November 16 the U.S. Congress will hold hearings on a bill that would unfairly, recklessly and capriciously enable and encourage broad censorship of the Internet in the name of suppressing distribution of works not authorized by copyright holders. As Public Knowledge aptly summarizes, the “Stop Online Piracy Act” would seriously “threaten the functioning, freedom, and economic potential of the Internet” by:
- short-circuiting the legal system, giving rightsholders a fast-track to shutting down whole websites;
- creating conflicts between Domain Name System (DNS) servers, making you more vulnerable to hackers, identity theft, and cyberattacks;
- sanctioning government interference with the Internet, making it more censored globally.
SOPA threatens every site on Internet, but would especially harm the commons, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, focusing on free software. The same applies to free and open projects beyond software, which often use CC licenses. While standard public licenses have lowered the costs and risks of legal sharing and collaboration, SOPA would drastically increase both the costs and risks of providing platforms for sharing and collaboration (think sites ranging from individual blogs to massive community projects such as Wikipedia, from open education repositories to Flickr and YouTube), and vaporize accessibility to huge swathes of free culture, whether because running a platform becomes too costly, or a single possibly infringing item causes an entire domain to be taken down.
The trend that one can plot from the DMCA (1998) to SOPA, and continued extensions and expansions of copyright and related restrictions around the world, also demonstrate the incredible importance of the commons for healthy information policy and a healthy Internet — almost all other “IP” policy developments have been negative for society at large. The DMCA was decried by advocates of free speech and the Internet, and has over past 13 years had many harmful effects. Now, in 2011, some think that the U.S. Congress ‘struck the right balance’ in 1998, while big content is dissatisfied, and with SOPA wants to ratchet the ‘balance’ (watch out, 2024!) much further to their short-term advantage.
Techdirt has excellent coverage of the gritty details of SOPA, its ill effects, and the many constituencies alarmed (such as librarians and sports fans).
Please take action! If you aren’t already sharing works under a CC license and supporting our work, now is a good time. Bad legislation needs to be stopped now, but over the long term, we won’t stop getting new bad legislation until policymakers see broad support and amazing results from culture and other forms of knowledge that work with the Internet, rather than against it. Each work or project released under a CC license signals such support, and is an input for such results.7 Comments »
Creative Commons was launched in the aftermath of a retroactive copyright term extension in the U.S. and during a challenge to that extension, a challenge that economist Milton Friedman called a no brainer — a retroactive term extension cannot possibly incent the creation of new works, while at the same time it must rob the public domain.
Since its launch in 2002, Creative Commons has made tremendous strides in fostering the commons. In the last few years, policymakers have increasingly seen the value of making commons a default, e.g., where public information or public interest funding is involved. However, new retroactive copyright term extensions show that public policy continues to be far removed from the public interest — as is the case now with sound recording in the European Union.
The following text is by John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany and co-author of a new dossier on the EU sound recording copyright extension.
This week and next week will bring defining moments in European copyright policy. The efforts to retrospectively extend the term for related rights in sound recordings to 70 years, halted since 2009 by not finding the necessary majority in the Council of the EU, will probably be approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels tomorrow.
COREPER prepares the Council’s meeting on Sept 12th, which will without much doubt follow COREPERs preparation and pass the term extension. It will then become EU law even though both, the EU Commission that made the proposal and the EU Parliament that amended and passed it, are no longer in office.
The recent developments have largely been behind closed doors, until Denmark, Portugal and Finland indicated earlier this year that they would no longer oppose the extension. Now the proposal is being pushed to the Council again in an up-speed process.
As the most renowned copyright scholars from Cambridge to Amsterdam and Munich have pointed out again and again, such an extension will severely hurt Europe’s cultural diversity, its innovative potential and the preservation of its cultural heritage. All this in order to help four international corporations to squeeze marginal extra revenue from a fraction of the recordings of the 20th century (the 60s). The session musicians, being the group that the extension move purportedly is meant to support, are going to at best receive between 1 and 2 percent of the cake, extremely biased towards already highly successful artists like Sir Cliff Richard, a tireless campaigner for term extension. This prospect has been proven through economical and legal analysis. Academia has told the EU Commission about this in independent studies, has told the public in the Bournemouth Declaration and the Joint Academic Statement on Term Extension.
To no avail, the only ever reaction was discernible when the EU Parliament in 2009 lowered the Commission proposal’s 95 year term to 70 years and added some side provisions to counter the rights holders dominance in favour of artists. These provisions are well-meant but will not solve the distribution problem, as again was proven by academic experts. Above that, these provisions being added is ‘sold’ to the European public as being possible only if the term extension is passed. This is false. For example, as the Joint Academic Statement points out, the so called use-it-or-lose-it provision is a regular part of the German copyright code since decades ago and was introduced without any connection to a retrospective term extension.
With support by the Wikimedia Foundation, iRights.info has now compiled (blog post in German) a “Dossier on Term Extension for Related Rights in Sound Recordings”. It explains background, timeline and arguments made around the extension plans and is available in German and English.
A broad coverage of what is happening is needed all across Europe. The dossier can be sent around and built upon, it is licensed under CC BY 3.0 Germany and any re-use is highly appreciated.4 Comments »
Last month, CC participated in the yearly SERCI congress, which took place in Bilbao, Spain. SERCI is the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues. The SERCI congress is therefore intended to allow researchers to discuss their ongoing work with their peers and to further academic alliances between them for the benefit of future research enterprises. We were only able to participate following a rigorous process in which our research outputs were refereed.
Just to give you an idea of the people we were fortunate to meet at SERCI and how interesting and critically important their research is, attending was Nancy Gallini (University of British Colombia), who was discussing antitrust implications of copyright bundles, such as the ones arguably created by collecting societies. Participating was also Michael Yuan (Roger Williams University) who was discussing a paper he wrote along with Koji Domon (Waseda University) presenting their research comparing between copyright systems of “Indefinitely Renewable Copyright” and the current system. Christian Handke (Erasmus University of Rotterdam) spoke about Copyright and its “Effects on Different Types of Innovation”, and Jin-Hyuk Kim (the University of Cambridge) was discussing his work on copyright levies. These participants were just part of a very long list of prominent researchers from all over the world, and the person orchestrating it all was Richard Watt from the University of Canterbury.
As you can probably tell from the titles of the papers, we were delighted to find at the congress academics highly involved in research directly intended to impact global, international and national copyright policy! That, as well as the quality of their input, is why they have the ear of policy makers and this is why they are right up our alley!
So to serve as an example for how high the level of involvement of these academics in policy-making circles reaches, at SERCI we met economists who work for governmental authorities such as Benjamin Mitra-Kahn (UK Intellectual Property Office), Dimiter Gantchev (WIPO) and Raphael Solomon (Copyright Board of Canada). Benjamin was speaking about the Hargreaves report, which is a review of Intellectual Property and Growth, initiated in November 2010 by England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, conducted by Prof. Ian Hargreaves. And Dimiter Gantchev was discussing the recent discussions ongoing in WIPO about global copyright registries.
I believe I can objectively report that the level of interest from participants in Creative Commons was very high. And our own topic for discussion can be essentially described as ourselves: Our presentation was about our ongoing project about CC’s economic contribution (see especially first, fourth and fifth posts about the project, and of course, the paper itself). Several good results came from our participation:
First, we were able to arouse a lot of interest among this global community of researchers, and boy, did we cherish the attention! For instance, people were asking how CC is impacting the copyright environment that applies to its different communities, how exactly the process of applying the license works, how CC analyzes its users’ incentives, etc.
Everybody who was there now knows what we do and how important we are in the space of spurring the operation of our different communities (through enhanced sharing and transactional benefits). Obviously, this newly acquired knowledge about CC is bound to be shared with researchers in the respective institutions of the participants, thus percolating through the community of scholars and increasing our renown, as an organization and as a platform.
The critically important implication of all this is that when these scholars are voicing their opinions in policy-making circles, it is highly probable that they will now be offering CC as potential solution for different problems that hinder the activity within our target communities, of creators, scientists, educators, governments, NGOs, individual data contributors, etc.
Second, we were able to receive substantial advice on the project we came in to present. For instance, we discussed with the other participants the decisions we have made to look at our contribution in different CC communities separately and only then at cross-influences, our understanding of our user incentives and our ability to substantially reduce transaction costs, as well as our suggested formulation of how the sharing and collaboration we promote benefits welfare and individuals.
Third, we struck bonds with some new studious friends – and CC now has more colleagues within the research community. This means that we can count on collaborations for CC-oriented research, which we are conducting, and also that we can expect others to initiate and conduct independent research on CC themes.
To make a long story short, SERCI has been what was expected and more, and we are already looking forward to implementing what we’ve learned, to start our cooperation with the scholars we met and to make plans for our next such event!
Note: The SERCI Congress program which is linked to is not updated. We are told by SERCI that it will be, to include the names of all the participants in the coming days.2 Comments »
Creative Commons files comments in U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy
Creative Commons has filed comments in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Inquiry on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Internet Economy. The Department received nearly 900 submissions over the comment period, which ended December 10. A summary of the Department’s interest in this topic is described below:
The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force is conducting a comprehensive review of the relationship between the availability and protection of online copyrighted works and innovation in the Internet economy. The Department, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) seek public comment from all interested stakeholders, including rights holders, Internet service providers, and consumers on the challenges of protecting copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyright law and innovation in the Internet economy. After analyzing the comments submitted in response to this Notice, the Internet Policy Task Force intends to issue a report that will contribute to the Administration’s domestic policy and international engagement in the area of online copyright protection and innovation.
All of the comments are posted to the NTIA’s Internet Policy Task Force website. The comments of Creative Commons and a few other organizations are highlighted below:
Creative Commons urged the Department to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation by adopting and promoting policies that enable and preserve the ability for users to lawfully share their creativity:
Creativity and innovation on the Internet is enabled by open technologies, open networks, and open content. Support for open licensing and public domain legal tools can help the maintain robust information flows that facilitate innovation and growth of the Internet economy.
Open content licensing is playing an increasing role in digital cultural heritage and the growth of the digital economy. Websites like Flickr, Picasa, Vimeo, Blip.tv, SoundCloud, Jamendo, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons share millions of CC licensed free cultural works.
Educational institutions, organizations, and teachers and learners use CC tools to overcome the legal and technical restrictions that prevent educational resources from being accessible, adaptable, interoperable, and discoverable.
Scientists and research institutions seeking to overcome the legal and technical barriers to sharing and building on data and knowledge are using CC tools, maximizing potential on investments and accelerating scientific discovery and innovation.
In considering the relationship between copyright and innovation, it is critical to remember that copyright is fundamentally a balance between the rights of the creator and the rights of the public at large. It is unavoidable that copyright creates restrictions on free expression and the free flow of ideas. However, it can also provide a powerful incentive to create. Effective copyright policy finds an equilibrium between the creator’s incentive to create and the public’s right to access, share and build on existing works. To that end, the Department should focus on finding ways to encourage more people to create and contribute. In addition to benefits, the costs of enforcement – both financial and in increased barriers to innovate – must be considered.
Whether for pleasure, education, or commerce, the web’s ability to help fuel innovation has derived from its tapestry of contributions, which are the product of people, communities, and organizations around the world creating, modifying, sharing, and hosting content. In our view, it is imperative that these quintessential qualities of the Internet be preserved without compromising the rights of content producers, whether big or small, and those that host and distribute such content.
[...] the federal government can most effectively promote creativity and innovation in the Internet Economy by encouraging the use of open licensing models and by requiring access to the results of federally funded research.
One of the primary sources of innovation in the U.S. economy is scholarly communications: articles, monographs, and databases written by professors, graduate students, and other researchers in all fields of human endeavor. The ideas expressed in these writings stimulate new research, advance the scientific and technology enterprise, and encourage commercial development of marketable products and services.
[...] the Department of Commerce, and the federal government as a whole, should concentrate their efforts on encouraging the creation and maintenance of robust, open platforms that support commercial and noncommercial ventures. The federal government should not expend limited resources on protecting particular business models in the face of technological change.
Today a new German site launched, IGEL (“Initiative gegen ein Leistungsschutzrecht”; in English, “initiative against a related right”). The site, spearheaded by German lawyer Till Kreutzer, provides information on a possible proposal for a new “related right” for press publishers. Original content on the site is released under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
Additionally, Creative Commons has agreed to be listed as a supporter of IGEL. We almost never stake out a position beyond our core role of providing voluntary infrastructure to facilitate sharing. This sometimes leads to criticism of CC from both those who oppose copyright and see us as apologists, and from those who fear sharing, and see anything less than complete control, no matter how voluntary, as undermining copyright.
We take this criticism from both extremes as indication that we’re doing our job well — a job that isn’t even about copyright, let alone apologizing for or undermining copyright. CC’s job is to provide tools to help people who want to, and society overall, to get the most possible out of the sharing and collaboration made possible through communications technologies and human creativity. Copyright happens to be the legal framework that shapes how sharing and collaboration occur, so our tools operate in that framework to grant permissions in advance for sharing and collaboration.
This brings us to new related rights. Examples include sui generis database rights only applicable in Europe, proposals for special broadcast rights, which would give broadcasters a new set of exclusive rights merely for having broadcasted material, and a potential proposal for a new press publisher right to control use of non-copyrighted snippets of press material as well as specific headline wordings, for example. This potential press publisher right is what IGEL concerns.
Such new related rights, when they go into effect, make sharing and collaboration harder, for at least two reasons.
One, all communication requires some common expression. Things that fall outside of the scope of copyright (e.g., facts, abstract ideas) and copyright exceptions and limitations that facilitate quoting and critique give scope for communication, without every single sentence one utters being subject to potential lawsuit. New related and nearby rights can effectively limit the scope of what may be communicated freely, e.g., collections of facts in the case of database rights, and very brief descriptions of news items, in the case of press publisher rights — or even the facts of a news story, in the case of “hot news” restrictions recently mooted by publishers in the U.S.
New York City Gridlock by Roy Googin / CC BY-SATwo, with a proliferation of rights, it is harder to know who has exclusive control over what, or whether multiple parties have exclusive control over different rights over a work. This phenomena of too many property claims forms what is sometimes called an anticommons — overlapping exclusive claims can prevent anyone from using a work — the opposite (thus “anti”) of a commons, in which anyone may use a work under a clear, easily discernible set of rules.
The press publishers right as it was proposed now for Germany is expressly intended to make linking to (and viewing of) openly accessible press content on the web cost a mandatory fee, whenever it happens in any kind of commercial context. Together with the vagueness of the term “press product” in this sense and the unclear boundaries of commercial contexts, the new right is apt to spread uncertainty as to when a link can freely be set, thus harming a core principle of sharing and of the internet. At the same time, creators using Creative Commons licenses might suddenly find themselves falling into the scope of being a press publisher in the meaning of the new right. This could lead to the paradox situation of original Creative Commons content unintentionally becoming paid-content — that is if the publishers right is drafted to be non-waivable.
This brings us to why Creative Commons considers new copyright-like rights harmful. Such rights are clear barriers to getting the most out of sharing and collaboration and threatens to the open web, with no evidence of any countervailing benefits. New copyright-like rights make it a bit harder to share and collaborate with openly licensed materials, by constraining and confusing what can be openly licensed when multiple rights are involved. More significantly they make it harder to share and collaborate even when copyright is not pertinent, but the natural flow of using digital communication technologies is, e.g., sharing a link with a title.
In some ways increasing default restrictiveness makes the tools Creative Commons provides more valuable. Less default facilitation of sharing and collaboration means those who want to share must take careful steps to enable it — and Creative Commons has encapsulated the hard work in its tools. Furthermore, the more the default condition is lockdown, the more valuable works that aren’t fully locked down become. However, at Creative Commons we are are not simply working to maximize use of our tools, which after all are just a means to facilitate sharing and collaboration.
Finally, one should note, however one feels about the reality of current copyright law, that new copyright-like rights do harm — either adding insult to injury, or making copyright less efficient and credible as it becomes increasingly easy to obtain protection for non creative works, a threshold copyright requires for good reason. If you read German, we encourage you to visit the IGEL site and learn about the related rights proposals it addresses. We’ll also have more to say here, perhaps not about why new copyright-like rights are harmful, but how Creative Commons tools operate in a world in which such rights exist — some readers will be aware that European sui generis database rights are particularly troublesome — for our tools do have to do their best to enable sharing in collaboration in the world we find ourselves in, and as that world changes. (This is a difficult job. Please make a donation to support our work!)
Thanks to John Hendrik Weitzmann, Legal Project Lead of Creative Commons Germany, for introducing IGEL and assistance with this post.2 Comments »
Today, Creative Commons announces the release of its Public Domain Mark, a tool that enables works free of known copyright restrictions to be labeled in a way that allows them to be easily discovered over the Internet. The Public Domain Mark, to be used for marking works already free of copyright, complements Creative Commons’ CC0 public domain dedication, which enables authors to relinquish their rights prior to the expiration of copyright.
“The Public Domain Mark is a further step on the path towards making the promise of a digital public domain a reality,” said Michael Carroll, a founding board member of Creative Commons and a law professor at American University.
Europeana—Europe’s digital library, museum and archive—is the first major adopter of the Public Domain Mark. Europeana estimates that by mid-2011, the Public Domain Mark will be used in connection with millions of out-of-copyright works made available through its portal.
“An important part of our mandate is to ensure that digitized works made available through Europeana are properly labeled with rights information, including when a work is free of known copyright restrictions so that teachers, students and others can freely use it in their work, changing it and remixing it as they wish,” noted Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana.
The Public Domain Mark in its current form is intended for use with works that are free of known copyright around the world, primarily old works that are beyond the reach of copyright in all jurisdictions. We have already started mapping the next phases of our public domain work, which will look at ways to identify and mark works that are in the public domain in a limited number of countries.
A final note about design. We took this opportunity to revise the CC0 deed, to align it more closely with the Public Domain Mark deed. We think the design changes will help everyone recognize the difference between our licenses, which apply to works restricted by copyright, and our public domain tools.
For more information, read the full press release.14 Comments »
The Peer 2 Peer University, more commonly known now as P2PU by a growing community of self-learners, educators, journalists, and web developers, launches its third round of courses today, opening sign-ups for “courses dealing in subject areas ranging from Collaborative Lesson Planning to Manifestations of Human Trafficking.”
P2PU is simultaneously launching its School of Webcraft, which is a collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and “is a powerful new way to learn open, standards based web development in a collaborative environment. School of Webcraft courses include Beginning Python Webservices and HTML5.”
In addition, Creative Commons Counsel Lila Bailey is co-facilitating the Copyright for Educators course this round, which will focus on United States law. The course is “for educators who want to learn about copyright, open content material and licensing” and “is taught around practical case studies faced by teachers when using copyright material in their day to day teaching and educational instruction.” For more information, see the course page.
Sign-ups for all other courses are available at http://p2pu.org/course/list. The deadline to sign up is September 8, and courses will run until October 27th. All courses are free to take and openly licensed under CC BY-SA. For more information, see the full announcement, but stay tuned for more courses!Comments Off
At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to a new Education landing page and our OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.
One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. We recently had the chance to talk to Christine Mytko, who is advancing OER at the local levels through her work as a K-12 educator and the lead science reviewer at Curriki. As a teacher, Christine brings a unique perspective to the conversation around open education and policy, and gives us important insight into how teachers on the ground are thinking about copyright and using Creative Commons and OER.
You are a teacher and the lead science reviewer at Curriki, which is known as the “next generation wiki” for K-12 education. Can you briefly describe who you are, your current roles, and what led to them? What would you say is Curriki’s mission, and how is it helping teachers like yourself?
For most of my teaching career, I have been a middle school science teacher in public schools. When I moved to the Bay Area three years ago, I was fortunate to find a job that combines both of my passions – science and technology. I currently serve as the K – 5 science specialist and middle school technology teacher at a small independent school in Berkeley, CA.
In 2007, I interviewed for part-time work at Curriki. Like many teachers, I was looking to supplement my income. What I found was a community of educators committed to creating, collaborating on, and sharing open-source materials. As part of the Curriki Review Team, I am responsible for reviewing submitted science materials and providing a public score and feedback for the contributor. I also help out with other projects as needed. Currently, I am working with another Bay Area Chemistry teacher to revise and submit an open source Chemistry digital textbook as part of the California Learning Resource Network’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative.
As stated on its main page, Curriki’s mission is to “provide free, high-quality curricula and education resources to teachers, students and parents around the world.” Its name, somewhat recognizably, is a play on the words “curriculum” and “wiki.” The Curriki repository does have many curriculum options, from lesson plans to full courses, available in various subject areas, educational levels, and languages. Curriki offers other resources, too, including textbooks, multimedia, and opportunities for community and collaborative groups.
All Curriki content is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), planting it firmly in the OER space. Do you know why Curriki chose CC BY for all of its materials? If not, what do you see CC BY enabling that other licenses or “all-rights-reserved” content might not?
Contributors of Curriki content do have the option to select either public domain or a variety of CC licensing, but the default License Deed is CC-BY. I honestly don’t know specifically why Curriki chose this, but I must say it as an excellent decision. CC-BY gives educators the power to remix, share and distribute materials as needed to be timely and maximally relevant to their own curriculum.
The flexibility afforded by a CC-BY license allows for materials to be adapted quickly. I hear that a typical textbook revision works on a 7-year cycle. Curriki materials can be updated and “published” in a matter of seconds and the community can correct any content errors just as quickly. Many topics, especially in science and technology, are changing so quickly that education can no longer afford to wait for proprietary materials to go through their lengthy cycles of publication.
Currently, California and Texas are the biggest purchasers of traditional “all-rights reserved” textbooks, and publishers strive to meet these states’ requirements. Educators in other states (and countries) are forced to work within these proprietary constraints. However, OER [initiatives] such as Curriki allow teachers to freely adapt materials to best fit their pedagogical and cultural needs. Furthermore, by creating or uploading such materials onto a public repository, teachers will no longer need to work in isolation, continuously “re-inventing the wheel.” As relevant materials are freely shared among communities of educators, individual time spent on adapting proprietary materials will decrease, allowing educators to spend more of their precious time on other important areas of teaching.
Describe a class- or school-wide project where you have integrated CC licensing and/or OER. What challenges have you or your students come across while searching for or using resources on the web? How would you translate this experience for teachers looking to mark up their own resources correctly for OER search and discovery? What do teachers need to know?
In my technology classes, I now require all incorporated media to be Creative Commons, Public Domain or No Copyright. At first, after having free rein in Google Images for years, my students felt very limited in their choices. But after discussing the reasons behind copyright and copyright alternatives, many students understood the importance of respecting rights reserved.
There are so many excellent resources to help teachers and students use Creative Commons in their classrooms. The Creative Commons search page, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr CC group, and Google Advanced Search all are wonderful tools for finding alternatively copyrighted images. Websites such as Jamendo are great for finding CC music.
The language was a challenge at first for my middle school students. Although there are only six main CC licenses, my students got bogged down with terms such as “Attribution” and “No Derivatives.” It didn’t help that Google uses slightly different terminology (“reuse” and “reuse with modification”) in their license search filter. But the kids quickly became comfortable with the terms and procedures and, within a few class periods, they easily accessed and properly used “some rights reserved” media. Of course, I have the kids assign rights to their own work, which reinforces the licenses, and gives students the opportunity to think carefully about which rights are important to them.
As far as marking up my own resources for OER search and discovery, I am still learning about the process myself. In fact, prior to my work with Curriki, I was hesitant to “release” my work as open source. I had put so much time and effort into certain materials, I didn’t see the point of just giving them away on the Internet. However, the last few years, I have come to recognize the benefits of open source materials and have begun to post some of my formally guarded resources on Curriki as CC-BY; and I now freely share my new material. Now that I am more comfortable using and creating open source materials on my own and with my students, I hope to move on to work with other teachers.
What are the most common confusions or concerns of teachers when it comes to sharing their teaching materials? Do you think the average K-12 teacher is aware of open licensing alternatives, like Creative Commons? What are the various school or institutional policies for teachers sharing their materials?
I am certain that the average teacher is NOT aware of open licensing alternatives. In fact, many teachers I know still operate on the guiding principle of CASE – Copy And Steal Everything. I don’t believe teachers are lazy or purposely deceitful for using materials in this way; anyone who has taught in a classroom knows how much there is to do in an incredibly short amount of time. Sometimes, copying an (often copyrighted) activity and tossing it in your colleague’s box is merely survival. Even those teachers who are aware of copyright will often claim “fair use.” The problem is that teachers often overestimate their protections and privileges under fair use. And there is little training in copyright and fair use, let alone Creative Commons and OER. Not only is an average K – 12 teacher unaware of his or her responsibilities, he or she often does not know the rights and options available to him or her in sharing his or her own work.
There are a variety of roadblocks preventing teachers from sharing their own work. First of all, since creating curriculum takes so much time, many teachers are unwilling to share lessons because they feel the product belongs to them. Other teachers may feel that their work isn’t good enough to share. And even if teachers overcome these psychological blocks, there are still the technical issues revolving around how will they share their work as open source. None of the schools I have worked with had any sort of policies on, or time set aside for, sharing materials. In talking with my colleagues, they found a similar lack of school policy. Even in the rare case in which there was some sort of policy, teachers often selectively ignored it. Currently, most teachers do not have the access, training, and support necessary to confidently participate in the OER movement.
Curriki has been doing some work to tie their resources to state education standards (http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/BrowseStandards). Can you describe a little of that process to us? What are some of the benefits and challenges to including this information? How useful is it?
This work is not part of my professional duties at Curriki, however, I can speak to the process on a personal note as a teacher and Curriki member. Right now, when you visit a resource, you will see four tabs – Content, Information, Standards, and Comments. Choosing the Standards tab allows a user to view currently aligned standards, as well as gives the option to “Align to [additional] Standards.” The process itself is very intuitive; the user clicks through a series of menus and applies standards as he or she deems appropriate.
The biggest benefit will certainly be the convenience of browsing for resources by standard through the aforementioned jump page. The biggest challenge is to align all of the existing and future resources in the repository. Curriki is depending largely on the community to gather momentum for this process. Right now, in its infancy, only about half of the states have standards-aligned resources to browse, and even those collections are far from complete across subject areas and educational levels. Of course, members of Curriki are always welcome to browse unaligned resources by subject, educational level, or other criteria by using Curriki’s Advanced Search.
There has been a lot of OER talk at the state and federal policy levels, especially surrounding open textbooks. What do you think is the future of the textbook for the K-12 classroom? How would you like to see this reflected in policy?
I, like many educators, feel that the reign of the textbook is coming to an end. As a science teacher, I have rarely depended on a textbook for curriculum, and rely more heavily on both online materials and self-created materials. OER allow me to take better advantage of creating and sharing work within a collaborative community. While science and technology lend themselves to early adoption of the open source philosophy, I believe other subjects will soon follow.
Textbooks will not be able to maintain their current stronghold in K–12 schools. A recent New York Times article points out that “[e]ven the traditional textbook publishers agree that the days of tweaking a few pages in a book just to sell a new edition are coming to an end.” Textbooks are expensive and quickly become outdated. Printed errors are not correctable until the next edition comes out. In contrast, OER are inexpensive or free, constantly updated, and easily correctable. I would love to see the money saved by choosing inexpensive OER over pricey textbooks used for supplementary materials and teacher training. Or even better, districts can use that money to set aside release time and pay teachers to meet, collaborate and create OER content.
Lastly, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts—worries, hopes, predictions?
A successful learning environment is relevant, engaging, challenging, and flexible. OER material is current, as well as easily, and legally, adaptable to meet the needs of various learners. An OER community can provide a teacher with materials and support in meeting the needs of his or her particular student population. Resources that are freely shared end up saving others countless hours of redundant individual work and frees teachers from stagnating in a proprietary curriculum.
Schools are beginning to recognize the cost savings of abandoning the current textbook model, and I predict that publishers will adapt as the market demands of them. I hope that schools begin to recognize that teachers are a valuable resource and skilled professionals, and deserve to be compensated for their time spent developing curriculum. I hope districts begin to create policies and provide support to encourage teachers to share the materials they create.
Ideally, the classroom should be a place where students are not merely passive consumers of resources and media, but rather active collaborators, synthesizers and publishers of their own work. I hope that, from a young age, students will be held accountable for using others’ work in an appropriate way, and encouraged to share their own work as open source with some rights reserved, rather than falling back on the default of full copyright, or worse, not sharing at all. I want my students and colleagues to understand that, by sharing materials, they are contributing to a collection of materials that will benefit learners far beyond the walls of their own classroom. This is a significant shift in current educational philosophy, but sites like Curriki are a great step in facilitating a move in the right direction.3 Comments »
Last week, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) sent a fundraising letter to its members calling on them to fight “opponents” such as Creative Commons, falsely claiming that we work to undermine copyright.*
Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses – plain and simple. Period. CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Without copyright, these tools don’t work. Artists and record labels that want to make their music available to the public for certain uses, like noncommercial sharing or remixing, should consider using CC licenses. Artists and labels that want to reserve all of their copyright rights should absolutely not use CC licenses.
Many musicians, including acts like Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N’Dour, Tone, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Yunyu, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, have used Creative Commons licenses to share with the public. These musicians aren’t looking to stop making money from their music. In fact, many of the artists who use CC licenses are also members of collecting societies, including ASCAP. That’s how we first heard about this smear campaign – many musicians that support Creative Commons received the email and forwarded it to us. Some of them even included a donation to Creative Commons.
If you are similarly angered by ASCAP’s deceptive tactics, I’m hoping that you can help us by donating to Creative Commons – and sending a message – at this critical time. We don’t have lobbyists on the payroll, but with your support we can continue working hard on behalf of creators and consumers alike.
Creative Director, Creative Commons
Molly Kleinman is a long-time friend of CC and has been doing incredible work for all things copyright over at the University of Michigan as Special Assistant to the Dean of Libraries. From Espresso Book Machines to a CC-friendly Scholarly Publishing Office, we continue to be inspired by the University of Michigan’s innovative approach to open content, copyright, and especially open education, an area of focus CC is highly committed to developing through ccLearn. We’re honored to have Molly, a self-proclaimed dedicated advocate of Creative Commons, write the fourth letter in the Commoner Letter series of this year’s fundraising campaign.
Subscribe to receive future Commoner Letters by email.
Photo by Chan Wong CC BY-NC
Hello, Fellow Commoner,
Creative Commons licenses make it easier for me to do my work, and to help my faculty and students do theirs. Today I’d like to return the favor and encourage you to support the Creative Commons 2009 Annual Campaign, and help make sure they continue the wonderful work they’ve been doing.
Why is Creative Commons so helpful and important? Because it provides a balanced, sane alternative to the madly out-of-whack copyright system I deal with every day. I am an academic librarian and copyright specialist who teaches faculty, students, librarians, archivists and others about their rights as creators and their rights as users. Anyone familiar with the state of copyright law knows it’s messy and confusing stuff, and the very notion of users’ rights is contentious in some circles. Big Content has been waging a propaganda campaign to convince the public that all unauthorized, un-paid-for uses are infringing, illegal uses. It’s not true, but the widespread misinformation is bad for educators, bad for students, and bad for all of us who benefit from the fruits of scholarly research. Professors are afraid to share educational material with their students. Parents are afraid to let their kids post homemade videos online. All this fear hinders the ability of scholars, teachers, and students to do the work of research, teaching, and learning that is their job.
As my favorite CC video says, “Enter Creative Commons.” Creative Commons carves out an arena in which people can use and build on new works without fear. It frees us from both the looming threat of lawsuits and the time consuming and expensive demands of clearing permissions. Creative Commons helps people share openly, and the more content that CC helps to open up, whether it’s music or photography or scientific data or educational resources, the more it expands what faculty and students can teach and study freely.
I’d like to call particular attention to the work of one of Creative Commons’ offshoots, ccLearn. ccLearn is striving to realize the full potential of the internet to support open learning and open educational resources, and to minimize legal, technical, and social barriers to sharing and reuse of educational materials. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this work. In the United States alone, plummeting budgets and rising costs for both K-12 and higher education are making it harder for students and teachers to access the quality educational resources they need. Until recently, most educational content was locked behind digital paywalls or hidden in print books, and the free stuff you could find online was often unreliable. Now, the pool of high quality open educational resources is growing every day, with open textbooks, open courseware, and other experimental projects popping up all the time. Many of these projects have received support from ccLearn, and nearly all of them are built on the framework of Creative Commons licenses. Every one provides expanded access that is crucial to the future of a quality educational system, both in this country and throughout the world.
This is why it is so important to support Creative Commons, in any number of ways. Though I donate (and you should, too), I believe that one of my greatest contributions has been in helping to build the Creative Commons community from the ground up, one frustrated professor or librarian at a time. Every person I teach about Creative Commons is a person who may eventually contribute to the Commons herself, attaching licenses to her works and sharing them with the world. The bigger the Commons, the better for all of us.
Special Assistant to the Dean of Libraries
University of Michigan Library