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2014 January

U.S. PIRG report finds students would perform better with open textbooks

Jane Park, January 30th, 2014

The U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a report this week called, “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives.” The report features responses to a survey administered to over 2,000 students across 163 college campuses in the U.S. in regards to the rising cost of textbooks and how it affects student usage and academic performance. The report has been making the rounds in major news outlets and is highlighted in a letter to Congress by Senators Durbin and Franken as a push for the Affordable College Textbook Act. It is available for anyone to read online under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, but here are the tl;dr highlights:

What the survey results say

  • 65% of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive
  • 94% report that they suffer academically because of this choice
  • 48% say they altered which classes they took based on textbook costs, either taking fewer classes or different classes
  • Senator Durbin wholeheartedly agrees: “According to the students surveyed in this report, the rising cost of textbooks not only adds to the overall financial burden of attending college, it can also have a measurably negative impact on their academic performance and student outcomes.”
  • 82% of students say they would do significantly better in a course if the textbook were free online and a hard copy was optional!
  • Case studies at both Houston Community College and Virginia State University suggest that classes using open textbooks have higher grades and better course completion rates

Textbook industry facts

(as reported by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Student PIRGs)

  • College textbook prices have increased by 82% in the past ten years, aka 3x the rate of inflation
  • Though alternatives to the new print edition textbooks exist, the costs of these alternatives (such as rental programs, used book markets and e-textbooks) are still dictated by publishers who re-issue editions every few years
  • Ethan Sendack at U.S. PIRG says: “[Students] can’t shop around and find the most affordable option, meaning there’s no consumer control on the market.”
  • On average students spend $1,200 a year on textbooks which = 14% of tuition at a four-year, public college; 39% of tuition at community college

Open textbook facts

  • Open textbooks are written by faculty and peer-reviewed like traditional textbooks
  • Open textbooks are free to access, use, download to electronic devices, and affordable to print — all thanks to the open content licenses on them that legally allows these uses
  • U.S. PIRG estimates that open textbooks could save each student ~$100 per course they take

Find out for yourself

Links to the press release, full report, and news coverage below.

What you can do

Support the Affordable College Textbook Act which would establish open textbook pilot programs at colleges and universities across the country! Learn more at http://www.sparc.arl.org/advocacy/national/act and read Senators Durbin and Franken’s Dear Colleague letter to Congress at http://www.sparc.arl.org/sites/default/files/S.%201704%20Dear%20Colleague.pdf.

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Knowledged Unlatched invites university libraries to open access publishing pilot

Elliot Harmon, January 30th, 2014

This guest blog post was written by Lucy Montgomery, deputy director of Knowledge Unlatched.

Knowledge Unlatched is inviting university libraries to join the pilot of a new approach to achieving open access for specialist scholarly books.

Specialist books in the Humanities and Social Sciences, or monographs, sell for between $50 and $200. Monograph publishing is in danger of extinction. The average monograph now sells just 200-400 copies. In spite of eye-watering prices, monograph publishers are struggling to cover their costs and many are subsidized. There has to be a better way!

Knowledge Unlatched is helping publishers, libraries and authors to secure the future of specialist scholarly books by engaging with the possibilities of open access. By working together, libraries have an opportunity to create incentives for the open access publication of high quality, peer-reviewed books, providing publishers with room to innovate and ensuring that the knowledge contained in books is made available for free to anyone with an internet connection.

Here’s how it works: KU is helping libraries to pool their funds to pay publishers to make a book available under a Creative Commons NonCommercial license as soon as it is published. Publishers remain free to sell other formats.

KU is running a proof of concept pilot, inviting libraries to sign up to support a package of 28 new titles from 13 well-known scholarly publishers. If at least 200 libraries pledge their support for the package by February 28, 2014, all of the books will be made available as fully downloadable PDFs under CC BY-NC or BY-NC-ND. If more than 200 participate, then the cost per library will drop.

If the pilot is successful, KU plans to begin scaling up later this year: offering libraries more selection options including subject specific packages. It eventually aims to make individual titles available so libraries can select individual books that they would like to support.

See www.knowledgeunlatched.org for more information. If you are a library sign up now. The closing date for the pilot is the 28th of February and every pledge counts!

If you are not a library but care about scholarly books, tell your librarian about Knowledge Unlatched.

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4.0 translation process begins

Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, January 29th, 2014

We are excited to announce the launch of the official translation process for the 4.0 license suite. As most of you know, CC made a significant push to make this latest version of the licenses as internationally robust as possible. The result is a set of licenses we hope will be used around the world. As part of that effort, we plan to publish official translations of the licenses in as many languages as possible, so that people around the world can read the legal code in their own languages. We will need the help of our affiliate network and the larger CC community to accomplish this goal.

We have prepared a formal translation process to help us achieve such an ambitious undertaking. The process requires coordination across jurisdictions, as the goal is to create a single translation of any given language wherever possible. Communication and teamwork will be critical, as will attention to detail. (As with all CC official legal code, once published, it will be permanently locked per CC’s long-standing commitment not to change the legal code once published for adoption.)

The CC regional coordinators will be leading the translation teams and helping to organize the effort across jurisdictions. CC Legal will oversee each translation project to help ensure the official translations have the same legal meaning and effect as the original. To aid the effort, we have created several guides designed to help translators complete the project. There is a translation guide, which will be continually updated with new tips and guidelines as we learn more throughout this process, a guide to building the other five licenses in the suite once the first license is translated, and a worksheet to help translators and CC Legal stay on the same page.

If you would like to get involved in this important internationalization effort, please contact a CC regional coordinator.

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Honda releases 3D models under CC

Elliot Harmon, January 28th, 2014

This morning, auto manufacturer Honda released 3D data for the exterior designs of several of its concept models under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial (BY-NC) license. From the press release:

With the data downloaded from the website “Honda 3D Design Archives,” Honda’s concept models can easily be replicated by a household 3D printer, which is becoming more popular in recent years. By offering data of its concept models, which embody the spirit of “Honda Design,” Honda offers opportunity to enjoy a simulated experience of Honda’s “art of manufacturing.”

You can view the designs on the new Honda 3D site or download them in STL. Since the designs are licensed under BY-NC, anyone can share, modify, and remix them noncommercially. Now that these designs are in the wild, it will be cool to see who mods them in unexpected and creative ways.

Related: CC and the 3D Printing Community

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Free Bassel Day, coming March 15

Elliot Harmon, January 22nd, 2014

Bassel Khartabil is a computer engineer who, through his innovations in social media, digital education, and open-source web software, played a huge role in opening the internet in Syria and bringing online access and knowledge to the Syrian people. Many people reading this blog know Bassel through his work as lead for CC Syria.

Coinciding with the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting (at which Bassel was sorely missed) and the Geneva II Peace Conference, the #freebassel Campaign is announcing the call for pledges for Free Bassel Day 2014.

The second Free Bassel Day will be held globally on March 15, marking the second anniversary of his imprisonment and the third anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war. We encourage you to join the CC and #freebassel communities and get involved.

For more information or to share your pledge for Free Bassel Day, contact the #freebassel campaign at love@freebassel.org.

Projects already in the works:

For more information or to submit your Free Bassel Day event or project, visit freebasselday.org.

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Help bridge our open communities: Open Coalition Project Coordinator Job

Jane Park, January 22nd, 2014


Construction of the Story Bridge, Brisbane, 1939 / State Library Queensland / No known copyright restrictions

Last November, a bunch of us from Wikimedia, Mozilla, P2PU, OKFN, Creative Commons, School of Open, and other communities got together for a session at Mozfest called “Collaborations across the Open Space.” That session not only laid the groundwork for better communication among open organizations, but also resulted in the momentum to draft a job description for a project coordinator who will “support the development of a stronger network of organizations working in the areas of open knowledge and open access.”

The part-time position is being funded by Wikimedia UK with the hope that another organization will pick up it up after the initial 6 month term. The full description is at https://wikimedia.org.uk/wiki/Open_Coalition_Project_Co-ordinator – but here are the highlights of what we envision the person to be doing:

  • Have a thorough understanding of issues relating to open knowledge, open access, open source, and open content licences
  • Lead on the development of a small event for organisations working in this space, including Wikimedia UK, Open Knowledge Foundation, Creative Commons, Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and OpenStreetMap, among others
  • Act as a conduit for organisations acting in the open space, facilitating discussion and collaboration
  • Lead on the creation of a website and booklet explaining what it means to be an open organisation, what the “open sector” is and the benefits it brings
  • Build a relationship of trust with the group and the wider open community
  • Develop and deliver sessions about the open coalition at Wikimania in London, August 2014

The position is based in London, but will be working with open community members from around the world. Have a look at the position and also at the notes from the original Mozfest session for reference.

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Disquiet Junto honors Bassel Khartabil

Elliot Harmon, January 22nd, 2014

We’re big fans of Disquiet Junto, a group of Creative Commons musicians who create original works and remixes each week around a different theme.

This week, Disquiet Junto is honoring Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian CC community leader who’s been in prison in Syria since March 2012, with a music project dedicated to Bassel.

From Disquiet Junto:

On Thursday, January 23, a special collaborative sound and music project will help raise awareness about Palestinian Syrian programmer and Creative Commons advocate Bassel Khartabil, who has been detained in Syria since March 15, 2012. As the two-year anniversary of Bassel’s incarceration approaches, the Disquiet Junto music community on SoundCloud.com will spend four days developing original sound works in Bassel’s honor. This week’s project will invite musicians to flesh out a work-in-progress that Bassel has, naturally, not been able to complete due to his imprisonment.

Late in the day each Thursday, a new compositional prompt goes out to members of the Disquiet Junto, who then have until 11:59pm the following Monday to submit a piece of music. The Bassel project will be the 108th weekly Disquiet Junto project. As of this date, over 3,000 original pieces of music have been uploaded to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud by over 400 musicians from around the world. The Disquiet Junto began the first week of January 2012, and has continued weekly ever since. Past Disquiet Junto projects include the interpretation of polling data as a graphically notated score, the use of wind chimes as a percussive instrument, the creation of “goodbye music” for the Voyager 1 space probe made from the sounds of interstellar space, and numerous Creative Commons–inspired remixes of music originally published on netlabels.

The Disquiet Junto was created and is moderated by Marc Weidenbaum, the San Francisco–based author of the book Selected Ambient Works Volume II, based on the Aphex Twin album of that name. Subscribe to the Disquiet Junto email announcement list.

Update (January 24): The challenge has now launched. Submit your project by Monday!

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Copyright Week: What happened to the Brazilian Copyright Reform?

Elliot Harmon, January 18th, 2014

A few years ago, a major copyright reform in Brazil seemed imminent. What happened? On the Creative Commons Brazil blog, Mariana Giorgetti Valente and Pedro Nicoletti Mizukami have an excellent post on the complicated history of copyright reform in Brazil:

In December 2007, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture — then under Minister Gilberto Gil’s administration — started the National Copyright Law Forum, a series of seminars across the country with the participation of lawyers, researchers, artists and industry representatives, with the goal of gathering information and pave the way for a copyright reform process. Based on these events, and other closed and open meetings with different stakeholders, the Ministry of Justice prepared a draft copyright reform bill, which was submitted to public consultation in 2010.

The consultation took place in an online platform similar to that used for the Marco Civil consultation on Internet regulation. Comments could be submitted on an article by article basis, and the analysis of almost 8,000 contributions resulted in a project that was considerable superior to current law, with greater attention to public interest issues, an expanded list of copyright exceptions — including a general clause, the permission to circumvent DRM/TPMs in certain conditions, checks on the collective management of copyright (a serious problem in Brazil), and the explicit recognition that copyright may be limited by consumer protection law, antitrust law, as well as human rights.

When Dilma Rousseff was elected the 36th President of Brazil, however, the copyright reform process suffered its first major setback. To succeed Juca Ferreira as her Minister of Culture, Rousseff chose Ana de Hollanda, a singer with close ties to the recording industry and ECAD — the central office for collecting societies in Brazil, one of the greatest adversaries of the draft bill. Indicative of how different her approach to copyright policy would be, one of the first measures de Hollanda took as Minister was to remove Creative Commons licensing from the Ministry of Culture’s website. Soon after, de Hollanda replaced most of the staff of the Ministry’s Intellectual Rights Directorship (Diretoria de Direitos Intelectuais), and mostly stalled the reform process, despite concluding a revision of the text.

Read the full post.

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Congress passes spending bill requiring free access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 16th, 2014

agencylogos

Update: The bill was signed by President Obama January 17, 2014.

Both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate have passed the 2014 omnibus appropriations legislation (2.9 MB PDF). President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

What’s so special about this legislation? Federal agencies with research budgets of at least $100 million per year will be required provide the public with free online access to scholarly articles generated with federal funds no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies affected by the public access provision of the appropriations bill include the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services (which includes research-intensive sub-agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

According to SPARC, the bill “ensure[s] that $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.”

The inclusion of the public access provision builds upon existing initiatives, such as the NIH Public Access Policy. And it echoes the more recent push for public access to publicly funded research advocated through the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and the White House directive. But with FASTR tabled in Congress last year and the federal agencies dragging their feet on complying with Obama’s public access directive (plans were due in August 2013), the passage of the 2014 spending legislation is a welcome measure for increasing access to publicly funded research.

SPARC thinks the language in the bill could be strengthened by adopting a shorter embargo period (e.g. six months), which would benefit the public without harming journal publishers. In addition, they suggest that research articles be shared via a central repository similar to PubMed Central and incorporate provisions to ensure the ability to conduct text and data mining on the entire corpus of federally-funded articles. Creative Commons and other groups have also communicated the need for not only free public access, but also access whereby publicly funded research is made available under open licenses.

Open Access icon was created by Duke Innovation Co-Lab and in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Education seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Labor seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seal is in the public domain.

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CC is now a Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Participating Organization

Puneet Kishor, January 16th, 2014

GEO logo

As of yesterday (January 15, 2014), the Group on Earth Observations approved Creative Commons as now a Participating Organization (PO) at its GEO-X Plenary in Geneva.

GEO was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the G8 (Group of Eight) leading industrialized countries to exploit the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world. GEO is coordinating efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

GEOSS logo

GEOSS provides decision-support tools to a wide variety of users via a global and flexible network of content providers. GEOSS lets decision makers access a range of information by linking together existing and planned observing systems around the world and support the development of new systems where gaps exist. GEOSS promotes common technical standards so that data from the thousands of different instruments can be combined into coherent data sets. The GEOPortal offers a single Internet access point for users seeking data, imagery, and analytical software packages relevant to all parts of the globe. For users with limited or no access to the internet, similar information is available via the GEONETCast network of telecommunication satellites.

GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations providing a framework to develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments. As of 2013, GEO’s Members include 89 Governments and the European Commission. In addition, 67 intergovernmental, international, and regional organizations with a mandate in Earth observation or related issues have been recognized as Participating Organizations (PO).

Dr. Robert Chen, CC’s Science Advisory Board member, was at the Plenary, and he had the following comment, “The GEO Executive Director, Barbara Ryan, pointed out in plenary that there was an extensive discussion in the GEO Executive Committee about making sure that new POs are active contributors to GEO activities. She noted that all of the proposed POs in today’s slate met this criterion.”

Creative Commons has been contributing to the GEO Data Sharing Task Force’s Legal Interoperability Sub-Group and its draft white paper on “Legal Options for the Exchange of Data through the GEOSS Data-CORE (PDF).” (I was a part of the Sub-Group as a Science Fellow, and our Senior Counsel, Sarah Pearson, reviewed the paper). We intend to continue to be active contributors by guiding GEO and its members on the legal aspects of data sharing.

Thanks to Paul Uhlir of the Board on Research Data and Information, National Academies for making the right introductions; and to John Wilbanks, another Science Advisory Board member, for initially encouraging CC to get involved with GEO.

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