Photo by the Government of Odisha, CC BY 4.0.

The government of Odisha has become the first state entity in India to release all of its social media posts under a free Creative Commons license, allowing people from around the world to freely re-use the government’s content in projects like Wikipedia.

The pilot project, which covers eight of the state’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram,[1] releases a veritable treasure trove of public interest photos and media. This has already had an impact; on Wikipedia, for instance, volunteers have added government images to articles about Rathajatra, Konark Sun Temple, and others.

“This content release should serve as a model for governments around the world,” said Asaf Bartov, Senior Program Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation. “Releasing the Odisha government’s content under a free license will allow anyone to use, share, and build upon their work.”

In general, you don’t have permission to use a work unless you are given permission, such as under a Creative Commons license. Until 14 September, that lack of permission included anything shared by the Odisha government on social media. This restriction means that it can be difficult to share content on Wikipedia—one of the most popular websites in the world, committed to free and open copyright licenses from its earliest days on the internet—and elsewhere, even that created and shared by government bodies for public use and consumption.

This limitation has significant real-world impact, but in Odisha, a state in eastern India, this is quickly changing. Earlier this year, the Odia language Wikipedia community collaborated with the Odisha state’s Youth and Sports Services department to relicense the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships’ website. By doing so, nearly 350 images were added to articles in 35 different language Wikipedias.

Similarly, the Odisha government’s most recent decision to re-license its social media content under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, abbreviated as CC BY 4.0, will help illustrate a number of topics.

The Odia Wikipedia community would like to thank Manoj Kumar Mishra, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister’s Office, for understanding the value of open content and implementing the change so quickly. The government’s decision, on 14 September 2017, came less than 24 hours after volunteer editors of the Odia language Wikipedia met with Mr. Mishra.

“The present government, under the leadership of Sri Naveen Patnaik, has been focussing of Transparency, Technology and Teamwork—a 3T bulwark to deliver better governance to citizens more efficiently,” the Chief Minister’s office says. “When the Wikipedia volunteers met with us, we had no hesitation to partner and share our content with one of the largest information hubs in the web space. We firmly believe that information is power, and that power must be vested with people. Government programs must reach to people, and knowledge through information can solve many last mile issues. We look forward to stronger information partnerships in the future.”

If you would like to license your work under a Creative Commons license, please visit their website for more information. (To be compatible with Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, a free media file repository that hosts many of the images used on Wikipedia, you must allow adaptations and commercial uses.)

Sailesh Patnaik and Mrutyunjaya Kar, Odia Wikipedia community volunteers

Footnote

  1. The accounts include:

    The Odisha state government is in planning to re-license their official websites as well.