Ford Foundation Joins Hewlett Foundation And Gates Foundation In Requiring Research They Fund To Be Released Under CC BY Licenses

from the no-public-domain? dept

Over the last few months, a bunch of big foundations have officially stated that all research that they fund via their grants now has to be placed under an open Creative Commons license such as the CC BY license that says that the information can be freely shared and copied, even for commercial purposes, with the only restriction being that you have to attribute the content to the original authors. In September of last year, the Hewlett Foundation kicked it off when it announced that it was requiring CC BY licensing on all content that it funded, followed in November by the Gates Foundation making a similar announcement. And, this week, the Ford Foundation has done the same:

The Ford Foundation announced today that it is adopting an open licensing policy for all grant-funded projects and research to promote greater transparency and accessibility of materials. Effective February 1, grantees and consultants will be required to make foundation-funded materials subject to a Creative Commons license allowing others, free of charge and without requesting permission, the ability to copy, redistribute, and adapt existing materials, provided they give appropriate credit to the original author.

The Ford Foundation has long supported transparency—including open licensing, which is an alternative to the traditional “all rights reserved” copyright and encourages sharing intellectual property in a digital global commons. By moving to broadly disseminate a large amount of educational and research materials resulting from its funding, the foundation hopes to make its work and the work of its grantees more accessible and ultimately, increase its impact.

This is absolutely awesome, and hopefully more Foundations will follow suit. It would be nice if these foundations also offered up the opportunity to use a CC0 public domain dedication as an alternative (which goes even further than the CC BY license), but that seems like nitpicking for the most part.

Frankly this is great for a few different reasons. First, we’ve discussed the importance of open access and information sharing as it relates to research — and it’s still depressing how much important research gets locked up behind paywalls and stringent copyright enforcement. Second, increasing the amount of work, in general, that is freely shareable can only lead to that work being much more useful to — and used by — others who are looking to build on that work and do great things with it. Third, just in getting more people to realize that — contrary to what some maximalists like to pitch in their propaganda — not everything needs to be locked up to be valuable.

Kudos to these foundations for taking a stand.

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Companies: ford foundation, gates foundation, hewlett foundation

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” The wording of the items, though not exactly the same as that printed in the plaintiff’s books, is a good deal like it, but that is unimportant because the various paragraphs of the plaintiff’s books are merely the barest possible statements of historical facts, some important and some unimportant, and they could hardly be used at all without rather closely approximating the wording of the plaintiff’s paragraphs.”

” They are not literary productions to be read as a whole, but serve to place interesting facts in the hands of people who want to know about them or have some use to which they can put them. Of course, the plaintiff does not “own” the facts themselves, but, on no other theory, could he restrain the use which the defendant is making of them.”


This is good news for scientific progress. The current system is a travesty. If a patent claim about a medical breakthrough (like the breast cancer gene) takes 10 years to get through court, lawyers see that as 10 years of billing at $500 an hour–in other words, productive time. Anyone who might have wanted to conduct research on the patented gene in question would have to wait a decade to do it.

I second Chris-Mouse’s statement about having the same policy for taxpayer-funded research. Under Bayh-Dole, the fruits of taxpayer-funded research are funneled into for-profit enterprises which then sell them back to taxpayers for an obscene profit. It reminds me of a quote from Leon Lederman: “The farmer leads the pig to an area where there might be truffles. The pig searches diligently for the truffles. Finally, he locates one, and just as he is about to devour it, the farmer snatches it away.”

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