I feel we have an obligation to re-use. The best way to keep things from humanity’s pool of cultural artefacts and knowledge available is by re-using and remixing them.

Most of my work is in ensuring more material becomes available for everyone to use. Such as open government data to enable socio-economic impact, with my company, or to allow for more democratic control in my role as chairman of the Open State Foundation. Such as creative output, in the form of images, text and music, in my role as board member of Open Nederland, the member organisation of the Dutch Creative Commons Chapter.

There already is a plethora of material available under open licenses. And while my work is all about adding to that pile and encouraging others to make good use of that, I find that personally I could be more active to re-use the cornucopia of human cultural expression and knowledge that is out there. In this blog I often re-use Creative Commons licensed images from others, and started adding images to my weekly reviews with that specific intent. But I could be much more aware of the opportunities re-usable cultural artefacts allow.

Last May, Elmine’s birthday gift to me was a set of 5 A3 sized photo frames, to fill up the mostly empty white walls of my home office. For months I didn’t get to actually selecting images to put in those frames. Browsed through the 25k of images I have on Flickr myself but couldn’t choose. Then I started playing with some existing images in the public domain or released with an open license, developed some ideas, but still couldn’t choose. Elmine broke the deadlock last week when she suggested to treat them as temporary objects. It isn’t about choosing the perfect images for my walls, it’s about choosing a few good-enough ones that speak to me at this moment in time. Our A3 printer will patiently spit out new images if I so choose.

So yesterday I decided on 5 images. Today Elmine helped me prepare the images for printing, as she has all the right software tools for it, and I don’t. And now they’re on the wall, joining two images already there.

Here are the images and their background as open cultural artefacts.

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The eastern wall presents three images. The leftmost one was already there, a photo of me drinking coffee in Lucca, Tuscany in the summer of 2015. A month of healing with the two of us in a year of personal losses. Elmine took this picture and she publishes most of her pictures with a Creative Commons license that allows non-commercial re-use. In general Flickr is a resource to find great images with an open license.

In the middle is the most famous footprint not on this earth. It’s the imprint of Buzz Aldrin’s boot on the moon surface, taken during Apollo 11 in July 1969. NASA has published and is publishing a wide range of images of all their missions, all freely re-usable. This includes the set of Apollo 11 images, with this footprint. I selected this because it shows how even the most amazing human endeavour ultimately is a sequence of single steps.

On the right is a remix of two images. The first image shows our city’s water-gate, Koppelpoort (1425) around 1640. The image is an illustration made by A. Rademaker for a book dated 1727-1733. The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum is putting tremendous effort in digitising all the artefacts in their collection at high resolution and making those images available for free re-use. They also organise design competitions to stimulate people to come up with novel forms of re-use of the art works in their collection. As an overlay I added the iconic primary colored planes of a Mondriaan painting. Piet Mondriaan was born in our city, where his childhood home is now a museum of his work. As Mondriaan died in 1944, his work entered the public domain in 2015 and is freely re-usable. The image thus combines the medieval and modern history of Amersfoort.

Those primary colors are continued in the images on the southern wall of my office, the one my desk is facing.

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On the left is an adapted page of Lego’s US patent. Patents are public documents (you get commercial protection for your invention in exchange for publishing how it works and thus adding to the world’s pool of knowledge). Patent offices publish patents and Google makes them searchable. So you can search for your favourite invention, whether it’s a Lego brick, a moonlander, a pepper grinder or Apple’s original iPod interface, and take a page from the patent to hang on your wall. Elmine added primary colors to the bricks in the patent illustration on my request.

In the middle is the photo I took last week visiting the Groninger Museum, with both E and Y in front of a giant head in primary colors, in the Alessandro Mendini exhibit. The image is available under a Creative Commons license (for non-commercial and equally shared re-use).

The rightmost photo was already there, a beautiful gift from Cees Elzenga, a photographer and photo journalist, who was our neighbour in Enschede. It is a photo in the rain, at night, near Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, and it strongly evokes the gloom I encountered visiting the still divided city in the second half of the ’80s. This is the one image on the wall that is not openly licensed.

One image is still missing, as I loaned one of the photo frames Elmine gave me to Y temporarily, until her own pin-board arrives in a few days. She uses it for two photos her grandmother sent her, after visiting the Unseen photo exhibit in Amsterdam with her. When it returns I will use the final frame for another NASA image, that of an ‘earth rise’ on the moon, similar to what I use as a background image on my Mastodon (and Twitter) profile page.

As my friend Peter says, we have an obligation to explain. So others may follow in our footsteps of tinkering and creating.

I feel we also have an obligation to re-use. The best way to keep things from humanity’s pool of cultural artefacts and knowledge available is by re-using and remixing them. What gets used keeps meaning and value, will not be forgotten. My office walls now make a tiny contribution to that.

I have a Google Alert set up for my name, to find new mentions of it online. Today I received a mail that my name came up in an article in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), as part of a photo credit. This made me curious.

An article on the amount of time elderly US citizens spend behind their computer screens published August 25th, uses a photo I made it turns out.

My mom is in a Hong Kong newspaper

The photo is from 2008, and shows my mom trying her first steps on a laptop, which we gave her for her 71st birthday when she started having mobility problems. E’s hand is pointing out things in the Gmail interface. This image is available in my Flickr account, and that is how the SCMP ended up finding it (it says as much in the photo credit). They likely used the Flickr’s search filter and had it set to ‘any Creative Commons license’. And that’s where it went wrong.

SCMP is a commercial company, and my photo is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike. Creative Commons is a way for copyright holders to preemptively state which uses of a work are always permitted. I license all my photos, and using Creative Commons give permission for any use that isn’t commercial, as long as the result is shared the same way, and as long my name is mentioned as the author.

SCMP did mention my name (which is how I found the article), but cannot comply with the non-commercial part of the Creative Commons license, and thus should have asked for my permission before using the image. Now I’ve sent them an e-mail with an invoice, for using my photo, and another 100% added for using it without permission. Payable in 15 business days.

To my pleasant surprise the SCMP’s photo editor (whom I mailed), responded within 20 minutes apologising and promising payment.

(full disclosure: I’m a board member for Open Nederland, the association of Dutch makers that serves as the Dutch chapter for Creative Commons.)

A project I’m involved has won funding from the SIDN Fund. SIDN is the Dutch domain name authority, and they run a fund to promote, innovate, and stimulate internet use, to build a ‘stronger internet for all’.
With the Open Nederland association, the collective of makers behind the Dutch Creative Commons Chapter, of which I’m a board member, we received funding for our new project “Filter me niet!” (Don’t filter me.)

With the new EU Copyright Directive, the position of copyrights holders is in flux the coming two years. Online platforms will be responsible for ensuring copyrights on content you upload. In practice this will mean that YouTube, Facebook, and all those other platforms will filter out content where they have doubts concerning origin, license or metadata. For makers this is a direct threat, as they run the risk of seeing their uploads blocked even while they clearly hold the needed copyright. False positives are already a very common phenomenon, and this will likely get worse.

With Filtermeniet.nl (Don’t filter me) we want to aid makers that want to upload their work, by inserting a bit of advice and assistance right when they want to hit that upload button. We’ll create a tool, guide and information source for Dutch media makers, through which they can declare the license that fits them best, as well as improve metadata. In order to lower the risk of being automatically filtered out for the wrong reasons.

At the end of March the European Commission (EC) has announced it is adopting the Creative Commons By Attribution license as its standard license.

The CC-BY license will be used for videos and photos, studies published in peer-reviewed journals, data and visualisations on the EU open data portal and documents published on EU websites.

Re-use of EC material has been possible since 2006 (and rephrased in 2011), but in practice it wasn’t always clear to potential re-users what was allowed and what wasn’t.
While re-use and attribution is part of the EC’s copyright notice, it is likely re-users are discouraged by the copyright claim above it, and missing the permissions underneath it:


Current default copyright notice on EC websites, to be exchanged for a CC-BY license

In contrast adding the Creative Commons By Attribution license sends a clear message about permissions that are granted up-front without the need for a re-user to seek consent: any re-use is permitted, including commercial re-use, provided the EC is attributed as its source, and provided re-use forms or alterations don’t suggest they are endorsed by or coming from the EC.


The clarity that a Creative Commons license provides

(full disclosure: I am a board member of Open Nederland, the Dutch Creative Commons chapter)

Open Nederland heeft een eerste podcast geproduceerd. Sebastiaan ter Burg is de gastheer en Maarten Brinkerink deed de productie en muziek.

In de Open Nederland podcast komen mensen aan het woord komen die kennis en creativiteit delen om een eerlijke, toegankelijke en innovatieve wereld te bouwen. In deze eerste aflevering gaat het over open in verschillende domeinen, zoals open overheid en open onderwijs, en hoe deze op elkaar aansluiten.

De gasten in deze aflevering zijn:

  • Wilma Haan, algemeen directeur van de Open State Foundation,
  • Jan-Bart de Vreede, domeinmanager leermiddelen en metadata van Kennisnet en
  • Maarten Zeinstra van Vereniging Open Nederland en Chapter Lead van Creative Commons Nederland.

(full disclosure: ik ben zowel bestuurslid van Open Nederland als bestuursvoorzitter van Open State Foundation, waarvan CEO Wilma Haan in deze podcast deelneemt.)