This project, a joint effort of the Berkman Center, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute, with funding from Hewlett and Ford, undertook to examine the copyright licensing policies and practices of a group of private foundations. In particular, it looked at the extent to which charitable foundations are aware of and have begun to use open licenses such as Creative Commons or the GPL for the works they create and that they support with their funding. We surveyed foundation staff and leaders and examined a number of examples where foundations have begun to take advantage of new licensing models. Based on the survey results, foundation experiences and additional research, we identified a variety of significant benefits that the use of open licenses can bring to foundations and their charitable goals. In particular, open licenses permit knowledge and learning to be widely shared and more readily adapted, improved or built upon, and allow those later improvements to be readily distributed. The result can be dramatically faster and greater access to research, information, technologies and other resources in ways that directly benefit foundations' core missions and the public good.
The study sought to develop an analytical framework and set of factors that foundations can use to begin considering when and where the use of open licenses would further their mission and day-to-day work and where such licenses might not be useful or appropriate. It provides a great starting point for informed consideration of open licenses and the new opportunities they create for foundations and related organizations.