Creative Commons

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A retweet yesterday by Amber Thomas (@ambrouk) of Anna Armstrong (@frenchdisko) alerted me to a feature of Google Docs I wasn’t aware of, that the Insert Image Search automatically filters for Creative Commons released pictures:

Insert image in Google Docs

Fantastic I thought. A way for staff to create open resources with millions of pictures to choose from and reuse with no more effort than if they were inserting any other image. Such a feature obviously doesn’t come without it’s health warnings. Clicking on ‘Learn more’ we can see:

Before reusing content that you've found, you should verify that its licence is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse stated in the licence.
For example, most licences require that you give credit to the image creator when reusing an image. Google has no way of knowing whether the licence is legitimate, so we aren't making any representation that the content is actually lawfully licensed.

I can appreciate that Google’s search technology isn’t going to be 100% reliable in detecting which license is being used in an existing work, but wouldn’t it be great if when you inserted the image Google also gave their ‘best guess’ of the license for you to check and edit if necessary.

A better way for Google Docs to embed?
[This graphic includes Japanese light bulb - CC-BY Elliot Burke]

Or am I just being naïve about this whole thing?

PS I don’t know if something has gone horrible wrong with Google image indexing, but when in Insert Image Search I enter ‘lightbulb’ the thumbnails don’t always match the actual image.


Adding some custom Flare

Today I have a guest post on the Creative Commons UK blog on Adding Creative Commons to your RSS feeds Looks like they've moved it to here. The post outlines how you can add a link and text to a regionalised Creative Commons license to your RSS feed.

The solution isn’t ideal and makes the best of a bad world, but hopefully it is useful if only to show you how you can add things to the end of your Feedburner feed.

The process of documenting this solution surfaced a number of issues which I’m keen to explore further. Here are a couple listed here more as a note to myself to follow-up:

  • variation in the availability of CC licenses types (CC-BY, CC-BY-SA etc) on 3rd party service like YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare
  • generic CC licensing over regionalised versions – 3rd party services offering option to CC license usually default to generic (here’s a Word Doc comparing the CC-BY 2.5 with the CC-BY 2.5 Scotland - afraid you'll need to open in Word in Review - Final: Show markup mode).
  • human versus machine readable licenses – using the OpenAttribute Extension I wasn’t able to detect machine readable licences on YouTube and Flickr (Slideshare worked), but Flickr includes CC licenses information for items in a users RSS version of their photostream (I notice in the OpenAttribute post on the Creative Commons blog that in the video CC is detected in Flickr).
  • discoverability of user activity RSS feeds from 3rd party services -  Joss Winn has started documenting some endpoints as part of the Bebob project
  • who is consuming CC licensed RSS feeds outside of education? – this question was prompted by James Burke at Creative Commons UK (@deburca).

So a number of things to think about.

[The guest post also led me to posting a Pitch for out-of-hours project: Develop a Chrome extension to include Creative Commons license in embed code – no interest yet so it’s gone to the bottom of my list ;)]

[Mainly so I've got a record I've now included the original guest post below]

Creative Commons License ToolSo you’ve decided to ‘share your knowledge and creativity with the world’ licensing your blog content using Creative Commons. Having chosen the license for your needs, next you need to mark your work so that other know how they can remix or reuse your content. The Creative Commons licensing tool helps you select the license you need but also generates the code for your website.

Visitors to your website will see how your work is licensed, but what about people who read your content using different ways? What about people who subscribe to your content using RSS feeds (unsure about RSS? Here it is explained in plain English)? There are a couple of ways to include your CC licenses in your RSS feed.  You can, for example, manually copy and paste your license code to the end of every blog post, or your blogging platform may include options to insert a custom footnote which could include the license link.

Burning a CC license

As the RSS feed for my blog is already distributed using Google’s Feedburner service I use the built in options to insert a human and machine readable Creative Commons license into my feed. As these options aren’t immediately apparent here’s a quick guide for turning them on.

One of the drawbacks of this solution is that while you have control over the licensing level (CC-BY, CC-BY-SA etc.) there is no way to select the regionalised license to match your legal jurisdiction. If like me this is important to you here’s how you can do it.

Creating a custom Creative Commons ‘flare’

The way I’m going to show you to do this is using Feedburner’s FeedFlare option, which if you’ve just setup Feedburner’s built-in CC licensing you’ll know is an option to add links to the end of your RSS feed items. As part of FeedFlare you can create your own custom ‘flares’.

Custom FeedFlares are written in an XML format. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this is, it’s not important for this guide, what is important is having somewhere Feedburner can read this custom XML file. Fortunately Google can help with this problem too. By adding this Google Gadget Editor to your iGoogle page you can write and publish some XML for Feedburner to read (Google account is required).

Once the editor is installed paste the text below replacing the ‘hello world’ example.

<Title>Attribution CC-BY Martin Hawksey</Title>
<Description> Displays my Creative Commons CC-BY license. </Description>
<Text>CC-BY Martin Hawksey</Text>
<Link href="" rel="license"/>

Before saving there are a couple of changes we need to make.

  1. Edit <text> tag to match your chosen CC license and attribution (this is the text that will appear at the end of your post)
  2. Change theurlto match the address of the license you are using

You can now save the xml using any filename you like. Copy the link address of your file (right click on the file name hyperlink in the top right of the gadget editor)

Copy link for xml

Open the FeedFlare options for your feed which are in the ‘Optimize’ tab for your feed in Feedburner. In the ‘(Enter or paste a Flare Unit URL)’ box under Personal FeedFlare paste the url copied from the Gadget Editor.

Add custom feedflare

Once it’s added tick the box next to it in the Feed column and scroll down to save your settings. Your feed should now show how the post is licensed with a clickable link to the full license text.

Custom CC-BY link in feed

One final thing you might want to do is decide if you want to keep the ‘Creative Commons’ option on in the Publicize tab of Feedburner. This option adds generic license details to the machine readable part of your feed, not the regionalised version you are using. On my feed I have deactivated it because I’m not using my feed to submit content to other repositories and a machine readable CC license is on my website pages.

CC License in feed metadata

Of course all of this hassle would go away if Feedburner allowed users to choose their jurisdiction. In fact looking across other services I regularly use like YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare where Creative Commons licenses can be applied it is always generic. Should these services not be looking to take it to the next logical step and providing regionalised licensing options?

Footnote: Turning on Creative Commons Licensing in Feedburner

From your My Feeds in Feedburner click on the feed you want to edit.

Adding a human readable license

  1. Click on he ‘Optimize’ tab and then on FeedFlare from the Services list
  2. Tick the box in the feed column next to ‘View Creative Commons License’
  3. Click on ‘Activate/Save’

Adding a machine readable license

  1. Click on the ‘Publicize’ tab and the ‘Creative Commons’ from the Services list
  2. Chose the licensing level
  3. Click ‘Activate/Save’

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Update: Looking at OpenAttribute which looks like it does some of this. I’ll probably spend my time on something different instead 

Right now it feels like I’m getting more ideas than time to develop them. So that I don’t waste more time with ill thought out ideas like ‘spreadembed’ (what was I thinking ;), this time instead of disappearing into my creative dark space I thought I would pitch my idea here and if there is enough interest give it priority over my long list of other things to do. So here’s the pitch:

Chrome extension to include Creative Commons license in embed code

More services like YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare are giving people the option to include a Creative Commons license with their work. This is great because it means it’s easier for people to reuse the work and also it raises the profile of releasing work under Creative Commons (i.e. every time you see a CC icon you are advertising a different way to share your work).

The problem

The problem is often when you use these services the sites terms and conditions like:

by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and YouTube's (and its successors' and affiliates') business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. YouTube Terms Section 6.C

aka ‘we can use your content how we like’, which often includes not including any CC license (if used) in the embed code. This has resulted in projects like Xpert Attribution tool and ImageCodr which provide a way for people to grab embed content with the CC attribution as shown below:

UKOER Twitter Community
Embedded image from Flickr

Embedded image from Flickr using Xpert

Xpert and ImageCodr are great tools but they rely on you going to their site to get the attributed embed code.

The solution – guerrilla CC embed

A better solution would of course be the host service doing this at source but this thread on Flickr is typical in terms of this being a very low priority if at all. My idea (and it may have been done before – if so leave a note to put me out of my misery) is to develop a browser extension or bookmarklet that when you are getting the embed code from the source site (Flickr, YouTube and Slideshare would be my starters) it automatically modifies the existing code it to include Creative Commons license and attribution.

For example, here’s how the YouTube embed code looks now:

Existing YouTube embed code   

But with my magic black box users would automatically get something like:

Proposed YouTube embed code

So to recap your browsing for a video/image/presentation, find one you like and click on the websites embed button. Doing so appends and CC attribution to the embed.

So what do you think, is this a worthwhile project for me to spend my free time on? Would you be willing to help (it could be anything from code, promotion or testing)?

Over to you ;)