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What Lies Ahead in 2024

Greetings to the CC Community,

A lot of exciting and critical work awaits us in 2024. While I steer Creative Commons as interim CEO, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and share details of our key priorities in the upcoming year.

I joined Creative Commons in late September 2019 as Director of Product and partnered with our former Director of Engineering, Kriti Godey, to lead our work on building CC Search. That project was transitioned to OpenVerse, stewarded by the WordPress Foundation, and subsequently I stepped into the role of COO. My background and education have spanned multiple continents and very different spaces (non-profit, start-ups, higher education) but have consistently come back to a theme, from the micro to the macro level: How do we remove barriers? How do we make things work better?

It is a privilege to work at Creative Commons, where the organizational mission so deeply aligns with my own belief system. We cannot hope to work together — within our homes or workplaces, across organizational and cultural boundaries – if we are not able to share knowledge and are not willing to learn from one another.

As I navigate the role of interim CEO, with the support and collaboration of the CC Board of Directors, it is clear where we need to deepen our commitments. We have important work taking place in the fields of Open Culture and Open Science. There are also critical considerations to navigate due to the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) and the impact this may have on knowledge sharing and the broader commons. All of this work is rooted in our role as the stewards of the legal infrastructure of the open web.

Key Program Updates 

We Shine Together” by Ana Lopes is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

As many in our community know, in the past three years, we’ve had the good fortune of launching four major projects: our Open Culture program, the Open Climate Campaign, our Open Climate Data project, and a project to openly license preprints.

Our Open Culture program, launched in mid-2021, is focused on developing an open culture ecosystem amongst cultural heritage institutions. These include both the institutions themselves – including galleries, libraries, archives, and museums – as well as their users. The mission of cultural heritage institutions aligns with the work of Creative Commons. Our vision is a world where knowledge and culture are equitably shared in ways that serve the public interest. We want the institutions we work with to be better equipped to openly share the content they stewards. Through work in policy and advocacy, infrastructure support, and capacity and community building, the end goal is for the public to have increased, equitable, and ethical access to knowledge and culture. Interested advocates can get involved through the Open Culture Platform. This work is supported by a multi-year gift from Arcadia, and will continue until at least mid-2026.

In mid-2022 we launched the Open Climate Campaign, in partnership with SPARC and EIFL, with support from Open Society Foundations and Arcadia. This four-year campaign has the goal of making the open sharing of research the norm in climate science. The climate crisis is the defining existential crisis of our time, and we cannot hope to collaborate on solutions, or preserve global biodiversity, if the knowledge about this global challenge is not open and accessible to all.

To complement our work on open sharing of research, we were thrilled to receive support for our Open Climate Data project, from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, dedicated to the opening and sharing of large climate datasets and climate data models across the globe. For anyone working to understand and address climate change, the certainty of what they’re allowed to do with climate data is critical to knowledge advancement. We recently shared recommended best practices for better sharing of climate data and are hopeful this work can continue.

To better facilitate knowledge sharing, we most recently launched a collaborative project supported by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative to help make openly licensed preprints the primary vehicle of scientific dissemination, with a focus on the life sciences. Learning from the potential of rapid response and open sharing to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, we are grateful to contribute to strengthening the ecosystem of scholarly communication.

It is imperative that we continue our strategic interventions in cultural heritage, climate science, and the life sciences. All of this work is fully in line with our organizational strategy, in particular our emphasis on transforming institutions to make knowledge and cultural heritage assets as openly accessible as possible

Generative AI & the Commons

Over the last year we have been asking ourselves what is the appropriate role, exactly, for CC, when it comes to generative AI – apart from the ongoing and widespread use of CC licenses for software documentation and in open source AI communities. Throughout 2023, we ran community consultations. We met directly with hundreds of community members, brought together different groups in small workshops, intimate roundtables, community conferences (such as MozFest), and public events (such as our symposium on Generative AI & Creativity) to debate copyright law, the ethics of open sharing, and other relevant areas that touch on AI. Our consultations spanned the globe and culminated in the CC Global Summit in October, where the central theme was the impact of AI on the Commons. A set of community-driven principles on AI continue to inform the organization’s thinking as we plan for the year ahead.

We will continue the critically important work of bringing together diverse viewpoints to explore the broad topics of generative AI (inputs, outputs, copyright, choice, provenance, authenticity, compensation, and such). In parallel, we are identifying areas where Creative Commons can play a role and explore community-oriented contributions to the broader ecosystem. This may be through experiments in preference signaling, going back to the fundamentals of the commons and celebrating creativity, or seeing what the implications are of “open” models training on “open” content. (That’s right, we also need to better define “openness” when it comes to artificial intelligence.)

Supporting our Open Infrastructure

Our work is not only focused on particular sectors or policy interventions. We need to actively steward our legal tools and any necessary innovations that help us achieve our mission, to empower individuals and communities by equipping them with technical, legal, and policy solutions to enable sharing of knowledge and culture in the public interest.

Underpinning all of our work as an organization, and much of the work of our community, is the legal infrastructure that powers open sharing, and it needs, for lack of a better metaphor, care and feeding:

We need to ensure that the legal tools are translated into as many languages as possible to make open sharing more equitable across the world.
We need to ensure that when someone brings a nuanced question to the organization that we continue to have expert lawyers and open access advocates on staff to help answer those questions.
We need to ensure the basic technology is maintained, and when needed, modernized.
It is critical that we continue to generate educational materials, and train future generations of open access advocates, whether they work in libraries, cultural heritage, education, or beyond.
We need to find ways to better support our community, including the CC Global Network, with an emphasis on hearing and amplifying the viewpoints of community members in the Global South.

With this in mind, we launched our Open Infrastructure Circle, and are grateful to those individuals and institutions who signed on early to show a commitment to the underlying legal infrastructure that powers open sharing on the web. This will be a central focus in 2024 to help guarantee more predictable support for the legal infrastructure that is CC’s reason for being.

And finally, thank you again to our community, our Global Network members, and all of our supporters, for helping to sustain the organization for future decades and supporting a thriving digital commons. We could not do all of this without you. My (virtual) door is always open to CC friends and new ideas. I firmly believe we can continue to reduce barriers to sharing and cultivate a commons while empowering creators to make the right choices for them.

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