Open Ed - Week 7: Licensing Open Educational Resources

Based on the readings and assignment for week 7 in the
Introduction
to Open Education
...




As I noted at the end of
my
post last week
, it is likely that most supporters of the OER movement feel
the more "open" the work, the greater the value. Further, I agree with Brian
Lamb's observation
during
his 2007 Open Ed keynote
that when a person sees a CC at the bottom of a
page, he or she likely thinks ... "oh, that guy is not a jerk" and considers the
work freely available to use, modify and re-use as he or she sees fit.
Unfortunately, this misinterpretation can lead to potential nasty repercussions.
However, how often does this misinterpretation come into play? Do the variations
in license provisions impact how users actually use content? To answer these
questions, it is necessary to consider how open content is used and how this use
is affected by open content licensing.



Open Content Use: To this point, almost everything I have read
about the open education movement is written from the perspective of the content
producers - the ones putting out content for others to use. Just as they
consider what repository will be best, they consider what license will be best.
However, the questions this week begin to shift the focus to what license is
best for users of the content. More specifically, what
license provisions best support the users of open content? What follows is based
on my assumption of how open content is used and how the various license
provisions impact that use. These assumptions are based solely on how I image
how open content is used based on my experience and the stories that
were shared in hallway chats with content producers at the OpenEd conference -
obviously a biased and unscientifically derived viewpoint. However, at this
point, I am not aware of any other measures of use.




It appears to me that producers of open content may be off the mark in
their assumptions of how learners use their content. It is my interpretation
that most producers of content think users will approach the material in the
same manner as students in a class ... digest all of the material in a syllabus,
read all of the content, take the exercises, etc. Further, many people envision
the possibilities of mash-ups that create amazing new derivative works. However,
I am not convinced that is how users actually use these works. In hallway chats
with the good folks at the UK Open University, they noted that the vast majority
of hits to their Open Ed site come from Google searches where people are
searching for content and find the Open University course material. Users spend
a few minutes on the site and then are off to other places.



It appears to me (from my admittedly biased and unscientific "research") that
users gather the content like squirrels gather nuts. The content is taken back
to the learners own environment (whether it be an informal or formal one) where
it is digested or stored. I doubt that the learner spends much time on the content
producer's site. They get what they want and they are gone  - back to the
den ... er ... learning environment to chew on what they gathered. Further,
I haven't seen much evidence that suggests much slicing / dicing or derivative
works are created from the open content. Instead, I feel the most likely use of open
content is "read only" access. Therefore, it appears that users are primarily
concerned with access to high quality freely available
information.



The Key Licensing Provisions: If my assumptions are correct and
access is the primary concern of users, then how do the key Creative Commons
provisions affect them? The following chart highlights four key provisions under
the various Creative Commons and GFDL licenses. Through a review of various
works and publications listed in the syllabus, as well as from recent blog posts
from
Stephen
Downes
and
David
Wiley
, I have summarized the following: 1) the paper napkin definitions of
the Creative Commons provisions from the perspective of both the producer and
user, 2) possible talking points in support of the provisions, and 3) possible
talking points against the provisions.
















Attribution

No Derivatives

Copy-left / Share Alike

Non-Commercial

Paper napkin definition taken from the Creative Commons folks - 
cut and pasted directly
from
the CC FAQ
and the
abridged
definitions page
:

As the creator: "You let others copy, distribute, display, and
perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but
only if they give credit the way you request."




As the user: "You must attribute the work in the manner specified by
the author or
licensor."

As the creator: "You let others copy, distribute, display, and
perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based
upon it."






As the user: "You may only make verbatim copies of the work, you may
not adapt or change it."



As the creator: "You allow others to distribute derivative works only
under a license identical to the license that governs your
work."




As the user: "You may only make derivative works if you license them
under the same Creative Commons license terms."


As the creator: "You let others copy, distribute, display, and
perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for
noncommercial purposes only."




As the user: "You may not use the work in a manner primarily directed
toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation."


Those who say, "It makes sense to me" may also think ...

  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • My work in its entirety expresses my idea, so if it is messed with
    it is no longer my idea.

  • This keeps future works "open".

  • Protects the open work from commercial evil-doers who will 
    re-distribute the work commercially and financially profit from
    another person's efforts.

  • Re-use of open works by commercial entities impairs the "openness"
    of the work as access is restricted to paying customers.
  • Rules in practice are (and should be) different for corporate
    entities than individuals.
  • Use of content by members of commercial entities is not the same as
    re-use and distribution by commercial entities.

Those who say, "Ba-humbug - get rid of it" may also think ...

  • Who cares who created the original works? Attribution is just about
    vanity.

  • Citation conventions include "credit" when the work is cited in
    academic papers.
  • Attribution parameters are almost never clarified within the
    original work.
  • What about derivative works? How many authors parts of parts must be
    attributed?

  • Not very open if you can't do anything with it.

  • Can't remix with works of different licenses.
  • Prohibits choice of downstream users.
  • It isn't "open" if it is only open for some.
  • Restricts use in developing parts of the world where it is possible the
    only  practical or available means of distribution is through
    commercial entities.

  • Makes re-use impossible for anyone who wishes to re-use the work in
    any commercial venture - no matter how small or large the venture.



Implications for open content: As we found in this week's reading
and in the summary above, some view these provisions as protections of the
openness of the work, while others see them as restrictions on use. This
disconnect may be due to the difference in perspective between content producers
and content users. However, this disconnect may also be due to different
assumptions about how open content is actually used - which to me is the most
important, yet largely unexamined, consideration.



The consideration of use also leads to my reflection on the major question of
the week - Can a work that incorporates these Creative Commons licensing
restrictions support "open" education? Based on my assumptions about use, as
well as my appreciation of the need for licensing trade-offs, I think so. As I
mentioned
in
last week's reflection
, making content freely available to users involves
practical trade-offs to support the needs of content producers and the needs of
the content users. I fully understand why some content producers would want
restrictions to control how their work is used. As I touched on last week,
the restrictions can serve as an incentive to producers by protecting those who have
invested time and money in creating the work. By accepting these provisions as
part of a trade-off, content users gain far greater access to works which would
otherwise be hidden away or available only for a fee. Like all trade-offs, you
win some things, but so does the other side. Here is my take on some of the key
trade-offs and the implications for open education:







  • Derivative works / Share alike: Clearly, full support for
    remixing and derivative works does not exist under the current mix of
    licenses. As shown in the chart below from the Creative Commons.org web
    site, there are substantial license incompatibility issues when works of
    different licenses are re-mixed. If most licenses are incompatible with each
    other, how can Creative Commons be considered "supportive" of the open
    education movement? My answer lies not in an assessment of the licenses, but
    in my assessment of the actual needs of the user.





by

by-nc

by-nc-nd

by-nc-sa

by-nd

by-sa

by













by-nc













by-nc-nd













by-nc-sa













by-nd













by-sa















It is very cool to imagine a world filled with unrestricted mash ups where a
bit of something here and a bit of something there creates something else that
is more than twice as cool. However, I am guessing that read only access likely suits the needs of the vast
majority of users. Therefore, I doubt that the CC restrictions on derivative works,
including share alike provisions, impact most users who primarily use content produced by others as
background information. Based on my interpretation, even if they end up building their own work after using the work, this is not necessarily the same as creating a derivative work. Therefore, I
would say additional "openness" with regard to derivative works and
share-alike provisions ends up being a "nice to have" rather than a "need to
have" in the vast majority of situations.



  • Commercial vs Non-Commercial: Regarding the non-commercial
    provisions, I also don't think this is a major issue to the vast majority of
    users. Commercial users can access the content (for information purposes),
    but they are just restricted on how they re-use it. Again, I don't see this
    being a problem for most users. If it is, these users certainly have the
    ability to ask for extended permission for their specific use. While it is
    an added step, it seems a fair trade-off in order to give access to content that
    would otherwise (under traditional copyright provisions) be locked down from
    view and non-commercial use.




This give and take with regard to the various content licensing
provisions seems to satisfy the needs of the vast majority of content producers
and users. It appears to me (from my admittedly biased and unscientific
"research") that users primarily want access to high quality freely available
information. I do not disagree that the trade-offs associated with derivative
works, share-alike provisions, and non-commercial use are barriers to
unrestricted use. However, as I don't feel that unrestricted use is the goal of
the vast majority of users, the Creative Commons provisions seem a fair
trade-off. For most users, accepting restrictions in areas that don't usually
stand in the way of their use of the material seems a fair trade-off to freely
access open content.







Comments

Pragmatism

First off, another fine job - great analysis!

You say, "I do not disagree that the trade-offs associated with derivative works, share-alike provisions, and non-commercial use are barriers to unrestricted use. However, as I don't feel that unrestricted use is the goal of the vast majority of users, the Creative Commons provisions seem a fair trade-off. For most users, accepting restrictions in areas that don't usually stand in the way of their use of the material seems a fair trade-off to freely access open content."

This kind of pragmatism is, at the end of the day, the only way in which work moves forward. For all of Stallman's zeal, the free software movement was losing momentum in the late 1990s. All the zealots had been recruited, and others who thought the idea looked interesting couldn't stand to associate themselves with the religious fundamentalism. This is where the open source moniker came in, arguing for the same body of practices on practical benefit rather than disembodied principles.

You also said, "I am guessing that read only access likely suits the needs of the vast majority of users." Really? I think this is an empirical question, and the right little research study could put some empirics behind your guess. Let me know if you want a collaborator. =)

CC-NC

David Wiley's presentation of the material on this issue is (uncharacteristically) very one-sided. I have criticized his view a number of times.

http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/08/why-not-cc-by.html

http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/noncommercial.html

http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/06/cc-nc-2.html

http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/06/cc-nc.html 

Why does David Wiley think that open education is commercial education? It is not enough to say that the licenses are incompatible - this is only a problem for commercial exploiters of free content.

 

(p.s. hate the comment window editor there's way too much flickering and toher stuff going on, and it breaks my spell-check and right-click - disabling copy and paste.)

 

Thank you for the additional material - and heads up on comments

I don't use the comment box very much, so I didn't realize it is a PITA. Thanks for the heads up on both the material and the comment box!

Jennifer Maddrell