Note: Links to resources are at the bottom. The footnotes are worth reading.
On Thursday I attended ‘Creative Commons Basics’, a webinar hosted by the Global Reading Network. It was very good.
Cable Green, Director of Open Education at Creative Commons, made an excellent presentation about the basics of Creative Commons licensing, followed by Q&A. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about CC licenses, but the clarity of the presentation and the texture of the examples shared really helped me to get a better understanding of how CC works.
Here are some highlights:
Education as sharing
- Among other things, education is fundamentally about sharing.
- Knowledge is an interesting kind of public good: once shared it’s non-excludable (it can’t be taken away) and it’s non-rivalrous (you having it doesn’t stop me from having it).* We didn’t get into how knowledge benefits from network effects (your knowledge can make mine more valuable), but that’s worth mentioning too.**
A moral imperative
Given the non-rivalrous nature of knowledge, Cable argued for the moral imperative to share it: if we can help people by sharing knowledge at (next to) no cost to us – something the internet enables – then we’re morally obliged to do so***
The internet enables; copyright forbids
- Almost all educational resources are created digitally (text, audio, video)
- The internet enables the sharing of digital resources at effectively no cost****
- Copyright restricts or forbids sharing and therefore, Cable argues, restricts education either directly or indirectly (see below)…
Free as in libre
Cable discussed the key distinction between free as in gratis – at no cost (the traditional internet description of this is “free as in, ‘free beer.'”) – and free as in ‘libre‘ or ‘at liberty’.
The difference is important: there are lots of resources available online that are free (no cost), but copyrighted, meaning that ownership or use is
- precarious, in the sense that the copyright holder can revoke the right to use it, and has legal means to enforce their ownership
- rigid, meaning that users don’t have the freedom to adapt and re-purpose the original material, or to give it away.
The clearest examples of these things are probably in the world of proprietary software where the source code isn’t accessible to users, and where licensing agreements expressly forbid editing and sharing with others.
The 5 Rs of Open Education
- Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage);
- Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video);
- Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language);
- Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup);
- Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend).
Read more about the 5Rs here.
Creative Commons Licenses
CC licenses are a free, open public framework intended to make it easy for creators to share their works widely while still retaining ownership of the work – that is to say, without transferring them entirely to the public domain (i.e. giving up their status as owners of the work).
CC Licenses are made up of combination of the following yes/no options:
- BY: If you use it, you have to attribute it to the original author in the new text. More on attribution here.
- SA: Share Alike means that you have to share any derivative works under the same license as the original
- NC: Non-commercial. You can redistribute it as long as you don’t make a profit doing so. Note that charging for work to cover reasonable reproduction costs and overheads (e.g. getting the work printed by a commercial printer and selling it for the cost of printing) has been ruled acceptable practice by a court in New York. Note also that this does not prevent others from making a profit from a service based on the CC:NC work (e.g. by charging for a course using the work, or a performance of the work).
- ND: No derivatives. You are allowed to use the work for any purpose, but are not allowed to re-mix or change the work in any way.
- For any of these licenses you are not required to contact the licensor for permission to use it
- These restrictions are not binding on the holder of the copyright – that is to say, if you share your own work under a CC: NC ND license, you are free to use it however you wish, including making a profit from the work and remixing it: “The NonCommercial limitation applies to licensed uses only and does not restrict use by the licensor.”
- Note also that once a work is (legitimately) released under a CC license, the license is irrevocable – the work can’t be “un-CCed”… but the creator can make a different (revised) version of the work and keep it under any restrictions they wish.
- Materials shared with any kind of CC: ND license do not fulfill the criteria of the 5Rs outlined above.
A Hierarchy of Free-ness
Links and Resources
Cable finished off by sharing a set of links to resources or interesting use cases of CC. Here they are:
- Creative Commons website
- Resource: Made with Creative Commons – free ebook with examples of Creative Commons / Open Source business models
- Training: Creative Commons Certificate
- Conference: CC Summit
- Community: CC Open Education Platform (free to join)
- Resource: OpenStax Course Books (CC BY)
- Example: Siyavula open source curriculum from South Africa
- Case study (video): What happened with the Netherlands’ Rijksmuseum CCd / open sourced its collection
Phew. Thanks again to Cable Green of Creative Commons and the Global Reading Network for an excellent seminar. In the spirit of Creative Commons and Open Education Cable is sharing the presentation under a CC license – I’ll share a link to video and slides if and when I have one!
Update: Here’s a .pdf of the slides form the session:
*I say “an interesting type of public good” because until it’s been shared it’s scarce and excludable.
**There are negative network effects to some knowledge too (you having them makes mine less valuable)
*** We didn’t get into cases where the fact that people have paid for resources makes them more useful – more likely that they’ll have an impact because a better quality of attention will be paid to them so that they’re more likely to be understood deeply, used and spread – and make it more likely that more resources will be created. Seth Godin is doing interesting experiments around this with the combination of his blog and free materials , podcast, and the Akimbo workshops.
****At no cost unless, in some cases, making them free reduces their value.*