Creative Commons Content: Save it Before Needing it

TL;DR: Save CC content you use or care about and put it online for others as well. It might not be available in the future from its primary source anymore.


Today it happened for to me for the third time in a limited time frame: content I was looking for wasn’t available anymore. Not that the page itself was gone 404 but because politics. Was the most infuriating stuff here? The content was under a Creative Commons license. Let’s see the subtle way theses resources have gone unavailable while still being on the Web.

Change in content

The first occurence I encounter was with a Chinese-French dictionary. The resource was an XML file containing 200K+ Chinese entries translated in French with phonetics annotation. It was released in 2009 under CC 3.0 BY-SA licensing. One day of March 2016, the original creator was pissed of the few third party contributions being done so he decided to change the content of the file to includes only third party contributions.

In a move, the resource was cut down from thousand of thousand entries to about 6000 while still being available. Of course no user of the file provides a download link: they all link to the original project’s page.

Change in availability

France launched its own MOOC platform based on the OpenEdX stack. Most of the classes are published under CC 3.0 BY-NC-ND. The platform itself is great but it is run with a dinosaur attitude: classes are available only during time-limited sessions. If you register during this period, great, you can access the content afterward. But if you didn’t you have to wait for another session to be run. Which might never happen.

This is a school case (pub intented) of content that is under a CC license, that quietly lies in some AWS instances but is not available until someone push a button again someday. Of course, no copy were made online by any users…

Licence chance

The last study case is a dictionary page for a Chinese language published by the ministry of education of Taiwan. More specifically the page lists some Japanese loanwords existing in the Taiwanese Min language. The page was published under a CC BY-ND license. Not really the most interesting one but still better than nothing.

The web design changed as well as the license; good by CC! Of course, nobody made copy before under the CC license, so the content can not be redistributed anymore.

Ready for action?

Of course, if I wrote this article it is to rise awareness about the problem. A solution exists, precisely allowed by any CC license: content redistribution. If you use or care about a resource under a CC license, it would advice you to copy it, and to make the copy available for others as well. Your future self might be very grateful.

Don’t wait for another Coursera-like pivoting before doing it because it will be too late. And of course, if you don’t do it, nobody will.

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