Sharing becomes a slippery slope when it comes to genomics: we need massive amounts of data in order to understand the human genome, but issues of privacy, abuse, and the distrust of institutions stand in the way. So how do we resolve this?
We talked to Robert Cook-Deegan, the director of the Center for Genomics, Ethics, Law & Policy at Duke University, about how the field of genomics is poised for takeoff, the challenges it faces as it scales, and how CC can step in as a neutral institution that will save the day.
What is the link between GELP and CC?
Genomics is completely dependent on a healthy mutualism between discovery science and practical application, yet the field is rife with conflict and deeply held ideologies and is rarely fertilized with empirical facts. Creative Commons is all about finding solutions that reduce friction in the intellectual property (IP) system and facilitate sharing of data and materials. So our roles are complementary and mutually dependent.
GELP is a corporate sponsor of Creative Commons–why do you think CC is important?
There are many academic centers with talent–we publish our own research at Duke, but we’re just not that good at putting things into action–but Creative Commons is the only place that is actually trying to get things done as a trusted nonprofit intermediary and catalyst.
I’m reminded of the epitaph on Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s grave: “She Saved the World. A Lot.” That’s what CC has begun to do in the world of art and writing; it’s helping save our culture from some of its own worst pathologies. It has the potential to do the same in science.
The field of genomics is poised for takeoff. This is not pure hype. In 1999, there was no published human genome; by 2003 we had a reference human genome; by 2007 Craig Venter and Jim Watson’s genomes were on the Internet. Nature estimates that today, several thousand people have been fully sequenced.
But that information is useless if it is not compared to sequences of other people and organisms. What matters is genetic variation and how that maps to phenotype–whether a person is likely to get a disease or is prone to certain risks. If there was ever a field that depended on network dynamics, this is it. I can’t predict who will make the most valuable contributions to understanding my genome, but I sure want them to do a good job. And they can only do a good job if they have access to lots of other peoples’ genomes. This is hard because many people have the same concerns for privacy, fears of abuse, and distrust of institutions that I do.
How in the world are we going to solve this problem? I don’t know. But I do know that most research institutions and private firms are more concerned with mining what’s under their control already, rather than sharing and creating value collectively. The real value of genomic data is going to require information vastly beyond the control of any single institution.
We need Creative Commons because it is a trusted intermediary non-profit institution that will enable the dangerous dark innovation jungle to thrive despite the entrenched ideologies and conflicting interests of all the critters that live in it. We’re depending on you. May the force be with you.
Join Robert and GELP in supporting Creative Commons and help ensure a bright future for sharing in the field of genomics by donating to CC today!No Comments »
CC BY by Joi
The Global Education Conference is a week-long, online event hosting keynotes and various education tracks to “significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities and initiatives.” CC board Vice Chair, Esther Wojcicki, will give a keynote on “How to Spread Your Ideas Globally Using Creative Commons Licenses,” focusing on how CC licenses promote global sharing in education. The keynote is scheduled for November 15 at 10am PST and will be broadcast live via Elluminate. There is no need to register for the conference which will be held all next week, November 15-19. For a preview of Esther’s and other talks, see http://www.globaleducationconference.com/keynotes.html.2 Comments »
The CC BY-NC-ND license held its own in a Belgian court last week when a band called Lichôdmapwa won a lawsuit against a theater company in Brussels that commercially used a modified, unattributed version of one of their songs in an advertisement. One of the band members happened to hear the song on the radio one day; he wrote to the theater company and attempted to settle off the books, but that didn’t happen–instead, the two faced each other in court.
The court acknowledged that the terms of the CC license very clearly stated that the song 1. can’t be modified 2. can’t be used for commercial purposes and 3. must appear with attribution. It shot down the defense’s claim that it wasn’t aware of the terms–they’re very clearly outlined on the site the song was downloaded from. For each violated condition, the band was awarded 1500€.
It’s always great to see how a CC license can really protect creative work against wrongful use. If you read French, you can read the full text of the case here.3 Comments »
CC BY by mozillaeu
Since we last blogged about CC in Barcelona, we’ve been very productive. Two weeks worth of open events have yielded several talks around open educational resources (OER) search, discovery, and policy at Open Ed, recommendations and tools for greater open content reuse at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, and a 12 month plan for the future of the Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU).
In addition to an excellent talk by board member Cathy Casserly, CC staff members Nathan Yergler and Timothy Vollmer both gave talks that led to fruitful side conversations that will be helpful going forward. Nathan’s talk on “Search and Discovery: OER’s Open Loop” spurred conversations about one of the underlying issues of OER search, which is, “how do you (software, crawlers) know what’s an OER and what is not?” Timothy Vollmer’s talk on the “iNACOL survey: An inquiry into OER projects, practices, and policy in U.S. K-12 schools” identified how OER is being used in K-12 online education and investigated the existing OER models at the state, district, and school level. The survey revealed the widespread knowledge of OER among the respondents, but also ongoing questions about the funding models and professional development needs to alert other teachers and administrators about the process and benefits of exploring OER. On the whole, survey respondents were optimistic about the potential for OER, wanting to see it implemented for a wide variety of functions, including the development of digital textbooks to replace hard copy texts, as a component in building better assessment mechanisms, to augment learning materials for struggling students, credit recovery, independent study, college prep and tutoring, special education, library tutorials, and to provide opportunities for students to engage in content and classes that the school doesn’t offer.
CC BY by tvol
CEO Joi Ito gave a keynote and CC’s International Project Manager (and Drumbeat Festival program co-chair) Michelle Thorne worked closely with Mark Surman and other Mozillans to make this event happen–a huge shout-out to all the Mozilla volunteers! The Peer Learning Lighthouse tent, organized by CC Superhero Delia Browne, Alison Jean Cole (P2PU), and myself, focused specifically on overcoming barriers to reuse of CC licensed content and a future School of Copyright & Creative Commons at P2PU. One of the coolest outcomes of this tent was tech specifications around a CC attribution generator, a browser and platform plugin that would export the metadata around a CC licensed work to produce a formatted attribution. University of Michigan’s Molly Kleinman and our CTO Nathan Yergler, in collaboration with Mozilla, are working to make this tool a reality. Discussions on the School of Copyright & Creative Commons revolved around increasing global and linguistic reach of the Copyright for Educators courses, and also adapting the course for librarians, policymakers, and creators.
All P2PU-produced content is under CC BY-SA. In order to more effectively educate P2PU participants and course organizers, the P2PU community are planning to integrate copyright and CC license education into its orientation process, in addition to emphasizing the P2PU value of openness as part of a “social contract” at the beginning of every course, which will be revised to explicitly call out the license. Additionally, the revamped P2PU platform will introduce values and licensing in the latest stage at the sign-up phase.
CC BY-SA by kiyanwang
Of course licensing was far from the only issue that was talked about. Governance, nonprofit incorporation, sustainability, course formats and content, quality control, research, and more were heavily workshopped, and all outcomes from the workshop are available at the P2PU wiki, under CC BY-SA of course. Immediately after the workshop, the P2PU techsprint, involving volunteer developers and designers, produced the next iteration of the P2PU platform–which you can preview here.1 Comment »
Hindawi, open access scholarly journal publisher, wants to double your donation to Creative Commons! Starting right now, Hindawi is matching every dollar of the next $3000 given to CC. That means if you donate $10, $25, $75 to CC right now, your impact will be automatically doubled thanks to Hindawi. Judging by how fast we met wikiHow’s challenge a couple weeks ago, you should donate quick to make sure your gift gets doubled!
Here’s why Hindawi has chosen to support us this year and why they’re challenging you to join them in giving to CC:
“As an open access journal publisher we believe that it is important for our readers to be comfortable reusing and redistributing our articles without fear of violating any copyright restrictions, and Creative Commons licenses make it clear to readers what they can do with our content.”
Join Hindawi in supporting CC and have your donation automatically doubled. If you’ve haven’t yet given to our fundraising campaign (or even if you already have!), now is your chance. It’s easy, and you’re just a few clicks away from showing the world you care about an open, sharing online (and offline) world.No Comments »
Meet Creative Commons board member Jimmy Wales. You probably know him best as the founder of Wikipedia. Here, he talks to us about the importance of Creative Commons, why fundraising is hard, and his crazy travel schedule.
Why are you on the CC board?
As the founder of Wikipedia, I am very aware of the importance of thoughtful licensing regimes for creators of content who want to share it with others. We live in an era in which it is really easy for people to share knowledge. Without a legal framework that allows them to do so in the ways that they want, we won’t realize the full benefits of this era.
Why do you support CC and why do you use it on your sites?
I have always been a fan of CC’s approach as a “middle way.” For a long time, we were stuck in a debate about copyright that focused only on two categories of people: the creators who want to maintain their work under traditional copyright, and the “pirates” who want to steal that work and undermine it. What was lost in that dialogue first became obvious in the world of free, open source software: many people are creators but aren’t interested in, nor helped by, traditional copyright. CC recognized that the solutions being created in the world of software had broader applicability to culture.
What, in your opinion, are the challenges that lie ahead for CC?
Billions of people benefit in some way from the work of Creative Commons, but I fear that it is too often overlooked because the work is by nature free of charge, and because it is “infrastructure.”
At Wikipedia, we are able to fund-raise directly from small donors because we are huge, public, and visible, and our community builds something that everyone uses every day. With Wikipedia, we can always know that there will be lots and lots of $30 donors from the heart and soul of the Wikipedia donor community. It’s harder for Creative Commons.
I’m a donor to Creative Commons, and I encourage other people to be donors as well. Creative Commons will always have a smaller group of donors, but one that digs deeper because they know how important the work is.
I know you mentioned below that you travel a lot… what’s your daily life like? What are you traveling for? We’d love to get a glimpse of a day in the life of Jimmy Wales!
I’m writing to you from a plane, of course. :) I’m not so sure I can explain a “typical day” for me because every day is different. I’m on my way home to Florida now, and then next week I’m off on one of my maddening multiple-continent journeys.
I’m about to do this:
I count 5 changes of continents in there… in 9 days!
Join Jimmy Wales in showing that you care about Creative Commons by donating to CC today.1 Comment »
CC communities throughout the Arab World displayed their rich culture and commitment to openness this past week in Lebanon and Qatar, showcasing creative works, inter-regional collaboration, and a focused dedication on legal and copyright issues in the region. Following the Digitally Open conference in Doha and a regional meeting including members of CC’s communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria and UAE, Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig and CC CEO Joichi Ito visited Beirut for the official launch of the Creative Commons Lebanon project.
On October 25, the American University in Beirut hosted artists, young creators, and students from the Olayan Business School and warmly welcomed Lessig’s presentation on “What is CC meant for?” and Ito’s “Innovation in open networks.” Those inspired talks and Q&A sessions were followed by a presentation by Naeema Zarif on “Common people,” a comic-style pop presentation of Lebanese CC community activities made in cooperation with Samandal‘s Fadi Baki. These works are released under Creative Commons licenses, as is the work of comic artist Maya Zankoul, photographer Lara Zankoul, singer and podcaster Tony Yammine, social media expert Darine Sabbagh, media training and consulting NGO Social Media Exchange, and many many others from the extremely active Lebanese CC community.
CC Fellow Ayah Bdeir and VJ CelineCeline, with the help of entrepreneur Habib Haddad, organized the second CC Salon in Beirut. The cozy Karaj, Ayah’s newly opened space for events and gatherings, also hosted a talk by Freesouls‘ artist Chris Adams and a DJ set by Fabricatorz founder and CC fellow Jon Phillips.
On October 26, the Lebanese Bar Association featured a talk by Lessig which framed Creative Commons in the broader context of copyright. The talk was attended by more than 600 members of the Bar, was broadcast live by Al Jazeera and covered by many Lebanese media, including Future TV, As-Safir newspaper and Al Akhbar, which publishes its online content under a CC NC-ND license.
Congratulations to all of our community members and leads from the region, including Pierre al Khoury from La Sagesse University in Beirut, Mohammed Darwish, a lawyer specialized in IP and a volunteer for Consumers International Lebanon, and Tony Feghali, head of the Olayan Business School at the American University of Beirut for making these these events happen. And thanks to the broader CC community in Lebanon for being creative and proactive within the broader fast growing CC Arab world network. Look for updates from the CC regional meeting in Qatar shortly.No Comments »
We’re thrilled to announce a $15,000 gift from Squidoo, the popular publishing platform that allows you to create and share content with the world. So why are they supporting CC? Seth Godin, Squidoo’s Founder says:
Creative Commons is doing something incredibly difficult and valuable: they are changing expectations. Before CC, the default mode for everything was to lock it up, forever, in a way that cripples the community. With CC, the new default is to share unless there’s a good reason not to. And sharing is our future.
We couldn’t agree more. Join Seth in supporting CC and making sure fair sharing is our future.
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 an Education landing page and the 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 the development and support of businesses that levage openly licensed content in support of education. Eric Frank is Founder and President of Flat World Knowledge, a commercial publisher of openly-licensed college textbooks. We spoke with Eric about faculty perceptions of open textbooks, customization enabled by open licensing, and the future of “free online and affordable offline” business models.
Why did you start Flat World Knowledge and how did you decide to approach this business using open content?
My co-founder Jeff Shelstad and I come out of a long history in textbook publishing. We left a major textbook publisher because of what we perceived as exceedingly-high dissatisfaction levels among the primary constituents in that market—students, faculty and authors. These groups were scratching their heads wondering if the print-based business model was going to be able to serve them going forward. When we began thinking about how to build a new business model, we didn’t actually know that much about open educational resources and open licensing. We started to bake a business model based on bringing prices down and increasing access for students; giving faculty more control over the teaching and learning experience; and providing a healthier and more sustainable income stream for authors. And then we started to meet people in the open community. We spoke to Open Education scholar and advocate David Wiley (and Flat World’s Chief Openness Officer) who said, “It’s funny, you sound a lot like me, except we use different words.” This pushed us a little bit further. Ultimately, through a very pragmatic approach to solving real problems that customers were facing, we arrived at this open textbook model.
The cost of textbooks is something that’s very tangible to students. Flat World Knowledge recently released information that 800 colleges will utilize Flat World open textbooks this fall semester, saving 150,000 students $12 million in textbook expenses. And, the Student PIRGs’ recent report A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks Are The Path To Textbook Affordability found that adopting open textbooks could reduce textbook costs by 80%–to $184 per year, compared to the average of $900. Beyond the important outreach on cost savings, what are the primary questions you hear from faculty and students around “open”?
For the most part, when the average faculty member hears “open textbook,” it means nothing to them. In some cases, it has a positive connotation, and in other cases, it’s negative. When it’s negative, the primarily concern is one of basic quality and sustainability. Faculty question the entities making these open textbooks, and wonder whether the textbooks could be worth their salt if they’re available for free under an open license. And of course, they confuse ‘free’ and ‘open’ all the time. “If it’s free,” educators say, “It can’t be good. What author would ever do that?” Sometimes we see the opposite problem, such as when people know a little something about the publishing ecosystem and say, “It’s too good to be true.”
Through our marketing programs, we spend a lot of time educating faculty that we are a professional publisher, and that we focus on well-known scholars and successful textbook authors. We start by talking about what’s not different from the traditional approach: we sign experienced authors to write textbooks for us, and we develop the books by providing editorial resources, peer reviewing, and investment. The end product is a high-quality textbook and teaching package. There’s a real focus and emphasis on quality. What we change is how we distribute, how we price, and how we earn our revenue. We walk faculty through this process and let them know that ‘open’ is just about loosening copyright restrictions so that they can do more with the textbooks. We explain that free access is about getting their students onto a level playing field. We explain that affordable choices is about making sure students get the format and price that works for them. Once faculty understand these things and are reassured that we have a quality process in place, and that we are a real and sustainable enterprise that will be around to support them in the future, then it all starts to come together. We have to overcome either a total void of knowledge, which we prefer, or some other baggage that they carry into the conversation.
Customizability of digital textbooks is a key feature of Flat World Knowledge, enabled by the open license. How do teachers and students use this feature? And, how is Flat World’s approach to remix different than other platforms and services that allow some adaptability of content without actually using open content as the base?
Of course, the license itself carries its own rights and permissions. People are able to do a lot more with open content than they can with all rights reserved materials. We keep building out our technology platform so that it ultimately enables faculty to take full advantage of that open license—to do all the things that educators might want to do to improve the quality of the material for their own purposes. Today, the most popular customization is relatively simple. For example, educators reorganize the table of contents by dragging and dropping textbook chapters into the right order for their class, and delete a few things they don’t cover. This is easy and helps them match the book to their syllabus.
Then you move into exploring other areas. For example, instructors may want to make the textbook more pedagogically aligned with their teaching style. In that case, a teacher might integrate a short case study and a series of questions alongside the textbook content. Teachers may want to make the references and examples more relevant to their students by using the names of local companies. Timeliness is certainly important—something happens in the world and educators want to be able to integrate it into their teaching materials.
Educators have different teaching styles and approaches too. An adopter of one of our economics textbooks swapped out some models for other economic models that he prefers to use. An adopter at the University of New Hampshire added several chapters on sustainability and corporate social responsibility into an introduction to business book. Now, he’s teaching the course through his prism and from his perspective. These are the kinds of things that people want to be able to do. The critical thing for us is to make the platform easy to use so that customizing a book is as effortless as opening up a Word document, making some changes, saving it, and delivering it to students.
Regarding how our approach differs from other platforms and services because we begin with openly-licensed content, at one level, the ability to take something and modify it is largely a technology question. We go further, and allow people to edit text at the word level. You don’t see this sort of framework in other services because most of the time you’re dealing with the all rights reserved mentality. Most authors sign up to write traditional textbooks with the understanding that, “This is my work and you can’t do stuff with it.” I think the first big difference is when the author says, “I want people to be able to do stuff with this.” Having authors enter into a different publishing relationship by using open licenses allows us to go much further with the platform. That said, there’s nothing really stopping another company from doing this with some kind of unique user license.
We see other benefits of open access when we think about outputs. You might be able to go onto a publisher’s site and make modifications to a text, and maybe even integrate something that’s openly-licensed on the Web. But ultimately, it’s going to get subsumed into the all rights reserved framework, and won’t propagate forward, so no one else can change it. And generally, these digital services are expensive and access expires after a few months, so the user no longer can get to the content. Things like digital rights management and charging high prices for print materials are fundamentally business model decisions around dissemination, but they’re important.
I think the other big difference is what can happen away from the Flat World Knowledge site. Somebody could arguably come in and take our content and do something with it somewhere else. We’re not locking it down and saying, “The only thing you can do is work with the content on our site, and only use our technology.” We happen to make it easy to do this sort of thing on the Flat World site, but the open license allows others to use the content away from the original website. This leads to many more options that aren’t possible with content that is all rights reserved or served under a very unique license.
Flat World Knowledge licenses its textbooks under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license. What were the considerations in choosing this license? How do you see the role of Creative Commons in open textbook and open education?
One of my pet peeves about this community that we’re a part of is the frequent and sometimes contentious debates over licensing. The principle of enabling a range of licenses recognizes that copyright holders have different objectives for their creations. I have my objectives and you have yours, so we may choose different licenses to reach those objectives. That’s perfectly fine. This is the way the world should be. For us, the choice of a license was very much predicated on building a sustainable commercial model around open. We invest fairly heavily with financial resources, time, and intellectual capital to make these textbooks and related products something that we think can dominate in the marketplace. If we didn’t use the non-commercial condition, in our view, we’d be making all the investment and then someone else could sell the content at a dramatically lower price because they didn’t make the initial and ongoing investment. The non-commercial condition is the piece of the model that enables us to give users far more rights, to provide free points of access, and protect our ability to commercialize the investment we made. The ShareAlike clause ensures that this protection continues forward.
Our decision to use this license also relates to authors. The sustainability and financial success argument starts with the people who have the most value in the market: the authors who create the books. Our discussions with authors always include a financial component. They want to know how we are going to capitalize on this venture. Authors want to do good, but they also want to earn income and be fairly compensated. When we explain our model and how the licensing works, they feel very comfortable.
Last month Hal Plotkin released the paper Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials. That document suggests that community colleges are uniquely positioned to both take advantage of OER opportunities and to become pioneers in teaching through the creative and cost-effective use of OER, including through the adoption of open textbooks. How are Flat World’s approaches different in working with universities as opposed to community colleges? What are the differences in terms of the benefits and challenges to faculty, students, and administration within each institution?
This is a great question, but it’s a little hard to answer, because we must consider another variable—the book itself. Sometimes a book is aimed at a community college course and demographic, and sometimes it’s aimed at a four-year research university. For example, our Exploring Business book has a big community college market, while our Introduction to Economic Analysis title out of Caltech has very much a top-50, Ph.D.-granting institution market. So, this confuses things a little bit. That said, I think it’s fair to say that there is generally a correlation between where the financial pain is greatest (which tends to be at community colleges and state institutions) and where the faculty are closest to that pain (where teaching is their primary emphasis, and they spend more time with students). This is where we see the greatest pull for this solution. There’s less of a pull from wealthier demographics and/or with faculty who spend more time doing research than teaching. While there’s more ideological and intellectual understanding of the value of sharing on the research side, pragmatically, the financial pain tends to be on the community college side.
In the recent First Monday article, A sustainable future for open textbooks: The Flat World Knowledge story, Hilton and Wiley suggest that in testing Flat World’s textbook model (“free online and affordable offline”), nearly 40% of students still purchased a print copy of the textbook. And Nicole Allen mentioned in our interview with her that the research of the Student PIRGs shows that “students are willing to purchase formats they value even in the presence of a free alternative.” So, print materials are not going away overnight, as long as the resources can be tailored in ways that teachers and students want to use them. But, as powerful digital technologies offer so many new ways to interact with educational content, how do you foresee the distant (or near) future in which print-on-demand may no longer be a core part of your business model?
We agree with the findings in those reports that print is going away more slowly than pundits proclaimed it would. We’re totally committed to what I think of as platform agnosticism. We never want to be in a position of having to guess which technologies or trends will win or lose. Part of our solution was to build a very dynamic publishing engine which could take a book—which is really a series of database objects and computer code that gets pulled together—and transform it through computer software programs to a certain file format. Today, one format goes to a print-on-demand vendor to make a physical book; another is an ePub file to be downloaded to an iPad or other mobile device; another is a .mobi file for a Kindle. We can afford to be on the leading edge and make formats available that may have low penetration today. And if they grow faster, we’ll be there with a salable format for those devices that will proliferate.
The most important improvement we can make to learning outcomes across our society right now is access. People sometimes ask me, “Isn’t the textbook itself a dead paradigm?” I tell them no, because billions of dollars per year are spent on textbooks. Right now you could create a really killer learning product, and I could take the one that’s already being used by millions of people and make it much more accessible. Enabling greater access is going to have much bigger short-term impact. Going forward, improvements in learning outcomes beyond access will come from things that aren’t content. They will come from experiences—whether it’s an assessment I take and get immediate feedback to inform a specific learning path, or whether it’s a social learning experience in which I’m dropped into a community of learners with a challenge and we draw upon each other to come up with solutions. Content supports those things, but isn’t as important in some ways as the experience.
Our view of the world is to get into the market where there’s pain today, establish a large base of users, and then keep evolving the product to be an increasingly better learning tool. That will inevitably take the form of integrating more unique services that can’t be copied. That’s the long-term goal for us, and probably critical for any business operating in the digital medium, to be financially successful. Kevin Kelly, the technology writer and founding executive editor of Wired, said it best: “When copies are super abundant, they become worthless. When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.” I believe that.
What does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of open textbooks and OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, and predictions?
I don’t worry too much because if we keep our finger on the pulse of what people want to do, we’ll figure it out. One potential danger is the expense of providing this abundance of integrated tools, formats and options for users. It’s easy to imagine the expense of systems that incorporate things like an assessment engine built on adaptive learning and artificial intelligence to guide users to the best resource, all the while connecting them to other users to foster a richer learning experience. This has the potential to be very expensive, and ratchets up the imperative for players in the open community to help figure it out.No Comments »