December 15, 2006

Today in PressThink, Lisa Williams describes an intriguing development: GateHouse Media (which owns 75 daily and 231 weekly newspapers) is switching from a standard copyright notice to a Creative Commons license for most of its online content.

Williams reports that the CC Attribution Noncommercial No Derivatives 2.5 license now covers “nearly all of the 121 dailies and weeklies they own in Massachusetts …[including] 96 of the company’s TownOnline sites, which are grouped within a portal for their many Eastern Massachusetts newspapers.”

Howard Owens, director of digital publishing for GateHouse, explained in a comment to the TownOnline blog, “It’s really not a big change from how a lot of newspaper sites handle content — free non-commercial use, but generally only if you ask. This removes the middle man of asking, because now it’s explicitly stated that free non-commercial use is permitted. It’s also way to draw attention to: feel free to redistribute our content in non-commercial ways, please just be sure to link back to the originating site.”

Forrester’s Charlene Li told PressThink, “Note that they are using the most restrictive [CC] license. The license is to freely share the content — as long as there is attribution, and the use is non-commercial. The right to create derivative works is not allowed.”

Owens also noted today that he’s adding the CC badge to his blog as well. “I’ve been geeked out about CC for a while because it is so perfect for the digital media age, an era where there is true economic value in sharing. In fact, in the present era, failure to share is detrimental to a publisher,” he said (emphasis added).

Owens cited as inspiration Mark Glaser’s Oct. 18 MediaShift article which explored the possible benefits of CC licensing for mainstream media organizations. That’s a seminal article — I think everyone in the news business should read and consider it carefully.

Finally, Owens offers this advice: “Don’t allow remix. News organizations have ethical obligations to accuracy and fairness not to explicitly allow people to change the news. You need to preserve the right to prohibit people from changing the meaning of the content.”

…Meanwhile, back on Aug. 21 I asked Tidbits readers whether there might be some way that news organizations might beneficially leverage tools such as CC licensing to allow and encourage redistribution and/or derivative works. The discussion that followed that post offered some useful food for thought, including:

  • Pau Llop: “In Spain there already are important media outlets that are licensing all of their content — including news — under a CC license. Best example is 20 Minutos, a leading newspaper in Spain.”
  • Stephen Downes: “CC licenses can be embedded in RSS feeds. Newspapers can start embedding these licenses in feeds. These feeds are then aggregated, and only properly CC-licensed headlines are displayed. This becomes, in effect, a CC wire service. Newspapers could then pick up and share the CC contents.”

This should be an interesting experiment to watch. Good luck, GateHouse.

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Amy Gahran is a conversational media consultant and content strategist based in Boulder, CO. She edits Poynter's group weblog E-Media Tidbits. Since 1997 she�s worked…
Amy Gahran

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