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Redactor: automatically find CC material for your documents

, May 24th, 2014

The following is an interview with Will Fyson, PhD researcher at the University of Southampton, and creator of the Redactor, a tool which helps researchers share their work more easily using Creative Commons licensed content.

What is the Redact-O-Matic?

To “redact” is the process of censoring or obscuring a document so that it may be published. The Redactor tool is an online service (http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/rwf1v07/redactor/) which facilitates such a process, but offers an alternative to merely censoring, by helping users find a Creative Commons licensed works that may act as a suitable replacement for any copyright infringing or sensitive materials, the presence of which may be preventing a document from being published in its entirety.

The redactor tool offers users the ability to either redact sections of text from a document or choose from a number of different options to redact images. Approaches to redacting images include:

Replace the image in the document with a Creative Commons licensed alternative (sourced from either Google Images or Flickr). This option is useful when the author does not possess the right to distribute the image, but should be able to find a suitable alternative online. The user can specify if they need to create derivatives of the replacement or use it commercially, and when a suitable replacement has been found this new image is embedded within the document, along with an attribution including the title of the image, the original owner and the licence under which it has been made available.

Add a Creative Commons licence to the image. If the author is in a position where they are free to distribute the image, then they can add a CC licence of their choosing to the image’s metadata along with an attribute within the document.

CC Licences can be added to image metadata

Figure – CC Licences can be added to image metadata

Obfuscate the image, making the original content unavailable to the reader. This option may be ideal if a suitable replacement for the image cannot be found (for example there may not be a useful substitute for a detailed diagram), and the author does not have the right to redistribute the image.

An image obscured via pixelation

Paragraphs within documents can be redacted too; an option that may be especially useful if the document contains some content which may be commercially sensitive for example, alongside other content which would otherwise be available to distribute without consequence.

Who are the primary users?

The redactor tool has been designed to be used within a scholarly context, allowing researchers to publish some of their work whilst not jeopardising their claims to future publications and research areas. I suspect the redactor may also find use in a wider educational context, helping to make teaching materials available online. However the redactor is of course open for anyone to use who is aware of CC licences and wishes to ensure their works can be made available in an open fashion.

What motivated you to create it?

The original idea behind the redactor was to create a tool that eliminates some of the barriers that may dissuade researchers from making some of their work available to the rest of the academic community. At present a lot of scholarly output remains in desk drawers or on computer hard drives, often as a result of concerns held by researchers that they may be gazumped (that is to say another researcher may use a researcher’s results to make a discovery before the original author is able to) or because of confusion over the legal issues of disseminating their work.

It is hoped that the redactor can help alleviate researchers’ concerns by letting them address the problem. Whilst an author (or perhaps their supervisor) may not wish for the entirety of the work to be made available to the wider community, through the redactor aspects of it which may still be publishable can ultimately see the light of the day and thus be of benefit to the wider academic community.

Doing this kind of thing manually could be very time-consuming – do you think this is a major factor preventing the use of appropriately licensed material?

I agree that the time-consuming nature is likely to result in authors not always using appropriately licensed material. It really is very convenient to just grab any image from the Web and not worry about rights issues (and many will likely think that there are few, if any implications for doing so). Ultimately researchers tend to want to spend their time actually doing research and generating new findings rather than worrying about how they are going to present them.

I suspect also that there many may be unsure as to how Creative Commons licences could be applied to their work or that such a wealth of CC licensed material is already available online to be taken advantage of.

Do you have plans to extend the functionality?

I’m currently working on incorporating a version of the redactor into the popular institutional repository software EPrints. The plan is for users to be able to simply click a button for their deposit in EPrints which takes the user to the redactor, in which they can commit some redactions and deposit a new, ready to publish edition of the document back into the EPrints repository.

Another interesting area for development is the notion of transforming the redactor into a “Disaggregator” – a tool that takes a large body of work and assists the user in pulling out smaller, self-contained items of work within that original collection so they can go on to be published elsewhere on their own merit. This notion of disaggregation, taking a large aggregated body of work and from it producing lots of smaller chunks with which the original author could expand their portfolio and demonstrate their skills and experiences, is a running theme of my PhD research and thus an interesting direction to take the redactor.

I do also think that the redactor tool could be of great use to those working in education and I’d be intrigued to see if it could be set up as not only a place for redacting educational materials, but also sharing them. For example any images which the uploading author has the rights to and so can apply a CC licence could perhaps then be indexed so that future users may use them too, resulting in a new CC image library building over time.

 And naturally it would be nice in future to allow the Redactor to handle a wider range of file types and use more CC search engines!

The online Redactor tool can be found here: http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/rwf1v07/redactor/

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Version 4.0 licenses are here!

, November 26th, 2013

Version 4.0 represents a major update of Creative Commons licenses, and an abundance of global work, resulting in the first truly international licenses.

Read the blog post here:  http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/40768

Use the license chooser:  http://creativecommons.org/choose/

Read about policy decisions and versioning notes:  http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Version_4

What’s new in 4.0:  http://creativecommons.org/Version4

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CC and Data – new article and links available

, November 25th, 2013

Read about using Creative Commons licenses for data, data models and databases on the global Creative Commons website HERE.



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Creative Commons Global Summit 2013

, October 23rd, 2013

Creative Commons Global Summit 2013

Last month was the Creative Commons Global Summit, a chance for the whole Creative Commons movement and wider community to gather and share knowledge and create strategy for the future. CC-UK affiliate mem Prodromos Tsiavos and myself went over to represent the CC-UK team. More materials relating to the presentations can be found on the summit wiki.

    1. Copyright reform mini-conference

A pre-conference summit was organised on the topic of copyright reform activities. Many CC affiliates and members of the wider community have been involved in national and international copyright debates, so this was a chance to consider how this work relates to CC in particular. Engaging in advocacy has not so far been part of CC’s activity, with the focus being on providing the suite of licenses, and tools to use them. We gathered into groups to discuss how individual affiliate teams engage in copyright reform activity (or not), and how this might affect their role as representatives of CC. Many spoke of the difficulties of wearing different ‘hats’, as representatives of multiple organisations.

Consensus in my group was that affiliate teams should be permitted but not required to engage in copyright reform processes, with one exception; in jurisdictions where current copyright law prevents the use of CC licenses altogether, reform should be the primary aim of the local affiliate team. After feeding back the findings to each other, CC headquarters resolved to issue a statement on the role of Creative Commons in copyright reform, which was released last week


    1. Strategy


The first full day of the main conference was kicked off by a keynote from CEO Cathy Casserly, who outlined CC’s current five-point strategy:


  • Steward the commons: by developing the Open Policy Network, engaging in Open Policy Advocacy, and developing baseline metrics to assess the state of the commons.
  • Develop innovative products: this means considering which end users we have in mind, finding ‘market fit’ and avenues for monetisation, asking what can we build on top of new and existing products, and making CC license metadata out there (with e.g. schema.org).
  • Strengthen the affiliate network: by fostering a culture of knowledge sharing, providing support for re-use, developing a 10 year movement strategy, re-igniting old teams and starting new ones, and getting the science affiliate network going.
  • Increase community uptake: key priorities here include encouraging MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to adopt appropriate CC licenses, continuing work on open textbooks, and making inroads into openness in science and scientific data. In recent years we have seen several major web platforms adopt CC-licenses for their core material (like Autodesk, 500, and unglue.it). We need to develop training materials for new platform adopters who are considering this option.
  • Diversify and Increase Organizational Funding: As the fraction of funding from restricted grants decrease, CC will in future rely on corporate donors and alternative revenue streams.


A later panel session featured the CC board, and was a chance for the board to reflect on CC development, and talk directly with the affiliates and answer their questions. They recalled the initial discussions they had 10 years ago about whether to expand internationally, and whether there should be affiliate teams. Mike Carrol and Larry Lessig talked about the need for new technology to support the licenses, noting that we may be at stage 4.0 with the licenses, but the technology is still at 1.0. Martin from CC Netherlands spoke about CC Rel, and the need to make all the CC content on the web visible and findable.

    1. Tools

I attended a talk on CC technology from Dan Mills, the new head of product development (Dan has moved over from Mozilla where he worked on some great projects like Persona). He described the ‘product’ approach, which starts with a ‘brutal focus on specific user communities’, to focus designers on the question ‘Who are you designing for?’ You then have learn their problems, and find ways to measure their key values. The process is iterative – learn, build, measure, then repeat.

The product team are applying this method in a new project focusing on k-12 teachers. They discovered that alot of teachers preparation time is spent remixing content for lessons. Most institutions don’t know this is happening, but the reality is that most teachers don’t want to teach the same thing every year. The tool that has been developed to help them with this is ‘Pasteboard’. Teachers collect ‘clippings’ around a topic, which they drag into their document. At bottom of the document, there is a references section – ‘attribution block’ – this shows where the material comes from.

The idea here is that teachers don’t care about copyright per se – but they do care about plagiarism. So event though they don’t necessarily see the value in CC itself, they do care about attribution – especially with other teachers. Pasteboard means they don’t have to maintain a set of bookmarks seperately for attributing their sources, instead, this is embedded with the document.

This project is not just being developed in-house – it’s all open to contribution by anyone who’s interested, following the ‘module’ system they use to develop new products at Mozilla. Each project has an ‘owner’ who ‘owns’ something – whether that be code, documents or something else. Then there are ‘peers’ who help the owner move the module forward, and finally, ‘volunteers’ who contribute. But how are modules managed, and who selects the owner? Quite simply, there is a ‘Governance’ module, that sets the rules for other modules. Dan mentioned a number of potential modules to get the CC module portfolio started, including;

  • The CC website
  • The Governance module
  • Pasteboard
  • Back-end technology, e.g. CC Rel

But anyone is free to propose a new module!


    1. Education

I went along to the ‘Mythbusting OER’ session, run by Kamil Śliwowski from CC-Poland. This was all about responding to criticisms (and genuine barriers) to the adoption of open textbooks and other open educational resources. We were tasked with developing a list of common criticisms and potential responses. The group I was in considered the kinds of objections raised by publishers, which ranged from concerns about the quality of open resources, the threat to existing business models, to losing control over content. One response we came up with was to argue that textbook publishers should consider themselves to be ‘platform facilitators’ rather than ‘content owners’. There is still money to be made in printing OER – printed books are still the primary way educational content is consumed, especially in developing countries where digital devices are not as accessible. Publishers can also save money if they print OER works, because author fees may be smaller or non-existent.

However, we also recognised a need to develop OER more in order to answer some genuine concerns of publishers. One problem is that we don’t have good enough examples of beneficial re-use of OER. In order to make the case to publishers and others, we need to show where modifications are even better than the original. One place to look for such examples is in translations of open textbooks – bringing the best open textbooks from one language into another.

Finally, CC’s head of education, Cable Green, ran a session on CC’s strategy for education. We were going through the current draft of the education strategy. There was also an interesting debate about MOOC platforms. Many of these platforms are not using open licenses, and therefore may not be


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Version 4.0 Licenses Coming Soon

, June 3rd, 2013

The eagerly-awaited Creative Commons Version 4.0 licenses will be published very soon.  One of the major benefits of these licenses for UK users is that they have been written to apply internationally, without the need for porting.  See the final draft (Draft 3) of the 4.0 licenses here: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/4.0/Drafts (navigate to the bottom of the page).  Read Diane Peters’ article on posting of draft 3 here: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/36713.  The overall objectives of 4.0 are discussed here: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/4.0, and more discussion on the current draft can be found here: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/4.0/Draft_3

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CCUK reaches 2,000 followers on Twitter

, April 9th, 2013

Well, actually 1,999 – follow us now and share with others!

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Creative Commons 10-year anniversary mixtape!

, December 12th, 2012

Creative Commons is turning 10 this year. Therefore Creative Commons communities all over the world will be hosting a series of events and sharing party favors online for a ten-day celebration!

In December 2002 Creative Commons released its first set of copyright licenses for free to the public. In the years following the initial release, Creative Commons and its licenses have grown at an exponential rate around the world. The licenses have been further improved, and ported to over 50 jurisdictions. With some major platforms adopting the Creative Commons licenses and version 4.0 of the licenses around the corner, this anniversary is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past ten years, but also to look ahead to the future!

One of the opportunities for Creative Commons to continue its rapid evolution is more collaboration between the various affiliates. During the Creative Commons regional meeting in Helsinki earlier this year we’ve decided to use the 10 year anniversary to make a joint contribution to the festivities in the form of a CC-Europe mixtape. Each country nominated a couple of songs and an expert panel of CC affiliates has picked one song per country for the final compilation. In total we’ve received contributions from 20 countries! The participating affiliates are Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

The resulting mixtape can be found at Free Music Archive, Soundcloud and Archive.org and is available for free download under various Creative Commons licenses. The album artwork is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution license.

You can check out all the anniversary events at http://wiki.creativecommons.org/CC10 and be sure to keep an eye out between December 7 and 16 for more surprises at http://www.10.creativecommons.org!

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Creative Commons 10th Anniversary

, December 4th, 2012

Creative Commons is 10 years old this December.  CCUK is celebrating with an event on 12th December.  Learn more and register here:

Eventbrite - Creative Commons 10th Anniversary

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Welcome to Creative Commons United Kingdom

, August 23rd, 2012

Share, Remix, Reuse – Legally

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that assists authors and creators who want to voluntarily share their work, by providing free copyright licences and tools, so that others may take full and legal advantage of the Internet’s unprecedented wealth of science, knowledge and culture.

Contact us via email at info [at] creativecommons.org.uk or

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‘Why Open Education Matters’ Video Competition Winners

, July 20th, 2012

The Why Open Education Matters video competition was launched in March 2012 calling for creative videos that clearly explain the use and potential of free Open Educational Resources (“OER”). The winners were announced this week. Many congratulations to the the winners: @blinktower

Read More…

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