Space Science as a creative commons?

At this year’s re:publica, Europe’s largest conference on the digital society, I had the pleasure to give a talk with subsequent discussion on the topic “Space Science as a creative commons?” among other things (read more about these in my next blog post). The respective presentation can be found on slideshare:

Space science as a creative commons? from Marco Trovatello

As my goal was to cover at least some major aspects with regard to the status quo of Open Science and Open Access I did a bit of research with interesting findings: While DLR, german space agency and research centre for aeronautics and space, has a more liberal approach with regard to sharing its public imagery, videos etc. by licencing under Creative Commons, it has a strict approach with regard to Data: no open access here, non-commercial use of data is mostly subject to submitting a scientific proposal (example), which prevents not just interested laypeople, but also e.g. pupils and students from freely using the data. Commercial use of data is, e.g. in the case of DLR’s Earth observation missions like TerraSAR-X or TanDEM-X, managed by Astrium Geo due to a public-private partnership.

A multilateral mission like Mars Express (by ESA, DLR and many others) for example follows a quite liberal data policy: After a blocking period of six months, data is freely available via the web. Also, ESA missions like Planck (see Planck Legacy Archive) or the Sentinel earth observation missions follow a full and open access approach.

Discussion following

Discussion following “Space as a creative commons?” talk. Image credit: republica, CC-BY.

Subsequent to my talk, a small but nice discussion took place with John Weitzmann (Creative Commons Germany,, Paul Klimpel (, Mathias Schindler (Wikimedia Germany), Kirsten Rulf (TV-correspondent for German national TV news Tagesschau) and some more. The discussion was quite controversial at times, but always full of insight. Thanks to all who joined!

Please take a look at the slides – and post a comment in case you have any further questions, amendments or corrections for me. Many thanks go to my partners and colleagues Fernando Doblas, Head of the Communication Department of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Bob Jacobs, Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA‘s Office of Communications, for providing me with statements on the status quo of licencing and copyright matters with regard to their agencies.

Here’s the original re:publica session announcement:

NASA, the United States government agency for aeronautics and space, provides all of its own images without copyright and under public domain. Why? The answer is simple: Tax-funded so-called ‘government works” are excluded from copyright law. Hardly any other space agency has followed this liberal approach so far.

OK, Copyright in the United States differs from e.g. Copyright in Germany or respectively Europe, but nevertheless, one may realise a – even if small – trend towards liberation and opening also of this specific kind of tax-funded content and data: DLR German Aerospace Center, space agency as well as research center for aeronautics and space with 7000+ employees, took an important step forward in March 2012 as it officially began licensing its own media under Creative Commons. The decent storm of enthusiasm by media and the digital public was preceded by a considerable process of coordination and creation of confidence among all persons and entities involved.

This is what Marco Trovatello’s session will be about. He managed the conversion from traditional “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved” for DLR’s own media – and will provide insight and perhaps also some clues on how to turn your research centre away from anachronistic conditions of use and towards transpartent licensing.

Annotation: The focus of the talk will be on multimedia content such as space images, videos etc. provided for use by the general public, Open Access and use of Open Data will only play a minor role, although the presenter – a science communicator, not a scientist – will try to address also these important topics.

An approx 15 to 20 minutes talk shall flow into an open and laid-back discussion with the audience on the topic of copyright and commons with regard to space images, space science, the creative sector and beyond. On the panel, John Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead, Creative Commons Germany, and Mathias Schindler, Project Manager, Wikimedia Germany, will join in on the discussion.


P.S.: Use of NASA, ESA and DLR logo with friendly permission of the respective agencies.

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