Welcome to Creative Commons' annual celebration of the global commons movement—our State of the Commons report.

SOTC explores the wide array of creativity and knowledge that is freely available to the world under CC licenses. Throughout the report, we’ll show how the body of work in the commons has grown and developed this year, and explore the impact the commons is making on our culture.

In previous editions of SOTC, we've focused our efforts on measuring and reporting quantitative data—for instance, the total number of openly-licensed works online, the percentage of CC licenses used across various fields, and the volume of CC-licensed works that are available to the public through the many online sharing platforms where our legal tools are prevalent. That data is still here, but this year we’ve gone further: CC's new organizational strategy is focused on increasing the vibrancy and usability of the commons (not just its breadth and volume), so we’re focusing on the stories and people behind the creativity in the commons as well.

This year, we’re highlighting “impact stories” — the human impacts of the global projects that benefit from CC. Quantitative data still matters (this is an annual report, after all!) but the commons is more than the numbers. We will demonstrate how the resources, culture, and openness of the commons make everyone’s lives better. This year’s State of the Commons shows how collaboration and gratitude drive the commons and its communities, and explores the creative possibilities of sharing and the personal connections between creators around the world as they invite each other into a shared community.

The commons is a collective act on a global scale, in a world where increasingly the things we built together are being dismantled. Never has the need for access to knowledge and culture felt so urgent, so valuable, and so vital. We need the commons, its ethos, and its contributors more than ever, and we’re grateful to those who are helping us build it.

In partnership with our global community, we identified some of the most interesting, impactful, and invigorating people and projects to profile. We’re thrilled to share these profiles, and we hope that you’ll find some inspiration to approach the work you’re doing in a way that is more open, collaborative, and driven by gratitude. Thank you, as ever, for your contributions to the commons.

With gratitude,

Ryan Merkley
CEO, Creative Commons

Show More About Our Focus and Process

1.2 Billion

Creative Commons licensed works


of Creative Commons works are shared under “Free Culture” licenses

Breakdown by license type:

 CC0: 6%

 Other Public Domain Tools: 2%

CC BY: 20%

CC BY-SA: 37%

CC BY-NC-ND: 14%

CC BY-NC-SA: 13%

CC BY-NC: 6%

CC BY-ND: 2%

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art releases 375,000 digital works into the public domain via CC0

Total public domain works marked with CC tools

Background photo: “Southern Gardens” by Paul Klee (German (born Switzerland), Münchenbuchsee 1879–1940 Muralto-Locarno) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is public domain via CC0

Around the World



African Storybook Initiative

On a continent where conventional publishing produces relatively few titles in African languages, the African Storybook initiative provides open access to thousands of picture storybooks for children's literacy, enjoyment, and imagination.

Image by Wiehan de Jager, African Storybook Initiative licensed CC BY 3.0

The African Storybook initiative works with organizations and individuals to facilitate access to storybooks and create website tools for users to create, translate, and adapt them. So far, the initiative has created storybooks in 94 African languages with the support of 30 partner organizations across Africa.

Multiple projects in multiple countries use the website and/or storybooks with the intervention of the African Storybook project team: schools or community libraries serve as pilot sites; governments use the content on their platforms to print and distribute; and partners add to and use content in their literacy development programmes. In addition, the project serves educators who integrate the website tools and storybooks into their pre-service training programs, as well as lecturers in higher education institutions stimulating their postgraduate students to experiment with and research use of the African Storybook. The remixable content also inspired the Global African Storybook Project, which translates the stories into other languages with few resources for childhood learning.

As of September 2016 the initiative contained 730 storybooks and 2,754 translations/adaptations. In only two years, 636,803 storybooks were downloaded with an average of 4800 visitors per month, of which 2,800 are new visitors. Further, the Global African Storybook Project has produced 460 translations in 26 languages. Between 30 and 400 African Storybook titles have been republished on a variety of academic and commercial sites.

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Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Netherlands, France

Coutinho Collection

Professor Roel Coutinho’s collection of 752 photographs contains a variety of scenes of life during wartime, including dances, hospitals, and the PAIGC resistance movement.

Background photo: Wedding party of Francisco Mendes by Roel Coutinho via Wikimedia Commons is licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

Professor Roel Coutinho donated 752 photographs of his medical work from 1973-1974 to the commons, shot during the final years of the struggle for independence in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau against Portuguese colonial rule.

These photographs, originally housed in the Library of the African Studies Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, are a captivating glance into an important piece of rarely discussed African history, one that is vital to the history of the African continent.

The project is newly uploaded to Wikipedia after a successful exposition in Avignon, France in 2013. Its associated metadata can be found on Wikimedia Commons and is shared under a CC BY-SA license.

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Indonesian literary magazine Horison and CC Indonesia digitize 264 historic back issues from 1960-1990 to be incorporated into school literature curriculum.

Horison Magazine by Horison Magazine is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Wikimedia Indonesia has been working since 2013 to digitize and provide free access to cultural documents in Indonesia, but this year’s agreement with Horison is a landmark in their ability to work with cultural institutions and creators to upload their content and preserve modern Indonesian history using Wikimedia and other cultural content aggregators. The CC Indonesia team worked directly with the editorial board and Wikimedia Indonesia in order to teach them how to upload their materials to Wikimedia as well as educated them about the meaning of CC BY-SA, a permissive license that allows a variety of uses, including remix and commercial use of the archive. Going forward, the team will continue working with Horison to preserve their content.

CC Indonesia’s work proves that ongoing relationships with cultural institutions are vital to the growth of the commons, and that a small group of committed volunteers can do their part to preserve a rich history.

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United States

Dr. Amin Azzam

As part of university course work, Dr. Amin Azzam’s medical students edit and improve CC-licensed Wikipedia articles that are viewed more than 22 million times over the year.

Dr Amin Azzam by Kathleen Krushas is licensed CC BY 4.0
Background photo: Editing Wikipedia for medical school credit – 2016 poster by Amin Azzam, Lane Rasberry, James Heilman, Kingsley Otoide, Jack McCue is licensed CC BY SA 4.0

Supported by the Wiki Education Foundation, Azzam created a course for the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program that encourages and supports medical students in their efforts to edit Wikipedia articles on health-related topics. The impact of these students’ work is described in a research article entitled, “Why Medical Schools Should Embrace Wikipedia: Final-Year Medical Student Contributions to Wikipedia Articles for Academic Credit at One School,” which was published in Academic Medicine, a top academic medical journal.

Medical and health-related articles on Wikipedia are among the top articles viewed by the general public. The articles edited and improved by the medical students in Dr. Azzam’s course were viewed 1.1 million times during the two months that the students were actively editing the articles. The 42 articles have been collectively viewed over 22 million times over the past year.

Azzam’s work established a course based solely on open educational practice, which resulted in new works being added to the commons and existing works being adapted via Wikipedia.

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Maya Zankoul

Popular Lebanese illustrator, webcomic author, and blogger Maya Zankoul spreads the message of the commons through her art, design studio, and video company wezank.

Cover of Amalgam Vol. 2 by Maya Zankoul is licensed CC BY-NC 3.0

Zankoul’s first book, Amalgam, was published in 2009 under a CC BY-NC license. The book sprung from her popular web comic exploring life, work, and art in Beirut and beyond.

Zankoul’s work touches on the connections between cultures with illustrations shaped by her rich, artistic world. Her newest book, Beirut – New York, was published this autumn.

“I find that my illustrations allow people to see things differently. It allows them to step outside the status quo.” – Maya Zankoul

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New Zealand


In New Zealand, earthquakes and other natural disasters are easier to track and understand thanks to open data provided by GeoNet, New Zealand’s official geological hazard site.

Background photo: Inland and Seaward Kaikouras and Clarence River mouth, Marlborough, New Zealand, 28 Oct. 2009 by Phillip Capper is licensed CC BY 2.0

GeoNet adopted a CC BY license in order to provide crucial, open information and quick response to earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tsunamis. Its real-time CC BY-licensed and open format data is now reused every day for emergency management, research, industry use, and by the public. GeoNet has become a core tool for global positioning systems, measuring instruments, geotechnical consultancies, local and central government, as well as for national and international universities and research organizations. In 2016, It recorded over 32,000 earthquakes and has changed the way that the public learns about and understands earthquakes through its open format.

On 14 November 2016, the day of the Kaikoura 7.8 magnitude earthquake, there were 250 million hits to the site by third party apps – people around the world wanted to know the strength of the earthquake and what that meant for them. Geonet sent out 206 million advisories that day through its app, website, and social media sites.

Due to the reach of Geonet, there is increasing information on a variety of safety protocols like where one must move to avoid tsunamis and advice about what size after-shock to expect. Worldwide, new knowledge and research has been developed through legal reuse of this licensed data.

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The Universidad de la República’s Colibri repository rapidly spreads open access to academic research through Uruguay while increasing awareness of the importance of open licenses.

Colibri: Communities by the Universidad de la República is licensed CC BY-NC-ND

The Universidad de la República is the main university in Uruguay and is public, free, and open to all students. The Colibri project’s leaders hope that the experience of the benefits of open access will convince the university to move from more restrictive licenses, like CC BY-NC-ND, to more open licenses, like CC BY-SA.

In 2016 alone, the university’s collections have added 6,132 new works, 60 new collections, 3,012,107 searches, and 954,475 downloads.

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United Kingdom

The British Museum and Sketchfab

The British Museum releases 128 models to Sketchfab, providing greater access and interaction with the museum’s 3D collection than ever before.

Screen capture from 3d model: Granite head of Amenemhat III by The British Museum via Sketchfab is licensed CC BY-NC 4.0
Background photo: ‘Black’ Pyramid of Amenemhet III by Vincent Brown is licensed CC BY 2.0

In addition to offering CC licensing, 3D content publishing platform Sketchfab makes it easy for the museum to share posts on social media and WordPress with an embeddable widget. The British Museum’s sculpture collection, which ranges from the iconic statue of Ramses II to a model of the museum itself, leads to wider interaction with cultural heritage and 3D modeling and printing. Because the CC BY-NC license enables downloading of the files, the works can be shared in a variety of manners as well.

The museum has uploaded or remixed over 100 discrete works and models to its collection, which has had more than 200,000 views and 20,000 downloads since its inception.

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UNIR Open Educators Factory

The Universidad Internacional de la Rioja launches the Open Educators Factory platform for university professors to learn and connect about open education practices.

Image provided by Fabio Nascimbeni, UNIR is licensed CC BY 4.0

The UNIR is a global, 100% open online university founded in Logroño, Spain in 2009. The Open Educators Factory platform, a new project by the Vice-chancellorship for Knowledge Transfer & Technology, aims at improving the capacity of university educators to use open approaches in their daily teaching work. By filling out a questionnaire, university professors and lecturers can self-assess their “openness capacity” in terms of open design, open content, open pedagogies, and open evaluation practices. They can also receive personalized guidelines (readings, videos, courses) to further adopt openness in all dimensions of their activities. At the same time, university leaders who want to improve the openness capacity of their teaching staff can evaluate how their staff “position” with respect to different openness dimensions, identifying open education champions who can inspire others to adopt open approaches.

In only a few years, UNIR has graduated over 38,900 students from 79 countries and provided over 1,350 hours of online classes. It employs over 1,000 lecturers around the world and 500 administrative and support experts. The university’s success in its mission, which links education to business, is helping global education embrace openness and innovate openly.

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IQRA University

At IQRA University in Karachi, Pakistan, the South Asian Journal of Management Sciences is named one of the leading journals in the world by ScholarOne of Thomson Reuters.

Background photo: IQRA University Main Campus by Hassan Dar is licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Using Creative Commons has allowed the biannual peer-reviewed journal to adopt a more diverse perspective in regards to language, religion, culture, politics, technology, and economics. It has been CC BY-SA-licensed since 2014 and cited 95 times since 2012.

The adoption of the license has made it easier for researchers to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, including remix. This year, the journal received a top honor in higher education from the government of Pakistan and took steps to join OASPA, the prestigious Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association.

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El Salvador

Datos El Salvador

El Salvador’s first open data portal,, is created by citizens and completely licensed with Creative Commons.

Since 2014, has published more than 500 sources of data that have been reused by entrepreneurs, journalists, and researchers, among others. A project of CC El Salvador and Open Knowledge International El Salvador, has participated in many conferences and events for co-creation such as Open Knowledge Day in 2014 and 2017 while using open data and open licenses. This year, the project was shortlisted for the Open Data Institute’s Open Data social impact award. In 2016, team members translated the Sunlight Foundation’s documents, presented at PeaceTechLab in Costa Rica, and created a series of visualizations for the City of Xalapa and the OAS virtual campus.

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United States

OpenStax Physics

The OpenStax College Physics textbook is used by hundreds of thousands of students worldwide, and adapted by educators into videos and other educational materials.

Screen capture from College Physics iBook by OpenStax is licensed CC BY 3.0
Background photo: Seminar on differential equations and integration theory by Milan Tvrdy is public domain via Public Domain Mark

OpenStax Physics image by Rice University is licensed CC BY 4.0

The textbook and videos of OpenStax Physics not only create a valuable resource for physics courses, they’re available for everyone. Any student using the resources – and of course, anyone at all, no matter what textbook they use – can use the videos as a supplementary resource. In addition, instructors can utilize the College Physics text to create their own educational materials like the video lectures created by Barbara Gilbert at Central New Mexico Community College. In these lectures, freely available on YouTube, Professor Gilbert outlines the physics concepts described in the text, works out sample problems, and helps students practice completing formulas and graphs. Professor Gilbert’s videos have almost 4,000 total views.

CC BY-licensed and costing less than $50 in print and $0 online, College Physics has saved students over $30,000,000 since it was published – nearly $11,000,000 this year alone. It has been used by 110,861 students during the current academic year, and 306,932 students since it was published.

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Platform Spotlights

We work with content platforms to make it easy to discover, share, and collaborate on creativity and knowledge. Here are some of the most exciting creators and projects from our platform partners in 2016.
858,000 CC-licensed images

Since its launch in 2009, 500px has carved out a niche in the photo-saturated web as a platform and marketplace for sharing and discovering high quality images by independent photographers. In just one year, 500px photographers contributed nearly 200k photos under CC licenses, growing the total of CC-licensed images on the platform to 858,019.

Photographer Moe Zoyari captures and publishes a set of award-winning photos featuring everyday Afghans attempting to rebuild their lives after war.

Background photo: Iran by Moe Zoyari is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Moe Zoyari​ is a Berlin-based Iranian photographer and multimedia producer whose work has been featured in Newsweek, Time, and Der Spiegel. Before relocating to Berlin from Iran, he spent 44 days in Afghanistan as a photojournalist with the U.S. army, where he captured everyday Afghans attempting to rebuild their lives after war. He released a set of these photos on 500px under CC licenses; the photos were featured in Marie Claire and won him the grand prize of the PDNedu photo contest. He has been praised by Pulitzer Prize Winner Kim Komenich for his rare skill set that combines “the poetic ability to capture a moment of intimacy in a grand vista with the people skills necessary to strike up an intimate photographic relationship with a room full of strangers.” His photos on 500px have been viewed more than 44,000 times.

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108,000 CC-licensed tracks

The Free Music Archive is a community of independent artists who thrive on musical collaborations. 97% of FMA tracks are CC-licensed or public domain, and in one year FMA artists have contributed an additional 22,000 tracks, bringing the grand total of CC works to be 108,770.

Spotlight: The Freeharmonic Orchestra

A dozen artists from around the world connect via FMA to produce the collaborative album “Freeharmonics Volume 1”.

The paradigm of musical collaboration, the Freeharmonic Orchestra is a group of 12 musicians from around the world brought together by the Free Music Archive. Spearheaded by Steve Combs and Simon Mathewson, the dozen artists worked in groups of three on three tracks each in a round robin array, either starting or finishing their pieces together. The result was the CC BY-licensed album Freeharmonics (Vol. 1), along with the stem pack made available for further remixing. Two members of the group were interviewed for an episode of the Radio Free Culture podcast, which you can check out here.

“I think the key thing of the whole project is getting people from all around the globe to get together in a virtual room and make art… and that’s the wonderful thing about [FMA].” – The Freeharmonic Orchestra

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27.7 million CC-licensed digital objects

Europeana is Europe’s digital library, offering over 54 million records of cultural heritage from more than 3,500 cultural institutions. Thanks to CC0, these records are free of restrictions and may be accessed via Europeana’s API. Europeana's records also provide valuable information about the copyright status of the millions of objects housed at Europe’s cultural institutions. To date, 27,712,679 objects are available under CC licenses or in the public domain. Works in the public domain are by far the largest group with over 12 million records. The majority of these works are images and texts, in addition to videos, audio recordings and 3D objects.

The Hamburg Museum of Art and Design launches an online platform providing access to more than 7,000 public domain works of Art Nouveau and ancient photos of Japan.

Background photo: Der Schauspieler Segawa Kikunojō III als Utsusemi, Blatt 3 aus der Serie: Die 54 Kapitel des Edo Violett by Utagawa Kunisada via MKG Sammlung Online is public domain via CC0

As a Europeana partner, the Hamburg Museum of Art and Design contains more than half a million works from the fine, applied, and decorative arts. Recently, the museum launched an online platform that released an initial collection of over 7,000 images of public domain objects to the public via CC0. Providing these photos aligns with the museum’s founding mission “to offer persons working in the arts and crafts examples for study and imitation so as to improve the quality of the work of the regional workshops.”

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42.5 million CC-licensed articles

The world’s largest encyclopedia is completely collaborative and openly licensed, with 100% of Wikipedia articles under CC BY-SA. To date, ~2.5 million Wikipedia volunteers have contributed 42.5 million articles in 294 languages.

Spotlight: 17th Century Map of Iceland

An otherwise obscure 17th century map of Iceland is used to illustrate the Wikipedia article on Iceland, resulting in the map’s increased views and use during the 2016 Euro football tournament.

The map was digitized and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections under CC BY, and subsequently used to illustrate the English and German Wikipedia articles on the country of Iceland. The readership for these Wikipedia articles increased during the 2016 Euro football tournament, when football fans eager to learn more about Iceland clicked on the article and map in exponential numbers on the 27th of June (when Iceland defeated England 2-1). Instead of sitting stagnant in the University’s collection, the map has been viewed over 3.4 million times on Wikipedia.

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381 Million CC-licensed Images

Flickr continues to be the largest online image platform with 381,101,415 CC-licensed or public domain images. Since Flickr added the CC0 and Public Domain Mark options last year, users have shared over 4.5 million images in the public domain.

Spotlight: The Multimedia Commons Initiative

After Flickr’s release of the metadata for 100 million of its CC-licensed photos and videos (the YFCC100M dataset) teams of researchers around the world use it to build applications, experiment with 3D reconstructions, and explore people’s interaction with places.

Screen capture of a search for “3d model” from the YFCC100m Browser. For the CC license on each image, please click through results at the site.
Background photo: “3D Hackerspace Berlin _MG_3817” by BERLIN in 3D is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In 2014, Yahoo Labs and Flickr released the Yahoo-Flickr Creative Commons 100 Million dataset containing the metadata for 99.2 million images and 800,000 videos that had been uploaded to Flickr under one of the CC licenses. Since then a multi-institution collaboration and research community called the Multimedia Commons Initiative has sprung up around the dataset, with researchers contributing additional features and annotations and experimenting with new methods of analysis, categorization, and search. The dataset has been used for research in fields such as computer vision, image processing, and video content analysis. For example, researchers have been able to reconstruct 3D structures from 2D images, in addition to using geotags of images to explore people’s interaction with places. Many of these additional data discoveries are shared back with the community via CC0, and thanks to this community the YFCC100M dataset has been requested for use by researchers over 1,400 times in 172 languages, resulting in 160 research citations.

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160,000 CC-licensed Research Articles

Since 2000, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) has been furthering open access to scientific research. 16 years later, it has published more than 160,000 articles under CC BY, with PLOS ONE, the world’s first multidisciplinary Open Access journal, publishing 5% of its articles under CC0. PLOS is just one of many open access publishers, however, with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) reporting more than 2 million articles published on the web under CC, with 52% published using the OA gold standard license of CC BY.

Spotlight: Open Access Media Importer by Visualizing Complex Science

The Visualizing Complex Science team create the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI) to make science multimedia accessible to the public.

Visualizing Complex Science consists of Daniel Mietchen, Raphael Wimmer and Nils Dagsson Moskopp. The team created the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI), a bot that could scrape and download supplementary multimedia files from Open Access science articles, repositories, and data stores. To date, the bot has uploaded more than 13,000 files to Wikimedia Commons and been used in more than 135 English Wikipedia articles that together have garnered more than 3 million views. Visualizing Complex Science was recognized for its efforts by the Accelerating Science Awards Program (ASAP), of which PLOS was a major sponsor.

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157,000 public domain photos

Unsplash is a unique photo-sharing platform whose community adheres to strong social norms for sharing and attribution, despite, or maybe because of, the fact that all 157,200 photos are actively contributed by 29,000 photographers using CC0, who are effectively placing their works into the public domain.

Photographer Samuel Zeller leverages the Unsplash platform to gain notoriety, traffic, distribution, and business clients for his work.

Background photo: Geneva Arena, Le Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland by Samuel Zeller is public domain via CC0

A freelance photographer based in Geneva, Switzerland, Samuel Zeller is one of the most successful photographers in Unsplash’s community. In an enthusiastic post on Medium (also CC licensed), Zeller notes that he used CC-licensed assets for years without giving back, until he discovered Unsplash and started giving away some of his photos for free. His exposure skyrocketed; to date his Unsplash photos have been viewed over 73 million times and downloaded more than 745,000 times and his work was featured in an Apple presentation. People from all over the world are creating new works with his photos, including websites, album covers, iPhone App backgrounds, and book covers. Due to the exposure, his work attracts clients who commission him to shoot specific images, and traffic to his portfolio and various websites has grown. Today, in addition to his CC0 photos on Unsplash, he offers a separate portfolio of his work to the public for free under CC BY.

“My photography keeps improving, more people stumble on my work and I’ve got more contacts, more projects and clients than before. An image has value because someone has an use for it. The images I give away for free are like a teaser of what I can do.” – Samuel Zeller

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5.8 million CC-licensed videos

Known for its high quality videos and community of filmmakers, Vimeo continues to diversify its services while maintaining a steady growth of CC-licensed videos.

Spotlight: “Alike,” a short film

Openly developed and licensed, award-winning short film “Alike” is viewed on Vimeo more than 1.5 million times.

Screen capture from Alike short film by Pepe School Land is licensed CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

“Alike” was directed by Daniel Martinez Lara and Rafa Cano Mende, and was made in collaboration with ex Pepe-School-Land students. The film was developed using the open source operating system Linux and Blender, a free and open source 3D creation suite. The film has debuted at 120 festivals and won nearly as many awards.

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One Year On: 257,000 CC-licensed posts

Since Medium added CC options for its users in 2015, nearly 260,000 posts have been published under CC licenses or in the public domain for liberal sharing and reuse. Since May 2015, CC and public domain stories on Medium have been read for a total of 66,887,202 minutes, which is more than 127 years!

Journalist Scott Santens publishes a widely read Medium piece warning that deep learning versions of AI are set to replace millions of human jobs.

Background photo: Image ne yearf Scott Santens by Collision Conf is licensed CC BY 2.0

Santens is a New Orleans-based writer who has written for the Boston Globe and The Atlantic on topics concerning artificial intelligence and universal basic income. He has over 17,000 followers on Medium, and his CC-licensed piece on deep learning received over 3,000 recommends and 98,000 reads. The piece is fascinating not just for highlighting world champion Le Se-dol’s defeat to a machine at the game Go, or “Super Ultra Mega Chess,” but for the warning that these deep learning versions of AI are set to replace many millions of human jobs. Feel free to share, excerpt, and translate the post with attribution to Scott Santens.

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30 million CC-licensed videos

Since YouTube first enabled CC BY licensing for its users in 2012, the number of videos under CC has steadily grown, totaling 30 million videos to date. CC BY videos may be remixed within YouTube’s video editor, where CC BY-licensed music is also available to be synced with videos.

Spotlight: Public.Resource.Org

With over 5,000 CC BY-licensed videos about and by the U.S. government agencies, Public.Resource.Org is one of YouTube’s top CC users.

Screen capture from Stay Calm and Stay in the Cab! by PublicResourceOrg is licensed CC BY 3.0

Public.Resource.Org works with U.S. government agencies to digitize and upload videos to YouTube and the Internet Archive for greater viewership and participation by citizens. To date, the PublicResourceOrg channel has had over 47 million views. Its most popular video is from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which tells the story of a bulldozer operator buried in a coal surge pile cavity and his safe rescue.

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1.6 million CC-licensed 3D designs

A thriving platform and community of 3D designers, Thingiverse is host to 1,620,394 and growing 3D designs contributed by its users under one of the CC licenses or CC0. CC-licensed designs constitute 98% of all works on the platform, which are provided as 3D model files.

3D designer MacGyver’s Human Skull with Mandible and Teeth is transformed into a candy dish thanks to five levels of remix by the Thingiverse community.

Background photo: TriSkullQuadraClops Candy Dish by infamousriz is licensed CC BY 3.0

Thingiverse user MacGyver created the initial design of a Human Skull with Mandible and Teeth in 2012 and shared it on the platform under CC BY. In 2013, MacGyver remixed the design into a Sliced Human Skull with Mandible and Teeth and in 2014, user LeFabShop simplified this design into a cleverly titled skull called, To Make or Not to Make. In 2015, user OpenSourceClassroom multiplied this design into TriSkull, and finally in 2016, user infamousriz transformed TriSkull into an adorable, multi-functional Candy Dish.

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532,000 CC-licensed tracks

Since Jamendo was founded in 2004, it has evolved from a small indie CC music community to a thriving platform for music sharing, streaming, and commercial licensing in addition to CC. To date, 99.8% of Jamendo’s catalog is available under CC licenses, with a grand total of 532,929 tracks that are shared by more than 40,000 artists from over 150 countries around the world.

Spotlight: StrangeZero

StrangeZero, a two-man electronic band from Greece, releases 8 albums and 2 EPs on Jamendo under CC, leading to video and photo collaborations with other artists and increased awareness of free music.

Screen capture from StrangeZero - Nanofly by strangezero and Gregοry Cοlbert is licensed CC BY 3.0

Strangezero saw Jamendo not only as a musical distribution platform but as a way to participate in and empower the world of free music, increasing awareness about Creative Commons licenses as a sharing mechanism for the arts. The Greek public recognized their efforts, and the band was featured on MTV Greece and MAD TV, where it highlighted Creative Commons as contributing to its success and discussed CC’s larger role within the music industry. To date, StrangeZero’s albums have been listened to 1.9 million times on Jamendo, with over 200,000 downloads.

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29.4 million CC-licensed files

Wikimedia Commons is the media file repository for Wikipedia and all other Wikimedia projects, which means that most images illustrating Wikipedia articles come from this repository. The majority of files are images, but Wikimedia Commons also contains audio, video, and documents. To date 29,429,971 files exist under a CC license or public domain tool, which is 84.8% of all files in the repository.

The 2016 Wiki Loves Monuments competition draws nearly 11,000 users from 42 countries to contribute photographs of historic monuments and heritage sites to the commons.

Background photo: Wat Arun by BerryJ is licensed CC BY SA 4.0

Wiki Loves Monuments is an annual international competition to photograph and upload images of historic monuments and heritage sites around the world to Wikimedia Commons. 2016’s competition drew 277,365 entries from 10,748 participants in 42 countries. The winning image was of an historic Berlin courthouse by Ansgar Koreng under CC BY.

“If Wikipedia is the story of the world, Wiki Loves Monuments could well be its most beautiful slide show.” – Jeff Elder, Wikimedia Foundation

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Thank you for sharing

This year’s State of the Commons report tells the story of the commons as it enters an exciting new period. Work that began with Creative Commons’ founding 15 years ago and the birth of the now-ubiquitous CC licenses have brought us to here, where the collective expanse of the commons exceeds 1.2 billion CC-licensed works, ranging across content as varied as educational resources and open data, research and music, video and photography – and much more.

Yet this number – 1.2 billion – tells only part of the story. What is made possible when individuals and institutions around the world not only make their knowledge and creativity freely available, but take up the baton from those who have shared content themselves to drive those ideas forward? Sharing is the beginning of every licensed work, but collaboration is the end goal. Each applied CC license marks not only a slice of content, a creative work, or a product of years of research – but an invitation to work together — often asynchronously — to build something new. The commons is a powerful and endless act of co-creation and collective action.

CC’s story has long been one of sharing creativity and knowledge among people around the world. Now, more than ever, it is the story of community: the global community that has grown around the values we share and the change we seek to advance in our local communities. As we conclude this year’s State of the Commons report, we also look to the year ahead, in which CC’s global community will launch its first collaboratively developed network strategy, a plan for the future of the network developed by individuals the world over who have helped make CC and the global commons what it is today.

The power and the lasting impact of our shared purpose and the commons we’ve made possible together is embodied in the energy and creativity of the projects you’ve seen here. We hope that the selections within this report shed light both on what has been achieved to date – and what potential still lies ahead.

We thank Google and the many CC platforms, partners, institutions, and individuals from the broader open web community who contributed essential data and information for this report. The State of the Commons report is possible due to your valuable contributions – thank you!

We would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to this year’s State of the Commons report. Thank you!

Growth data

Erin Simon, Google
Agnes Toth, Google
Brendan Hickey, Google
Pavel Nalivayko, Google
Gergely Orban, Google
Paul Haahr, Google

Impact stories

African Storybook Initiative was contributed by Tessa Welch
Coutinho Collection was contributed by Jos Damen
Horison was contributed by CC Indonesia
GeoNet was contributed by CC Aotearoa New Zealand
The British Museum and Sketchfab was contributed by Alban Denoyel
UNIR Open Education was contributed by Fabio Nascimbeni
Datos El Salvador was contributed by Datos El Salvador
COLIBRI was contributed by Jorge Gemetto
IQRA University was contributed by Amber Osman
Maya Zankoul was contributed by Naeema Zarif
OpenStax Physics was contributed by Sonya Bennett-Brandt
Dr. Amin Azzam was contributed by TJ Bliss

Platform data and spotlights

Joris Pekel, Europeana
Antje Schmidt, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Martin Guerber, Jamendo
Cheyenne Hohman, Free Music Archive
Ross Oldenburg, Free Music Archive
Sylvia Ng, 500px
Summer Hu, 500px
Paul Friesen, 500px
Heather Balmain, 500px
Neil P. Quinn, Wikimedia Foundation
Guillaume Paumier, Wikimedia Foundation
Juliet Barbara, Wikimedia Foundation
Alex Stinson, Wikimedia Foundation
Maria Cruz, Wikimedia Foundation
Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at University of Edinburgh
Sean McGilvray, Vimeo
Brian Carver, YouTube
Alex Feerst, Medium
Jamie Talbot, Medium
Scott Santens, Writer
David Knutson, PLOS
Donna Okubo, PLOS
Kathryn Hurley, Makerbot
Frank Polcino, Makerbot
Tony Buser, Makerbot
Danielle Ward, DeviantArt
Matt Lee,


Arabic – Bilal Randeree, Ziad Bennour, Fawzi Baroud, Zahra Shikara, Abir Bouguerra
Catalan – Ignasi Labastida i Juan
Czech – Lucie Straková, Matěj Myška
German – John Weitzmann, Paul Klimpel, Alexander Baratsits, Daniel Hürlimann, Simon Schlauri, Anke Obendiek
Hindi – Sanket Oswal
Indonesian – Hilman Fathoni, Alifia Qonita Sudharto
Japanese – Tasuku Mizuno, Mitsuru Maekawa, Tomo Watanabe, Maki Higashikubo
Korean – Soohyun Pae
Malay – Muid Latif
Slovak – Angela Sobolčiaková, Silvia Lattová
Spanish – Evelin Heidel, Jorge Gemetto, Claudia Cristiani
Ukrainian – Maksym Naumko
Yoruba – Kayode Yussuf


Data Notes & Sources

Show Acknowledgements