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2009 September

Winning Open Design for Classroom of the Future

Jane Park, September 10th, 2009

On Monday, the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge announced the winning design for a sustainable classroom of the future, concluding a competition with over 1,000 registrants from 65 countries around the world. Of the 400 designs entered, the winning design was developed by Teton Valley Community School and Section Eight Design. They were awarded $50,000 to translate their design into action, with a $5,000 grant for Section Eight to help them.

The winning design is not the only outcome of this challenge, however, as all other designs are openly available online via various Creative Commons Licenses (the winning design is CC BY-NC-ND) for others to improve, adapt, and implement themselves, which calls for additional support in much-needed areas. The massive response by schools and design companies around the world also signifies how learning has evolved, and how the old brick and mortar classroom is no longer considered sustainable. By redesigning our learning spaces, we are making concrete the new technologies and pedagogies of the 21st century.

I would especially check out some of the other winners in categories such as Urban Classroom Upgrade open via CC BY (by Rumi School of Excellence in India and IDEO, SF) and Rural Classroom Addition open via CC BY-NC-SA (by Building Tomorrow Academy in Uganda and Gifford, LLP).

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Food Safety Knowledge Network calls for OER

Jane Park, September 10th, 2009

The Food Safety Knowledge network is seeking CC licensed open educational resources in the area of food safety. From their announcement:

“With the increasing demand for safe food and the growing globalization of food production and manufacturing, there is a great need for no-cost, accessible training and educational resources for food safety professionals, especially those working in developing countries where such access is not readily available. Michigan State University and the Global Food Safety Initiative have partnered together to create the Food Safety Knowledge Network (FSKN), a directory of open educational resources in the area of food safety, which will make quality content easily and efficiently findable.

FSKN will use ccLearn’s DiscoverEd search tool to draw resources from reliable sources. These materials will be curated by experts in the field as well as aligned to a set of core competencies for food safety managers so that the users can identify the specific area the resource covers as well as trust the quality of the content. This fall, the Food Safety Knowledge Network will be pilot tested to support implementation of supplier training at the pre-certification level in developing countries including India and China.

If you have or know of food safety resources to share, please contact Sunnie Kim at kiml@msu.edu.”

All resources that the FSKN integrates into DiscoverEd will have a CC license, with all FSKN site content available via CC BY.

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Back to School in Spanish

Jane Park, September 9th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

As a follow-up to Back to School week, Carolina Botero, ccLearn’s regional liason at CC Colombia, has summarized her own take in Spanish on two issues we posted on last week: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Understanding Copyright Exceptions) and Open Courseware as a transition to college. The translations are below, and also at the individual blog posts.

ccLearn está de regreso al colegio

En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, Lila Bailey ha venido publicando una serie de entradas que creo justifica comentar y traducir al menos en parte:

De regreso al colegio: Retos legales para los docentes (entendiendo las excepciones legales) http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17240.

Aunque el contexto legal de los régimenes de Copyright (en USA) y Derechos de Autor (en España, en Colombia y en casi toda América Latina) no es igual, de hecho una de las diferencias es la forma como se maneja este tema, me sorprendíó lo “internacional” de este texto, les traduzco apartes:

“De la fotocopiadora al vídeo en la Web, la tecnología ha hecho más y más fácil hacer a muy bajo costo o incluso completamente gratis copias de contenidos educativos para el beneficio de los estudiantes. Sin embargo, los docentes pueden no ser conscientes de ello, o pueden temer las consecuencias jurídicas de realizar tales copias, de adaptárlas a sus propias circunstancias, o de usarlas para la enseñanza. Por su parte nadie quiere criminalizar a los profesores (o los estudiantes), sin embargo, en estos días el mensaje que los docentes y administradores del sistema educativo están recibiendo de los titulares de los derechos de autor es que las tecnologías digitales producen justamente eso.

La confusión (y el riesgo legal asociado) que viene junto con el uso de contenido con “todos los derechos reservados” se hace mayor cuando los materiales se colocan en la Internet en el contexto de los recursos educativos que tienen licencia para un amplio intercambio y la reutilización. Además, la utilización transfronteriza de recursos con licencias abiertas que contienen materiales con “todos los derechos reservados” crea problemas para la idea de apertura general de los recursos, porque las excepciones al derecho de autor en todo el mundo no son equivalentes o compatibles. Como resultado, el costo para los usuarios potenciales de determinar si ese material puede ser utilizado en su propia jurisdicción supone una barrera para el uso de los REA.”

Precisamente Lila Bailey ha venido trabajando el tema buscando entender la forma como las excepciones legales funcionan globalmente y cómo interactúan con otras licencias de contenido abierto, sus ideas se han condensado en la ponencia que presentó durante la conferencia Oponed “Otherwise Open: Managing Incompatible Content in OER”. Un texto que debemos empezar a revisar y ubicar desde nuestros propios contextos.

De regreso al colegio: Open Courseware como una transición a la educación superior. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17411

En esta entrada Park indica como en este momento los Open Courseware (repositorios de cursos virtuales que se publican para acceso abierto en Internet, como el famoso MIT OCW http://ocw.mit.edu/) han provocado un interesante efecto de publicidad para las universidades americanas que hoy reconocen como cada vez más de los nuevos estudiantes consideran que conocer el material docente de la universidad en la que esperan estudiar ha influido en su toma de decisión y cómo este efecto ha hecho que las universidades americanas estén creando un puente entre la educación superior y media a través de los cursos en estos repositorios abiertos.

Park señala que los cursos se han convertido en material para los docentes de educación media que les permiten más y mejores recursos para preparar los estudiantes para su experiencia universitaria. Sin embargo, Park hace un llamado a la necesidad de llamar la atención y preparar a los docentes para ir más allá de la simple reutilización pasiva de materiales de los cursos y pasen a ser actores de la recreación de estos materiales localizándolos y ajustándolos a sus circunstancias particulares.

Park espera que donaciones como la de la Fundación Boston a la Universidad de Massachussets, que tiene como finalidad preparar a los graduados de la escuela para enfrentar los cursos de educación superior, sirvan de promotor para contextualizar a los docentes y estudiantes en las nuevas comunidades abiertas a ellos a través de herramientas tan sencillas como la licencia que se asocia con un recurso, de modo que puedan ver estos cursos como iniciativas de comunidades abiertas globales más allá de la institución que los hospeda.

La ruta que presenta Park puede servir de inspiración para nuestros países y sus iniciativas nacionales como inspiración para los actores del sector.

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New Zealand Government Promoting Open Data

Michelle Thorne, September 8th, 2009

“There’s a trend going around the world for open data,” says Mark Harris, former manager of web standards at the New Zealand State Services Commission and co-organizer of Wellington’s recent Open Govt Data Barcamp and Hackfest.

He’s right, and New Zealand is certainly trailblazing. Last week, Creative Commons New Zealand reported that their national government released an open access and licensing framework draft (NZGOAL) for public feedback:

The framework will enable greater access to many public sector works by encouraging the New Zealand State Services agencies to license material for reuse on liberal terms, and recommends Creative Commons as an important tool in this process.

The release of NZGOAL is part of the Open Government Information and Data Re-use Project led by the State Services Commission. To get involved, join the official discussion page, contact CC New Zealand, or catch up with the Open Government Ninjas.

In other cool open gov news, New Zealand start-up Koordinates has become the online publication point for the Ministry for the Environment‘s Land Cover Database and the Land Environments New Zealand classification, released under CC BY.

Want to learn more?

Creative Commons curates a wiki listing of governmental license usage worldwide, plus a table on the public sector information laws in various jurisdictions and case studies from key government adopters. If you know of other examples, please help us document them by using the resources above or leaving a comment. Thank you!

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Back to School Conclusion: The Open Trajectory of Learning

Alex Kozak, September 4th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Today’s predictions about the future of learning might eventually seem as preposterous as early 20th century predictions of flying cars and robot butlers. But what we sometimes forget is that our vision for the future today will ultimately shape the outcomes of tomorrow–not in a causal, deterministic way, but in an enabling way. By sharing our hopes and dreams for an open future for learning, we foster an environment in which it can happen.

At ccLearn, we strongly believe that the future for education and learning is one that includes technical, legal, and social openness.

The spaces in which teaching and learning occur are increasingly moving towards technical openness by running open source software, integrating machine readable metadata, and adopting open formats. Schools, colleges, and universities involved in open courseware, wikis, and other organizations engaged in online knowledge delivery are beginning to embrace RDFa and metadata standards like ccREL, open video codecs, open document formats, and open software solutions. More open technology continues to be developed, and there is no indication that this will stop or slow down.

Members of the global education community have been moving towards legal openness by converging on Creative Commons licenses that allow sustainable redistribution and remixing as the de facto licensing standard. This phenomenon is international- Creative Commons has been ported to 51 countries (7 in progress), with CC licensed educational resources being used all over the world. Although ccLearn found in our recent report “What status for ‘open’?” that some institutions have some homework to do on what it means to be open, we are well on the road towards a robust and scalable legal standard for open educational resources.

Perhaps most powerfully, we are beginning to see a move towards social openness in educational institutions in the prototyping of new models for learning involvement, organization, and assessment that maximizes the availability of learning to all people, everywhere. By leveraging the power of online organization and open content, often times coupled with a willingness to re-conceptualize what it means to be an educator, new possibilities for learning will emerge, leading to a more educated world.

We can’t fully predict today what kinds of practices, pedagogies, and technologies open education will enable tomorrow. But we are in a position to claim that our goal for an open future enables the creation of these new and better practices, technologies, and social structures.

ccLearn would like to thank The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for their continued support of open education, the Creative Commons staff who make our work possible, and all of you for your continued support of a truly global commons. We hope that you all continue to contribute to open source learning software, embrace open formats, license your educational works with Creative Commons licenses, and get engaged in the world movement towards an open future for learning.


En Estados Unidos están de regreso al colegio este mes y con este contexto en ccLearn, han venido publicando una serie de entradas algunas de ellas ya quedaron comentadas en español, creo que justifica comentar y traducir lo pertinente:

De regreso al colegio, conclusiones: El camino abierto para el aprendizaje

La entrada de cierre para el ciclo de ccLearn sobre el regreso al colegio esta nuevamente a cargo de Alex Kozak quien indica como desde ccLearn, se cree firmemente en un futuro del proceso de educación y aprendizaje atravesado por la idea de apertura en lo técnico, lo legal y lo social.

Los espacios en los que la docencia y el aprendizaje se dan para Kozak están migrando a estándares abiertos en con el uso de software open source, integrando metadatos que pueden ser leídos por las máquinas y adoptando formatos abiertos. Escuelas, Universidades y en general instituciones de educación superior que desarrollan courseware abiertos, wikis y otras organizaciones involucradas en los procesos de disponer del conocimiento a través de la red están empezando a adoptar RDFa y estandares de metadatos como ccREL, codecs para video abierto, formatos abiertos de editores de textos, y soluciones de software abierto o libre.

De otro lado la comunidad global del sector educativo se esta moviendo hacia la apertura legal, sus decisiones de adopción de licencias Creative Commons como un estándar converge para permitir la redistribución y mezcla de los recursos . Este es un fenómeno internacional- Creative Commons se ha adaptado al sistema legal de 51 países (7 mas lo están haciendo), los recursos educativos licenciados con CC se usan por todo el mundo. En todo caso se debe considerar que ccLearn encontró en su informe “What status for ‘open’?” que algunas instituciones todavía tienen que revisar lo que significa abierto, pero que el camino hacia estándares de apertura en los recursos educativos esta en marcha.

Para Kozak incluso lo llamativo es que se esta empezando a ver una mayor apertura en lo social en relación con los pilotos educativos en los nuevos modelos que las instituciones ensayan. A la hora de abordar el proceso de aprendizaje, la organizacion, y valoracion de estos pilotos están maximizando la idea de hacerlo accesible a cualquiera en cualquier lugar. Kozak cree que apalancando la capacidad de las organizaciones en linea y del contenido abierto, junto con el cada vez mas frecuente deseo de re-conceptualizar lo que significa ser docente, nuevas posibilidades para el aprendizaje surgirán para llevarnos a un mundo mas educado.

Para Kozak aunque no podamos predecir las practicas, pedagogías y tecnologías que favorecerá una educación abierta mañana si podemos decir que la meta de un futuro abierto permitirá la creación de esas nuevas practicas, tecnologías y estructuras sociales.

Breve comentario desde mi propia óptica

Aunque en regiones como América Latina nos hacen falta datos para asumir como ciertas muchas de las afirmaciones de Kozak para el mundo anglosajón lo cierto es que la sensación que hay en el ambiente es que muchas de sus conclusiones pueden ser extensibles a nuestra realidad,

De hecho algunos otras de las entradas de este ciclo de regreso al colegio que hizo ccLearn se referían a proyectos concretos que mostraban proyectos y practicas abiertas (Vital signs y el caso de los libros de texto). Creo que deberíamos visibilizar algunas de las muchas iniciativas que están ocurriendo en nuestra región para conocerlas y aprender de ellas… espero poder hacerlo muy pronto! (si tienen ideas dejen su comentario y hagamos seguimiento de ellas juntos)

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CC Talks With: Back to School: What’s new at Vital Signs?

Jane Park, September 4th, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

Last year, Sarah Kirn, the Manager of the Vital Signs project at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, popped into the CC San Francisco office and gave me a wonderful introduction into everything they were doing. This year, we’re closer in proximity, as Sarah is still in Maine while I am stationed in New York. As a preview of things to come, we connected over email about the progress VS has made since we last met.

To rewind and clarify, Vital Signs is a “field-based science education program” that “links 7th and 8th grade students and scientists in the rigorous collection and analysis of essential environmental data across freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Innovative technology, relevant content, and critical partnerships create an authentic science learning experience for students, a distributed data gathering network for scientists, and a statewide community of teachers, students, and scientists collaborating to learn about and steward the Gulf of Maine watershed.”

What’s new at Vital Signs?

We now have 47 teachers trained in how to use Vital Signs in their science teaching. These teachers hail from all across the state, from Aroostook County to York County. Teachers have already begun making and sharing observations themselves as a way to prepare for using Vital Signs in their classrooms.

To support this program growth we have hired Alexa Dayton to serve as our new Vital Signs Community Specialist. This new position will focus on bringing the citizen science and scientific communities into Vital Signs – as users of the data, as participants in the online community (discussing findings, commenting on data records, confirming or questioning identifications, contributing their own observations to the database), and as on-the-ground supporters of teacher and student field work. Alexa has experience in field biology, science outreach to rural Maine schools, web development and management, marketing, and computer science. We are excited to have her diverse skills brought to bear on supporting and growing our Vital Signs community!

We also have a new scientist partner, Dr. Les Mehrhoff, Director of the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England who is committed to serving as a Species Expert in our online community. He’s recruiting graduate students and others to join him in serving the Vital Signs community in this capacity.

In October a Maine Conservation Corps Environmental Educator will join us for a 10-month position to work with teachers in classrooms and after school clubs to support their use of Vital Signs.

We are collaborating with the MLTI professional development staff to plan Vital Signs-related science and social studies modules that MLTI will deliver this year to complement the summer teacher institutes and provide training for teachers not yet exposed to Vital Signs.

How does CC play a role in these new projects?

We’re spreading CC licenses around – to other education programs. GMRI’s VitalVenture project, a collaborative curriculum development project, has just provisionally agreed to use CC BY licenses, pending agreement by collaborating teacher. Les Mehrhoff, one of our Vital Signs scientist partners is going to use CC BY with his species photos.

And, of course, prior to our launch in November we will be finalizing the CC licensing for student-contributed creative works, teacher-contributed creative work, and citizen scientist-contributed creative work.

How are you leveraging OER in the classroom/with teachers?

All of our curriculum resources are open, so teachers will learn how to use OER through the course of using Vital Signs. As they become familiar with how OER works and become interested in other resources for teaching, we will point them in the direction of other OER.

The most exciting “open” aspect of Vital Signs, I think, is that the learning and work that happens within the system is open to the scientific community. Folks like Les, a well-known and well-respected expert on invasive plants in our region, will be regularly interacting with students on the subject of their contributions to the Vital Signs database. By design, every observation contributed to the Vital Signs site will confirmed or questioned by another member of the community. In this way, Vital Signs opens up students’ experience of learning science.

Tell us what you are most excited about!

Most excited about? It’s a tie between the enthusiastic response we are getting from teachers and students and the near completion of our program infrastructure. I can’t wait for the day (in November 2009!) when we make the www.vitalsignsme.org site live!

This project has been a long time in the development stages. It’s absolutely thrilling to have students contributing field notes like the following from a student in Old Orchard Beach:

“I am happy because I’m helping collect data for science, and was helping find if there are any invasive plants in Milliken Mills.”

“I saw brownish water, lots of leaves in the water, trees, plants, birds, bugs, grass, dead trees and plants, frogs.”

“I smell fresh water.”

“I hear birds, the wind, and water splashing.”

“I am suprized by what I found or didn’t find because even though it was an invasive species I thought I would find it.”

Likewise, it’s thrilling to read the words of a participating teacher from Kennebunk who says “In a nutshell, the Vital Signs program has made the science I teach richer, more real and more meaningful for both my students and myself.”

For more on Vital Signs, see our detailed Inside OER feature on Sarah from last year.

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Back to School: Legal Challenges for Teachers (Sharing Patient Health Data)

Lila Bailey, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

For this post in my Legal Challenges for Teachers series, I will focus on challenges for medical education. Although copyright issues are a problem for medical education as in any other educational area, those who educate and train doctors face many additional hurdles.

According to Open University,

Ethiopia has a population of 84 million people served by fewer than 1800 doctors, most of these in private practice. People are suffering and dying because they cannot get access to a doctor when they need one.

To combat this problem, the Ethiopian government is planning to create 11 new medical schools and 8000 new places for medical students to obtain training. Open University is working with the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia to pilot open and distance learning medical training with students at the recently opened St Paul’s Millennium Medical School in Addis Ababa.

Given the desperate need for new doctors in Africa and around the world, and the distinct lack of trained doctors to teach them, many medical education programs are turning to digital technologies and distance learning for innovative means of educating new doctors. One interesting model being used is the Virtual Patient (VP). VPs are interactive computer simulations of real-life clinical scenarios, and may consist of many learning objects (e.g., text, images, animations, and videos). VPs are becoming recognized as highly effective training tools.

Yet while the use of distance education, such as via Open University, and digital technologies, such as VPs, have the potential to vastly expand the number of doctors with access to quality clinical training resources, it is not without its own challenges. Access to information about real life patients is necessary to develop VPs and other effective clinical training resources. VPs are very time-consuming and expensive to develop, so it is necessary to be able to share existing VPs in a manner that is adaptable to different cultural, linguistic and educational scenarios. Therefore, a prerequisite to the success of these projects is the ability to actually share and reuse the relevant digital content (i.e., the patient information). However, sharing data about patients is subject to numerous laws and regulations, including considerations of confidentiality, patient privacy and protection and control over patient data. This makes sharing data between institutions quite difficult, and even more so when the institutions are located in different countries having different legal requirements.

The Electronic Virtual Patient, or eViPs, program is a collaboration between nine universities across Northern Europe and MedBiquitious, which helped to develop the technical standards used in e-based healthcare education. eViPs has managed to compile a repository of 320 VPs which will soon be made available under a Creative Commons license. In order to share the health data that was used in the development of the VPs contained in the repository, full consent of the participating patients had to be obtained, as detailed in this report. It is wonderful to see collaborations such as this one that have been able to meet the challenges particular to sharing patient health data.

Unfortunately, the ability to share patient health data is still limited to specific projects and institutions. I wonder whether it is possible to develop even more robust legal tools that will allow medical educators to share patient data across projects and across borders, while still maintaining appropriate patient confidentiality. Many lives depend on our ability to do so.

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Back to School: It’s Raining Textbooks

Jane Park, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

All that matters in the news these days is health care, that is, health care and textbooks. The terms “education” and “textbook” go hand in hand, and nobody, at least at the state levels, is keen on separating the two. With California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative recently announcing the approval of some 20 digital textbooks, a futuristic vision of Kindle kids scrolling with razor-like focus floats like bubbles before our eyes.

However, last month, the New York Times reported, “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History,” that textbooks may be “supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.” The article pointed to Beyond Textbooks, an initiative that “encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.” Beyond Textbooks disassociates itself from “canned curriculum”, or “vanilla curriculum,” reproaching the linear nature of textbooks– “No longer is instruction limited by the resources in one building, or even one district. Beyond Textbooks gives you the whole world!”

My own post on OnOpen.net follows a similar train of thought, and is aptly named, “Beyond the Textbook: I. The Illusion of Quality in K-12 Education“. In it, I challenge the public perception that educational quality will suffer without textbooks, and talk about whether textbooks really need saving.

Other news sources are also skeptical. The Scientific American prefaces its article, “Open-Source Textbooks a Mixed Bag in California,” with the caveat, “Downloadable and free, maybe–but the schoolhouse Wiki revolution will have to wait.” Granted, SA seems to be conflating “open-source” and “digital” here (open-source is generally associated with openly licensed textbooks, otherwise known as open textbooks, while digital is, well, digital like everything else we come across in today’s world) and it is unclear if they are skeptical of simply digitizing the “Bulky, hefty and downright expensive, conventional school textbooks” that have been persisting for years, or if they are averse to the digital revolution in education generally.

Still, the ReadWriteWeb is more optimistic, pointing out initiatives like Flat World Knowledge which focus on gaining revenue through the sale of supplementary materials surrounding their textbooks, which are themselves openly available via CC BY-NC-SA, and are therefore not only freely accessible, but adaptable, derivable, and even republishable, though for noncommercial purposes and under the same license. Co-founder Eric Frank distinguishes between traditional textbooks and open textbooks, emphasizing that open textbooks creates more options: “Traditional textbooks have clearly failed students and instructors. Similarly, digital textbook trials that force a single format, device, or price point will also fail. No single e-reading format or device will ever satisfy all students. Our commercial open-source textbook approach puts control and the power of choice in the hands of students and instructors.”

However, you can’t help but wonder if all this hooplah around textbooks is “[falling] flat.” Is the power of choice really in the hands of teachers and students? If traditional textbooks “have clearly failed” them, but that traditional textbook adoption process is not about to budge, are we simply arguing about which direction to steer the Titanic after we have already hit the iceberg?

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Does your sharing scale?

Mike Linksvayer, September 2nd, 2009

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick is perhaps the most prolific blogger on the ill impact of overly restrictive legal regimes, including of course copyright and patents, but also trademark and even employment law (see Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital) and often on people delivering real value to customers (sad that these are considered “alternative” business models) instead of replying on protectionist legal measures — as blogged here, Masnick’s case study on NIN is an absolute must read/watch — and he hosts awesome guest authors.

So it’s a little disappointing to read Masnick write:

I don’t use any of their licenses, because I don’t necessarily see the point. We’ve declared in the past that the content here is free for anyone to do what they want with it, and thus I feel no need for a Creative Commons license.

The need arises from the reality that sharing without standardized legal tools doesn’t scale. It doesn’t scale socially — if I wasn’t a regular Techdirt reader I wouldn’t know that Masnick had declared Techdirt content is free for anyone and for any purpose (and even now I could only find one such declaration because I remembered that Masnick had written about it in a post that mentioned CC!), nor depending on wording would I know what that meant. It doesn’t scale technically — there’s no way for software such as search engines to recognize ad hoc declarations. It doesn’t scale legally — any community or institution that requires legal certainty (eg due to risk that the community’s work will be suppressed or that the institution will be financially liable) will avoid ad hoc declarations.

It’s no surprise that in the more developed field of free and open source software (which has a 10+ year head start on free culture/open content) anyone who claims that making an ad hoc declaration is good enough and did not release their code under an established license would be laughed at and their code not allowed in other projects, distributions, and repositories, not to mention getting no attention from IBM, Google, Red Hat and thousands of other corporate contributors to and adopters of open source software.

Communities and institutions outside software also require works under established licenses (ie those provided by CC) to scale, e.g., Wikipedia, OpenCourseWare, the Public Library of Science and many, many others. What about individuals and small group efforts? Of course they don’t have to use real legal tools for their content any more than an individual programmer has to share code under an established open source license — that is if they don’t actually want others to “do what they want” with their content or code — because no license means no-understand, no-find, and no-go.

One of Masnick’s best turns is his stylized formula Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$). As he explains, each part of the formula has many facets — reasonable copyright terms are just one — and as he points out, in a sense copyright is irrelevant, as CwF+RtB would work in the complete absence of copyright. However, as Techdirt points out every day, copyright is in more than full effect, producing all kinds of anti-creative and anti-innovation effects, from labels suing fans, bloggers, startups and anyone else available to heirs suppressing the use of work by long-dead authors. In this environment it seems rather necessary to offer fans the legal certainty of an established public license that grants at least the right to non-commercially share. Anything less seems to betray a lack of respect for fans or, if done unknowingly, is an instance of failed sharing.

Of course one might want to go beyond offering a relatively restrictive license and not rely on copyright at all, giving fans complete freedom with respect to one’s works. As Masnick has noted, CC has developed a legally rigorous tool to do just that, worldwide — CC0 — we hope that he is still considering it.☺

The Techdirt post quoted above is primarily a solid response to another blogger’s post on whether CC is good or bad for copyright policy — a very worthy question. Masnick’s conclusion is good:

Many of the people behind it went through (and are still going through) numerous battles to push back on the excesses of copyright. Creative Commons wasn’t the solution — it was a helpful (and hopefully temporary) oasis in a bleak desert, following numerous well-reasoned, but ultimately futile attempts to push back corporate expansion of copyright. And while I agree that there are problems with shifting the issue to a contractual agreement (and the post highlights some of the many legal problems CC licenses may cause), I think that CC, as a whole, did turn a lot more people onto the some of the problems with copyright law as it stands today. In many ways, CC is an easy way for people to first start to understand the problems of copyright law, in understanding why CC is needed.

From there, many who do understand this have started questioning the larger issues around copyright — and many of those involved with CC have continued to fight that good fight, rather than just assuming that CC is “the answer.” So, in the end, I agree that we should be clear to recognize that Creative Commons and efforts to really rethink copyright are two separate things, but that doesn’t mean that Creative Commons is necessarily bad for copyright policy issues. It has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a real stepping stone to getting more people to recognize these bigger issues. In fact, I’d argue that many of the folks now leading the debate for more reasoned copyright policy in Canada first came to understand these issues via their exposure to Creative Commons’ licenses.

While CC and other voluntary efforts (such as free software and open access) aren’t the solution (if there is such a thing), their contribution goes well beyond serving as stepping stones for thinking about how messed up the copyright environment is. They are simultaneously tools for enabling billions of dollars of collaboration across organization boundaries and unlocking untold social value now and in proving out models that don’t rely on excessive enforcement, changing the facts on the ground in a systemic way that arguably should increase the probability of good outcomes relative to those likely to result from a single-track strategy of merely complaining about the current regime as it worsens.

Copycense, the blogger that Techdirt responds to above, has unrealistic assessments of CC’s ability to “muzzle” the conversation about copyright reform and of the ability of such a conversation to obtain the “best case scenario, with a balanced and effective law that serves citizens and corporate owners equally well”. Copycense is enamored with the current Canadian copyright consultation — it’s worth noting that CC Canada has been around since 2004, that Michael Geist, the most prominent voice for positive reform, is a long time CC user and advocate — one can hardly say CC has muzzled the conversation — and furthermore it isn’t clear the consultation will lead to any good progress. Hopefully good reform will result, and many involved in CC in Canada and elsewhere are also involved in reform efforts (if you read French see the consultation of Olivier Charbonneau, one of the project leads of CC Canada) — but to denigrate voluntary efforts, at least while some rather intractable problems with the ability of concentrated interests to hijack politics remain, is a gigantic missed opportunity at best, and possibly flirting with very bad outcomes.

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Join Creative Commons for Mozilla Service Week September 14-21

Nathan Yergler, September 2nd, 2009

Mozilla Service Week is happening September 14-21, 2009, and during that week Mozilla is trying to bring people together to help teach one another about the web. Creative Commons is answering Mozilla’s call for participation by hosting an online help desk via our IRC channel. Our IRC channel (#cc on the Freenode network) is typically a place where our developers and people interested in the technology of CC hang out. During Service Week we’re inviting everyone to join us there for a virtual CC help desk.

The CC help desk is a place for experienced CC-ers (staff, Jurisdiction partners, and community members), to come together to share their collective expertise with those that are new to CC and need a little, or a lot, of guidance.

The CC community will be providing help with the following topics:

  • General CC help
  • CC technology (ccREL and software projects)
  • Where and how to publish CC works
  • Where and how to find CC works
  • CC in education and science

If you’d like to help out, add your name to our Mozilla Service Week wiki page and pledge your hours at mozillaservice.org. If you have questions, join the channel during Service Week and ask a volunteer.

More information can be found on the wiki page,

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