EC

Conclusions from the European Commission PSI consultation

Timothy Vollmer, December 20th, 2013

Last month, Creative Commons and several other groups responded to the European Commission’s consultation on licensing, datasets and charging for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). See our response here. There were 355 submissions to the questionnaire (spreadsheet download), apparently from all EU Member States except Cyprus. The Commission hosted a hearing (PDF of meeting minutes) on the issue on 25 November.

This week the Commission released a final summary report (PDF) to the consultation. There were several interesting data points from the report concerning licensing. First, the questionnaire respondents preferred a “light-weight approach, limited to a mere disclaimer or consisting of allowing the reuse of data without any particular restrictions…” (pg5). In our submission, we said that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of public sector information, with the best case scenario being for public sector information to be in the public domain, exempt from copyright protection altogether by amending national copyright laws.

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Second, when asked about licensing conditions that would comply with the PSI Directive’s requirement of ‘not unnecessarily restricting possibilities for re-use’, the most respondents indicated support for the requirement to acknowledge the source of data. In our submission we said we believed every condition would be deemed restrictive, since ideally PSI would be removed from the purview of copyright protection through law. At the same time, we realize that if the Commission were to permit public sector bodies to incorporate a limited set of conditions through licensing, then they should be expected to use standard public licenses aligned with the Open Definition. The preference should be for “attribution only” licenses, like CC BY.

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The report noted that a majority (62%) of respondents believed that greater interoperability would be best achieved through the use of standard licences. And 71% of respondents said that the adoption of Creative Commons licenses would be the best option to promote interoperability. The report states, “this may be interpreted as both a high awareness of the availability of standard licences and a genuine understanding of their role in ensuring licencing interoperability across jurisdictions” (pg7).

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The report also mentions the fact that several respondents chose to provide feedback on which Creative Commons licenses would be deemed suitable for PSI re-use. It noted that the most prevalent licenses mentioned were CC0 and CC BY, while a few respondents suggested BY-SA. Others provided a more general answer, such as “the most open CC license could be used…But [the] BEST OPTION is no use of any of license: public domain” (pg9).

The report concludes (pg16):

There is also a widespread acceptance of the need to offer interoperable solutions, both on the technical and licencing levels. And even if opinions differ as to the exact shape of re-use conditions, the answers show that a general trend towards a more open and interoperable licencing system in Europe, largely based on available standard licences is gaining ground.

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European Commission launches “Opening Up Education” initiative

Timothy Vollmer, September 25th, 2013

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes and Commission Member Androulla Vassiliou today announced Opening Up Education, an initiative that looks to increase the use of digital technologies for learning and spur the development of Open Educational Resources and policies across the European Union.

The Opening Up Education communication (PDF) indicates a strong support for Open Educational Resources. On the subject of OER, the Commission will:

  • Ensure that all educational materials supported by Erasmus+ are available to the public under open licenses and promote similar practices under EU programmes;
  • Use the new programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 to encourage partnerships between creators of educational content (e.g. teachers, publishers, ICT companies), to increase the supply of quality OER and other digital educational materials in different languages, to develop new business models and to develop technical solutions which provide
    transparent information on copyrights and open licenses to users of digital educational resources;
  • Launch with this Communication the Open Education Europa portal linking it to existing OER repositories in different languages and bringing learners, teachers and researchers together, so to improve the attractiveness and visibility of quality OERs produced in the EU.

The communication also urged Member States and education institutions to:

  • Stimulate open access policies for publicly-funded educational materials;
  • Encourage formal education and training institutions to include digital content, including OERs, among the recommended educational materials for learners at all educational levels and encourage the production, including through public procurement, of high-quality educational materials whose copyrights would belong to public authorities.

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Kroes and Vassiliou also introduced Open Education Europa, a portal for high quality OER available in a variety of languages. The default licensing for the resources in the portal is CC BY.

The communication document defined OER as “learning resources that are usable, adaptable to specific learning needs, and shareable freely.” We think that it would be better for the Commission to adopt the longstanding and well-understood OER definition promoted by the Hewlett Foundation, which defines OER as “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Creative Commons provided feedback last year when the Commission was gathering information from stakeholders on how to proceed around the issues of ICT and OER. Congratulations to the EC on what looks like a promising initiative that will increase access to and reuse of open educational resources and technologies for a wide range of learners in Europe.

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CC Europe urges European Commission to support Open Education

Timothy Vollmer, November 6th, 2012

In August we wrote about the European Commission’s request for information on the topic Opening Up Education. The point of the consultation is to gauge the need for EU action to promote the adoption and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Several Creative Commons affiliates in Europe have submitted a joint response to the survey. The jurisdictions signing onto the response include Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Serbia, Poland, Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria, and Ireland.

The joint response urges the Commission to support the recommendations in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which was unanimously supported by UNESCO member nations at the World Open Educational Resources Congress on 20-22 June 2012. As described in the consultation document (PDF), “the EU will use the tools at its disposal (policy guidance, EU regulation whenever relevant, funding mechanisms, exchange of good practices and innovative pilots).” By leveraging these various tools in alignment with the suggestions laid out in the Paris Declaration, the Commission can be very effective in promoting the development and use of OER. Those recommendations urge UNESCO member nations to:

  1. Foster awareness and use of OER.
  2. Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
  3. Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
  4. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
  5. Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
  6. Foster strategic alliances for OER.
  7. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
  8. Encourage research on OER.
  9. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
  10. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.

The European Commission is in a position to help coordinate, promote, and support most — if not all — of these recommendations. In addition, these recommendations align with the Europe 2020 priorities, especially in increasing effective investments in education by encouraging free open access to publicly funded educational content.

The Paris Declaration reaffirms OER as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” The EC should support this definition of OER so that users of OER know the rights available to them and so that producers of OER get the credit they deserve. Since a clear legal framework is crucial to the success of OER, we strongly suggest that the EC consider promoting the use of Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC licenses are globally applicable and are seen as the gold standard for open content licensing. It would be beneficial for the EC to adopt CC licenses because they are already established and understood, instead of creating customized licenses that may not interoperate with existing solutions.

The full response is available here.

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European Commission wants to hear from you on “Opening Up Education”

Timothy Vollmer, August 27th, 2012

European Commission flags
European Commission / tiseb / CC BY

The European Commission has opened a public consultation period on the topic of “Opening Up Education.” The objective of the consultation is to explore the perceived need for EU action to promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Interested stakeholders (including organizations, public bodies, citizens) can complete the questionnaire on this consultation.

From the summary document (PDF):

While OER and the use of ICT in education are high on the agenda of policy makers in the educational sphere, OER and ICT have not yet reached a critical threshold to be fully exploited across all education and training sectors. Several actions have been undertaken over the years by the EU and Member States, but in a fragmented, short-term manner, without prospects for long-term sustainability. A comprehensive initiative at EU level could match the scope, size and complexity of the challenges, and respond to the increasing demand to tap into the potential of OER and ICT to modernize education. Such a strategy could provide a significant push to improve the way educational content is produced, accessed and used to teach, learn or connect with peers.

The consultation period ends 13 November 2012. Following on from the June 2012 UNESCO OER Declaration, the EU consultation can be a productive vehicle for continuing the exploration of and support for Open Education in Europe and around the world.

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