Open Ed - Week 6: Copyright and the Public Doman

Based on the readings for week 6 in the Introduction to Open Education Course, here are the questions we are pondering:

QUESTIONS: Understanding the importance and value of the public domain, how much (what percentage) of this value would you estimate is realized when works
are licensed with a Creative Commons or GFDL license? To what degree would the
open educational resources movement (and therefore the world) be additionally
benefited if OERs were simply placed in the public domain? Please explain.



Question 1:

Understanding the importance and value of the public domain,
how much (what percentage) of this value would you estimate is realized when
works are licensed with a Creative Commons or GFDL license?





To answer this question, one must first agree that there is inherent *value*
in the public domain and that this value is greater than can be found in
copyrighted works. While I agree there is value in society being able to access
works in the public domain, especially for education uses as discussed further
below, I cannot overlook the value of copyright to both society and individual
copyright holders. I believe copyright protections play a role in innovation.
Individuals receive protections which allow them to benefit (financially and
otherwise) from their works. In turn, these innovations better society. However,
I also appreciate the lost value associated with copyright protections. As
Pollack proposes in the
Value
of Public Domain
, reduced barriers can encourage more people to be creators
of derivative works. Further, as Lessig lays out in
"Against
perpetual copyright"
, I agree that there is much public good to be derived
from limiting an indefinite "monopoly" on a work.



This brings us to a notion of "trade-offs" between copyright protections and the
public domain. Pollack describes this trade-off in
Some
Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright
where he notes on page 17:




"The basic trade-off inherent in copyright is between increasing
protection
to promote the creation of more work and reducing
protection from
existing work."


It also brings me a step closer to an answer to the question at hand. I feel
that it is possible that Creative Commons and GGDL are just that trade-off.
While creators of content receive more limited projections, society benefits
from the work that is made more freely available. I would argue that the value
of this trade-off depends on which license is used (the subject of next week's
reading). Yet, I feel that Creative Commons and GFDL licensing offer a very
high percentage of the value associated with the public domain. The individual
receives some degree of protection and control over his or her works. In turn,
society benefits form the increased access, reduced restrictions on use, and
likely greater numbers of created works.



Question 2: To what degree would the open educational resources movement (and
therefore the world) be additionally benefited if OERs were simply

placed in the public domain?




With regard to the OER movement (and education, in general), I feel the more
open the work, the greater the value to society. Therefore, I feel for
educational purposes, the "openness" of the public domain offers greater
benefits than from either Creative Commons or GFDL licensing. I think that most
of us share Brian Lamb's observation
during
his 2007 Open Ed keynote
that when you see a CC
at the bottom of a page, most of us think ... "oh, that guy is not a jerk" and consider
the work freely available. However, that is clearly not the reality. As Pollock
notes on page 3 of the
Value
of the Public Domain
, "... 'freely' must be loosely interpreted ..."



This is especially the case with regard to the potential for non-commerical
restrictions imposed by some creators. A non-commercial restriction poses a
barrier to anyone who may want to use the works in the scope of a commercial
educational venture. In addition, restrictions regarding the licensing of
derivative works can also pose a problem, especially when works of different
licenses are combineg. Therefore, to meet the needs of "open" education, I feel
that the public domain provisions offer a far greater opportunity for openness
than either Creative Commons of GFDL licenses.







Comments

Other countries have

Other countries have different devices as standard, for example the UK uses 'break-glass callpoints', when people break a small pane of glass to activate the alarm.

The more open the work, the greater the value to society

I agree that this is true, but I know someone somewhere (involved with the OER movement) must disagree?