Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare
This initiative has been making all MIT course materials (unit outlines, lesson plans etc) available for free reuse by the general public since 2002. It currently includes materials for more than 1900 courses which have been accessed by more than 62 million separate visitors. The materials are available via a dedicated website under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike licence. MIT has reported widely on the benefits it gains from providing open access to its materials, including increased profile, higher-quality materials and improved student and community engagement.

Following the success of the MIT project, an OpenCourseWare Consortium has been established making course materials from hundreds of universities internationally available for free online, including Oxford University, John Hopkins and UC Berkley.

The Flickr Commons
This project, part of Google’s Flickr image portal, has seen 20 museums internationally, including the Australian War Memorial, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the State Library of New South Wales, the State Library of Queensland and the Powerhouse Museum, upload tens of thousands of public domain images to a dedicated group, with their copyright marked as “No known restrictions”. The initiative has had particular success as an audience engagement mechanism, with hundreds of tags, identification of objects and places, vastly increased web traffic and improved awareness of the collections of the institutions involved. The Powerhouse Museum’s Flickr Commons participation is particularly notable, as it has seen the museum release high resolution copies of many of its most highly valued images for free online. Paula Bray of the Powerhouse has reported that the museum’s participation in this initiative has resulted in an increase in photograph sales and, taking all factors into account, has most likely produced a net profit for the museum. The Museum is now building open access into its digital strategy and key performance indicators (see here).

**The Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum has embraced open access principles across their collections policy. Not only are they major contributors to the Flickr Commons project, they also identify public domain material on their website and license the website and their online image collection by default under a Creative Commons licence. Initially having chosen the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives licence, which only allows distribution, they later moved to the broader Attribution-NonCommercial, which also allows remixing. They now provide API access to this collection, allowing users to incorporate the material directly into their own web 2.0 applications. The Brooklyn Museum has also run a music remix contest with Blondie‘s Chris Stein as part of their Who Shot Rock and Roll exhibition. Read more about The Brooklyn Museum’s open access initiatives here.

The German Federal Archive has released 100,000 photographs for free reuse on Wiki Commons. Similar to the Powerhouse Museum’s experience, the Archive has reported that sales of prints of the photographs have doubled since the release – see a presentation about the initiative here.

This Dutch institution has collaborated with the local Wikimedia community, by inviting Wikimedia members to document public domain materials in the museum’s collection (eg through photography). This provided free preservation and metadata for the museum while at the same time overcoming copyright barriers for reuse of the material on Wikipedia – see further in this video.

Project Guttenberg
This US-initiated project has been ‘encouraging the creation and distribution’ of free ebooks since 1971, in collaboration with national affiliates around the world. The project currently provides digital copies of over 100,000 public domain books in multiple formats, all of which have been created and provided entirely by volunteers.

The Smithsonian
In August the US’s largest museum released their Web and New Media Strategy, which aims to encourage sharing of Smithsonian materials and lay the groundwork for a Smithsonian Commons, described as “a new part of our digital presence dedicated to stimulating learning, creation, and innovation through open access to Smithsonian research, collections and communities.” The development of the strategy followed positive experiences from the Museum’s involvement with the Flickr Commons project, among other test projects. Importantly, this participation reversed a long running institutional policy of controlling public domain material via restrictive terms of use and licensing fees. The strategy itself is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.

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