The Spirit of Open

Last year I created an un-styled, (hopefully) easy-to-reuse slide deck about Creative Commons, the 5Rs, and OER. I’ve been a vocal advocate for CC since the day it launched, and have been answering questions about the licenses for years. I helped design the new Creative Commons Certification course, taught the first two sections offered, and am the Education Fellow at CC. Suffice it to say that I have a pretty good sense of what the most common misconceptions are about the SA, NC, and ND conditions of the CC licenses. One of my main goals in making this presentation was to give people a simple way to accurately understand them.

I’ve seen lots of people reuse one or more of the slides from this presentation, and it’s been rewarding to feel like the effort I put into making them was worth it. I felt particularly good about slide 10, which boils down a lot of the complexity around the licenses into a simple visual framework.

The six Creative Commons licenses

A tweet I saw yesterday linked to a presentation that included a remixed version of this slide, and it made me pause and reflect on the beauty of open as I understand and practice it. In the revised version of the slide, the BY-NC-SA license is highlighted visually and the slide notes contain an argument about why this is the best license to use with OER.

Now, this is the exact opposite of the point that I make when I give this presentation.  It is not hyperbole to say that I disagree very strongly with the point the author is trying to make with the remixed slide. But I found that I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt about the fact that someone is using my work to send a message I disagree with so fundamentally. I was happy.

The experience reaffirmed to me that I really do believe in open. After a little introspection, I can honestly say that I am more interested in insuring that other people are able to do whatever they want or need to do with my content than I am concerned about making sure  they can only do what I want them to do with it.

This is why I use CC BY personally and why I advocate so vocally for CC BY. The CC BY license grants everyone perpetual, irrevocable permission to do whatever they want to with my work (as long as they acknowledge my contribution and don’t try to claim that I endorse what they’re doing). The SA licenses would restrict what people can do with my work. The NC licenses would restrict what people can do with my work. The ND licenses would restrict what people can do with my work. But I truly want everyone to be able to do whatever they want to do with my work.

To me, this is the very core of what open is all about – the spirit of open, if you will – empowering others without judging them. Making it as easy as possible for them to do the work they want to do, and not decreeing that there is some work that I will not allow them to do. Putting their wants and desires above my own.

Isn’t that what sharing is all about?