What is Alternative Licensing?


As new forms of publication and scholarship begin to take hold, the academic world is examining standard forms of licensing and rights management and finding them lacking. While current copyright and intellectual property laws focus on restricting use of materials, authors are beginning to explore new models that center on enabling use while still protecting the academic value of a publication. Some rights are still reserved, but some are proactively licensed at publication time to encourage re-use. These approaches make it clear which rights are licensed for various uses, removing the barrier of copyright and smoothing the way for others to access and use one’s work.

One such approach is that taken by Creative Commons, an organization that supplies easy-to-understand, “some rights reserved” licenses for creative work. Authors simply review the list of rights they can grant or restrict, make their choices, and receive a link to a written license that spells out how their work may be used. The licenses work within current copyright laws but clearly state how a work may be used. Copyleft is another alternative approach; often used in open source software development, copyleft describes how work can be used and also governs how derivative works are to be licensed as well. Models like these are beginning to gain acceptance among artists, photographers, and musicians; scholarly papers and reports are increasingly released under alternative licenses. Some organizations, such as the New Media Consortium, have made it a policy to release all their work under licenses that facilitate sharing and reuse.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • - holly holly Aug 19, 2011While I'm not sure that this will end up as one of the horizon technologies featured in the 2011 report, alternative licensing, and in fact anything that clarifies issues with regard to licensing and copyright is relevant to museums. Precedents for making images available for free online and discussions of the pros and cons about the practice have been around for more than a decade. With high profile institutions like Yale University, LACMA, and the Victoria & Albert Museum now committed to making high resolution images available online, we can expect to see other museums following that path. It will be interesting to see the results of large-scale experiments over the next few years.
  • - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 24, 2011 An interesting policy issue who's agenda is being pushed by technology. I agree with Holly, this is hugely significant to interpretation and education. Many institutions are making interpretation and education decisions (particularly around comparative images, &c) based purely on rights and availability.
  • I agree with Holly and Nik. I'd add that while this may not float to the top as a featured technology in this year's report, the connections here to Open Content are clear and strong. Surfacing alternative licensing (and fair use) there as key historical and ongoing context for Open Content, if it makes the cut, could make good sense. - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Aug 31, 2011
  • I see two sides to this topic: 1 is a philosophical and strategic approach to opening up content use as much as possible, whenever possible; 2 is that tech tools are making it easier everyday to share content and use CC licensing. For example, Flickr has long offered a granular approach to control licensing options; YouTube recently added the option for a Standard YouTube License or a Creative Commons Attribution license. http://www.youtube.com/t/creative_commons As more content providers offer images, videos, text, etc. on these platforms, more people are exposed to alternative licensing and its benefits to their audiences. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011
  • While some higher profile museums have have made commitment to provide access to images (high res) and somewhat related others have opened up photography in galleries policy - I think there remains to come a significant shift in how museums deal with copyright and image/content licensing. while this may not have the bells and whistles of some of the other technologies this may have more lasting importance as it can involved museums shifting policy - gary.schneider gary.schneider Aug 31, 2011
  • - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Sep 1, 2011
  • And why is it that teachers have such trouble getting access to high res images - even of works in the public domain? My sense is that "Fair Use" in terms of digital use and for use in online learning could be better understood by the museum community. - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?


(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 24, 2011 Significant, if institutions can make interpretation and education decisions based on scholarly or educational value.
  • From the point of view of the art museum in the field of art history there is a significant "chilling effect" as art historians and students of art history hesitate to publish content online given the uncertainties of image copyright. Having museum content with specific licensing would be a huge benefit to the educational community. - beth.harris beth.harris Aug 31, 2011
  • Alternative licensing presents many opportunities for museums to be more liberal with sharing their resources. There is a challenge, however, to educating museum professionals about what is available to them and how to go about switching notices from default and overly conservative copyright statements to more flexible, but more complicated alternative licensing options. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011
  • - scott.sayre scott.sayre Aug 31, 2011 The 2010 George Mason Center for History and New Media's Summit on Digital Tools for Museum Educators identified the need need to develop a central registry for museum's to openly share rich media assets amongst them selves for educational applications. Alternative licensing was seen as a critical mechanism in the feasibility of this type of effort. I think this would be HUGELY beneficial - but why limit it to sharing amongst museums and museum educators only, and not educators more broadly (under the appropriate license)? - beth.harris beth.harris Sep 1, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form.