Chronicle of Higher Education

Response to “Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources”

Cable Green, May 27th, 2011

On Tuesday, the Chronicle of Higher Education posted the article, “Publishers Criticize Federal Investment in Open Educational Resources.”

We strongly support the U.S. Department of Labor including a CC BY requirement in their recent TAACCCT grant which makes available $2 billion to create open educational resources (OER) for career training programs in community colleges. As we announced earlier, Creative Commons will actively assist the winning grantees by providing expertise in open licensing, adoption and use, and more, to help ensure that the OER created with these federal funds are of the highest quality.

Having just joined Creative Commons this week as its new Director of Global Learning, I look forward to leading these efforts and also to help clarify Creative Commons’ role in the education space. Below is my response, originally posted in the comments section of the Chronicle article:

(1) The US Federal Government has, for decades, provided grants to higher education to produce new research and educational content. To say it is “dangerous for [the Federal Government] to be in the product business” is irrelevant. The Department of Labor (DOL) is exercising rational, responsible public policy that more efficiently uses public tax dollars to improve education opportunities.

The DOL has put forth a simple, effective public policy: Taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources.

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.

Information that is designed, developed and distributed through the generosity of public tax dollars should be accessible to the public that paid for it — without undue restrictions or limits.

If you think about this open policy, it makes sense. We, the American taxpayers, should get what we paid for.

(2) Karen Cator is correct: the commercial publishers (textbook, journals, etc.) should be embracing and supporting this new public policy. When publicly funded digital content (courses, textbooks, data, research, etc.) is openly licensed with a CC BY license, everyone can use and modify the open content to meet their needs — including the commercial publishers.

Moreover, the CC BY license does not restrict commercialization of the open content. To be clear, the commercial publishers can take all $2B of content created in this DOL grant, change it, make it better, add value, and sell it. The consumer (states, colleges, students) will then have a choice: (a) use the free openly licensed version(s) or (b) purchase the commercial for-a-fee version. If the commercial content / services are worth paying for, people will pay. If not, they won’t.

Next step? We should applaud the Departments of Labor and Education for their work and encourage all US Federal agencies to follow suit: require CC BY licenses on all content produced with federal funding.

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