain Content, Gale.

Hundreds of thousands of digitized books coming from some of the world’s most prestigious libraries and belonging to top-rated products highly appreciated by the academic community such as “Nineteenth Century Collection Online”, “Eighteenth Century Collection Online”, “Sabin America”, “Making of the Modern World” and two major digitized historical newspaper collections (The Times and the Illustrated London news) are now accessible from a dedicated websit. The other Gale digital collections will be progressively added to this web site throughout 2013 so all Public Domain content will be freely accessible by 2014. All the images are or will be available under the Public Domain Mark 1.0 license and can be reused for any purpose.

Gale’s global strategy is inspired by the recommandations issued by the European reflection group “Comite des sages” and the Public Domain manifesto. For Public Domain content, Gale decided to move to a freemium
business model : all the content is freely accessible through basic tools (Public Domain Downloader, URL lists, …), but additional services are charged for. “We are confident that there still is a market for our products. Our state-of-art research platforms offer high quality services and added value which universities or research libraries are ready to pay for” said Robida.

A specific campaign targeted to national and academic libraries for promoting the usage of Public Domain Mark for digitized content will be launched in 2013. “We are ready to help the libraries that have a digitization programme fulfill their initial mission : make the knowledge accessible to everyone. We also hope that our competitors will follow the same way in the near future. Public Domain should not be enclosed by paywalls or dubious licensing terms” said Robida.

The press release linked to a website which proudly proclaimed:

All Public Domain content to be freely available online. Gale Digital Collections has changed the nature of research forever by providing a wealth of rare, formerly inaccessible historical content from the world’s most prestigious libraries. In january 2013, Gale has taken a ground-breaking decision and chosen to offer this content to all the academic community, and beyond to mankind, to which it belongs

This was met with astonishment by members of our public domain discussion list, many of whom suspected that the news might well be too good to be true. The somewhat mysterious, yet ever-helpful Marmaduke attempted to allay these concerns on the list, commenting:

I acknowledge this decision might seem a bit disorientating. As you may know, Gale is already familiar to give access freely to some of its content [...], but for Public Domain content we have decided to move to the next degree by putting the content under the Public Domain Mark.

Several brave people had a go at testing out the so-called ‘Public Domain Downloader’ and said that it did indeed appear to provide access to digitised images of public domain texts – in spite of concerns in the Twittersphere that the software might well be malware (in case of any ambiguity, we certainly do not suggest that you try this at home!).

I quickly fired off an email to Cengage’s Director of Media and Public Relations to see if they had any comments. A few hours later a reply came back:

This is NOT an authorized Cengage Learning press release or website – our website appears to have been illegally cloned in violation of U.S. copyright and trademark laws. Our Legal department is in the process of trying to have the site taken down as a result. We saw that you made this information available via your listserv and realize that you may not have been aware of the validity of the site at the time, but ask that you now remove the post and/or alert the listserv subscribers to the fact that this is an illegal site and that any downloads would be in violation of copyright laws.

Sadly the reformed Gale Cengage – the Gale Cengage opposed to paywalls, restrictive licensing and clickwrap agreements on public domain material from public collections, the Gale Cengage supportive of the Public Domain Manifesto and dedicated to liberating of public domain content for everyone to enjoy – was just a hoax, a fantasm. At least this imaginary, illicit doppelgänger Gale gives a fleeting glimpse of a parallel world in which one of the biggest gatekeepers turned into one of the biggest liberators overnight. One can only hope that Gale Cengage and their staff might – in the midst of their legal wrangling – be inspired by this uncanny vision of the good public domain stewards that they could one day become. If only for a moment.

World’s first REAL commercial open data curation project!

Francis Irving - October 4, 2012 in Featured, Legal, Open Data, Policy

The following post is by Francis Irving, CEO of ScraperWiki.

Our laws are still published on calf skin (vellum)

Can you think of an open data curation project where the people who work on it come from multiple commercial companies?

In the mid 1990s, as open source code began to boom, the equivalent was commonplace. Geeks working at ISPs would together patch the Apache webserver into shape. Startups like RedHat would pay for staff to work on lots of projects in order to produce a whole operating system.

For years I’ve asked, where are the equivalent projects in open data?

Nada.

Not one.

Until today. I finally found one.

It’s the UK’s Statute Law database, which is maintained by the National Archives. I explained back in 2006 how it used to be proprietary data, and how it was finally opened up in an incomplete form.

Briefly, Parliament doesn’t release a usable set of laws. They release Acts, which are changes to laws (patch files, if you’re a geek). These need to be “consolidated” with existing laws into the actual rules we have to obey.

Two commercial companies (LexisNexis and Westlaw, so called after centuries of takeovers) do this consolidation themselves. They charge a handsome price. Nobody can compete with them, as they don’t have the current laws to start from, even if they had the money to keep up with new changes.

I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon talking to John Sheridan (right) from the National Archives. He runs the Government’s Statute Law project. Jeni Tennison (left) is his technical mastermind. Last time I spoke to her a year or two ago she was worried that they would never finish the work. The sheer volume of new laws and difficulty of consolidations seemed insurmountable. Would they ever have a complete image of current law?

Now they’ve cracked it. By forming the world’s first real open data curation project.

I’ll start with a quote from one of the red-in-tooth-and-claw companies who are contributing to this.

I represent the Practical Law Company, one of the private sector organisations involved in the Expert Participation Programme. We’re really excited by these developments and salute John Sheridan and his team for their groundbreaking and elegant work on the API and legislation database. Legislation.gov.uk is the official publishing place for UK legislation and so it is really important work.

The programme is now starting to make a real and visible difference to the status of legislation on the website. By employing people to work with National Archives and as a first step, we’ve been able to ensure that the Companies Act 2006 is now fully consolidated on legislation.gov.uk. This is a particularly important piece of legislation for many of our customers but we intend to carry on the consolidation work on other legislation.

Well done, National Archives.

(Source: comment by Elizabeth Woodman)

Truly collaborative

The astonishing process goes roughly like this:

  1. John and Jeni and their team build an amazing web admin interface for skilled users to easily piece together the consolidated law jigsaw from the unconsolidated acts and statutory instruments.

  2. Various organisations, such as the Practical Law Company, the Welsh Government (they want to sort out Welsh language law, nobody commercial can be bothered), the Department for Work and Pensions (they make legal guides for tens of thousands
    of their staff, and so can’t afford the commercial providers) and a couple of other commercial providers (I’ll let John name names, as some that he mentioned to me aren’t fully announced yet) decided they want to contribute.

  3. They pay for some staff to work on it full time. The staff are trained initially by the National Archive, and work for the contributing organisation. There are currently about 30 in total. For example, Practical Law employ 14 people to do this stuff. There’s a queue, they can’t train new ones fast enough to meet demand.

  4. The staff fix up the open data. It appears on legislation.gov.uk, as well as in XML files and as a SPARQL endpoint.

  5. Profit. No really, this is a better business model than stealing underpants. For example, Practical Law release new products based on top of the now lovely clean, free data (such as the Companies Act they mention above).

The National Archive team were marking up 10,000 effects (i.e. patches of one bit of law over another) per year all by themselves. With 15,000 new effects being passed by Parliament each year, they were rapidly getting deeper into debt.

Now they’ve improved the process, and have the growning help of industry and other parts of Government, in just one year the basic metadata is done for it all. They aim to have fully caught up by 2015, including secondary legislation. Come the next Parliament, all laws should appear consolidated on the site – and anywhere else that wants it – in real time.

Saves money and improves lives

It’s win win win win. Well, unless you’re one of the two companies with a proprietary version of the database. Although they don’t seem too unhappy about it – for example, WestLaw has contributed electronic versions of pre-war Statutory Instruments that the Government had lost.

In the future there will be even more cost savings. For example, tens of millions are spent each year by the Court Service buying back proprietary copies of the laws they have to enforce. That could end when the open statute law database is fully finished in 2015.

However, as ever with public interest activity on the Internet, the real benefit is hidden and subtle. John explained to me that every month about 2 million people land on legislation.gov.uk after searching for things like “allotments act 1950“ in search engines.

Most of them are non-lawyer professionals – HR, company secretaries, police officers. Better open legal data will help them do their job more effectively and in less time.

The next large user base is concerned citizens, defending their own rights. For example, a mother fighting with her local authority over statementing of her child. Giving them clear access to the law boosts their credibility with the authorities, and helps to make an otherwise messy dispute rules based and easier to resolve.

The lesson for open data projects

As well as being just brilliant, this story has torn a blindfold off a once baffled me. Why why why are there no collaborative open data curation projects?

Zarino Zappia, who works for my company ScraperWiki, did a whole thesis at the Oxford Internet Institute hunting for such projects. He couldn’t find any.

I now think the problem with the other nascent projects was that they didn’t include the upstream source (i.e. the National Archive in this case).

Upstream help in two ways:

  1. Act as a strong power to set up the project. It was both hard and expensive. In theory the Practical Law Company could have done this, but in practice the economic gain for just them wouldn’t have been enough.

  2. The original source is being fixed. It’s hard to state how much better that is than tidying up a downstream copy (I know, from making
    things like TheyWorkForYou and ScraperWiki). It’s technically and procedurally much less complicated. It gives a strong provenance and trust that simply cannot be earnt any other way.

Open source projects have different needs to get going. Open data curation is truly unique. You need both the data provider, and commercial contributors, for a sustainable project.

What data next?

I would like to see the same model applied to other open data sets. How about…

  1. Fine grained inflation data. Apparently somebody external offered to help the ONS improve the way they publish them, but were turned down. Perhaps now, with a successful example elsewhere in Government, this can happen.

  2. Department for Transport data, such as public transport timetables. There’s some collaboration round this already, but would love to see the Government crowd sourcing accurate fixes so that the data becomes perfect (with Google, Apple, and FixMyTransport all contributing!).

  3. Parliamentary debates. I know several organisations (some commercial, some charitable) who curate that data, which is increasingly a commodity. Parliament itself wants to publish it better. A project run between them all would be very powerful.

I’m sure you can think of many more.

And here’s the kicker. Jeni has has just been appointed Technical Director of The Open Data Institute. Where she is going to work out how to kickstart a flurry of such successful open data projects.

Today our law.

Tomorrow the world.

You can read more about this project here:

 

 

New Members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Board: Jane Silber and Gavin Starks

Rufus Pollock - September 11, 2012 in Legal, News, Open Knowledge Foundation

We’re delighted two new members to the Open Knowledge Foundation Board: Jane Silber and Gavin Starks. Jane is currently CEO of Canonical the company behind Ubuntu, while Gavin is Founder and Chairman of AMEE, the provider of Environmental Intelligence using Open Data.

At the same time we can also announce that long-time Board member Jordan Hatcher is planning to stand down from the board some time over the next few months. Jordan has made a tremendous contribution to the organization during his time on the board and we’ll be sad to see him go and we wish him well in all his future endeavours.

Jane Silber

Jane Silber

Jane Silber is CEO of Canonical. Canonical produces Ubuntu, the leading open source platform for client, server and cloud computing. Canonical also provides services to the IT industry to bring Ubuntu-based products to market, and to enterprise and consumer users to maximise their Ubuntu experience. Before becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2010, she served as Canonical’s COO and has helped lead the company through periods of dramatic. Jane has over 20 years of business development, strategic leadership, operations and software management experience. She holds an MBA degree from Oxford University, an MSc degree in Management of Technology from Vanderbilt University, and a BSc degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Haverford College.

Gavin Starks

Jane Silber

Gavin Starks is Founder and Chairman of AMEE. He is a successful serial entrepreneur with 20+ years’ industry experience. Prior to AMEE, Gavin was CEO of CI, a world-class digital content distribution company, which he grew over 15x in 3 years. Previously, he founded Tornado Productions, which he sold to Servecast in 2003, and was the fifth member of Richard Branson’s Virgin Net team in 1995. Gavin holds a B.Sc. in Astronomy and a M.Mus. from Glasgow University.

Update to Open Knowledge Foundation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

Rufus Pollock - August 24, 2012 in Legal, OKF Projects, Open Knowledge Foundation

We’re posting this announce to let people know we’ve updated the Open Knowledge Foundation’s general privacy policy and terms of use.

Updates to the privacy policy are fairly limited and largely around making the setup around email more explicit. The terms of use is somewhat new in that it consolidates in one place terms of use material from across several different services.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise this privacy policy and terms of use apply to all services and web sites that the Open Knowledge Foundation operate.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions!

CC license version 4.0: Helping meet the needs of open data publishers and users

Timothy Vollmer - August 15, 2012 in External, Legal, Open Data Commons, Open Standards, Open/Closed, WG Open Licensing

Over the last few months, Creative Commons has been working on the next version of its license suite, version 4.0. The goals of version 4.0 are wide-ranging, but the overall objective is clear: update the licenses so they are considerably more robust, yet easy to understand and use, for both existing communities and new types of users.

A key community that version 4.0 aims to serve better are public sector agencies releasing data. Public sector information can be of great value, but the public needs to know what they can do with it. At the same time, public sector agencies need to be reassured that they can offer data in a way that gives them credit, maintains their reputation, and ensures some level of data integrity. Version 4.0 offers several updates in support of both open data publishers and users. A few of these are discussed below.

Sui generis database rights

One area of particular interest to European data publishers and users will be the shift in how CC licenses handle sui generis database rights. These rights are similar to copyright, but instead of granting particular exclusive rights to authors for creating an original work, database rights reward the author for the “sweat of the brow” in compiling a database. In 3.0, CC licenses do not require compliance with the license conditions where the use of a CC licensed database triggers only sui generis database rights but not copyright. At the same time, CC 3.0 does not grant permission to engage in activities protected by the database right. In 4.0, we propose to license sui generis database rights on par with copyright. Since sui generis database rights are similar to copyright (in 4.0 draft 2 it is called a “copyright-like” right), this will align with expectations of users.

Here’s an example. Let’s use as a baseline a CC BY licensed database of public transport data published by the city of Berlin.

In 3.0 (International), a user extracts some public transport data in the database in a way that doesn’t implicate copyright. For example, they might extract the names of underground stations and train times and plot them on a map. They don’t have to attribute the creator of the database required by the CC license because such an extraction of factual data would not implicate copyright. However, the user might still be liable for infringing the sui generis database rights under German law (enacted in-line with the EU database directive). And CC 3.0 doesn’t license those rights. The user has to figure it out for herself.

In 4.0, the goal is to make it so that even if the user extracts data from the CC BY licensed public transport database in a way that doesn’t implicate copyright (but does implicate the sui generis database right), the CC license grants those permissions (and imposes restrictions) in the same way as would be required under normal CC licensing circumstances. So, for example, the user extracts the names of underground stations and train times to plot them on a map. Even though this action still doesn’t implicate copyright, it does trigger sui generis database rights. Under CC BY 4.0, the database rights are granted, and the user must provide attribution to the creator of the database. Of course, if this change is adopted in 4.0, the licensing of sui generis database rights will only be in effect in jurisdictions that recognize these rights. So, for those jurisdictions where sui generis database rights do not exist, nothing would change.

Strengthen reputation and integrity

Another change queued up for 4.0 is the strengthening of particular provisions so that the CC licenses can be more easily used by institutions such as public sector bodies releasing open data. For example, 4.0 communicates more prominently that licensees may not imply or assert that their use of the licensed work is connected to or endorsed by the licensor. In addition to this “no endorsement” clause, 4.0 makes it possible for public sector bodies to add additional notices, warranties, or disclaimers of liability. The 4.0 draft also makes it clear – without making it a specific condition of the license itself – that users of licensed works are responsible for complying with laws outside of copyright that may apply to the use of the work, for instance data protection laws and laws guarding against fraud or misrepresentation. These mechanisms are important for official government bodies and data publishers: such institutions are sometimes apprehensive about releasing data sets if they think that downstream users will remix the data in ways that appear to show that the institution has sponsored or endorsed the use.

Updated attribution

CC 4.0 also attempts to clarify and simplify the attribution requirements. Licensees must still identify the author, the URL to where the work can be accessed, the URL to the CC license, and retain notices of disclaimers. Draft 4.0 streamlines the attribution process in a few ways — for example, it removes the requirement to include the title of the work. However, in version 4.0 licensees can satisfy these requirements in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which the work is used. Flexibility is important considering the wide range of potential uses for CC licensed content, especially data. One way that this might play out is for a licensee to provide alongside the work a simple URL to a web page that contains the information required to meet the attribution terms. You can imagine how that would be useful to help address problems of attribution stacking — users of databases would not have to list every single contributor alongside their adaptation. Instead, they could point to a separate web page listing the contributors, which makes more sense in certain applications. With these updated attribution methods, it helps licensees to give credit to the authors in the manner they wish to be attributed.

All these issues (and more) continue to be discussed in consultation with the Creative Commons community. If all goes well, CC 4.0 will be published before the new year. We welcome feedback on the license-discuss email list.

Image: Construction Cranes by Evo, CC-BY 2.0

Taking “utmost transparency” to the next level – at4am for all!

Erik Josefsson - June 27, 2012 in Free Culture, Legal, Open Government Data, WG EU Open Data, WG Open Government Data

What? When?? Where??? How?!?! were the questions that got me started some 10 years ago now, on my free software journey that’s taken me to the heart of the European Parliament. As a young Swedish musician, politically innocent and ignorant as the next, I got worked up together with a bunch of newborn stallmanites unleashing ourselves on the internet determined to kill the software patents directive. There was a lot of code. I remember Xavi rewrote the EU’s co-decision procedure algorithm in java to be able to understand it, and that our content management system said ‘Cannot parse this Directive’ instead of returning 404. The tracking of MEPs was managed by Knecht, an email driven content management program written in lisp (insert awe comment here), and I cannot remember the number of different perl scripts that were playing around with voting results. It all ended happily (we won), and I still say “Can I have a B-item please!” whenever I get to go for drink with Miernik or Jonas.

You might think things would be different when you’re on the inside. I have been working in the European Parliament since the last elections, but it turns out at least three of the questions are still the same – What? When?? Where??? One administrative response from the institution is to serve the MEPs and their staff with iPads and intranet pages. Users of iPads and intranet are happy. But I am not. I have decided with a bunch of old stubborn stallmanites to try to use free software in the European Parliament as far as humanly possible. And we do. And it is (partially) possible. We put up a sign at FOSDEM in February last year calling for help and now we are 2 patrons, 13 members and 29 supporters. You can find info on how to become a supporter or a member (or even patron) of European Parliament Free Software Users Group (EPFSUG) here.

Another administrative answer by the institution to the questions above has been to build an Automatic Tool for AMendments, at4am. If ever I can nominate anybody to the Nobel Peace Prize, it would be the at4am developers team who have made this brilliant application possible. They have succeeded in making independent and competing committees in the European Parliament cooperate to provide information on their internal workings that can be parsed into a unified way of tabling amendments. It’s huge. Imagine a world without git (or anything like it) and then there is git – that is how epic this application is. More than 150k amendments has been tabled since its launch. I’d say that the same number of tears and curses have been saved.

Now, to close this already long, bushy and wild blog post with the reason for it in the first place: The at4am team has decided to share the code with the world, and on Wednesday 11 July we’re going to talk about which license would be best to use. The event is kindly hosted by MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat, and Carlo Piana and Karsten Gerloff from Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) are going to speak. Please come! A follow up meeting should of course focus on how to get the data out of the EP intranet and which licence would then be the best to use.

Why? Because the question “How?!?!” actually has an answer already. Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament reads as follows:

Transparency of Parliament’s activities

  1. Parliament shall ensure that its activities are conducted with the utmost transparency, in accordance with the second paragraph of Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 42 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

That’s a pretty serious standard. Come join to give it meaning! Let’s figure out how to make utmost transparency work in practice.

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