Other | 01. March 2012 | posted by Marco Trovatello | 24 Comments

Creative Commons: the 'Everyone licence' and DLR’s content

Creative Commons and DLR
Creative Commons and DLR

It all began when Mathias Schindler of Wikimedia Germany contacted us here at the DLR Communications Department in May 2009 with an enquiry regarding the usage rights for DLR image material by Wikipedia and the associated Wikimedia Commons media archive. Here is a brief summary of the telephone conference that followed shortly afterwards – if DLR content, specifically our image material, continues to be associated with traditional ‘all rights reserved’ terms of use, it cannot be used by, for example, Wikipedia. The use of the Creative Commons (CC) licensing model might represent a solution.

The Creative Commons license model is a modular system of licensing and terms of use in which creators can determine the legal conditions under which their works are made publicly available. These licenses are made available free of charge by Creative Commons, a non-profit organisation, which has set itself the objective of enabling universal access to science, education and culture through the provision of a legal and technical infrastructure. Creative Commons was set up in 2001 by US Harvard and subsequently Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig (Blog/WP).

At the time of our discussion with Mathias Schindler, the Imprint/Legal Disclaimer of the DLR web portal contained the following terms of use:

'If not identified otherwise, all images or animations on the DLR Portal are copyright © DLR. All rights reserved. Images and animations on the DLR Portal may be used by press and media, or for personal information or educational purposes. Commercial use is subject to DLR permission.'

As a result of Matthias Schindler’s request, not only did it become clear to us that we would very much like to support Wikipedia here, but we also realised that we, as communicators of science and technology, were making the sharing and thus the distribution and reproduction of our contents by the general public and the media unnecessarily difficult. In addition, under a precise legal interpretation of our terms of use, we were not even unequivocally allowing the media to do this, as the publishers and companies in most cases are for-profit business enterprises.

As a consequence, we asked our Legal Affairs Department to prepare a legal assessment on the use of the Creative Commons licensing model for media owned by DLR with the following result:

'In our opinion, the use of CC licenses for media owned by DLR is legally permissible; in particular, it does not conflict with DLR’s statutory obligation to publish its research results ‘through appropriate measures’ , cf. section 1, subsection 2, last sentence of the DLR charter.'

It should be noted here that the above quote does not regard the detailed publication of research results in scientific journals (under the usual terms of use), but rather the publication, sharing and dissemination of content made available through the DLR web portal, including the multimedia portal, the DLR Magazine or DLR’s social media channels (e.g. Flickr), and in which DLR alone holds the copyright.


This Flickr slide show features some examples of DLR imagery licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-3.0-License.

It further says:

'In our opinion, a CC license is suitable to every case set out above. The purpose underlying the regulation in the charter is (over) fulfilled because, through the use of a CC license, additional usage rights are granted and thus, a higher degree of dissemination of the published media content owned by DLR will mostly be achieved. (...) Granting a simple usage right is legally common and is, in my view, coherent with DLR's licensing policy.'

The legal opinion deals with many other issues, but “no fundamental legal concerns” are seen with regard to the use of CC licenses at DLR for media owned by DLR.

As a consequence, we at the DLR Communications Department started to publish the first content under a CC license as early as the beginning of 2010:

Asteroid VestaWith the relaunch of the DLR web portal in July 2011, we took a step further and extended the credit line of published DLR images and videos – which up to that point had mostly said “Image/Video: DLR” and had regulated the usage rights on the basis of the conditions set out in the Imprint – with the addition of the Creative Commons license applicable for each case. In most cases the credit line now says “Image/Video: DLR (CC)-BY 3.0)” – both on the web portal and on platforms such as Youtube, Flickr, Facebook or Google+.

In the meantime, the Imprint of DLR’s web portal has also been adapted accordingly, and the terms of use changed to the Creative Commons license model, which now makes the ‘transition’ official. All six CC license options are in principle considered for all media content owned by DLR. In this context it is important sto note that the CC licenses are not explicitly applied to image and video productions prepared in cooperation with partners.

In using CC content, we are not just concerned with achieving the desired greater dissemination of DLR content, but also to support the vision of Creative Commons:

"Our vision is nothing less than realising the full potential of the Internet – universal access to research and education, full participation in culture – to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity."

– a vision that, as a matter of fact, is almost equivalent to our motto: "DLR – knowledge for tomorrow'.

Update, 1 March 2012, 11:31:

My colleague Henning Krause just reminded me that we already started making plans with regard to considering and using Creative Commons licenses in the second half of 2008. Mathias Schindlers enquiry in May 2009 then gave a fresh impetus.

The image on the right (showing asteroid Vesta in 3D) iis an example for non-CC-licensed content: It holds a multi-copyright credit line, in this case NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Use of the Creative Commons logo (which has been downloaded directly from http://creativecommons.org/about/downloads) is subject to the Creative Commons Trademark Policy.

Point of contact for enquiries: Marco Trovatello


About the author

As Head of the Cross-Media Section of DLR's Corporate Communications Department, Marco Trovatello was responsible for Communication across all media distribution channels. As of 1 May 2014, he serves as Cross-Media Coordinator and Strategy Advisor in the Corporate Communications Department of the European Space Agency ESA. to authorpage