Developing our Creative Commons

Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting with Cathy Casserly (Chief Executive Officer) and Diane Cabell (Counsel and Corporate Secretary) of Creative Commons. Over a couple of days I had many conversations about open licensing, open education and the routes ahead.

I was a panel member for a CC Salon on OER Policies for Promotion. The panel was chaired by Joscelyn Upendran of CC UK, and comprised Cathy Casserly (CC), Patrick McAndrew (OU) and Victor Henning (Mendeley) and myself.

ccSalon London Panel: Victor Henning, Amber Thomas, Cathy Casserly, Patrick McAndrew, Joscelyn Upendran photo by David Percy

To prepare, I had mapped out some my thoughts on how to encourage open content approaches in education, and some ways that we could be thrown off track.

Preview below. View on Prezi.

screengrab of prezi

We talked about what funders and institutions can do to encourage open educational practices. As is often the case, discussion of open access research publishing and open educational resources often blended.

Some key points percolating from my discussions last week:

  • Educational institutions have everything to gain from “open access”, it is mainly publishers who have to adjust and find new models. In contrast, in the case of “open education” educational institutions have to adjust and find new models. In fact publishers are one of the contenders for providing open education.
  • The most successful “open” approach since the birth of the web so far has been open source. What we saw there were the vision and leadership of the early proponents branching off into a wide range of business models, both pure and hybrid.  I anticipate a similar hybridisation emerging in the “OER” space: the purist approaches will continue and mature, but there will also be hybrid approaches taking parts of the model: open processes but with closed products (collaborative textbook authoring), or open products with closed processes (open courses with paid for accreditation) etc.  Expect a diffusion of implementation.
  • I am thinking more and more that OER as a term that marks out reusable adaptable teaching resources is one thing, open content that is available for anyone to freely copy and remix is a slightly different thing and a much larger venn circle. Trying to meet both needs in one platform and one definition might be too much compromise and frustration. To draw on the parallel above, the structure of the open source ecosystem is hidden to most end users. Github and sourceforge are for developers, who reuse the code in ways that end users can be unaware of. If we are to deepen approaches to educational reusability we may have to branch those platforms off from the places that end users find the content (We are currently exploring this on the oer-discuss jiscmail list: join in!).
  • Speaking of platforms, it’s recently come onto my radar that there is a strong dependency in the way the web works between the terms and conditions of service  of something like YouTube or slideshare or prezi, in what rights and responsibilities lie with the content contributor, what r&rs lie with the user, and where the choice of content licence fits into that. There is potential for all kinds of overrides between them. I’m also very aware that in app style software it is often pared down to a minimum interface, so where is the small print in every little “put” or “get” action? We already know through various JISC innovation projects that RSS feeds, APIs and open data models implicitly encourage particular types of content use, but the licensing is rarely explicit. If an item of content is easily embedded into a third party platform through code snippets or widgets, doesn’t that imply such uses are allowed? Pinterest made it the technology too easy to override the licence! I suspect this is going to be an increasing focus: the role of platform T&C and functionality in facilitating content licences.
  • Creative Commons are hearing over and over that privacy is now a key concern in the flow of content on the web. The ways in which the licensing backbone that CC provides might support or be parallel to, activities regarding consent, takedown requests and ethical considerations is coming up a lot. The team at Newcastle Medical School have been exploring the concept of consent commons for a while now, and I anticipate we’ll hear more of that sort of issue.
  • Mark-up and embedding of licence terms into the vast range of digital formats is really important. I have been hoping to commission some work on that, and will be exploring ways of helping map out the options, at content, platform and ecosystem level.
  • As the open educational resources space grows, we need to look for how to support the infrastructure in sustainable ways. CC are forming an OER Policy Registry. Here at JISC we are assessing the network of services required to support open access to research: what lessons can we  share from that? What services can we share? The potential for alignment is there, but avoiding dilution and scope creep are always concerns.
  • Lastly, thinking of ecosystems I’ve been noticing there may be lessons from the green movement in how to mainstream openness and build business models around it. Think of reuse as recycling. Manufacturers mark products as made from a particular percentage of recycled materials, they also indicate which aspects of the product is itself recyclable. As consumers we can use the logos to know which products can be recycled according to the schemes that collect our reycling. Shared services like rubbish collections and council waste processing contracts, take our recycling to specialist recyclers who then supply the recycled materials on to manufacturers. We all have a part to play in the ecosystem of reuse. So it goes, I think, with trying to make open content sustainable (except the most valuable commodity is the labour behind the content rather than the content itself!). There is a whole other blog post in that (with a bit of fairtrade and organic thrown in!).

These thoughts, and more, will be framing my contribution to the Creative Commons consultation on v4 of the licences over the next month or so.

“Creative Commons staff, board and community have to date identified several goals for the next version of its core license suite tied to achieving CC’s goal and mission. These include:

Internationalization – further adapt the core suite of international licenses to operate globally, ensuring they are robust, enforceable and easily adopted worldwide;

Interoperability – maximize interoperability between CC licenses and other licenses to reduce friction within the commons, promote standards and stem license proliferation;

Long-lasting — anticipate new and changing adoption opportunities and legal challenges, allowing the new suite of licenses to endure for the foreseeable future;

Data/PSI/Science/Education — recognize and address impediments to adoption of CC by governments as well as other important, publicly-minded institutions in these and other critical arenas; and

Supporting Existing Adoption Models and Frameworks – remain mindful of and accommodate the needs of our existing community of adopters leveraging pre-4.0 licenses, including governments but also other important constituencies. “

Creative Commons has asked me to promote this consultation to you. They would love to hear from you, as providers, users and facilitators of openly licensed content.

3 thoughts on “Developing our Creative Commons

  1. Pat

    The main thing I wanted to ask on the day, but got stuck at the end after all the publishers asked their snidey questions was

    “Can we have a CC Academic licence” so we don’t have to have the is a Uni NC debate…again….. and again ….. and again…..

  2. Pingback: Developing our Creative Commons : Digital Infrastructure Team

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