New York Times

OpenCourseWare economics in the New York Times

Mike Linksvayer, March 31st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Comments »

Back to School: It’s Raining Textbooks

Jane Park, September 3rd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

All that matters in the news these days is health care, that is, health care and textbooks. The terms “education” and “textbook” go hand in hand, and nobody, at least at the state levels, is keen on separating the two. With California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative recently announcing the approval of some 20 digital textbooks, a futuristic vision of Kindle kids scrolling with razor-like focus floats like bubbles before our eyes.

However, last month, the New York Times reported, “In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History,” that textbooks may be “supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.” The article pointed to Beyond Textbooks, an initiative that “encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.” Beyond Textbooks disassociates itself from “canned curriculum”, or “vanilla curriculum,” reproaching the linear nature of textbooks– “No longer is instruction limited by the resources in one building, or even one district. Beyond Textbooks gives you the whole world!”

My own post on OnOpen.net follows a similar train of thought, and is aptly named, “Beyond the Textbook: I. The Illusion of Quality in K-12 Education“. In it, I challenge the public perception that educational quality will suffer without textbooks, and talk about whether textbooks really need saving.

Other news sources are also skeptical. The Scientific American prefaces its article, “Open-Source Textbooks a Mixed Bag in California,” with the caveat, “Downloadable and free, maybe–but the schoolhouse Wiki revolution will have to wait.” Granted, SA seems to be conflating “open-source” and “digital” here (open-source is generally associated with openly licensed textbooks, otherwise known as open textbooks, while digital is, well, digital like everything else we come across in today’s world) and it is unclear if they are skeptical of simply digitizing the “Bulky, hefty and downright expensive, conventional school textbooks” that have been persisting for years, or if they are averse to the digital revolution in education generally.

Still, the ReadWriteWeb is more optimistic, pointing out initiatives like Flat World Knowledge which focus on gaining revenue through the sale of supplementary materials surrounding their textbooks, which are themselves openly available via CC BY-NC-SA, and are therefore not only freely accessible, but adaptable, derivable, and even republishable, though for noncommercial purposes and under the same license. Co-founder Eric Frank distinguishes between traditional textbooks and open textbooks, emphasizing that open textbooks creates more options: “Traditional textbooks have clearly failed students and instructors. Similarly, digital textbook trials that force a single format, device, or price point will also fail. No single e-reading format or device will ever satisfy all students. Our commercial open-source textbook approach puts control and the power of choice in the hands of students and instructors.”

However, you can’t help but wonder if all this hooplah around textbooks is “[falling] flat.” Is the power of choice really in the hands of teachers and students? If traditional textbooks “have clearly failed” them, but that traditional textbook adoption process is not about to budge, are we simply arguing about which direction to steer the Titanic after we have already hit the iceberg?

No Comments »

The Reality of Professional Photography on Wikipedia

Fred Benenson, July 23rd, 2009

Noam Cohen’s piece in the New York Times over the weekend highlighted some of the issues surrounding photography on Wikipedia:

At a time when celebrities typically employ a team of professionals to control their images, Wikipedia is a place where chaos rules. Few high-quality photographs, particularly of celebrities, make it onto this site. This is because the site runs only pictures with the most permissive Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image, for commercial purposes or not, as long as the photographer is credited.

But what Cohen somehow misses is the staggering amount of high quality professional photography (of celebrities and otherwise) that does make it on to Wikipedia. Take for example, the Davos World Economic Forum’s choice to release its entire Flickr stream, over 2,600 professional shot photos, under our Attribution-ShareAlike license. The result is a professional, high quality, and informative entry on the conference and organization filled with photos of celebrities that was entirely curated by volunteers. WEF didn’t even have to upload the photos themselves, they just made them available under the right license:

World Economic Forum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Obviously, the WEF is in the business of running a meeting and not licensing celebrity photos, but there is no doubt about the value in the works they’ve contributed to the commons; value that could have been, but wasn’t, exploited using standard all-rights-reserved copyright licenses and stock photo agencies.

In other words, the WEF realized the obvious advantages of being the provider of a certain set of free photos that would otherwise be difficult to capture professionally. As Wikipedia continues its ascent toward being a cultural necessity (if not the nth wonder of the world), these advantages will only accumulate, thus further cementing the argument for free culture.

7 Comments »

The Story of the Story of Stuff’s CC License

Fred Benenson, May 12th, 2009

The Story of Stuff
On Sunday The New York Times covered Annie Leonard’s massively successfulStory of Stuff” short, noting that it has been viewed millions of times and that Leonard has sold over 7,000 DVD copies of the film. We were delighted to discover that the short is licensed under our BY-NC-ND license, allowing for non-commercial reuse and sharing. On the DVD order page, the team notes that the DVDs can be duplicated and shown in classrooms, but also points those looking to prevent waste to a 50mb .mov download of the whole film. The site also encourages supporters to organize their own screenings of the shorts using free PDF resources to help with promotion and discussion.

The story of “The Story of Stuff” demonstrates a kind of savvy that more activists using media should adopt: create an engaging message and find every possible way to encourage your supporters to promote, share, and distribute it.

1 Comment »

Randall Munroe on XKCD’s Book & Creative Commons

Fred Benenson, April 20th, 2009

XKCD Excerpt
Today’s New York Times reports on XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe‘s foray into IRL publishing, so we wanted take the opportunity to congratulate Randall for the book deal, but we also wanted to point out his typically pithy and brilliant perspective in the NYTimes article on the book’s copyright and his choice to use Creative Commons:

Does that mean that the book won’t carry a traditional copyright and instead take its lead from the online comic strip itself, which Mr. Munroe licenses under Creative Commons, allowing noncommercial re-use as long as credit is given?

“To anyone who wants to photocopy, bind, and give a copy of the book to their loved one — more power to them,” he said. “He/She will likely be disappointed that you’re so cheap, though.”

Randall’s award winning webcomic XKCD is updated frequently and released under our Attribution-NonCommercial license.

1 Comment »

Is Gatehouse’s Complaint a Problem for Creative Commons?

Fred Benenson, January 23rd, 2009

You may have heard about Gatehouse Media suing the New York Times Co. over the linking of Creative Commons licensed news stories on the Times’ Boston.com. Zachary Seward over at the Nieman Journalism Lab has been covering the various developments of the case and most interestingly, an e-mail from Howard Owens (whom we highlighted in our original post on Gatehouse media adopting CC) where he points out that:

… a few graphs and a link back to our site isn’t a Creative Commons issue, but a fair use issue, and they would probably win on that one.

Today, however, Seward posted a piece on how CC’s NonCommercial license plays into the case. Featuring an interview with David Ardia of The Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman center, Seward suggests that the issues CC is currently investigating surrounding NonCommercial complicate the case.

We respectfully disagree.

Put simply, we do not believe that CC licenses, or our research on the definition of NonCommercial are relevant to Gatehouse’s complaint. The real debate is about fair use — just as Howard Owens pointed out in his e-mail to other Gatehouse staff. Creative Commons licenses do not prohibit fair uses of CC licensed content. This means that a NonCommercially licensed work (such as Gatehouse’s) can be used commercially so long as the use is fair.

Is The NY Times Co. using Gatehouse’s content fairly by linking to it using snippits and headlines? We’ll leave that up to the courts to decide, but if the famous Perfect 10 v. Google Inc. case is any indicator, condensing and linking content by third parties has been upheld as a fair use in court already. There are obviously differences between the Perfect 10 case and this one, but if the Gatehouse claim were upheld, it would do far more damage to fair use than Creative Commons ever could.

The EFF reports that the trial is set to begin on Monday. Watch their page dedicated to the case for further developments.

UPDATE: The suit has been settled, download the joint statement here. Also, it should be noted (as Gatehouse counsel has pointed out below), that Howard Owen’s original e-mail was not in fact referencing the NYTimes’ usage of Gatehouse CC’d content, but another party’s use of it.

7 Comments »

The New York Times: Making Use of Public Domain

Eric Steuer, November 20th, 2008

In yesterday’s Personal Tech Q&A section of The New York Times, there was a useful item called Making Use of Public Domain (registration required, although I was able to see the page at first without logging in) that describes a bit about how images that are found online can be used. The article points to a few good sources of public domain images and also mentions Creative Commons-licensed works as a source of legal-to-use material.

Just because a photo or document is available online does not mean it is automatically in the public domain, so check for copyright notices or a Creative Commons license before grabbing something to reuse. (A Creative Commons license works alongside a copyright and allows writers and artists more flexibility in sharing their creations with the world …)

No Comments »

NY Times Magazine on Lewis Hyde

Eric Steuer, November 18th, 2008

This past weekend, The New York Times Magazine published an excellent feature on author and scholar Lewis Hyde, best known for his book The Gift, a landmark assessment of the gift economy and the value of doing creative work in a commodity-driven culture. I read The Gift a few years ago, and pieces from it often pop into my head when I talk to artists who use Creative Commons licenses in their approach to distributing their work. The Times article is a great primer on Hyde and The Gift is highly recommended for anyone interested in beautifully-written and well-argued philosophy about the benefits of sharing.

No Comments »

Back to School: Open Textbooks Gaining in Popularity

Jane Park, September 16th, 2008

There’s been a whole lot of press on open textbooks lately, in addition to my own posts on the Flexbook and the Student PIRGs’ recent report encouraging open source textbooks as the right model for digital textbooks (versus the limited e-books that commercial publishers currently offer). The difference in open source and commercial e-books is wide and deep. Open textbooks are freely editable, downloadable and repurposable by others, keeping with the notion that the search for truth in any academic field is continually being revised, especially in the science and technology fields. The perpetual beta status of knowledge is not just an oxymoron; the old fashioned textbook is simply outdated in this age of lightning fast communications. Furthermore, students and many professors are just not having it anymore.

The New York Times article, “Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free,” features an interview with Cal Tech professor, R. Preston McAfee, who offers his “Introduction to Economic Analysis” online for free. Another article by the LA Times reports best-selling co-author Steven D. Levitt of Freakonomics calling McAfee brilliant. If brilliant minds putting out open textbooks and students buying in (for free and for low-cost print versions on places like Lulu.com and Flatworld Knowledge) are not an indication of a revolution in textbook making, I don’t know what is.

The numbers don’t lie either. Quotes the NY Times on McAfee:

If I had finished my own book, I would have finished a couple years ago,” [McAfee] said. “It would have taken five years. It would have spent five years in print and sold 2,000 copies.” Instead, he said, he posted it on the Web site and there have been 2.8 million page views of his textbook, “Signals and Systems,” including a translation into Spanish.

Wired also quotes a long-timer in the traditional textbook industry, Eric Frank, who is getting with the changing times: “The nice thing about open content is it gives faculty full control, creative control over the content of the book, full control over timing, and it give students a lot more control over how they want to consume it and how much they want to pay”…“On the surface they’re (traditional publishers) doing OK, but underneath the surface there are lots of problems.”

A long-existing and solid promoter of the open textbook is Connexions, an online platform “for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web.” Connexions, created by Rice University’s Richard Baraniuk, initiated a new way of thinking about textbooks: 

“Most textbooks are a mass of information in linear format: one topic follows after another. However, our brains are not linear – we learn by making connections between new concepts and things we already know. Connexions mimics this by breaking down content into smaller chunks, called modules, that can be linked together and arranged in different ways. This lets students see the relationships both within and between topics and helps demonstrate that knowledge is naturally interconnected, not isolated into separate classes or books.”

According to the NY Times, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a staunch supporter of the open educational resources (OER) movement, has granted $6 million to Connexions alone. Connexions licenses all of its content CC BY, the license that allows the greatest sharing capabilities and creativity for education, while still retaining authorship and thereby greater quality in collaborative output.

No Comments »

NYTimes Recommends CC for Free Music Downloads

Cameron Parkins, September 4th, 2008

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article titled “Free Music Downloads Without the Legal Peril ” in which they gave CC a nice plug:

Creative Commons is a site that helps copyright holders decide which rights they want to share — for instance making songs free for personal use and distribution, but not for sampling or commercial use. The five-year-old organization said it had licensed about 1 million songs, and lists them at creativecommons.org/legalmusicforvideos. One user of Creative Commons, the eclectic radio station WFMU-FM, posts legal in-studio performances at freemusicarchive.org.

The article mentions some other free music alternatives (such as promos on iTunes and Amazon MP3) and although it doesn’t exactly nail what we do – we haven’t licensed any songs ourselves, that is all thanks to YOU in the CC community – it is great to be featured regardless.

1 Comment »


Subscribe to RSS

Archives

  • collapse2014
  • expand2013
  • expand2012
  • expand2011
  • expand2010
  • expand2009
  • expand2008
  • expand2007
  • expand2006
  • expand2005
  • expand2004
  • expand2003
  • expand2002