More Response to Stephen

This must be the single most popular post title on my blog…

In response to my earlier post, Yes, Stephen, but Who Cares?, Stephen responds:

I care, David.

Because the next result on Google won’t be the free version, it’ll be another pay version. And the next and the next and the next. That’s how SEO works.

If SEO worked this way, Elsevier and Springer would keep us from ever finding articles available in PubMed. Microsoft would keep us from ever finding Open Office. Adobe would keep us from ever finding the GIMP. Et cetera. And yet, of course, they’re not able to keep us from finding these things. Elsevier alone had over $2 billion in operating profits last year, so they have the “means.” And their entire business depends on people licensing content from them, so they have the “motive.” And if SEO were as easy to manipulate as you say, they’d have the “opportunity.” means + motive + opportunity usually = a crime, and yet I can still find articles in PubMed through Google and Yahoo. If Elsevier can’t get it done, who can? Microsoft has had tons of cash on hand forever, and they haven’t been able to push Open Office to the 30th results page. It just isn’t happening.

And in some places, like your iTunes or your Kindle, the free version simply won’t be available at all. Want the free version? Use 10-year old technology incompatible with today’s learning systems.

How are the ebooks available through Gutenberg not compatible with today’s learning systems? Wouldn’t those include Blackboard, Moodle, and the iPad (both via Safari and ePub compatibility)? It’s true that a single vendor like Amazon can always choose to limit their product’s interoperability, but how does using NC licensing solve that problem? It doesn’t. Vendor attitude problems are a completely different issue. When people vote with their wallets and buy a different vendor’s product (like the iPad), the restrictive vendors will see the error of their ways.

Or they’ll lobby governments to keep the free versions complete unavailable. “Unfair competition,” they’ll cry. They’ll force agencies like the BBC to stop distributing educational content. Convince Africans that locked-down mobile phones with no free content are good enough. Take cities to court to prevent them from offering free internet. Stall internet deployment to keep paper copies and publishing viable in the developing world.

And how does using the NC clause solve any of these problems? It doesn’t. These are different issues altogether. Yes, we need policy reform. Yes we need to hold governments accountable through available processes. Yes we need to vote with our wallets when vendors act irresponsibly. But these aren’t the problem we’re discussing.

I simply don’t understand how you can’t see this, when it’s right in front of your eyes.

I see lots of problems right in front of my eyes, but I don’t see any that the NC license solves.

4 thoughts on “More Response to Stephen”

  1. I don’t see a point to this discussion. The great part of CC is that it gives the producers the choice of which rights to reserve. The NC clause is simply there for those who would use it. I don’t criticize the OSS license people choose (Mozilla, BSD, GPL – whatever version), so I don’t worry whether they choose BY, SA, NC, NDW or none of the above.

    • Often people who wouldn’t criticize choice of OSS license do criticize use of CC licenses with NC or ND terms precisely because those restrictions are not allowed by the Open Source Definition/Free Software Definition/Debian Free Software Guidelines.

  2. Jeremy: the point of the discussion is that every two or three months David comes out with an opinion to the effect that all free content should use a public domain or similar license, and that content which employs the ‘NC’ license is not free, and damaging to the whole open education movement. And I disagree, defending the use of the NC license.

    David: Let’s check and see whether Microsoft makes it iimpossible to find Open Office. Leat’s search for ‘Office’ on Bing:

    Surprise. It’s just not there. Yes, it shows up as the third link on Google (but you won’t find StarOffice or Zoho anywhere – OpenOffice, like Wikipedia, is the beneficiary of some special Google Juice). But Microsoft’s intent is pretty clear.

    How about ‘graphics software’. Gimp comes in 8th on Google, after a bunch of SEO sites (and Adobe). On Bing? Nope, you won’t find it (you won’t find Adobe either).

    You referred to the PubMed example twice, without any specific cases. So let’s find something. I used a site search on Google to find the most popular PubMed article – – yielding “Genome-wide retroviral insertional tagging of genes involved in …” by AH Lund.

    So now I use “Genome-wide retroviral insertional tagging of genes involved in …” as a search term in Google. The Lund article is first on the list, not surprisingly, becxause it’s an exact match (and the most popular article on PubMed). But where do you thing the next PubMed link is? First page? Nope. Second? Nope.It was on page 5 that I found a link to PlosOne.

    If I just use ‘retroviral insertion’ as a search term, it being the subject of the Lund article, the Lund article doesn’t shopw up at all – and in the first page, only one of the links is from PubMed.

    David, you argue in the form “If SEO worked this way, then you wouldn’t find X”. An actual examination of the results shows that you can’t, in fact, find X (or can only find it under unusual circumstances). So your argument fails. What I am claiming happens, in fact, happens.

    Let’s do more. ‘Learning Management System’. On Google Moodle shows up in the middle of the first page, buried in a sea of commercial links – there’s a Siemens reference to it on page 4 and Sakai doesn’t show up until page 7.

    Gutenberg? Let’s search for ‘Moby Dick’ one of the most popular novels anywhere, and one that won’t be swalloiwed by a bunch of movie listings. So where’s the rfesult on Google? Middle of page 2. Buried.

    How about Frankenstein? Gutenberg has it. A Google search for ‘Frankenstein’ doesn’t turn it up until page 3.

    Wuthering Heights? You’ll find the Gutenberg listing buried on page 2.

    Finally, you ask, “how does using the NC clause solve any of these problems?” It keeps the content out of the hands of the commercial publishers. It sets up a separate, *non-commercial* body of content, a body so large it can’t be ignored, and in which NC-specific searches will not throw out a whole bunch of false-positive commercial listings.

    It doesn’t *solve” problems, but at least, it doesn’t make things worse. Which is what the commercialization of all educational content would do.

  3. Dear Friends,

    I am afraid that the whole NC discussion is useless, because the most common license used with free/libre/open educational resources will be (if it is not already) the CC-By-SA.

    I think the CC-By-SA provides for the authors and the readers exactly that freedom Stephen is asking for, without any unnecessary restrictions for business innovations which David is worried about. I wrote about this some years ago, in here:

    The Wikipedia’s new feature “create a book” is an example of doing business — creating value for a paying customer — with CC-By-SA licensed content. I wrote about this recently in here:—-wikipedia-starts-offering-books/

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