Slow on the Uptake

Well, it appears I’m playing catch up again! For all my ranting about the problems with ShareAlike lately, I have missed Leigh’s eerily similar criticisms that predate me by several months. The writing is so similar, in fact, that I expect an online plagiarism detector would convict me hands down. Here’s Leigh’s commentary from May:

In an attempt to clarify copyright confusion around open educational resources, and to assist open educational projects make better choices in copyright licenses, the Free Cultural Works Definition may be useful:

This document (within a wiki) defines “Free Cultural Works” as works or expressions which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose. It also describes certain permissible restrictions that respect or protect these essential freedoms. The definition distinguishes between free works, and free licenses which can be used to legally protect the status of a free work. The definition itself is not a license; it is a tool to determine whether a work or license should be considered “free.”

However, licenses such as Share Alike (SA) and GNU Free Documentation License (FDL) are included in this definition and they both contain restrictions that do not allow someone to freely modify and redistribute a modified work without agreeing to utilise the same or compatible license on the derivative. It is possible to use multiple licenses on a work that is made up of combined documents, but impractical or impossible in the case of modifications and derivatives. The Definition of Free Cultural Works tends to be contradictory and possibly misleading in its acceptance of Share Alike and Free Documentation License restrictions. For example, terminology such as, …free licenses which can be used to legally protect the status of a free work. is misleading because mechanisms within the SA or FDL (commonly referred to as copyleft) do not protect the freedoms of the original work as much as they ensure and promote the re-usability of a derivative work, and so the terminology might be more accurate if it was, …licenses that restrict reuse so as to ensure the same or compatible licenses are assigned to derivative works where the notion of “freedom” is more squarely aimed at the derivative work that is yet to be licensed, and not on the original work that is already free by virtue of its Attribution license without the Share Alike.

Considering the purpose of an open educational resource, it should be enough to say that the license used is one in which attribution to original authors is all that is required in its reuse. This is a practice that should be familiar and comfortable to educational institutions, and it is a license that maintains maximum re-usability and flexibility in an original resource. It makes little sense to apply any further restrictions such as Non Commercial, Share Alike or even FDL to an open educational resource that is intended to be available for remix, modification and redistribution in as wider educational context as possible. Furthermore, for the purposes of this article and to generate interest and discussion, a superficial analysis of statistics in the use of Creative Commons licenses – particularly comparing the growth in use of the Attribution license compared to the Share Alike license shows an increase in the number of Attribution only resources comparable to Share Alike. This might suggest strong motivating factors in the use of free licensing such as Attribution that should be looked at more closely. Perhaps the belief in a cultural commons is growing regardless of detailed copyleft legal mechanisms, and/or perhaps attribution is a stronger currency in the exchange of intellectual property than the various legal mechanisms designed to govern it. It is a research project in its own right, but for this article it is enough to suggest that copyleft legal mechanisms may not be the strongest element in the growth to free cultural works, particularly open educational resources.

It’s good to know I’m not “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

1 thought on “Slow on the Uptake”

  1. Dave! I feel bad. Having a big cry baby on my blog. Your commentary on all things copyright and educational resources has lead me all this way – ever since the Paradox, so I am not surprised that I find myself talking in similar veins to you.
    Thanks for pointing me out though. A voice of two crying in the wilderness đŸ™‚
    So how will this pan out? I have tried – thus far unsuccessfully, to get Wikieducator to support CC BY across whole resources. I would like it to be possible to assign a CC BY to a page and have it so that subsequent edits where agreeable to being CC BY.
    Extending this effort to have CC BY used, is an attempt to get Wikied to allow for the use of 3rd party media – such as supporting YouTube, Slideshare, Blip etc embedding – requiring the 3rd party to be first using a CC BY license of course. It has been a long debate so far, held up largely by perspectives on copyright.. but I reckon that once Wikieducator supports the use of CC BY for entire resources, and permits embedding appropriate 3rd party media, they make way for educational “mashups” BLamb style.. assuming all the media lines up copyright speaking – Wikied could then start innovating with outputs like print and offline… Wikied could become a significant OER repository and development platform.

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