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ESA affirms open access policy for images, videos and data

20 February 2017. ESA announced it has adopted an Open Access policy for its content such as still images, videos and selected sets of data.

For more than two decades, ESA has been sharing vast amounts of information, imagery and data with scientists, industry, media and the public at large via digital platforms such as the web and social media. ESA’s evolving information management policy increases these opportunities.

In particular, a new Open Access policy for ESA’s information and data will now facilitate broadest use and reuse of the material for the general public, media, the educational sector, partners and anybody else seeking to utilise and build upon it.

“This evolution in opening access to ESA’s images, information and knowledge is an important element of our goal to inform, innovate, interact and inspire in the Space 4.0 landscape,” said Jan Woerner, ESA Director General. “It logically follows the free and open data policies we have already established and accounts for the increasing interest of the general public, giving more insight to the taxpayers in the member states who fund the Agency.

ESA, international organisations and Creative Commons

In conjunction with many other intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) such as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the World Health Organisation, who have recently adopted similar Open Access policies, ESA has decided to release more contents under the Creative Commons IGO licencing scheme, with the Open Access compliant Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO or, in short, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO licence as the standard.

CC IGO licences were designed for use by intergovernmental organisations and allow, in the case of CC BY-SA IGO, for example, images to be widely used on Wikipedia and its media repository Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past two years, ESA has trialled use of the CC BY-SA IGO licences and released images from the popular Rosetta comet-chasing mission, sets of Mars images as well as other imagery under that credit.

Creative Commons is a global non-profit organisation that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. It continues to be a major partner and facilitator with ESA and the other international organisations in using and further developing the licences.

Marco Trovatello, who follows the project for ESA, believes that “Free and open access to ESA’s knowledge, information and data are a cornerstone regarding our link with the larger public and user communities and will thus contribute to societal benefit.”

The ESA digital agenda

“The recognition of the value of information ESA holds on behalf of its member states and the appropriate management are key instruments of ESA’s Space 4.0 approach to reinforcing collaboration with industry, science and member states,” notes Gunther Kohlhammer, who as Chief Digital Officer oversees the ESA Digital Agenda for Space and ESA’s information management policy, the large projects that make ESA fit for a fully digital future.

Why subsets of content?

Many of ESA’s images, videos and other contents are produced with partners, for example, in science and industry. In this first phase of Open Access at ESA, priority is given to material that is either fully owned by ESA or for which third-party rights have already been cleared.

What is Open Access?

Generally speaking, Open Access stands for free and unrestricted online access to research results and findings. Usage rights are often granted via Creative Commons Licences. There is not one, but various statements and definitions of Open Access, such as the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, the Budapest Open Access Initiative or the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing.

Further information

A website pointing to sets of content already available under Open Access, a set of Frequently Asked Questions and further background information can be found at
More information on the ESA Digital Agenda for Space is available at