The community of the Creative Commons global network, supporters, and followers of the Commons met in Toronto Canada during the last weekend of April to discuss the future of Creative Commons and showcase projects in the commons.

As a first time attendee I was struck by the extra-ordinary atmosphere of welcome. I think it is in the DNA of CC founders and those who continue to nurture it. It felt like a “relationship” was being forged just by being there. The importance of a relationship between the organization and the community was highlighted repeatedly during the Summit. I think it reflects the time of change that the organization is going through. It’s renewing a commitment to openness and sharing that was originally expressed through the CC licences but continues in projects, advocacy and policy development.

Welcome to the Summit

The Welcome to Country invoked respect for ownership and enduring culture. The welcome by Canadian Federal and Provincial government members indicated Canada’s commitment to open “by default”.

Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier of Ontario, with portfolios which include education and digital government, spoke to the importance of a balanced copyright law regime and law reform to achieve an innovative creative ecosystem.

Image: Deb Matthews by Giulia Forsythe CC BY 2.0

New Network, New Initiatives

The welcomes set the scene for Ryan’s opening remarks, on three main points:

  • 2017 is the largest summit ever, in a year which has been marked by a new Global network strategy and a new Search tool;
  • Everything is political. So it’s a win when government is touting open;
  • The commons is needed more than ever. The power of the commons is in collective action. The network focus needs to be on those who need help the most, driven by collective acts.

Image: Creative Commons Global Summit by Sebastiaan ter Burg  CC BY 2.0

An homage to Bassel Khartabil

Technology drives the Commons. but the underpinning is a commitment to community. In a deeply moving tribute, Ryan unveiled a 3D printed model of a tetrapylon from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra- an homage to Bassel Khartabil, CC Syria Lead, who has been detained for more than five years in Syria, whereabouts and welfare unknown. The #New Palmyra project platform which showcases virtual re-modelling of the architecture of Palmyra in Syria was started by Bassel. You can read more about the project, and see a photo here.

Image: Bassel Khartabil by Joi Ito CC BY

A “Global Network”

CC is transitioning to a new structure and governance model in 2017. Several members of the strategy committee spoke about what the new network means to them. Alek Tartowski, CC Poland, just to name one, spoke with great insight and passion about the need for the change. He referred back to CC’s roots to frame the new Global Network structure. He also said that CC members have underlying trust and willingness to collaborate together. The new era facilitate more opportunities for collaboration.

The new structure and governance will be finalised before the end of 2017. It will see a network of country teams joined by partners & contributors, advancing the goals of agreed upon issues or areas of opportunity and need. Governance will make network decisions, provide advice and receive feedback. This will achieve a shared decision making structure for the network which was not possible previously.

You can find out more about the Global Network Strategy here.

Faces of the Commons

CC has undertaken extensive region based research to identify “who” the network is. This is reported in the Faces of the Commons written by Anna Mazgal. The reports contain a set of recommendations. drawn from the comments, insights and perspectives of the current affiliates to the network.

One of the three recommendations is “provide a platform of strategic thinking about how the openness model can become an exponential factor of a societal change”. Anna, with Guido Gamba, spoke to the Summit about the opportunity to drive societal change. With this new structure, CC can be both a brand and a driver for social change. It was proposed that there are two ways to go for the network, the second path being more ambitious:

  1. Development- to get better at networking better used, reassess the affiliation model, develop shorter interventions; or
  2. Exploration- where we become part of the discussion that shapes BIG topics like inequality, injustice, and privacy.
Shared culture and diversity

Implicit in developing the CC network is the need “to build a culture of appreciation”. It had never struck me before that CC is biased towards English speaking countries, which creates challenges in already challenged countries. But the sessions and workshops made apparent that that these countries are doing the sort of work that make the Commons visible and real to people. They epitomize the BIG topics. This is another area where I was very aware of the effort being made with inclusiveness going forward. I was glad for the attention paid to this topic. It is necessary at a beginning to get this right. Our new network gives us the opportunity to begin- again. As such there was discussion about how to achieve this including communication, induction and mentoring.


Three initial “platforms” which are areas of identified focus have been proposed: Open Education Resources (OER), copyright reform, and Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM). Platform development is going to be critical going forward, to structure the collaborative work identified by the network.

State of the Commons

The 2016 State of the Commons (SOC) went live during the Summit. As usual there is data illustrating the growth and scope of CC licensed content on the web:

  • 2 billion CC licensed works
  • 65% under “free culture” licences
  • 92,985,089 works in the public domain marked with CC tools

and, a showcase of projects and initiatives driven by CC licensing “Around the world”. These projects are giving oxygen to the societal change that we aspire to play an active role in, as a network, into the future.

Image: Jane Park at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0


Keynote speakers addressed change, inclusion and culture in highly original and thought provoking messages:

Time travel: a primer. Ashe Dryden

‘History tells me things that “happen-ish” in the past- and sci fi tells us what might happen in the future’. We can use open data in all sorts of predictive ways but the best use is towards humanity: we can use it to identify who is missing from the conversation about the future.

Fake News. Sarah Jeong

fake news is the biggest threat to democracy’. Creative Commons is an alternative way for us to live beyond capitalism.

Culture, open tools, and collaboration in open communities. Ana Garzón Sabogal

Working in difficult circumstances to map knowledge and share cultural significant stories in Colombia

Ontario Digital Service. Hillary Hartley

‘Be the change. Lead by example’. Open culture spreads

Image: from Radio Va-llena website

Summiting with CC Australia

CC Australia affiliate staff lead a number of sessions:

  • Legal Lead, Nicolas Suzor and Jessica Stevens. Future of the Commons session- The Future of Publishing Business Models: Creating a Shared Research Agenda.
  • Education Lead, Delia Browne. Policy & Advocacy sessions- Copyright Reform Community on the 2017 Canadian Copyright Review; Fixing Copyright for education; Copyright and Trade Deals; OMG OFG! Open, Flexible and General Copyright User Rights
    Spheres of Open sessions- P2PU: Strengthening OER through Study Groups in Libraries.

The Summit saw us dividing up to attended sessions under themed “tracks”. You’ll find the Summit program and session synopses here; and, lots of commentary here. I’ll group my session experiences under the three proposed “platforms”.


Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) are very active in the commons. Some are included in the highlights in the 2016 SOC Report. And I must mention the new CC Search Beta, launched this year to coincide with the Met Museum digitization project.

There were librarians everywhere (myself included). So I enjoyed sitting in on the Libraries and Museums session led by Aleksandra Janus from Centrum Cyfrowe, Alisja Peskowska from 10Clouds and SMK Open, and Stephen Wyber from IFLA (International Federation …)

Creative Commons licences are obviously important vehicles for opening content. But there is a lot of work needed, especially advocacy for policy change with regard to proprietorial content.

Libraries spend 30B a year on content licences so are driven to seek open solutions. We talked about:

  • Advocating for policy change away from proprietary content
  • User generated content
  • open licensing
  • open source
  • content management
  • effective engagement tools

There were inspirational ideas for community outreach and engagement:

Copyright Law Reform

There is global action on copyright reform for education.  One session explored the international evidence that “copyright is broken” for education. Speakers at this session highlighted local concerns:

  • Teresa Nobre, Portugal: Europe has harmonized rights but not exceptions.
  • Delia Brown, Australia: under the current statutory licensing scheme Australia pays more than anybody else in the world to provide content for education.
  • Michael Geist, Canada: Publishers & copyright collecting agencies cite Canada as a worst case scenario for fair dealing for education but Michael regards it as a best case. The Supreme Court of Canada are “copyright rock stars” handing down five decisions which interpreted fair dealing as a user’s right- thereby balancing rights.

Image: Right Copyright slogan from Communia

Open Education Resources

Cable Green presented a really interesting session on mainstreaming open educational resources (OER) by hooking into sustainable development goals (SDGs). Cable challenged: what if instead of a traditional class, a teacher had curriculum that worked on a health issue based in the relevant subject but with all content open licensed and contributed to SDG?

Citizen scientists

David Wiley has blogged about time spent on “disposable assignments”. This could be re-tasked to build, revise, remix, and curate OER to work on/ solve SDGs. OERS can be continuously updated because of the open licence.

Students changing the world

Open practices can shift to students and teachers building, revising and creating community around OER. Students want their work to make a difference in the world.

Open textbooks

Student societies lead the argument on the cost of education. Students are not buying textbooks because of cost.

Open Policy

A growing body of research shows that integrating Open Educational Resources in teaching and learning improves student retention and outcomes.

There was so much more to the 2017 Creative Commons Global Summit than I have mentioned here. for more perspectives, I recommend these Summit Blogs.