Following a multi-year process and the dedication of several Creative Commons Arab regional teams and communities, Creative Commons is very proud to announce that its 3.0 license suite is now available in Arabic. The Egypt 3.0 licenses were completed by our CC Egypt team, hosted by the Access To Knowledge initiative at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria. The porting effort was led by copyright expert Hala Essalmawi, with the support of Hani Sawiress.
The process of porting the 3.0 licenses endured a lengthy and eventful journey spanning the changing cultural and political climate in the Arab world. Although CC is on the cusp of publishing the 4.0 license suite, an international suite that we do not expect to port but instead translate, the Egypt 3.0 licenses are being published to recognize and celebrate the tireless effort of all of the affiliates and community members in the Arab world who cooperated to make their publication a reality after more than half a decade of effort.
Localization efforts in the Arab world began in earnest more than six years ago with affiliates in Jordan and, thereafter, in Egypt. Jordanian copyright law experts Rami Olwan and Ziad Maraqa worked early on to raise awareness of CC licenses and their potential for bolstering the existing culture of sharing found throughout the Arab world. The CC Egypt porting team leveraged those drafting efforts as a starting point for the Egypt licenses.
One of the biggest challenges of the process involved translation. Arabic is the official language of the 22 members of the Arab League, and is spoken by more than 300 million people in many different dialects. The Egyptian effort required attention to pan-regional considerations knowing that the licenses would be adopted by users outside of Egypt.
The CC Egypt team partnered with many others to complete the licences, including a group of passionate lawyers and activists from other Arabic-speaking countries. Among other important work, this group considered options for translating CC’s English legal code into modern standard Arabic while ensuring that the license names and elements (Attribution, ShareAlike, NonCommercial, and NoDerivatives) would be understood by Arabic-speakers across the region and embraced by end-users, not just lawyers. An important milestone in the localization effort came during the 2nd Arab Regional Meeting in Doha, Qatar, in October 2010. There, legal experts and community members from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, and UAE, together with CC HQ, forged agreement on those terms. For those interested in more details, see the minutes (PDF) and a summary of the translation discussion in Arabic.
Worth noting is the pivotal role played by Bassel Safadi aka Khartabil, free internet pioneer and CC’s lead in Syria. Bassel has been one of the most active members of the CC Arab community, adeptly facilitating dialogue between the legal community and content creators community to produce outcomes useful to both. Bassel has been greatly missed by the Arab and global CC community since his detainment by Syrian authorities in March 2012.
We also acknowledge the dedication of the CC Egypt team and the broader Arab CC community to concluding the licenses and advancing Creative Commons adoption and community building during the many recent turbulent years in the region. The dire political and economic situation of several countries in the Arab world and the uprisings since late 2010 have brought insecurity and challenges to people’s daily lives; yet, they have managed to push forward with a wealth of user-generated, youth-driven creativity. CC communities in the Arab world have paid a tribute to this phenomenon by dedicating the past two regional meetings (2011, Tunis; 2012, Cairo) to supporting the creation of original content in Arabic, whether music or visual art or texts.
With all this in mind, the launch of the Egyptian licenses, our first set of licenses in the Arabic language, may be counted among one of the most significant recent achievements of the global CC community. Congratulations to Hala and her team at Bibliotheca Alexandrina for this masterful accomplishment during especially challenging times. Additionally, special thanks to CC Lebanon’s Mohamed Darwish and Pierre el Khoury whose multi-year contributions to the licenses proved critical, the Egyptian community and the Arab communities who commented and discussed the licenses, and CC’s coordinator for the Arab Region, Donatella della Ratta, for her dedicated efforts coordinating and supporting the many convenings necessary to complete the licenses.
Hundreds more could be thanked for their participation in this long but fruitful effort, but above all, a warm and sincere expression of gratitude to the passionate Arab people who believe in a culture of openness, transparency and sharing, and fight for it, sometimes paying with their lives. Shukran.1 Comment »
Our friends at SoundCloud just told us about a contest they’re running with the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian publishes audio from its archives on SoundCloud under CC BY-NC. Now, it wants to show off all the possibilities for remixing open content by holding a remix competition:
Now the Smithsonian is calling on you to sample, chop and remix selected recordings from their entire collection of sounds, including recordings of frogs and insects from Encyclopedia of Life, Astrophysical Observatory sounds, Smithsonian Jazz masterworks, and Smithsonian Folkways.
The rules are simple. Submissions may be any length, but must incorporate at least two Smithsonian tracks.
Prizes include free SoundCloud Pro accounts and tickets to a special event at the Smithsonian in November.
Hurry! Entries are due November 8.No Comments »
It’s been a long time since we last wrote about the ongoing discussion of the NonCommercial and NoDerivatives licenses. Recall that last year CC heard suggestions that it should stop offering NC and ND licenses in future versions of our license suite because these licenses do not create a true commons of open content that everyone is free to use, redistribute, remix, and repurpose.
The CC community agreed to not make such a radical change as to stop offering the NC or ND licenses in the soon-to-be-released 4.0 licenses, or to spin off those licenses to another host organization. However, as promised, we have been working on several projects to help explain and clarify these issues to license users.
- We’ve improved information about which CC licenses align with definitions of “Free licenses.”
- We’ve reinstated a color-coded license spectrum graphic and provided descriptive examples of adopters of both Free and non-free licenses.
- We gathered feedback about changing the name of “NonCommercial” to “Commercial Rights Reserved” and decided that the name will stay at “NonCommercial.”
Our friend Gautam John of Indian children’s book publisher Pratham Books emailed us this morning to tell us that Pratham is a finalist for a Google Impact Award. What’s even more exciting is what Gautam’s team wants to do with the award. I’ll let him explain:
Pratham Books will use this award to amplify its existing work by creating an open-source platform that will encourage the creation of new stories, remixing of our openly licensed content and translation of all these stories in local languages. Every creation, new or remixed, will be shared, resulting in a large repository of stories available in various digital formats for free use. All content will be released under Creative Commons licenses.
Pratham Books has been a front-runner in adopting a Creative Commons licensing framework and in the last 5 years we have released over 400 stories and hundreds of illustrations under a CC BY or CC BY-SA license.
Pratham Books now hopes to build a collaborative platform which will scale our existing production of 1600 books across 12 languages to 20,000 books across 25 languages over 3 years! Millions of children across the globe will benefit from this platform.
We’ve been fans of Pratham Books’ work for a long time. The company was featured in The Power of Open as a great example of how open licensing can play a crucial role in a sustainable business model. Last year, Gautam wrote a guest blog for CC about how sharing books under CC has led to the community creating numerous translations, audiobooks, DAISY and braille versions, and even smartphone apps, resulting in far greater reach than the company could have achieved without open licensing.
We’re excited to see Pratham Books undertaking this project. Vote for Pratham!No Comments »
Today marks the start of Open Access Week 2013. Open Access Week is a global event for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. There are many events you can participate in this week, both in person and virtually. Now is a great time to take a look back at the last year in open access developments. Here’s a small sample.
- The European Commission released a report that said open access to research publications is reaching a tipping point. It noted that 40% of scientific peer reviewed articles published worldwide between 2004 and 2011 are now available online for free access.
- CC developed a set of graphics that help explain the the current commercial publishing situation and what an open access would do to promote increased access and reuse to research.
- The Public Library of Science and Figshare announced a partnership that will allow authors publishing in PLOS journals host their data on Figshare.
- In the United States, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. FASTR requires federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
- The White House issued a directive on public access to research produced by federal agencies. Each agency covered by the Directive must “Ensure that the public can read, download, and analyze in digital form final peer reviewed manuscripts or final published documents within a timeframe that is appropriate for each type of research conducted or sponsored by the agency.” The public is still waiting to see the details of the agency public access plans, which were due August 22, 2013. In addition, the White House announced an executive order in support of open data, and launched Project Open Data, an open source initiative looking for input and collaboration on how the federal government should manage open data. There’s been some great work to-date on Project Open Data, but there’s still some unresolved questions about licensing (or public domain tools) appropriate for data produced by the federal government.
- Also in the United States, there’s been several state-level bills introduced in support of public access to publicly funded research. Perhaps the most active is the legislation introduced in California–AB 609–the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. If you live in California you can write to your representatives today to tell them to support AB 609.
- The University of California passed a system-wide open access policy. The open access policy will cover 8,000 faculty who author approximately 40,000 articles each year.
- The Research Councils UK passed an open access policy, but there’s been some confusion about the open licensing provisions in the policy. And, the Business, Innovation, and Skills Committee released a report criticizing the policy and urged RCUK to reconsider several aspects of the policy, including the preference for gold open access publishing, acceptable embargo periods, and licensing options.
- PLOS hosted the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP). The high-profile award program seeked to highlight individuals who have used, applied, or remixed scientific research — published through open access — in order to realize innovations in science, medicine, and technology. The winners of the program will be announced today!
WikiProject Open is a community of new and experienced Wikipedians, dedicated to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of all things “open,” and to using openly licensed content to improve Wikipedia articles in general. In celebration of Open Access Week, we invite you to join us in improving two Wikipedia articles this week:
- Open Access Week: We should have plenty of new news coverage to draw from in improving this article
- Creative Commons license: Let’s make sure this central article is thorough and accurate; we will consider splitting off sub-articles, etc.
For those new to Wikipedia, you’ll find some tips to get you started on our “welcome” page.
Then, just get to work on the “Open Access Week” and “Creative Commons license” articles! Be sure to check each article’s talk page (you’ll find the tab in the upper left), because we’ll surely be discussing what needs to be improved and how we want to approach it as WikiProject Open’s Collaboration of the Week (COTW) gets underway.
Collaboration of the Week programs have been implemented by a number of wiki communities over the years. Academic studies have found them to be a highly effective way to keep people engaged and productive, in addition to building a sense of community. We hope you will join us as we launch this program, and help us improve Wikipedia’s coverage of important topics in the world of openness!No Comments »
Today Creative Commons released a policy statement expressing its support for copyright reform efforts around the world.
At its core, Creative Commons is rooted in the broader work to reform copyright. The founders of Creative Commons believed that copyright law was out of sync with how people share content on the Internet, and they developed the CC licenses as one way to address that problem. But we’d like to see copyright law itself better aligned to its original purpose–to enable and reward creative participation in culture and society.
From time to time, people in our community bring up the question of whether Creative Commons should be only a steward of the CC licenses, or also a steward of the broader participatory culture that the licenses are meant to promote.
Creative Commons affiliates, board, and staff have worked together over the past year to develop the policy statement above. The need for a statement like this became apparent at the 2012 Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in Rio de Janeiro. Several CC affiliates attended, many who work on copyright reform initiatives alongside their CC outreach. In Rio, affiliates described the dual nature of their work, which they feel sometimes requires removing their “CC Affiliate hat” when involved with reform efforts. They argued that developing tools for sharing creative content and arguing that outdated copyright laws be changed to better support legal sharing were two different sides of the same coin. Affiliates asked for clarification of the organization’s policies on affiliates engaging directly in copyright law reform proposals.
Over the next several months, Creative Commons drafted a statement that re-emphasizes the many benefits that CC licenses bring to society. But it also acknowledges the limitations of CC and expresses the need for reform of the current copyright system. CC affiliates came together in Buenos Aires in August 2013 to discuss the position of Creative Commons in relation to copyright reform. Over 100 affiliates and supporters participated in a day-long pre-conference event. The policy position was drafted and reviewed by the board of directors, affiliates, and staff.
There are several reasons that we feel such a position is useful–and necessary. First, there have been several proposed laws (like SOPA/PIPA) and trade agreements (ACTA/TPP) that if enacted would be detrimental to user rights to access and use information. And, we’ve heard that in some policy discussions the success of CC as a voluntary licensing scheme is being used by incumbent interests as evidence that fundamental copyright reform is unnecessary. This is incorrect. As we wrote in March,
[The] existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system.
The passage of increasingly harsh copyright regulations has the potential to render CC licenses and tools ineffective. The aim of these laws are counter to CC’s mission and vision. Second, it’s clear there are some areas of copyright where open licensing won’t solve the problem. One example is increasing access to copyrighted works for the visually impaired. Paul Keller explains this well:
Take the WIPO treaty for the visually impaired: There had to be a treaty because a voluntary or market driven solution to end the book famine for visually impaired people in the developing world did not emerge even though the problem had been known for a long time. Quite clearly the problem cannot not be solved by encouraging publishers to license their works openly and, instead, it required a tailored legislative approach that builds on new limitation and exemptions that address this specific issue.
Third, many CC affiliates are already deeply embedded in copyright reform activities as a part of their broader legal, policy, and digital rights advocacy work. It makes sense for those affiliates engaged in reform efforts to be able to speak and engage wearing their “CC Affiliate hat,” instead of trying to maintain the ambiguous and sometimes arbitrary separation between their “CC work” and the work they do supporting user rights and the public interest.
While we think this policy statement is noncontroversial, we must proceed with care. Historically, our organization has not been heavily involved in copyright reform efforts. Instead, we’ve been focused on the development and stewardship of the licenses and public domain tools. And this will certainly continue to be the case. Direct advocacy supporting more fundamental copyright reform has taken a backseat, for several reasons. First, we recognize and appreciate the value of neutrality, and acting as a responsible and impartial steward of our licenses, no matter who wishes to use them. Making our tools the best they can be and educating about how to use them are our core tasks. Second, as a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, we are constrained in our ability to engage in lobbying activities. Any lobbying conducted by CC headquarters staff will continue to be carefully tracked and reported. And lobbying by CC Affiliates will continue to be on behalf of the jurisdiction team in accordance with our MOU and established guidelines. Finally, there are groups that are well-positioned for advocacy activities, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Rights Group, Open Knowledge Foundation, and La Quadrature du Net. We support and promote the crucial, timely work of these and other groups.
We reaffirm that the mission of Creative Commons will sometimes call for our involvement in reform efforts. At the Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires, Lawrence Lessig gave a talk entitled, “Laws that Choke Creativity”. Lessig said he supports the fundamental freedom to remix. “We need to share more, and share more legally,” he said. “But in order to do so, the law must change.” He said that Creative Commons is not the complete solution. “We need real change in real law if these freedoms are to be secured.”4 Comments »
“Could you please print out your website on company letterhead and mail it to me to process your request?” This is the kind of question Anil Prasad received from music industry professionals and publicists when he began Innerviews in 1994—the internet’s first and longest-running music magazine.
The internet has evolved since then, but the concept of Innerviews remains the same as it did 20 years ago: to share and bring attention to outstanding musicians. Innerviews is Prasad’s labor of love—a site dedicated to long-form, in-depth interviews of musicians. Coming up on its 20th anniversary, Prasad has interviewed 400+ artists to date, with the site averaging 1-1.5 million visitors a year. Despite this success, Innerviews remains a not-for-profit venture, allowing Prasad to spend weeks, and sometimes months ensuring pieces are meticulously researched and edited.
Below, Prasad shares his thoughts on his recent decision to adopt Creative Commons licenses for Innerviews and his eBook, and delves deeper into how musicians can incorporate Creative Commons into their work.
Where do you hope Innerviews will be in the next 5 to 10 years? Are there any new directions for its immediate future?
The ultra-long-form content format will remain the same, but the site’s ability to adapt to the new universe of devices and screens will radically alter. The next version of the site, going live in 2014 to coincide with Innerviews‘ 20th anniversary will be totally adaptive, meaning no matter what device you view it on, it will be the same experience. Having said that, the current site works well on mobile devices as is. But it will be significantly optimized in the near term. It’s interesting to contemplate the idea of Innerviews being 25- or 30-years old. The concept of the audience extending for a ride that long is very gratifying. If you had told me that this site, started as an experiment in 1994, would turn into a life’s work and legacy, I would never have believed you. The truth is, I would like this site to live forever in one form or another. It’s a key reason for why I adopted a Creative Commons license for the entirety of the site. It means the content can be mirrored anywhere, anytime, by anyone. I’d like the site’s content to remain as snapshots of these incredible musicians’ thought processes 25, 30 or even 100 years from now. Creative Commons has created a way for that to happen.
You framed the adoption of Creative Commons licenses as a “major decision.” Why did you decide to adopt CC licenses for Innerviews as well as your eBook?
It reflects a decision to totally let go of this content that I have slaved over across 25 years. It’s an acknowledgement that all of this work belongs not to me, but to the world at large. Innerviews has always been a not-for-profit endeavor, so why not formally codify it in the unique way that Creative Commons enables? Through the Creative Commons license, the content will go further than it ever has before. I had previously been rather protective of the content. I would police other sites that “ripped off” the work and get it removed, thinking Innerviews needed to be a little fortress that exclusively housed the writing. That view was misguided. Over the years, many people have asked permission to use the work in a wide variety of commercial, nonprofit, and academic environments. There are often a lot of those requests, so this decision also frees me from having to respond to each individual enquiry. Now, everyone can do whatever they want.
It’s also a major decision because I used Creative Commons to transform the for-profit Innerviews book into a not-for-profit, Creative Commons—based entity, too. As my friend, the author Robin Slick, put it, “Books have the lifespan of a cup of yogurt.” It’s true. You get maybe a year, perhaps a couple, before things totally drop off, sales wise. So, why not just release it to the world in the same way? Perhaps it’s a new model for authors and artists to consider—sell your product for a year or two to recoup or make some money via people that want to support it and want it rapidly. Once the inevitable fall-off occurs, freely release it like a pigeon into the wind.
Why did you pick a CC Attribution – No Derivatives license?
I want people to be able to distribute my writing freely, even to the point of reprinting it for commercial purposes. However, I remain protective of the integrity of the content itself. I want the features to remain completely intact. The pieces cannot be pulled apart. They represent a conversational flow that is meticulously architected. They are the equivalent of a long-form concept album in that way. You can’t just take parts out of them and still have them make sense.
Have you seen any financial or other benefits to making the switch to CC licenses for Innerviews and/or your eBook?
I just made the switch a few weeks ago [in September 2013], but already I’ve approached to have content run in magazines all over the world, as far away as The Netherlands and Russia. I’ve also seen the number of downloads of the eBook jump 1,000-fold since the decision, which has given it a totally new life, which is fantastic. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the work in the hands of as many people as possible and Creative Commons helps make that a reality.
How does CC bring you closer to the goal you mentioned in a 15 Questions interview: “A desire to share and bring attention to what I believe are outstanding musicians.”
Creative Commons is the exact embodiment of that idea. Creative Commons licensing means many more people will find out about the artists I cover. It enables the content to propagate all over the world, working its way into nooks and crannies of the web and far beyond. I’ll never have an idea of the totality of the penetration that will occur as a result of this decision, and that’s a great thing. More albums will be sold. More music will be listened to. More attendees will show up at gigs. At the end of the day, what Innerviews does is about helping artists. By making this content available via a Creative Commons license, those artists get an even bigger potential, global boost.
How do you feel about musicians putting their music under CC licenses?
It’s one of many valuable ways a musician can release music in a way that can reap rewards, both immediate and long-term. These days, it’s next to impossible for artists to earn a living through recordings, either because of piracy or streaming services that pay in fractions of pennies. The important thing is that putting music under a Creative Commons license is a choice. It’s up to the musician whether or not they want to do it, as opposed to their music being unceremoniously ripped off legally via streaming services if they are signed to a label or illegally via piracy.
A Creative Commons license is an invitation for the world to not only explore, but interact with music. Some Creative Commons licenses enable other musicians to take music and remix or build upon it. That means music becomes a conversation between musicians, as opposed to a fixed expression cemented in a moment in time. It’s a very exciting concept that many more musicians should examine. However, the question of monetization always looms large in these discussions. One approach is to put certain tracks, EPs or album chunks out via Creative Commons to create interest and intrigue as a roadmap towards an album that is available via more traditional means that encourage payment. There are endless permutations for how an artist could use Creative Commons to promote their work. As we have seen through services like PledgeMusic and Bandcamp, people are still willing to pay and support artists, even though they already often have full access to the music. It’s all about being creative, encouraging goodwill, and being open to the possibilities.
You mentioned in an interview with Radio New Zealand that if an artist is not at the point of selling, maybe that’s where Spotify and Rdio can benefit you. How does that idea tie into musicians who choose to license their music under Creative Commons?
Creative Commons offers another valuable option for musicians that are trying to crossover to the point where they can monetize their music. And unlike Spotify or Rdio, it enables them to do it entirely on their own terms, specifying how the music can be shared and made available. Jamendo, Freesound, and SoundCloud are just a handful of the many options that now exist for an emerging artist to distribute their Creative Commons-licensed music at scale, worldwide. Adopting a Creative Commons license can be a key tool in promoting work to an audience interested in reaching beyond the mainstream for new sounds.
Can you explore the idea of CC licenses as a means of spreading knowledge, and how music works with that idea?
Creative Commons is about treating the entire planet as a single global community, in which media is a shared resource that benefits the human race as a whole. This is in stark contrast to the siloed mentality and digital land grab approach the power players of the corporate media attempt to enforce on society. The choice to invoke a Creative Commons license is a choice to get your content or music to as many people as possible, without restrictions, filters or gatekeepers. It’s about taking your work directly to the people and experiencing and enjoying the unexpected connections that get created. As for music, in a way, it’s the purest manifestation of Innerviews‘ tagline: Music Without Borders.No Comments »
I’m thrilled to be speaking at Design Exchange Boston tomorrow along with Ben Einstein, Martha Buskirk, Asya Calixto, and Sofya Polyakov. I always love speaking with designers about Creative Commons because they intuitively understand the benefits of sharing their work openly. When Benjamin Franklin invited others to iterate on the Franklin Stove, he wasn’t just creating a product; he was creating a community of collaborators. And that community is still actively building on Franklin’s ideas today.
A few months ago, CC CEO Cathy Casserly spoke at the IIT Institute of Design’s Design Strategy Conference. She began her talk by laying out the three assumptions she was making about the designers in the room:
- You become designers because you want to change how things work.
- You’re uniquely able to change how your employers and clients work.
- You know the value of sharing ideas with others.
Account of the new invented
Benjamin Franklin / Public Domain
Thinking about those three points – designers are good at effecting change, they’re well-positioned to effect change in their own companies and organizations, and they play well with others – an idea starts to emerge: designers can be the conduits through which their employers build better networks of collaborators. And one big way of achieving that is through open licensing.
Open licensing gives designers an opportunity to create communities of people iterating and building upon their work. These communities can be extremely valuable, both to a designer and to her clients.
But in opening your designs to be reused by others, aren’t you handing your revenue stream over to competitors? Maybe not. There’s a great profile in Open Design Now of DesignSmash, a design studio that develops products through highly collaborative hackathons. According to DesignSmash partner Enlai Hooi, “There should be no reason for preventing people with the resources to produce [our] objects from doing so. They tend to be the people most invested in how the processes of production relate to the quality of the object. They offer excellent and necessary critical feedback.”
I’d strongly recommend that anyone interested in open licensing (and open practices in general) in the design community check out Open Design Now. It’s a very fun read.
Here are some other great stories of Creative Commons in the design world:
Autodesk made big news back in July when it released all of its support and learning content under CC licenses. As expected, the community of designers who use Autodesk products have been building upon that content and making it an even more valuable resource.
Behance is a major hub for designers and clients to find each other online. It supports CC licensing, but unlike most content-sharing platforms, CC licensing is the default. In this interview, Behance founder Scott Belsky explained to me why CC is so important to Behance’s user community: “We want Behance to be the wind at the backs of creative careers, and CC has been a primary ingredient in the growth and values of Behance.”
I love this quote from Carl Esposti in the Inc. story: “You may have an R&D department, but there are an awful lot of people that think about this differently or are better qualified. Tapping them as resources means that your company can come with up better ideas – and have more insight into how to exploit those ideas, test their viability, and put them into production.”2 Comments »
This post was written by Alek Tarkowski and originally posted on the European OER Policy Project site.
A week ago, the European Commission launched the “Opening Up Education” initiative, a proposal for modernizing the European educational system. The proposal contains a strong “open” component. We’re using this opportunity to strengthen open educational policies in Europe, and we started our project with a workshop in mid-September. Below you can learn about the outcomes of our workshop, including an overview of the OER landscape in Europe, concept for a policy brief, and ideas for policy-related activities.
The workshop took place 14-15 October as part of the German “OERde13” conference. The workshop marked the public launch of CC’s collaborative „Open Educational Resources Policy in Europe” project. Eleven OER experts from all over Europe met for two days to discuss the state of OER policies in Europe and ways in which CC can increase their reach. Participants included Lisette Kalshoven (Kennisland, Netherlands), Eneli Sutt (HITSA, Estonia), Teresa Nobre (Creative Commons Portugal), Valentina Pavel (APTI, Romania), Hans de Four (KlasCement, Belgium), Bardhyl Jashari (Metamorphosis, Macedonia), Ignasi Labastida y Juan (Universitat de Barcelona, Catalonia / Spain), Ivan Matejic (Creative Commons Serbia), Kamil Śliwowski (Centrum Cyfrowe, Poland) and John Weitzmann (Creative Commons Germany). The workshop was led by Alek Tarkowski from Creative Commons Poland, open policy advisor to CC and lead of this project.
State of open education in Europe
We started with a session presenting the state of OER developments in EU countries, focusing particularly on public policies for open education. The session gave a good overview of the range of approaches to increasing adoption of OER: public e-textbook programs running in Poland and Macedonia; OER repositories such as Belgian Klascement, Dutch Wikiwijs, and Norwegian NDLA; “1 on 1” computer in school schemes used as entry channels for open content in Portugal or Macedonia; bottom-up hubs for open education communities such as German ZUM Wiki and the OER Champions project initiated in Macedonia.
We discussed the broader context for such initiatives, including national educational strategies and the specific shape of legal regulations–in particular copyright exceptions and limitations for educational use. In general, while there are very few functioning national-level policies supporting open education, there are multiple OER projects being implemented with public funding. Some are directly branded as “open education” projects, while others apply this philosophy without naming it that way.
Similarly, there are multiple initiatives at the European level, often funded by the European Union, that fit within the scope of the new initiative. The Open Education Europa portal has been developed on the basis of a previous e-learning portal. At the same time, projects that deal with ICTs in schools, e-learning, or quality of education are not necessarily aligned with OER issues. This means there might still be low awareness among key potential stakeholders. At the same time, there remains a great potential for gaining ICT allies in support of open education policy.
What kind of open education policy?
We spent part of the workshop discussing the concept of CC’s policy brief for open education in Europe. The basic policy position, achieved through a quick consensus among participants, can be summed up very easily: A free license like CC BY or CC BY-SA + (open formats, WCAG accessibility standards and metadata) should be adopted for all publicly funded educational content. (In other words, of all the varied definitions, the Hewlett Foundation OER definition is our definition of choice – and we’re happy that the new Open Education Europa portal sets a high standard by adopting CC BY as a default).
So while the basic policy rule is simple, the challenge lies in providing the best arguments for its widespread adoption. The workshop participants discussed essential elements of a successful policy brief. These should include:
- A grounding both in rights issues, in particular the right to education and right to knowledge, but also in broader pedagogical theories, such as connectivism;
- Proof that open education works, especially in economic terms; everyone knows this is not easy, often due to lack of data, but basic arguments can be made, especially about cost savings for parents and schools;
- Evidence of existing OER projects and their scale and usage, including those that are not directly framed as “open education”, but follow the general model.
Finally, a challenge that any European educational policy faces is the limited scope in which the EU deals with educational issues, which are largely left in the hands of national governments and schooling systems. Other than a new Directive (which would be binding for EU member states, but also difficult to introduce), the EU could introduce an open education policy model to apply to its own funding of educational content. It could also work with national governments by promoting good examples and following best practices and standards. A policy brief needs to address the interdependence of EU- and national-level governmental bodies.
How to promote open education policy?
Policy matters are often difficult to understand beyond a narrow circle of policymakers, experts and stakeholders. During the workshops we discussed ways of making them easier to understand. We focused on three projects, two of which we’d like to work on in the coming months.
Teresa Nobre presented the concept of a study of European exceptions and limitations for education. These are rules defined in national copyright laws that allow for legal use of copyrighted content without permission under certain conditions for educational purposes. These vary greatly between countries and between K-12 and higher education. This “balkanization” of law is one of the reasons that open education, based of course on open licensing, is such an important policy alternative. We were initially considering conducting the necessary legal comparison, but we found out during the workshop that this has already been done by Prof. Raquel Xalabarder of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (see the WIPO-commissioned analysis). Therefore, our work will build on this analysis and in particular “translate” it into an explanation that will apply to practical issues faced by educators in order to demonstrate the real-life application of policy decisions.
Kamil Śliwowski talked about a mythbusting approach, focusing on finding counter arguments for current criticisms of open education. Kamil described experiences we’ve had in Poland debating commercial educational publishers, who have been vocal critics of open education policy. These publishers often recite arguments against OER that are not based on evidence–hence, “myths”. The mythbusting approach began last year with a presentation at the UNESCO OER Congress in Paris, and continued with a workshop at the CC Summit in Buenos Aires. As part of this project, Kamil will organize in early 2014 a sprint-type workshop during which we’ll produce an OER mythbusting publication.
Bardhyl Jashari presented the idea of open education champions, which his organization, Foundation Metamorphosis, has been implementing in Macedonia. According to Bardhyl, leaders are crucial in promoting open education policy, since these issues are often difficult to understand for many on-the-ground educators. Empowering education champions to explain these topics makes the policies easier to understand. We agreed that it is a great idea, and in line with the recently appointed European “Digital Champions.” But these education champions will be difficult to implement without the Commission’s support.
We are now starting work on our policy brief and related analyses and documents, and we’ll focus on developing these over the next few months. For early 2014, we are planning several events, culminating during Open Education Week in March.
We’re all the time looking for partners, collaborators and allies. if you care about open educational policy and want to help, please get in touch.3 Comments »