“Transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.”

Remarks from Ryan Merkley at the opening of #CMAOpenAccess

I’m so thrilled to be here with you to celebrate this announcement. I want to begin with gratitude: to William, to Jane, and to the board for their leadership and vision, and to the staff at CMA.

Creative Commons is the creator of the CC licenses, used every day to share content and creativity online. Our licenses power the free knowledge on Wikipedia, open up the photos on Flickr, and unlock academic journals around the world. They have been used over 1.4 billion times, on over 9 million websites. They allow people and institutions to share creative works under simple, clear, legal terms.

And the CMA has chosen CC0, our public domain tool, to declare and digitally mark their works as free and unrestricted for all, everywhere in the world.

This is a massive undertaking. And massive undertakings only succeed because of sincere leadership and commitment.

Fortunately, the Cleveland Museum of Art has leadership and commitment in abundance. When I was here in December, Bill was emphatic in his enthusiasm and support for this work and its potential. That excitement was clearly infectious.

I’m here to tell you, as someone who works with institutions around the world, and leads a community that operates in over 80 countries, that this is a big deal.

It’s great for the museum, for the digital public domain, and for the broader world of art museums. Let me tell you why:

Museum: You already know the CMA has a world class collection. But the world doesn’t. And even if they do, too few will ever get to walk the halls of this spectacular building and see these works up close. But through this initiative, they can, at the highest quality, no matter where they are. And our experience has shown that sharing these works openly online drives profile, prestige, interest, and even attendance.

Public domain: The public domain is the grand sum of freely available human creativity and knowledge. Not only is it ours to enjoy, but also to build upon and use. But all too few have access to these works. And this is a big year for the public domain. For the first time in 20 years, new works are entering the public domain in the US. These works, after their copyrights expire, are meant to belong to all of us. And this initiative ensures they are as accessible as possible, and extends the value they have far beyond the walls of this institution, for everyone, forever.

Art world: Today’s announcement builds on the best work done by museums around the world who put their commitment to engaging and educating the public up front. It also shows new leadership, especially on the part of the technical team at the museum, who are releasing a public API alongside the content. That means partners like Creative Commons can use digital tools to access the collections database and the underlying works, and extend its reach for easier discovery and reuse. These works are being released with some of the most comprehensive contextual data possible, making them ideal for study and re-use in a myriad of ways. That’s a gift to everyone.

Creative Commons product and legal teams have worked with the CMA to integrate their collection in CC Search, which today indexes over 268 million works from across the commons, and as of this morning includes all 30,000 images shared as part of this announcement.

I hope this model of working closely together with visionary organizations will be one that we can replicate with other museums, and that this will become the new standard by which institutions share and engage with the public online.

Congratulations and thank you to everyone at the Cleveland Museum, who have put in hundreds of hours of work to pull this together, with much more work to do. I’m confident it will pay dividends to the museum, and establish it as a leading player in the digital public domain. Most importantly, I can’t think of a better way to achieve your mission to create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.