Licensing

Progressing in this mooc on Open Learning, the course now turns its attention to licensing by referring to David Wiley’s 4 R’s Framework:

  1. Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form (e.g., make a backup copy of the content)
  2. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  3. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  4. 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)

I’d like to add a fifth, or, in true Physics style, a “zeroth” R of reuse, based upon my own experience:

  1. Ripoff – the unchallengeable right of anyone beyond litigation to just steal your stuff and use it or pass it off as their own.

It comes before all the others because it overrides them all. Only rarely have I ever successfully challenged the leeching or theft of my images and content by other publishers. The most recent instance was in fact by a well-known Scottish University who made unauthorised use of an image I owned. After some serious pursuing of the case, they finally paid a royalty fee. The usual outcome is deafening silence.

Having said that, I’ve been more often flattered when somebody takes a post or article, photographs included, and replicates it in their own context, especially if that context involves translation. I had an article on measuring the speed of light in the kitchen replicated with permission which is now one of several versions of this resource on the web. There are other versions around in other languages.

My default position for copyright is to assert “all rights reserved” in the hope that those who would use my material would do so only after having sought and obtained permission, but if I had to choose an open license for OER, it would be Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland. The rationale would be that (i) I live and work in Scotland and I like Scottish Law, (ii) I don’t mind other people making use of my work, (iii) provided that they don’t make money out of it (I don’t) and (iv) they pass on the same obligations to their users.

11 thoughts on “Licensing

  1. Thanks for being so open Nick. I think it comes down to what you are providing, the context and whether or not your content is a source of income. I’m sure we’re going to hear a variety of responses in relation to this activity. I feel this activity is there to stimulate thought and debate. It’s all too easy to stamp a licence on content without being fully aware of the consequences, no matter which variety you choose. I think what really is important for me is attribution i.e. don’t pass ideas or resources off as your own even if you feel your adaption is an improvement. Give credit to the original source.

  2. I think that “NC” is a bit of a problem when it comes to educational use. Most educational materials are made as a commercial activity, but for the ultimate benefit of teachers and learners (non-commercial). Why shouldn’t someone make a modest profit if they add value to something, and remove the need for individual teachers to duplicate each other’s work?

    Of course, I’d be pretty unhappy if I made a mini travel documentary and released it for free with the intention of it being used in language classes, only to find the footage being used in an advert for a high-cost luxury cruise line.

    The Creative Commons license is simply too blunt an instrument for teaching materials, and it’s high time there was a genuine “open education” license tailored specifically for teaching materials.

  3. I’m somewhat torn about the NC idea (I use only CC-BY on my stuff). I understand in general the feeling that if I’m not making any money off something, and am giving it away for free, I might not want others to make money off of it. But then again, why not? Just because I have chosen not to make money off of it, should I then require that no one else does either? After all, as an academic, it’s common for me to make things for “free” that others make a profit off of–e.g., publishing papers that are not open access, that a journal profits from. I do get something from that, say, reputation, citation, etc., but they are making money and I am not (except from my university salary). Personally, I try to publish open access as much as possible, for other reasons, but the fact that I’m not terribly worried about giving away content that a journal can make a profit from makes me wonder why I might be worried about giving away other content that someone else could make a profit from when I’m not.

    After all, I could have chosen to try to sell my stuff, but I decided to give it away. Why not let others do something with it I chose not to? Especially since in so doing my work might get more exposure?

    In addition, NC means work can’t be included in a compilation that is intended to make money, including, say, in the developing world where small businesses might make a small amount in order to be able to continue distributing educational content.

    Finally, I find NC confusing–is using content on my blog, which is hosted by my university, a non-commercial use? I don’t make any money from my blog, but the university publicizes it and uses it, along with other blogs, to showcase the work done there, which ultimately may draw in students and donations. That’s a bit of a stretch, but there are numerous borderline cases where I find it hard to figure out if I can use NC licensed resources or not.

    I’m not fully decided one way or the other, but these are some of the questions I have about NC.

  4. Thank you for your thoughts on NC. The presence of a particular condition like NC doesn’t prevent commercial use, it just does so without further dialogue with the author. I see those terms as inviting a conversation – I am happy for people to use, for non-profit, with attribution, under similar terms, my content without any further dialogue being required. Other uses need a conversation. The presence of “All rights reserved” or CC-BY-WHY invites that conversation.

  5. I think the discussion here is getting too lost in the “words”, because while our discussion here is statistically unique, in terms of the content it can be and has been expressed innumerable times in different words. And because of the nature of our discussion, it’s not of any use outside the field we’re discussing — education.

    But if I take a summer sabbatical with an expensive new medium-format digital camera photographing the Roman remains of Europe, then spend my spare time over the rest of the year sorting through a million photographs to sort the good from the bad, then retouching and reframing in a new copy of Photoshop bought specifically for the task, and I’ve done all this with the express intention of providing free resources to teachers of history and classics, well, I can’t say I’d be happy to see a £50 coffee table book containin my 500 best photos hit the best-seller list without a penny coming back to me. And then I see half the travel magazines for the year using my pictures. And they’re in adverts for cruises, flights, etc.

    The fact that I offer them for free for the betterment of education is not the same as me saying that I see no value in them. Quite the opposite: I would be attempting to be generous by giving away something with an effective cost of over 10 grand. Having it sold outwith the educational context would seem like a slap in the face….

  6. It’s been great to read this conversation on NC. When I wrote my post on choosing a CC licence, I couldn’t quite make up my mind about whether to include the NC or not. I can easily recognize the feelings your express with regards to other’s potentially making money off your works without you getting a share of it. What Patricia says about attribution really ressonates with me, though. I, too, find it more important than anything else that people give credit where due. I expect this from myself and from others as well. I’m also quite intriqued by the idea of a “genuine open education license” as was suggested in this conversation. Since the NC seems to be so complex to get your head around, perhaps it’s time to innovative.

    • The trouble is, of course, that money can be made, and where it can be made, somebody will try to make it. There’s something interesting in this from an anthropological point of view: are those who are prepared to make the money irrespective of the “rights”, evolutionally more likely to survive than those who wouldn’t? Are they the fittest?

      • Well, we need an “environmental pressure” against predatory use of others’ IP, but at the moment, the cost and difficulty in raising a suit is kind of out of whack with the cost and difficulty of publishing. In the “paper age”, publishing was expensive, so there were fewer fly-by-nights ready to just rip stuff off than there are now (see also: useless OCRed old dictionaries sold using Amazon Print-on-demand services….)

        As publishing and distribution get easier and cheaper, we need to make a concomitant change in the ease and cost of taking action against infringing users — a tribunal more like the current small claims system than the full civil courts….

        • When I invoiced the unnamed Scottish University £200 for the unauthorised use of my image, a wise friend pointed out that if I’d made the invoice for £201 I would be able to take them to the small claims court and recover all costs from them. I didn’t need to, as they paid up, but next time £201 will be my standard rate for such infringements for that reason. It only works in Scotland, ymmv.

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