Thursday, October 11, 2007

Licensing Open Educational Resources - Week 7

Given that almost everything current is copyrighted, it makes perfect sense that we've developed licenses like CC and GFDL that explicitly tell people that they CAN use our stuff. Kudos to this movement!

But given this week's readings, I'm still really puzzled by where CC and GFDL have led us.
  1. Why are CC and GFDL not compatible - I know the technical/legal reason - but what's making it so difficult for them to change their licences to be compatible with each other? Several of these week's articles highlighted this problem - that docs licensed under the share-alike must be shared under the same license, precluding mixing with other licenses. Ok. So what's the hold-up on the solution? It's just legal jargon that needs to be changed, no??
  2. Why haven't we focused more on expanding "fair use"? Certainly this would be one way around the above conundrum. It would also help solve problems with using copyright materials. I mean, as an academic, I certainly give people their due, but don't need to ask them for permission each time I cite their stuff.
  3. Stian speaks about the problems with Share-Alike and Non-Commercial versions of the CC. I agree with him - this is a serious problem for any educator who is working within an organization, or trying to make their bread and butter. Is there a need for a type of CC license that differs between commercial as in making money, and commercial as in monopolistic activities that limit future use/dissemination? One blog (I've lost where!) mentioned the instances where companies have managed to limit the future use of public domain items - isn't this really the issue?
  4. Is there an easy educational tool yet - maybe a firefox plug-in - that can track the websites I've been - where I can quickly log the ideas so that over the course of a week of reading, I don't lose where I've read something? Maybe this is just my transition from paper to electronics - but you just can't flip through past history of web pages the same way you can through a book...It has posed rather serious challenges for me in trying to cite and follow articles. How to resolve?
Copyleft good?

I wish copyleft was good - I love the name. But I think it is a shame that the term must be associated with a "share-alike" clause. I'm in full agreement with David Wiley's assertions (1) (2) that sharing-alike really takes the freedom of choice out of FUTURE creators - and can cause serious problems for free educational resources because a GFDL and CC license can't necessarily be fixed. Share-alike is inherently a political act. And although I like the politics behind it, I want to be able to make the decision to make something educational freely open for myself and others. As Noam Chomsky says:
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
In forcing others to be open, are we really not just imposing new restrictions?

I love edocet's comparison to walking his dog through private property in the countryside - and compared it to OERs requiring a password to access the lessons:
The very most part of sites are “public” in the homepage, but when you try to access a single course, you are required a subscription (usual and maybe correct) and even a password, or you’re not allowed not even to see the material ... To me, it sounds more or like if during my walk with the dog, the men had told us “ok, you can see the path but you need to tell us the password to go through… or go simply back your way home”.
When I lived in Sweden, similar to edocet's Tuscany it seems, it was common for a public path to go through private land, and continue right on - this does not occur very often in Canada, nor I think in the United States. I've been told to clear off private land several times, while simply enjoying the view. In fact, I was driving on a public road, overlooking a lake, and happened to stop by a house for a final view of the sunset. The owner came out and was quite gruff about "his" land. This says more about our culture than about copyright laws. It is the same culture that can potentially limit fair use, or put registration on an OER page to control access.

My overarching question? Fair Use seems to be a culturally derived norm - i.e. there don't seem to be set rules around it, but it is evaluated on a case by case basis, based on past experiences. I don't think the problem is copyright, or non-commercial, or share-alike. I think the problem is a culture that sees everything as enclosed property (something that CC and GFDL try to get away from). Is it not this, then, that should be the focus of change? Can this not be done more through redefining fair use of CC and copyright material, instead of creating even more new licenses?

On a final note, there is a certain amount of education of the public that needs to be done to make CC more widespread. I think that the more symbols we get into with CC, the harder it will be for people to get their head around what they can and can't do with the material. David Wiley's GREAT CHART of CC licenses and their restrictions on future licenses is a prime example of mapping out something that confuses me to no end. I think it'd be smart to err on less licenses than more...

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