Flat World Knowledge partners with Barnes & Noble and NACS Media Solutions

Jane Park, April 9th, 2010

On April 1, Flat World Knowledge announced its partnerships with Barnes & Noble and NACS Media Solutions (an independent business subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores). The partnerships enable FWK’s open textbooks to be distributed in low-cost print form at up to 3,000 college bookstores across the U.S. for the 2010 fall semester. To make sure this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, I followed up with some of the folks at FWK about this and other plans.

Basically, all FWK’s textbooks are open under the CC BY-NC-SA license. The web version is accessible by anyone—which means you can copy, adapt, and reproduce the content for free (as long as you do so non-commercially and share alike). If you want to adapt it via FWK’s platform and easily produce and obtain hard copies of professor or student-customized chapters, then you pay a low-cost fee to download the customized PDF or have the professionally bound textbook mailed to you (about $1.99 per chapter download or $29.99 for the hard textbook). You can also access the physical textbooks at some college bookstores.

This new agreement with B&N and NACS expands the number where the physical texts are available, up to 3,000—wherever local professors have decided to participate. (This includes 639 Barnes & Noble college bookstores.) In addition, a print-on-demand (POD) model is being piloted at a few bookstores in August, with the long term goal to have POD in all. From the press release,

“Flat World Knowledge will provide bookstores with digital files of its growing catalog of professionally-developed, peer-reviewed college textbooks. Since Flat World textbooks are openly-licensed, instructors can remix, reorder, add and remove content, and then the bookstore can print and bind high-quality paperback books, often within minutes or hours.

University Book Store, Inc. at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the San Diego State University Bookstore, among others, will be the first to pilot this new process. Students will have the convenience of same-day pick up. POD technology also allows professors to continue to customize and update a Flat World textbook within days instead of weeks of the fall semester starting.”

The license (CC BY-NC-SA) applies to their print textbooks as well as the print-on-demand versions. In addition, FWK’s platform is built on open source software and they have plans to eventually make their XML exportable at no cost, which would allow a user to remix FWK content on their own site.

For more information, see the full press release. You can also learn more about their open business model by watching this talk given by Eric Frank (Chief Marketing Officer) from the latest CC Salon NYC.

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Creative Commons & Education Landing Page And Wiki Project

Mike Linksvayer, April 7th, 2010

Today we launched two important resources for anyone interested in Creative Commons and education.

First, there’s an education landing page prominently linked from our home page. Its goal is to quickly introduce our site visitors to the vast number and range of Open Educational Resources (OER) available for use as well as the role of Creative Commons licenses in enabling OER to reach its potential. We’ll be testing various iterations of this page in the coming months as well as add further assets (e.g., video) to make it an effective introduction to OER for the general public.

The landing page also features a number of links for anyone who wants to learn more about OER & CC and/or wants to contribute their own knowledge. Most of those links point to the OER Portal/Project on our wiki. Our goal for this section is for our community to add useful information about OER as well as help curate this information. Ultimately, we hope processes for curating such information (e.g., a rating system for OER case studies) will develop, looking at the Wikipedia WikiProjects as an inspiration. Please dive in and help, from small corrective edits to designing and documenting curation processes.

These new resources are in-line with the education plans we posted about at the end of January. Watch here for more!

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Teaching Open Source Software

Jane Park, April 7th, 2010

If you’re like me, then you don’t know much about software; if you’re not like me, then you know about software but not much about open source software (OSS). Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s good news—you can learn about open source software (and help others learn about it) through open educational resources on OSS online. Practical Open Source Software Exploration: How to be Productively Lost, the Open Source Way is teachingopensource.org‘s new textbook to help professors, or anyone for that matter, teach or learn about open source software. “It’s a book that works like an open source software project. In other words: patches welcome.

For those needing something quick and simple to hand out to their classes, educators can contribute to or adapt this textbook (it’s licensed under CC BY-SA so you can share, translate, remix as long as you share alike) or search for other OER online. One K-12 educator developed this resource under CC BY, A K-12 Educator’s Guide to Open Source Software.

Via CC licenses, both resources enable a community of educators and learners to contribute to, edit, and improve them, especially Practical Open Source Software Exploration which invites people to edit the wiki directly. But fostering a community around open resources to keep them up-to-date and relevant isn’t something that just magically happens, which is why Red Hat, a successful business built around OSS, developed this meta-resource: The Open Source Way: Creating and nurturing communities of contributors. The book is available in wiki-form also under CC BY-SA, and “it contains knowledge distilled from years of Red Hat experience, which itself comes from the many years of experience of individual upstream contributors who have worked for Red Hat.” Basically, it’s a guide “for helping people to understand how to and how not to engage with community over projects such as software, content, marketing, art, infrastructure, standards, and so forth.” Of course none of this is set in stone (literally), since what works for some might not for others, but it’s worth taking a look and adapting to your own needs.

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Nina Simon’s “The Participatory Museum”

Cameron Parkins, April 6th, 2010


Cover design by Jennifer Rae Atkins

The Participatory Museum, a new book from Nina Simon on ways to increase audience participation in cultural institutions, is now available in full under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license:

I want everyone to be able to use the content and make derivative works. I didn’t choose Share Alike because I know that many museums, universities, and organizations are not able to use CC licenses (and thus would not be able to redistribute the content). But I did choose Noncommercial because I don’t want a publisher to snap up the book or a chapter, credit me as author, and sell the content.

The book contains an incredible amount of useful and thought-provoking information for those working in museums and other cultural institutions. Outside of the book itself, Simon posted on the process of self-publishing – including a deeper look at her license choice – on her Museum 2.0 blog.

In addition to its free release online, The Participatory Museum is available for purchase as both paperback and PDF download.

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Pratham Books uses CC to make children’s books accessible

Jane Park, April 5th, 2010

Nearly two years ago, I blogged about Pratham Books, a nonprofit children’s book publisher in India. “It was set up to fill a gap in the market for good quality, reasonably priced children’s books in a variety of Indian languages. [Its] mission is to make books affordable for every child in India.” At the time, Pratham Books had released six children’s books under a CC BY-NC-SA license, available on their Scribd page. Since then, they have changed the licenses on those books to Attribution Only (CC BY) and have expanded their offerings to books in the public domain. They have also been blogging extensively and encouraging remix of their CC licensed illustrations on Flickr.

Last month, the CC licenses enabled audio versions of Pratham children’s books for India’s National Association of the Blind. Three audio versions were recorded by Radio Mirchi, two in English and one in Urdu, with more in the works.

I asked Guatam John of Pratham Books why they moved towards more open licensing (from the books’ original CC BY-NC-SA license), and what else he saw for the future of Pratham’s CC licensed books.

“Pratham Books has taken the position that all our content will either be under a CC-BY or CC-BY-SA license because, to us, these are the only two truly open licenses that fit our needs. Radio Mirchi gave us the content with no terms attached but since it was done pro bono, we felt that putting it out under the CC-BY-SA license was the best available choice for both the community, Radio Mirchi and us. Also, the SA component serves to limit commercial use unless it is re-shared, as the license, and our philosophy, mandates.

We continue to release content under open licenses, for example: http://blog.prathambooks.org/2010/03/retell-remix-rejoice-with-chuskit-world.html. And we will continue to do so over time. We have been working with the Connexions project to build a platform for the re-use, remix and distribution of our content too. Our basic goal is a net increase in the available content for children to read from and we think we can catalyse this two ways: Seeding the domain with our content and building a platform to make it easy to re-use and re-purpose content.”

For more on CC licensed OER being adapted to accessible versions, see “U.S. Dept of Ed funds Bookshare to make open textbooks accessible.”

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Launching Public Discussion of CC Patent Tools

Kaitlin Thaney, April 2nd, 2010

Thinh Nguyen writes over at the Science Commons blog

“We’re happy to announce that we’re launching the public comment and discussion period for our new patent tools: the Research Non-Assertion Pledge and the Public Patent License. We invite you to join the discussion at our public wiki. There you can read about these tools, catch up on hot topics of interest to the community, or join our public discussion list to contribute your thoughts and suggestions.

These tools were conceived as part of our collaboration with The GreenXchange (GX), a network of companies interested in making publicly available unpatented know-how and patented inventions that have the potential to promote innovation, sustainability, resource management, and other socially responsible uses of ideas and inventions. The Research Non-Assertion Pledge and Public Patent License are just pieces of the underlying infrastructure for how to share and transform that kind of knowledge—just like CC licenses have become part of the infrastructure for exchanging and transforming creative works. While these tools were initially conceived in collaboration with GX, we envision them as generic tools maintained by CC for anyone to use, and we hope they will prove to be useful in other projects in the future as well. That’s why it’s important to us to get comprehensive comments and feedback from the community and the public. [...]

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New Dutch government portal uses CC0 public domain waiver as default copyright status

Mike Linksvayer, March 31st, 2010

The Netherlands government has launched Rijksoverheid.nl, a new website that all Dutch ministries will migrate to (English; other links in this post are Dutch).

Creative Commons Netherlands notes that the site’s copyright policy signals a seriousness about open sharing of public sector information — its default is to remove all copyright restrictions with the CC0 public domain waiver.

Rijksoverheid.nl not only signals a true commitment to openness but also sets a strong example for other governments. Congratulations!

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OpenCourseWare economics in the New York Times

Mike Linksvayer, March 31st, 2010

In As Colleges Make Courses Available Free Online, Others Cash In the New York Times writes about how universities are funding OpenCourseWare programs as well as how businesses have sprung up around CC licensed Open Educational Resources (OER) from such programs. Regarding the latter, our CEO is quoted:

On a philosophical level, the idea of making money from something available free might seem questionable. But Joi Ito, chief executive of Creative Commons, which issues the licenses defining user rights to most OpenCourseWare materials, supports the mixing of free and for-profit: “I think there’s a great deal of commercial infrastructure that needs to be created in order for this to be successful,” Mr. Ito said: “It can’t all just be free.”

As readers steeped in knowledge of free culture/open content (and before it free and open source software) will recognize, this means three things.

First, sharing does not preclude making money. To the contrary, artists have long been making CC licensing part of their business strategies, and recently some OER creators and companies are following suit. Examples include WikiPremed, Flat World Knowledge, and Bloomsbury Academic. See Eric Frank explain how Flat World Knowledge gives away CC licensed open textbooks and profits from print materials and services rendered around the content in a video just uploaded from CC Salon NYC.

Second, there needs to be an ecosystem built around open materials, and businesses are an important part of that ecosystem. In the OER space the article mentions Academic Earth. Consider the many businesses providing services around CC licensed materials more broadly (e.g., Flickr, and Fotopedia, which leverages CC licensed works from both Flickr and Wikipedia) and the legion of businesses build around free software (e.g., Red Hat). Consider how huge education is. The opportunity and need for businesses that provide distribution, curation, and a plethora of other services around OER are huge.

Third, free can refer to price and freedom. Businesses, universities, and others can charge a price for access or services around OER. The ecosystem works due to the freedoms that have been granted to use and build upon OER.

The article also mentions the values of OER, one of which is to “[create] an incentive for universities to improve themselves.” It quotes Cathy Casserly, who recently joined the Creative Commons board of directors:

“I think that by putting some of the spectacular professors, and putting their approaches and pedagogical instructional strategies that they use with their students in front of the world, it sets a new benchmark for all of us to learn from,” she said. “And I think that’s actually one of the incredible powers of this open educational resource.”

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WikiPremed makes money by giving away MCAT course

Jane Park, March 30th, 2010

Artists have been using Creative Commons licenses in interesting ways for a while, whether it’s to encourage interesting adaptations of their work or to help boost album sales. But it’s not only the visual artists and musicians diversifying the use of CC licenses—open education initiatives like Flat World Knowledge are experimenting with innovative business models by giving away digital content while charging for services added around it. WikiPremed is another one.

WikiPremed is the result of fifteen years of hard work, founded by John Wetzel, a graduate of Stanford University who has been helping “premedical students prepare for the MCAT in small group teaching through over fifty course cycles.” The site is comprehensive in scope, basically a course “in the undergraduate level general sciences,” consisting of textbooks, flash cards, test questions, images, and more that a premed student would need to prepare for the MCAT. All materials are available for free under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike, which means you can translate, improve, and republish it as long as you share alike.

What’s more interesting is that the site is sustaining itself by giving away digital content for free and charging for print materials, such as its Physics flashcards and print versions of its books. There is also an ask for a one-time $25 donation that then gives students an Organic Mechanisms Pocketbook and Advanced Physiology Crosssword Puzzle Book in return as a thank you. From Glyn Moody’s short interview of John Wetzel (which got picked up by techdirt),

“Students need printed study materials, and they get sick of the computer, so I definitely think there is room for creative commons educational content supported by print publications. I think there is an ethic to not holding content hostage to purchases, but I think there are commercial advantages to the open model as well. I don’t doubt that the average customer at WikiPremed has 1000 page views before purchasing anything.

I am sure that if there were registration walls and missing chapters I would have fewer customers.

I’m not getting rich or anything, at this point, but it is working.”

If you’re interested, you can help contribute to the WikiPremed case study.

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CC Talks With: Vincent Moon

Cameron Parkins, March 29th, 2010


Vincent Moon by Brantley Gutierrez / CC BY

Filmmaker and artist Vincent Moon first gained notoriety with his verité style performance pieces for French music blog La Blogotheque. Over the past five years his creative output has been prolific, releasing music documentaries that range from impromptu performance Take Away Shows to event-based projects like Temporary Areas to Long Portrait features on rare musicians.

Beyond his distinct and influential aesthetic, a recent decision to release all his works under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license piqued our interest and we caught up with Moon to discuss his approach to art and creation in today’s world as well as his decision to release his work under a CC license.

Could you give our readers some background on yourself? How and when did you become interested in filmmaking?

I guess I started by accident. When I was 18 I studied cinema at university – sort of. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand anything. They were just telling me about impossible things to make, huge movies. They were so complicated and I was way too young to imagine that I could do anything like that. Then I started to do photography and it was what I was really excited about. Just going out in the street and basically being, very simply, a creator. I didn’t need any budget or anything there. So I was doing photos but didn’t really know what to do with it until I got more interested in music and wanted to do something with music and musicians.

I started getting closer to musicians when I met a band called The National – they were just starting at the time and they used some photos I did with them for their third album, Alligator. Then I was like, wow OK maybe this is something to do around music. They asked me if I wanted to do a little guest music video for them. It was all pretty lo-fi and it was still what people would call a “music video” – putting images on pre-recorded music. After a few of these, which we did without any money, I realized this wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t a very interesting relationship with the people I was working with. They just send me a song and ask me to do something with it.

Around that time I was always going to see live music – I spent around 6 years in Paris every night going out to see live shows – and I realized I wanted to do something with live music. When I met Chryde, who runs La Blogotheque, he wanted to do something we called at the time a video podcast – I haven’t seen that word in a long time – but he wanted to do something and I wanted to film music differently so that is how we started the “Take Away Shows” project just over four years ago.

Do you consider yourself a documentarian? Where do you see yourself in the general cinematic landscape?

It’s definitely documentary, but I’ve been thinking and talking about it more and [documentary] doesn’t mean much anymore. Now creation is made in a way that putting names on such creation doesn’t really mean anything. Lots of people from our generation, we are inspired and influenced by so many different fields because we have access to so [much] more than before. It’s impossible to just be inspired by cinema – you listen to music all the time and you read stuff and you have access to all those amazing things and so I guess now we are seeing more hybrid creations and they don’t belong to any genre. So I don’t see myself as owed to cinematography – I don’t even call myself a director or anything. I call myself a “filmer” – I don’t know if that would be a word in English – but in a way I’m not really a filmmaker I’m just a “filmer.” I’m just a guy using a tool and that tool is a camera but it could be something else.

My point is not to make movies but to make relationships – basically, to meet people, and I found a good pretext to do that. I pretend I am a filmmaker sometimes but it is really a pretext to travel and meet people and talk with them. It is very interesting to talk with people without using words – some people use instruments to carry their message and I use a camera. I think it is an important point and something I’ve been really interested in more recently, especially talking to some journalists. Most journalists want to put you in a little box, because of course it is easier – it’s easier to put a word on what you do. But it doesn’t mean anything really.

I’m just a guy using a tool today and traveling just doing my little things – I call them “little things” more and more because I feel that I make most of my movies as gifts. I make them for the people I love I don’t really make money on them.

How did you become interested in Creative Commons and the free culture movement in general?

I don’t really remember what the first thing that got me interested was, I just remember I started reading some books by Lawrence Lessig. I was really interested in reading a lot about all the copyfree things. It’s more recent probably than you would expect. After a while [of] doing these videos for [La Blogotheque] we really became a part of the “blog revolution” and I started to understand that there was such a strong link between Creative Commons and my way of working – it seemed so obvious to me.

What grabbed you about CC? What was the resonance between what you were doing for La Blogtheque and Lessig’s Free Culture?

My way of doing things is that I don’t really respect many of the things you should respect when you work with labels. With the blog in a way we never signed anything with all the labels and that is how we’ve been able to do our project, do all the Take Away shows. And because we didn’t really deal with any labels or manager, we’re always talking directly straight to the artists. My way of doing things is that I don’t care much about the intermediaries, those people between the two extreme points you know, maybe even two creators talking together or creators talking to an audience. My way of doing things has been always to avoid the steps in the middle and talk straight to the people. And that is how I felt the obvious link with Creative Commons. Now each time I get an email from a manager to work with an artist, I tell them to put me in touch with them and we will talk together. It’s more of a direct relationship.

How are you using CC licenses on your projects?

As soon as I started to do things on my blog I started using CC. Now though I put all my original work under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike license – all of it. This is a really important thing to me and I want to be clear with the people I work with that I’m not going to work with a label that doesn’t allow me to use CC on a video with an artist. That’s it.

That is basically the only way I can move things and convince people from the inside. With lots of labels, their attitude to all this has been really complicated and it’s getting really impossible to work with them. I’m in a lucky position in that I can convince people to move towards Creative Commons and this sort of view on how people create and share.

Beyond just believing in CC theoretically in a broader cultural sense, what do you see as the main purpose for using CC licenses on your work? Is it to allow people to share them? To give them a sense of ownership?

I don’t think people are going to use CC with my work in a way that is useful to remix, I just want people to think about my work more and share my work as they want. Creative Commons is a way for creators to share their work just because they want to create, not because they want to make money – I’m not getting a lot of money for what I’m doing, I just want to be able to continue doing this. I really try basically to make movies for no money and I don’t want to have money involved – I tend to refuse working with someone when they come in with a large budget. I like to keep it on that simple level. I don’t want people to make money off these projects as no one is paid. It’s all for free so I like to keep it that way.

Now all my work is under a Creative Commons license, not because I think it will particularly help but because it is a way of thinking, it is a way of life, and it is something to fight for. I work with lots of musicians – I use CC to push the people I am working with to be involved in that movement. It is about how people create – I’m just amazed by how little time we spend thinking about how people create compared to how people make money from creations. It’s crazy, it’s scary.

Talk a little bit about projects you are working on right now. I know you are working on the Temporary Areas project right now and that you recently won the Sound and Vision Award for Faute des Fleurs at the CPH DOX Film Festival.

I have tons of different projects that are mostly based around music – I’m going to make a movie about the Primavera Sound Festival, a festival in Barcelona, and continue to do long portraits that are dedicated to rare musicians. My life is on the road, and I don’t have a home anymore – I’m sort of experimenting with my own life and how you are able to live as a nomad. To use your camera as a tool to interact and meet people.

I organize events more and more, I see myself as an organizer more than a filmmaker. I did this thing in Copenhagen last May where I gathered nine bands in one space and we did what I called Temporary Copenhagen. It is a long piece where I pushed these bands to play their music differently. It’s not always about bands playing their music acoustically, the idea is – how can you push a band in another situation and see what happens? I think that can bring them something and of course that brings me a lot because I’m putting myself in a situation where I don’t know what will happen.

We don’t plan anything anymore. When I was in Copenhagen there was a very strong reaction between all the different musicians – there was something in the air. Thirty minutes, one take, and just one try – you can’t miss it. There was this tension and I just realized that it is exactly what I want to do more of – to gather different groups and live something very strong with them, even for like an hour. I did the same thing in Athens, Greece in October – 15 bands in one space. It is just a way to discover the world, and create some little experiments in everyday life.

Now I am finishing a project in Cambodia, a web-film project about a urban displaced community, where I am trying a new technique that we could call ‘hyper-image’ – I can’t say much about it now, but it’s a special way to document and use interactive tools while including these people in a very specific, collaborative process. It’s somewhere between a rip off of Jia Zhang-Ke films and an integration of new technologies in images. There’s so much to explore!

Basically the big question for me in the 21st century, where you have access to all this information everywhere, where you have access to all these technological tools, is – how do you continue to explore the world? How do you put yourself in a position where you still have things to explore? What is your own way to learn? The link to CC here is obvious to me – its all part of the same movement and desire to experience and access information.

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