Commons News

Building an Innovation-Based Economy with Creative Commons

Cable Green, November 15th, 2012

In a paper released in conjunction with a panel discussion, the Brookings Institution identifies promising policy ideas to encourage entrepreneurship and innovative growth in the technology industry.

“We need to improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.”

“In an era of limited resources, educators must figure out how to do more with fewer financial resources. One action that would improve school efficiency and financing is to have educational resources developed with taxpayer dollars be licensed under a creative commons license that would improve accessibility to instructional materials. Budget circumstances require schools to get more efficient, boost productivity, and make do with fewer financial resources. While this poses obvious problems for school districts, it also creates the possibility of making changes in business operations that are innovative and transformational.”

“Throughout each of these initiatives, we should have metrics assessing education innovation implementation and impact. We should determine how fast we are transitioning from paper to digital textbooks, leverage the use of creative commons licenses, and enforce changes in education policy and accreditation that encourage more innovative approaches to learning and achievement.”

The report also endorses FRPAA legislation that would “mandate public dissemination of federally funded research within six months of publication (for agencies with extramural funding exceeding $100 million).”

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WIPO’s Broadcasting Treaty: Still Harmful, Still Unnecessary

Timothy Vollmer, November 14th, 2012

Creative Commons has been involved in discussions at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the last several years, and we’ve made interventions in support of the public domain, as well as other topics.

One issue in particular that is resurfacing at WIPO is a draft treaty for the Protection of Broadcasting Organizations, or “Broadcasting Treaty.” If passed, the Broadcasting Treaty would grant to broadcasters a separate, exclusive copyright-like right in the signals that they transmit, separate from any copyrights they or others may have in the content of the transmissions. Some advocates of the treaty support granting these rights to broadcasters for a minimum of 50 years (and others, for a minimum of 20). And, because these additional rights would add a layer of rights atop the underlying copyright in the works being broadcast, the Broadcasting Treaty would permit broadcasters to restrict access to works already licensed under a Creative Commons license, or in the public domain. This new set of rights would unnecessarily complicate the rights-negotiation process that Creative Commons has attempted to simplify.

Antennas to heaven

Antennas to Heaven / mhiguera / CC BY

The Broadcasting Treaty has been on and off WIPO’s agenda since at least 1996. This is not the first time that CC has voiced its concern about the potentially harmful effects of a Broadcasting Treaty. In 2006, we signed a letter of concern (PDF) with 37 other organizations representing a broad range of information technology, consumer electronics and telecommunications companies, library associations, and civil society organizations. The letter told WIPO that if a treaty is deemed necessary, it should be based on a “signal-based” approach, focusing specifically on protecting broadcasting signals from intentional misappropriation or theft. The statement called for the inclusion of a mandatory baseline set of limitations and exceptions in order to ensure that uses of broadcasted content that are lawful under copyright law are not inhibited by the treaty. And in general, the letter questioned the need for a Broadcasting Treaty in the first place, suggesting that current legal frameworks already provide the necessary enforcement mechanism for “signal piracy” (unauthorized use of a broadcast, prohibited by the broadcaster).

Why is a Broadcasting Treaty problematic for users of Creative Commons licenses?

A report (PDF) by Professor Patrícia Akester, commissioned by UNESCO, concluded that a Broadcasting Treaty could “prevent or restrict the flow of information with respect to materials which may not be protected by copyright, such as news of the day, or which are in the public domain, because their term of protection has expired or in relation to materials created by third parties who do not wish to prevent dissemination of the latter… . For example, a broadcast of a speech by a public official may be covered by the scope of the proposed Treaty, even though it may not be protected by copyright, and a broadcast of materials under a Creative Commons license may prevent users from fixing such materials.” Anyone who would want to use a broadcast would have been compelled to get permission from the broadcaster in addition to the copyright holder. This would negatively affect users of Creative Commons licenses. It would grant broadcasters an additional right above and beyond those rights granted to the copyright holder. So, even though CC licenses provide for a clear set of permissions in advance, broadcasters’ rights could trump those rights, requiring that a user get permission or pay a license fee to the broadcaster to use the broadcasted content. Most WIPO member nations have agreed to pursue the more limited signal-based approach, but it’s not clear whether this path would avoid interfering with the permissions granted from the Creative Commons licenses.

CC licenses forbid licensees from applying adding technological protection measures (DRM) to a work if doing so prohibits other users from exercising the rights granted under the license. A broadcast treaty that authorizes application of DRM to their signals — depending on its final scope — would very likely conflict with that prohibition. Moreover, the Treaty permits countries to enact far-reaching anti-circumvention laws that stop users from breaking DRM to use the broadcast content — inclusive of any CC-licensed content, which by the terms of the license is expressly permitted. This may put licensees in a situation of either not being able to exercise rights granted under copyright via the CC licenses, or risk violating law when they circumvent the technological protection measure to do so.

Adding additional intellectual property rights via a broadcast right is bad policy and yet another representation of the expanding rights grab from entities who are not the copyright holder. And said well by Public Knowledge, “Intellectual property rights should go to authors or inventors, not middlemen.” This statement represents the underlying utility of Creative Commons since its inception: CC licenses provide powerful yet easy-to-implement solutions in order to reduce the legal transaction costs associated with sharing content. In addition, the Broadcasting Treaty could give rise to a sort of re-enclosure of the public domain by granting rights to broadcasters even after a user has placed a work in the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

The creation of new “copyright-like” rights has been increasing over the last several years, to the detriment of creativity and innovation. The Broadcasting Treaty is a direct attack on the rights of creators to share their work as they see fit under the existing (and increasingly protectionist) copyright regime. As Mike Linksvayer wrote in 2010, “With a proliferation of rights, it is harder to know who has exclusive control over what, or whether multiple parties have exclusive control over different rights over a work. This phenomenon of too many property claims forms what is sometimes called an anticommons — overlapping exclusive claims can prevent anyone from using a work — the opposite (thus “anti”) of a commons, in which anyone may use a work under a clear, easily discernible set of rules.” Creative Commons licenses have been a successful mechanism for creators who want to share to communicate their intentions clearly in an environment that has been increasingly hostile toward them. The Broadcast Treaty is antithetical to these methods of sharing and collaboration, but perhaps most harmful to CC-licensed works and to the public domain.

Bottom line: A Broadcasting Treaty is not needed

Is there need for such a treaty? Public interest advocates point out that the additional rights granted to broadcasters via a Broadcasting Treaty are simply not necessary because broadcasters already have legal remedies available to them to combat signal theft. An often cited example is the famous case of the Canadian company iCraveTV. iCraveTV decided to broadcast via the Internet 17 US-based channels on the grounds that local laws allowed it to transmit wireless broadcast cable signals without paying. And, because these channels were received at the Canadian border, iCraveTV argued it was exempt from paying royalties. Broadcasters in the US sued iCraveTV alleging copyright infringement. iCraveTV quickly settled, and the site shuttered shortly thereafter.

Copyright law already grants a complex bundle of rights to authors, and most of the time broadcasters are either copyright holders or licensees of copyrights. Public Knowledge notes, “broadcast signal piracy is almost always also copyright infringement and already illegal.” Similarly, Knowledge Ecology International wonders why the Broadcasting Treaty is necessary: “[W]e have yet to hear a cogent explanation of the problem the treaty is supposed to solve, or how it will work. We have asked the US government and other countries to explain what piracy problem the broadcaster treaty is expected to solve that can’t be solved by enforcing existing copyright laws and related rights laws, and we are still waiting for an answer.”

Establishing a Broadcasting Treaty could in effect negate the permissions that users of Creative Commons licenses wish to communicate, and grant unwarranted rights to broadcasting organizations that have added little or no value to the underlying work being transmitted. The proposed benefit to society resulting from creation and enforcement of additional rights for broadcasters under a Broadcasting Treaty is unclear. If there is a dire need to create additional rights for broadcasting organizations, the data demonstrating this need should be presented and impartially evaluated. If there is no discernable reason backed up by data, then the treaty should be abandoned.

What are the next steps?

Right now WIPO has released a working document (PDF) on the draft treaty, to be discussed and negotiated at the upcoming WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) meeting taking place in Geneva 19-23 November. Creative Commons is considering developing an intervention for the meeting, as we have permission to attend and contribute to the WIPO proceedings alongside other NGOs. We urge WIPO to make these deliberations as transparent as possible so that the public knows about the discussions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has already raised concerns that WIPO is pushing for a treaty to be signed quickly. And they also released a statement (PDF) during the July SCCR meeting. WIPO should carefully consider the implications to the public interest and properly address the recommendations from civil society organizations.

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TAG 2012 Keynote: Growing Into Mission-Supporting Technology

Cathy Casserly, November 13th, 2012

Today, I’m honored to be a keynote speaker at the Technology Affinity Group conference in Monterey, CA. I’ll be talking about my career and my experiences in the open space, and sharing three suggestions for the foundation community:

Technology deserves a bigger place at the table. Technology is what drives the big innovations in the philanthropic world, but all too often, the technology people don’t have enough of a voice in a foundation’s leadership. That’s a problem that I think foundations need to address before they can work at full potential.

Share by default. When foundations share their data, it’s often the exception rather than the rule. What if foundations made sharing the default? Yesterday, we blogged about a group of foundations making a commitment to share their grant data regularly, openly, and in a usable format. I’ll be applauding the Reporting Commitment and urging other foundations to get onboard.

Bake open into philanthropy. Every foundation wants to get the most good for its money. There’s a strong argument that grant dollars go further if they go toward openly-licensed work and resources.

Do you have any questions or thoughts from the session? Share them in the comments.

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Foundations Step into Open Data Sharing

Elliot Harmon, November 12th, 2012

In the past few weeks, the Foundation Center and the philanthropic world have taken two big steps forward in transparency. First, 15 of the nation’s largest foundations joined the “Reporting Commitment,” agreeing to release grant information regularly through Foundation Center’s Glasspockets repository. Then last week, the Foundation Center relaunched IssueLab, an extensive repository of third-sector research. IssueLab’s mission is to “gather, index, and share the collective intelligence of the social sector” more effectively.

All of the IssueLab metadata is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA and all of the content is accessible (for reading, if not necessarily for other uses) for free. Everything released to Glasspockets under the Reporting Commitment is licensed under BY NC.

OPEN

Open/Closed / Antti T. Nissinen / CC BY

Taken together, these initiatives present some interesting possibilities for the future of open data in the foundation space. Foundation Center president Bradford K. Smith discussed the implications of both initiatives in a blog post:

If you think foundations are only ATM machines and nonprofits just service providers, think again. With the launch of IssueLab, there is one place you can go to find more than eleven thousand knowledge products published, funded, produced, and/or generated by foundations and nonprofits in the U.S. and around the globe.

Last month, the Foundation Center announced the Reporting Commitment, an effort by fifteen of America’s largest philanthropic foundations to make their grants data — who they give money to, how much, where, and for what purpose — available in an open, machine-readable format. Starting today, through IssueLab, the social sector can also access what it knows as a result of that funding. A service of the Foundation Center, IssueLab gathers, indexes, and shares the sector’s collective intelligence on a free, open, and searchable platform, and encourages users to share, copy, distribute, and even adapt the work. It’s a big step for philanthropy and “open knowledge.”

Smith went on to explain why it’s important that these resources aren’t just freely available; they’re openly licensed too:

Free is good, but IssueLab promotes openness in a number of other ways. First, the metadata — the abstracts and “tags” developed for all reports in the collection — is available under a Creative Commons license and can be grabbed and/or remixed by anyone as long as they use it for non-commercial purposes. Second, only work that is available for free is included in the IssueLab collection. These are public “assets,” in that the organizations which produced them already have tax-exempt status and/or have received government funding, and they should be easy for the public to find. Sorry but Kardashian Konfidential will not be found on IssueLab. Third, IssueLab itself is an open-source platform whose underlying codebase/framework is continually being improved by a community of developers. And fourth, our own developers embrace the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), which develops and promotes interoperability standards to facilitate the efficient dissemination of online content.

Here at Creative Commons, we’re big proponents of foundations and other institutions sharing their data — and the works they produce or fund — under an open license. It makes sense for foundations to reciprocate the public’s trust by showing how philanthropic dollars have been spent, and the foundations that join in the Reporting Commitment make that information available much sooner and much more easily than it is under the federally-required information returns. By use of Glasspockets, the public can see and compare the activities of the participating foundations. Private foundations are tax-exempt because they are dedicated to the public benefit; those that share their data and research in ways that invite the reuse and contributions of others add a valuable new dimension to their public service.

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World OER Map: Will You Help Build It?

Cable Green, November 9th, 2012

Global Map Test

Global Map Test / Mike Rosenberg / CC BY

Here’s an exciting opportunity for the open education community. Susan D’Antoni, a long-time leader in Open Educational Resources (OER), is coordinating an important effort to map the global OER space.

You can join the list by sending an email to: oer-community-request@athabascau.ca and typing “subscribe” in the subject line. I have signed up to contribute. I hope you will too.

Read the complete announcement below for more information.

 

Dear Colleagues,

The following invitation is extended to any of you who might be interested in a discussion of how the OER community at large might design, create and sustain an OER world map of institutional initiatives – to help us connect and communicate.

The objective of this conversation is to consider together whether the global OER community could design and build a world map of OER institutional initiatives.

Over the past decade, there have been more and more initiatives in more and more countries. It has become difficult to have a sense of the global OER landscape. As we seek to communicate with stakeholders, as we seek to connect with potential partners and as we seek to learn from the experience of others, we might find useful a picture of the OER world – a global map of institutional and perhaps national initiatives as a starting point. Over time, an “OER World Map” could be enhanced as the community wished and found feasible.

Maps can be effective in communicating a message visually. There are already several global maps that have been created for specific OER groups, such as, the Open CourseWare Consortium and the Open University OLnet project in the United Kingdom.

As many of you will remember, the former IIEP OER community showed enormous energy in its interaction. And importantly, the community showed a capacity to self-organize. A number of groups came together to translate the report of the group’s consensus on priorities to advance the OER movement. If mapping the OER world were seen to be useful, perhaps the worldwide OER community could self-organize to build and maintain an OER world map together.

Our conversation is scheduled to take place online over a three-week period from 12 – 30 November. At the conclusion of the discussion a draft report will be sent to everyone for review and comment.

In addition to this international discussion in English, some groups have already decided to hold similar interactions in their own languages for their own communities or networks. Their input will be shared with the international group, and incorporated into the final report of our collective deliberation and conclusions. We hope others may also wish to organize separate discussions.

I will be back in contact with further details before we begin. I am very much looking forward to being back together again.

My best,

Susan

——————

Outline of the international discussion

Week 1: What could an OER world map look like? (12- 16 November)

  • Why map the OER landscape?
  • Essential information and visual presentation

Week 2: Could a world map be built collaboratively? (19-23 November)

  • Organizational approach for collaboration
  • Ensuring the quality of the information

Week 3: Reflection and next steps (26-30 November)

  • Design of an “OER World Map”
  • Organization
  • Resources available/needed
  • Next steps

Please:

  • Send an email to oer-community-request@athabascau.ca and type “subscribe” in the subject line.
  • Share this announcement with your colleagues and networks.
  • Plan a parallel or follow up discussion in your own language and network and give your feedback for the final report of all the discussions.
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Last Day to Support MediaGoblin!

Elliot Harmon, November 9th, 2012

If you follow Creative Commons’ various social media outlets, you’ve probably heard us talking about GNU MediaGoblin’s crowdfunding campaign. Today is the last day to support the campaign, so we wanted to give it one last shout-out.

CC alumnus Chris Webber is MediaGoblin’s lead developer. It’s an open-source media-hosting platform. It’s already CC-enabled, but Chris and his team have some exciting plans for its future, so they’re running a funding campaign with the help of our friends at the Free Software Foundation. Watch the video to see what’s on the horizon:

If you’d like to help spread the word, then click Retweet below:

You can also spread the word on identi.ca and Facebook.

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Course Creation 101 with P2PU

Jane Park, November 6th, 2012

P2PU is giving a webinar next week to help new and seasoned community members kickstart their courses, especially those just beginning to flesh out their ideas for a School of Open course! P2PU Learning Lead, Vanessa Gennarelli, will give an overview of the P2PU course design, and then dive into the step-by-step process of creating a course on the P2PU platform. I will also go over some tips and guidelines specific to creating a course as part of the School of Open, a community initiative that will offer courses on the meaning and application of “open” on the web and offline environments.

What: Course Creation 101 with P2PU (a webinar)
When: Wednesday, November 14 at 11am US pacific / 2pm US eastern
Where: Collaborate room, no registration or log-in required; simply click the following link: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?password=M.201F591479750E670246FFFB9315F5&sid=2008170. We recommend joining 5-10 minutes early to make sure you have the necessary system requirements.

If you can’t make this webinar, don’t worry; it will be recorded for posterity and linked from the P2PU website. You can also learn how to Make a P2PU course in 1/2 hour on your own while referencing these School of Open guidelines. P2PU has a help desk for platform issues you might encounter, and School of Open has a discussion list for iterative feedback.

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CC Europe urges European Commission to support Open Education

Timothy Vollmer, November 6th, 2012

In August we wrote about the European Commission’s request for information on the topic Opening Up Education. The point of the consultation is to gauge the need for EU action to promote the adoption and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in education. Several Creative Commons affiliates in Europe have submitted a joint response to the survey. The jurisdictions signing onto the response include Luxembourg, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, France, Portugal, Serbia, Poland, Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria, and Ireland.

The joint response urges the Commission to support the recommendations in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which was unanimously supported by UNESCO member nations at the World Open Educational Resources Congress on 20-22 June 2012. As described in the consultation document (PDF), “the EU will use the tools at its disposal (policy guidance, EU regulation whenever relevant, funding mechanisms, exchange of good practices and innovative pilots).” By leveraging these various tools in alignment with the suggestions laid out in the Paris Declaration, the Commission can be very effective in promoting the development and use of OER. Those recommendations urge UNESCO member nations to:

  1. Foster awareness and use of OER.
  2. Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).
  3. Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER.
  4. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks.
  5. Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials.
  6. Foster strategic alliances for OER.
  7. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts.
  8. Encourage research on OER.
  9. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER.
  10. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.

The European Commission is in a position to help coordinate, promote, and support most — if not all — of these recommendations. In addition, these recommendations align with the Europe 2020 priorities, especially in increasing effective investments in education by encouraging free open access to publicly funded educational content.

The Paris Declaration reaffirms OER as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.” The EC should support this definition of OER so that users of OER know the rights available to them and so that producers of OER get the credit they deserve. Since a clear legal framework is crucial to the success of OER, we strongly suggest that the EC consider promoting the use of Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. CC licenses are globally applicable and are seen as the gold standard for open content licensing. It would be beneficial for the EC to adopt CC licenses because they are already established and understood, instead of creating customized licenses that may not interoperate with existing solutions.

The full response is available here.

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The OER Policy Registry Needs Your Help

Anna Daniel, November 5th, 2012

Teaching Open Source Practices
Teaching Open Source Practices / opensource.com / CC BY-SA

It is an exciting time for the global open educational resources (OER) movement. In the past few months, several governments and institutions have shown their support for OER:

Creative Commons believes that there is a clear role for government support of OER. When governments require open licenses on publicly funded resources, they ensure those resources benefit the most people possible. Publicly funded resources should be openly licensed resources. The public should have access to what it paid for.

Advocating for government OER policies is not always easy or straightforward. Earlier this year, CC announced that we would coordinate and steward a collection of OER open policies. Since then, many members of the global OER community have been working together to compile a database of OER policies as well as toolkits, presentations, and other supporting materials. We call it the OER Policy Registry.

The policies in the OER Policy Registry are specific to OER, but may include general open access, ICT, or online learning policies that directly enable OER. There are currently over 60 policies, but we need your help to improve the registry.

First, please add new or edit existing OER open policies. We’ve put together some instructions for navigating, editing, and adding to the policy registry. If you have any questions, please email: anna@creativecommons.org

Second, please help us spread the word! We need you and your networks to help the OER Policy Registry grow and flourish. Click Retweet below to share with your followers:

You can also share this announcement via identi.ca or Facebook.

Sharing our collective knowledge of existing OER open policies, in the same way we share open educational resources, will help OER advocates and policymakers learn about, craft and adopt their own OER open policies. Thank you for your help! If you have any suggestions or feedback please let us know.

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Keeping MOOCs Open

Timothy Vollmer, November 1st, 2012

MOOCs — or Massive Open Online Courses — have been getting a lot of attention lately. Just in the last year or so, there’s been immense interest in the potential for large scale online learning, with significant investments being made in companies (Coursera, Udacity, Udemy), similar non-profit initiatives (edX) and learning management systems (Canvas, Blackboard). The renewed interest in MOOCs was ignited after last year’s Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course offered via Stanford University, when over 160,000 people signed up to take the free online course. The idea of large-scale, free online education has been around for quite some time. Some examples include David Wiley’s 2007 Introduction to Open Education; Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008; Open Content Licensing for Educators; and many others.

A central component to these earlier iterations of the MOOC was the dual meaning of “open.” Justin Reich writes in EdWeek,

The original MOOCs…were “open” in two respects. First, they were open enrollment to students outside the hosting university. That is open as in “open registration.” Second, the materials of the course were licensed using Creative Commons licenses so their materials could be remixed and reused by others. That is open as in “open license.”

These dual characteristics of “open” are also core to Open Educational Resources (OER). Hewlett’s updated OER definition begins: “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” That is, for an educational resource to be “open” it must be both gratis (available at no-cost) and libre (everyone has the legal rights to repurpose the resource). An OER cannot be freely available or openly licensed – it must be both freely available and openly licensed (or in the public domain) to be an OER.

The new cohort of MOOCs are distinct from the original MOOCs in that they are “open,” thus far, in only one respect: they are open enrollment. The new MOOCs have not yet openly licensed their courses. As MOOCs continue to develop course content and experiment with various business models, we think it’s crucial that they consider adopting open licenses as a default on their digital education offerings. In general, the value proposition can be enhanced for the new MOOCs and their users if the MOOCs openly license their courses. A few ideas about why this is important:

  • One goal of MOOCs is to serve tens / hundreds of thousands more people with high-quality educational content. By adopting Creative Commons (CC) licenses, MOOCs:

    • can increase the reach of their materials by making the rights to use and adapt them crystal clear from the start;
    • will be able to serve even more learners because they’ll be granting legal permissions to use their course content in other educational settings; and
    • do not have to respond to individual permissions requests from users and can instead focus on delivering quality educational content to the largest number of students.
  • Commercially-focused MOOCs can adopt CC licenses to make their MOOCs truly “open” (free of cost and free of most copyright restrictions) and still leverage the scale of these courses (with potentially tens of thousands of students) and the MOOC platform to charge for value-added services, such as the coordination of study groups, course certification, secure assessments, employee recruiting, and print-on-demand textbooks.
  • MOOCs can provide features their users want by incorporating open licensing options. Recently, the education technology company Blackboard has permitted users to upload educational content under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Since many MOOCs want to support individuals who want to share their creations as well as open collaboration between course participants, it may be worthwhile for the MOOCs to support users with this easy-to-implement feature.
  • By supporting open licensing, MOOCs will be positively contributing to the Open Educational Resources movement, reaffirmed in the 2012 Paris OER Declaration. MOOCs can be leaders and innovators for OER, increase their enrollment numbers, and receive the goodwill that comes along with being an active participant in this global open education movement.
  • Online education knows no language barriers, and a large percentage of MOOC participants are logging on from outside of North America (where most of the new initiatives are based). For example, in a recent MIT MOOC course with 155,000 registrations, students came from 160 countries (PDF). If MOOCs want to continue to attract and serve an international audience, they might focus on multilingual course delivery. It should be noted that MOOCs that release course content under Creative Commons licenses (at least the licenses that do not contain the “NoDerivatives” condition) automatically grant permission for users to make translations of the materials. MIT Open CourseWare courses have been translated into at least 10 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, French, German, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian. Coursera and Udacity have already partnered with the crowdsourced captioning service Amara.
  • Openly licensed MOOC resources can give rise to interesting new courses and educational products and services. For instance, materials released under a license like CC BY can be repurposed and reused on sites like Wikipedia and hundreds of Open CourseWare projects. Adopting CC licensing can support the conditions necessary for innovation that is difficult to predict (or plan for). In the long run, supporting the open ecosystem is beneficial both for commercial and non-profit MOOC initiatives. In addition, many educators and learners want to be able to use the resources outside of the MOOC environment, and open licensing grants this permission in advance. CC licensing opens up a much broader range of pedagogical approaches that enable all MOOC participants, instructors and students alike the ability to generate, use, and share content with each other.
  • Many MOOCs are concerned that their content will be “stolen” by competitors. However, this fear is speculative. There are features of the CC licenses that can help assuage the fears of MOOCs. For example, all the CC licenses provide for attribution to the original author, preservation of any copyright notice, and the URL to the original work. When MOOC material are licensed under a CC license permitting the creation of adaptations, the adapted resources must be clearly marked to indicate that changes have been made, and a credit — reasonable to the means and medium being used — that the MOOC material has been used in the adaptation. Also, CC licenses do not grant permission to use anyone’s trademarks or official insignia, nor do the licenses affect other laws that may be used to protect one’s reputation or other rights — those rights are all reserved and may be enforced separately by the MOOC. Finally, it should be noted that the original educational materials remain intact and preserved, exactly as released (most typically) on the MOOC website. So, there will be a record of the original publishing of the content. But beyond these features of the CC license, community and business norms make it very unlikely that competitor MOOCs will “swoop in” and republish full courses simply because the open license technically makes this a possibility. Norms of academic practice typically carry more weight than any legal restriction made possible through use of an open license.

MOOCs should address copyright and licensing early on so they are clear to users how they can utilize and reuse educational materials offered on the site. MOOCs should choose to adopt an open license that meets their goals, but at minimum it is recommended that they choose a public, standardized license that grants to its users the “4Rs” of open content: the ability to Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute the resources. The more permissions MOOCs can offer on their content, the better. Online peer learning community P2PU has provided some useful documentation about how to choose a license. And CC maintains easy-to-understand information about how to properly implement the CC license on websites and platforms. Of course, it is important for MOOCs and users of MOOCs to understand some of the copyright and intellectual property considerations that they should know about before they adopt an open license for educational content.

MOOCs have captured the public mindshare as an interesting way to deliver high quality education to huge numbers of online learners. In order to maximize the educational benefits that MOOCs promise to provide, they must be “open” in both enrollment and licensing. MOOCs should seriously consider applying CC licenses to content they build, asking contributing Universities to openly licnese their courses, and making CC licensing part of their MOOC platforms. By doing so, they’ll be best positioned to serve a diverse set of users and support the flourishing open education movement.

For more information, see this Association of Research Libraries issue brief on MOOCs (CC BY) by Brandon Butler.

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