Two weeks ago, Elsevier and MIT announced a deal allowing MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) project free use of a limited amount of images and text from Elsevier journals, all under a Creative Commons license. The limits are up to 3 figures per article or 100 words of text. On the text side, fair-use still prevails, so scholars can use more than 100 words if that constitutes fair-use. (There are more caveats around the limits, but these are the fundamentals.)
It seems that despite temptations to portray this solely in an idealistic light, the deal also provides many pragmatic benefits to Elsevier – good PR, better academic relations, and elimination of persnickety permissions requests. It makes sense that such a deal between players like MIT and Elsevier would have to possess both idealistic and pragmatic dimensions to exist.
I also haven’t been able to find information about which Creative Commons license this deal is based upon.