Category Archives: Open Access, open ed, OER

Intro to Philosophy of Mind published

Book cover: Introduction to Philosophy of Mind, Edited Heather Salazar, Series Editor Christina Hendricks

Cover for the book Design by Jonathan Lashley, art by Heather Salazar. Licensed CC BY 4.0.

As noted in my last post, I’ve been working with a number of people on a series of open textbooks for Introduction to Philosophy courses, published with the support of the Rebus Community.

And we now have the first book in a planned series of nine books published: Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind, edited by Heather Salazar.

This has been quite a long time in the making; some of the story of how we got to this point is in the previous post, though I need to sit down and write a longer post (or series of posts) to tell more of the story. Suffice it to say at this point that this book, and the other books currently in process, would not have happened without the hard work of the book editors for each book, the authors of chapters, the peer reviewers, copy editors, those helping with formatting in Pressbooks, our cover designer Jonathan Lashley, and many more. Special thanks goes to the Rebus team, including in particular Apurva Ashok (who has helped quite a lot in the last year or two) and Zoe Wake Hyde (who was deeply involved in the project at the beginning. And Hugh McGuire for believing in the project enough to take us on as a pilot in the early stages of Rebus!

Here is the official book release announcement on the Rebus blog. Please share with anyone you think might be interested!

Overview: Intro to Philosophy open textbook series

When I came here to write this post I realized just how long it had been since my last post–ten months! When I look back on it this isn’t surprising: I started in a 100% secondment role as the Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at UBC Vancouver on July 1, 2018, and on top of navigating a very new role I was also teaching a course from January-April 2019.

Since then, most nights and weekends I’ve been working hard on another project that it appears I’ve only written about once here on this blog: a series of open textbooks for Introduction to Philosophy courses. In another post I’m going to explain more detail about the process we have been using to get these off the ground. Suffice it to say I have a much better understanding of all the work that goes into producing a book for publication! But that’s for another day.

This post is to give an overview of the project, by sharing some slides and talking about a presentation I did with Zoe Wake Hyde of the Rebus Community (the community organization that allows for such projects to get going, get working, get done, and get published!). We had a short session at the Cascadia Open Education Summit in April of 2019. We talked about this open textbook series for philosophy and also the Rebus Community itself and how it supports such projects.

Presentation

Here are our slides:

I think Zoe’s portion (second half) is fairly self-explanatory but I’ll take a little space here to explain my portion.

The beginning

I began by talking about how this whole project got started: I went to a session by Hugh McGuire at the BCcampus Open Textbook Summit a few years ago (I can’t remember which year it was, but maybe 2016). He was talking about projects like LibriVox and Pressbooks, among other things, and I remember asking him about crowdsourcing a textbook like LibriVox crowdsources contributions to creating audiobooks. I said I didn’t have any money/grant funding, but wanted to get an open textbook in my field going and what might be some options.

I can’t remember his answer at the time, nor how much time passed after that before I heard from him again with another project he has called Rebus. The Rebus Community was in early days and we talked about this open textbook in philosophy possibly being one of its projects. We discussed how big of a project it really was and how daunting, but agreed to give it a go.

Little did either of us know…

From one book to nine

I began working closely with Zoe, and then with Apurva Ashok as well, and soon one book turned into a series of books. This is because we had a lot of interest and people willing to contribute. We started with a single book that had multiple parts like Epistemology, Ethics, Aesthetics, Metaphysics, etc., and each part had what we called a “part editor” in charge of drafting and outline and finding authors to write chapters for that part. But many of the editors had drafted outlines for chapters that could, it turned out, just as easily turn the parts into coherent books all on their own. So that is what we did, rather than create one very large book.

We now have nine books in the series, and through some changes in editors have book editors for all but one as of September 2019. Each editor is responsible for creating an outline of chapters and choosing authors for those chapters (within rough guidelines such as that we would like to have authors with a PhD in philosophy, or who are in a PhD program, and who ideally have taught at least one course at the introductory level). The editors work with the authors to complete chapters according to the author guide for the series, and get everything ready for peer reviews (during that time I, as the series editor, also review the chapters). After peer reviews are complete, the editors work with the authors to get edits done and prepare the books for copy editing and final production. The authors also write an introduction to the book, and several are writing one of the book chapters as well.

Processes

We were figuring out processes as we went along, such as how to recruit editors and authors, what kinds of guideline documents we needed (such as the author guide, the review guide, the book editor role description, how to set up the chapters for peer reviews, and more). These have been created as the need arises, with the help of Zoe and Apurva at the Rebus Community. Everything was done on google docs to facilitate easy collaboration and commenting functions.

In terms of recruitment, we mostly tried to get the word out about the project and recruit authors and editors via email listservs in philosophy. I also used Twitter and I know a few people heard about the project that way. There are a number of philosophers on Facebook but I closed my account awhile back and so haven’t connected with people that way to recruit participants. We have also had numerous calls for participation posted through the Rebus Community newsletter and on the project’s discussion threads at the Rebus Community forum.

Successes

The help of the Rebus Community has been invaluable. This project was one of its pilots and their work on the project helped inform some of the support resources they have created for others to use in their OER projects (as Zoe’s slides mention). For our part, this project simply would not have happened without all the help they provided in setting up guideline documents and workflows and helping me figure out just how this sort of project was going to work. Their help has enabled me to take over after we have together seen a few of the books go through most of the steps towards publication, so I can now do most of the things Apurva and Zoe were doing in the beginning.

I am really excited by the covers for the book series, which were designed by Jonathan Lashley and feature artwork by one of the book editors, Heather Salazar. Jonathan and I were OER Research Fellows at the same time, and after he saw a request from me for help with the project he offered his design skills. I am thrilled with the design that has resulted.

Challenges

I had no idea how long it would take from ideation to completion of just one book in the series, and the answer seems to be: two years. That is partly because we ended up working on all of the books at once, given the way things worked out (because we originally were just going to do one book with multiple parts). I think if we had done one book at a time it would have been shorter! But doing them all together meant trying to organize the work of 9 book editors and 5-10 authors per book, with all the recruitment that needed to happen, plus keeping track of what was happening with each book–who was writing which chapters and by which due dates, who was expressing interest in helping in other ways such as peer reviewing or copy editing, etc. That was and remains a big task.

Another challenge was that I didn’t know we needed a style sheet until late-ish in the game, so while we had an author guide it didn’t have specifics on style until after many chapters had already been written. We have one now, but even at this point it is a work in progress as new things come up that I realize need to be standardized. Not having any experience with publishing, it’s not surprising perhaps that I didn’t realize this needed to happen early on, but it does make things more complicated when you create one partway through. It leads to authors getting mixed messages, which is not good.

Quality control is always going to be somewhat complicated in a project like this. When you have many volunteers writing chapters, with different levels of experience writing for an introductory-level audience, it’s likely that there is going to be some back-and-forth to get to the point where the chapters are all publication-ready. This has taken much longer than I realized it would, though it’s not surprising–we’re all doing this off the sides of our desks, and most of my work on the project happens after work hours when I get a chance, so a good deal of the delay was on my part!

Regarding communications: we started off doing most of the communicating about the project (between the editors, authors, myself, and Rebus) on a public forum at the Rebus Community. Then there was a change at Rebus to a new platform, and we tried moving discussions over there, but it just didn’t pick up quite the way it had before and our communications moved mostly into email. This was a challenge for a couple of reasons: (1) it was harder for me to keep track of what was going on in each book across many, many emails, and (2) we lost the value of having public discussions in regards to others being able to see what was happening with the project. I think to many it may have seemed like the project was not moving ahead when in fact we were doing a lot of things “behind the scenes,” as it were. I started doing more announcements about the project on the Rebus Community pages and copy editing and formatting conversations for Philosophy of Mind and Ethics are happening there. But I haven’t worked to get all the conversations between editors, authors, me and others back on the forum (yet).

Zoe’s slides

I think these don’t need much more commentary, so I’ll mostly let them explain themselves.

I do want to highlight a point she makes in them about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), though. The topics and the personnel in the series reflect the discipline generally in North America, insofar as the books focus mostly on philosophical works by European and North American authors, and the topics that that group has focused on over the last few centuries. There are quite a number of underrepresented groups of people in academic philosophy in North America, and the makeup of our authors and editors generally mirrors that.

It is challenging when you are relying on volunteers, and doing so on a piecemeal basis–we have kept the calls for authors open until we fill the chapters with people who are qualified and willing, rather than having a competitive call for authors that has a specific deadline. Thus, we have tended to fill the chapters with first-come, first-served amongst those who are qualified who volunteer. This is partly due to the fact that volunteers have trickled in rather than come in large groups, and because we don’t know when we’ll next get another.

Still, I should have done more in this area, emphasizing it further from the very beginning and changing our practices where needed. That is a lesson learned, and something I’ll be working on as we move from publication to considering later editions. One valuable thing about open textbooks, though, is that those who use them can revise and edit as desired (ensuring that original credit to the author is given), and thus other editions could be created even by others beyond our group.

 

Your thoughts

Any questions about the project? Comments? Please leave them below!

Openness and/as closure

black and white photo of several old and rusty padlocks, one open and the rest closed

Padlocks, by Skitterphoto on pixabay.com, CC0

In my previous post I considered one way to think about how those of us who value and practice open education may also value and practice respect for privacy, that openness and privacy need not be considered opposites (despite the fact that one could think of openness as related to reducing barriers and privacy as putting them up or maintaining them).

This reminded me of a blog post I read recently, “Towards a Pedagogy of Closure”, by David Gaertner who is in First Nations and Indigenous Studies at UBC.1 In the post Gaertner talks about closure being a form of, or leading too, openness. He explains that, as a non-Indigenous scholar working with Indigenous communities, “listening to my collaborators and recognizing boundaries is a necessary part of what I do. There are places that I am not welcome and conversations that I should not be a part of.”

I don’t think this is about privacy in the same way that Meinke and Wagstaff were talking about, in my previous blog post. It’s more about respecting the appropriate boundaries of spaces, conversations, and knowledges given the context of what those are; sometimes this is about privacy (e.g., personal health information being restricted only to some), but not always. It is also about resisting colonialism.

Continue reading

Open and privacy

 

In their presentation at the Open Education 2018 conference entitled “Open” Education and Student Learning Data: Reflections on Big Data, Privacy, and Learning Platforms, Billy Meinke and Steel Wagstaff asked whether we might consider open education to include the value of respecting privacy. Their presentation was about data gathered from students by educational technology tools, some principles we should consider when using learning analytics, and how one might include a privacy statement in one’s syllabus. The slides are chock-full of information and extra reading; I highly recommend you take a look.

Similarly, in a keynote I gave at the eCampus Ontario Technology-Enhanced Seminar and Showcase in 2017, I had a slide that said: “open is not the opposite of private.” I want to here dig a little more deeply into how and why that could be the case, since on first glance it could seem these are opposed.

In another keynote in 2017 (What’s Open about Open Pedagogy?), I tried to come up with some overarching similarity between various aspects of what people have called “open pedagogy,” including: students producing OER, students co-creating curricula, connecting people in a course to people outside of it, being transparent & fostering trust, and ensuring equity in teaching and learning. It seemed to me at the time (see slide 33 in the deck for that talk) that one way to link them all together was around removal of barriers: between teachers and students, between a class and people outside of it, barriers that block visibility….

But if what’s open about open pedagogy (and possibly open access, open educational resources, and other parts of open education) is the reduction or removal of barriers, then why isn’t privacy—which seems to be about closing things off—the opposite of open? Or rather, for the purposes of this post, why would it make sense to say that one of the values of open education could be to be concerned about and respect privacy?

Continue reading

OER and free (of cost) resources (CC Cert)

For the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking, one of the discussion prompts is:

Many educational resources are available to faculty and students for free or in a manner that they perceive as being free. These include resources available through library database subscriptions and most of the pages on the public internet. Many of these resources are highly engaging and some are even effective at supporting student learning. What risks are associated with adopting these resources? What is the role of these free resources in the context of efforts to create, adopt, use, and improve open educational resources? (see all assignments & discussion prompts for the course)

Here is what I wrote in the discussion board; I’m posting it here for future reference since I’m guessing that content in the course disappears into the ether after the course is finished.


I use a lot of these kinds of resources when I teach my courses in philosophy. I try to keep the costs for students as close to zero as possible, and because of the lack of OER in philosophy, most of how I do that is through resources like these. Depending on what I’m teaching, there are a number of texts that are in the public domain, but that’s only if we’re discussing things that are fairly old. Most of the other things I assign are free to read but not openly licensed (e.g., journal articles our library has subscriptions to, other academics’ website and blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, podcasts, YouTube videos that aren’t CC licensed, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy…).

Risks and downsides of using these kinds of resources

I can think of a number of downsides, not all of them “risks” necessarily, but certainly things that aren’t as useful for teaching and learning as OER.

Risks

The one that comes to mind first is that things can disappear or change quickly. I have had it happen where I put a resource on the syllabus and then by the time we got to that point in the term the resource had either moved to a different place or disappeared. And library subscriptions aren’t stable either, given that library budgets are strained with increasing subscription costs.

Another one is kind of subtle: without careful discussion of copyright and permissions, students may get the sense that because I’m using such resources in my course, they can also use them however they want. I often ask students to consider posting some work publicly on the course blog (they can choose to do so or not, as they wish), and it’s sometimes hard going to clarify what they can post publicly and what they can’t. I think it’s very useful to have a conversation about copyright and fair dealing and how those work in educational contexts, and how they affect what students can post publicly, when using “free” resources like this.

In addition, we are in somewhat of a limbo in Canada right now with fair dealing, due to a recent court case with York University. A number of colleges and universities are now wondering just what exactly they should be doing to protect themselves against similar lawsuits related to fair dealing, where they can be liable for many millions of dollars. So there is a potential risk around using materials under fair dealing.

Downsides

These are things that I wouldn’t necessarily call risks, but are downsides to such materials.

Because these materials are not openly licensed in a way that allows for revisions, one can’t adjust them to fit one’s own context or update them oneself. One has to take the good with the bad, and what one wants along with what one doesn’t. Frequently I ask students to do things like: read sections 2.1-2.3, 2.5, 2.8-2.9…etc. It’s confusing and annoying, and it would be much easier if I could just copy the sections I want and put them together in a new document. I could do that with OER.

As noted in the modules this week, if these works aren’t openly licensed one loses another great benefit of OER: students being able to update the works themselves. Just as we see with people making suggestions about the materials in this course here (on the content documents that are open for comment), one can do that in one’s own course–students can often find new, relevant information to include, new links to include, can reword things so they’re better understandable to other students, can write new materials to add in, etc.

A downside with some library resources that may change in the future: sometimes I assign chapters from books that the library has digital copies of, which is great (students don’t have to go to the library to make a paper copy of a chapter on reserve). But the ebook platforms can be awful to read on, very cumbersome and sometimes bad on mobile (depends on the platform). It would be great if I could just post a direct PDF on my website but that’s not always allowed (depends on the particular license agreement with the publisher).

Another issue with library resources: license agreements with publishers are widely different and incredibly complicated. Our library keeps a database of such agreements and when you click on a digital resource you can find out the various permissions, but they differ depending on the particular publisher (see, e.g., Licensed Materials on this library guide for instructors). So one has to check every single digital resource from the library to see what one can do with it (can you make paper copies? Can you post a PDF? Can you only post a link? Where can you post it? etc.).

And some licenses for library materials are less permissive than exceptions to copyright. Here is a quote from the page linked to just above: “If the terms of a licence prohibit uses that would otherwise be permitted by an exception in the Copyright Act, then the terms of the licence apply.” I don’t quite get that because if there is an exception to copyright then why can the copyright holder restrict the terms like this?

Role of these resources in efforts to create, adopt, improve OER

I guess mostly what can happen is that people get confused that OER are the same as free of cost resources like these. So I think pointing out the risks and downsides are important so people can see not just the differences with OER, but why OER are better!


From others’ posts in the discussion board, as well as further thought, here are some more ideas:

  • Students lose access to some of the “free” resources when they finish a course or leave an institution.
  • Resources that are free of cost but not openly licensed may not be able to be revised in order to make them more accessible.
  • Free resources may not be free of cost to the institution: e.g., subscriptions to journals through the library can be very expensive, and as the costs rise then libraries have to cut the number of subscriptions they have.
  • Some kinds of free resources require that people sign up for accounts, so as teachers we may be requiring students to give up some of their privacy in ways that they (and we) may not fully understand.

 

Remixes vs Collections (CC certificate)

In the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking, there has been some discussion in the course slack channel about the difference between remixes and collections, in response to an assignment that asked us to create a remix (not a collection)–see my previous post for the assignment and the Story Map on Epicurus I created.

When one puts different CC licensed works together, when does one create a remix thereby, and when a collection?

Remixes/adaptations

The Creative Commons FAQ explains a “remix” as an “adaptation,” and defines an adaptation as:

An adaptation is a work based on one or more pre-existing works. What constitutes an adaptation depends on applicable law, however translating a work from one language to another or creating a film version of a novel are generally considered adaptations.

In order for an adaptation to be protected by copyright, most national laws require the creator of the adaptation to add original expression to the pre-existing work. However, there is no international standard for originality, and the definition differs depending on the jurisdiction.

Elsewhere the Creative Commons FAQ says about adaptations:

Generally, a modification rises to the level of an adaptation under copyright law when the modified work is based on the prior work but manifests sufficient new creativity to be copyrightable …

Note that an adaptation does not include redistributing a work in a new format: “Note that all CC licenses allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the license in any format or medium.”

So just like many things in copyright law, what makes something an adaptation or remix depends on where you are, and even then it’s not necessarily 100% clear. The general idea seems to be that you are changing a work to enough of a degree that you can be said to be adding something original that can be copyrightable.

Collections

A collection, by contrast, would then seem to be using works (more or less?) unaltered and putting them together in some fashion.

Nate Angell provided a nice metaphor for the difference between remixes and collections, likening remixes to smoothies and collections to TV dinners.

image showing a TV dinner with different Creative Commons licenses on the parts of the dinner, and a smoothie made from different ingredients that each have a CC licenseQuotes from Nate’s post:

A “TV dinner” open work is when one collects separate works together and redistributes that collection, but clearly separates each work and its attribution. In this case, one is not “remixing” works, but rather curating them and offering that curation to others. Like with real TV dinners, you can still consume each ingredient by itself because they are served with clear boundaries separating each.

A “smoothie” open work is when one mixes together parts or the whole of one work with parts or wholes of other works to create a new, derivative work that includes material from many sources. Like with real smoothies, you can’t easily separate the different ingredients once they are blended together.

My lingering questions

This TV dinner vs smoothie description makes a lot of sense to me, but I wondered if one has to create a work where you can’t tell the “boundaries” between the other works in it, for it to be a remix. So, for example, if I add some arrows and text to an image, I can tell the boundaries between the original image and the text and arrows I’ve added on top of it, but I still think maybe I’m creating an adaptation or derivative work. Maybe it depends on how much I’ve added and whether those additions make the new work rise to the level of being copyrightable or not.

Let’s think about the images Nate created above as an illustration. He has taken original images and added CC license buttons to them. Are those images adaptations or collections?

Similarly, I created a few new images for the Story Map on Epicurus I created for one of the assignments in the CC certificate course. For some of them I just added circles and text to maps. For others I put several icons together into a single image. For one (showing the chronology of Socrates, Plato and Epicurus) I put three images together, added borders, and text. I am not sure if all of these are truly adaptations or not.

Question about using unaltered images in a set of slides

In the Creative Commons Certificate Slack channel I asked a few questions:

The more I think about this [the difference between remixes and collections], the more questions I have. So, for example, I thought that including an unaltered, CC licensed image in a slide show (maybe altering the size but nothing else) would mean I’m making a collection: the image (or images if there are multiple ones) plus my text plus maybe some other images. Then I could use images with licenses different from the license I gave to my slide show so long as I said “except where otherwise indicated, these slides are licensed CC BY” (e.g.).

Someone else posted in the channel that yes, that sounds right (I don’t want to quote or identify them because I haven’t asked permission!). I then continued:

But then a remix could also be considered a work where you take other works and put them together in a way that involves a degree of creativity and creation of something that could itself be copyrighted (I think), which I then think applies to my slide show because I use images in a way that they weren’t originally intended and I put them together with other images and text in a way that is copyrightable (or else how could I give it all a CC license?).

So is my slide show (as described above) a remix? And if so, can I not use, for example, CC BY SA images if I want to license the slides CC BY?

My issue here is: I could only rightfully put a CC license on my slides if they’re copyrightable, which would mean I have added enough originality to make them so. And if that’s the case, then it seems I’ve created a remix rather than a collection, and I couldn’t do the thing where I’m separating out the CC BY-SA image from the rest of the slides and license the slides overall CC BY. It seems I’d have to license them CC BY-SA.

I had an interesting conversation with someone on Slack about this, where we talked about how maybe what one is licensing with the CC BY on the whole slide deck is the stuff in between and around the CC BY-SA image. This person also noted: does it makes sense that if one remixed someone else’s image (maybe by changing the colour and adding text), then that one image must dictate the license of the whole deck of, e.g., 100 slides? This person noted that one could instead remix the image separately, post it on another site (like Flickr), license it CC BY-SA (if the original image were CC BY-SA) and say that the license for the remix was worked out before it entered the slide deck…and then again, what the CC BY on the slide deck is licensing is what else is in it besides that image.

Someone else on Slack helpfully noted that it’s useful to look at the license legal codes for complicated questions. For example, here is the legal code for CC BY-SA 4.0.

Here is what I then said on Slack, after looking at the legal code:

I found this sentence from the legal code for BY-SA particularly helpful:

“Adapted Material means material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights that is derived from or based upon the Licensed Material and in which the Licensed Material is translated, altered, arranged, transformed, or otherwise modified in a manner requiring permission under the Copyright and Similar Rights held by the Licensor.”

So, if I’m just using the “licensed material” (e.g., the original image) as is and not translating it, altering it, transforming it, or otherwise modifying it then I can put it into my slide show just as it is and say it’s licensed CC BY-SA even though my overall slides are licensed CC BY.

 

So I think I figured out the answer to my question about a slide show. But I am still not certain about how much adapting is needed for something to rise to a full adaptation/remix!

 

Story Map on Epicurus (CC Certificate)

For the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking, one of the assignments is to create a remix:

Create a remix in any medium (e.g., photo, video, audio) for use in a course you teach. If you aren’t currently teaching a course, create a remix for use in a future offering of the CC Certification course. Your remix must meet the following criteria:

  1. be comprised of at least five (5) pre-existing CC licensed works,
  2. contain appropriate attribution for each component work (remember to think TASL!), and
  3. be a legal remix (that is, the licenses of all component works must be compatible).

You are welcome to include your own original work in the remix but this is not required. Be sure to create a remix and not merely a collection. (CC Certificate course resources)

The question of what counts as a remix vs a collection is actually fairly complicated. See my next post on remixes vs collections for more.

 

I decided to try a Story Map for this assignment, and focused it on a philosopher I often teach in my Introduction to Philosophy course, Epicurus. We discuss Epicurus’ views on happiness and why we shouldn’t fear death, but to best understand those views it’s helpful to have some background information on him and some of his other arguments. I have been meaning to create a video to allows students to get that background information outside of class, but my experience creating course videos in the past has shown that it takes a lot of time to make them. And I thought…why not use this CC Certificate assignment to provide the information another way?

I am pretty sure I heard of Story Maps through this CC Certificate course itself, and I wanted to try it out. It was still a fair bit of work, but didn’t take nearly as much time as a video usually takes for me. The interface was really easy and intuitive to use, and made providing attributions for other works used in it fairly easy as well.

I just wish they had set it up so one could choose a CC license for the work and have the right machine-readable data associated, so it could easily be found through a search for CC licensed works. I have submitted that request to them on a survey they provided asking for feedback.

Otherwise, I’m quite happy with the result overall!

The Story Map is embedded below, but because this site isn’t full width (it has a sidebar), things don’t look as good in the embed as they would if it were full width (e.g., the black boxes of text that move up over some of the images are not supposed to be in the middle, they’re supposed to be on the side).

It’s better to go to the original link: Story Map on Epicurus: History, Epistemology, Physics

CC Licenses by the numbers

This is Assignment 3 for the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking:

Create a video, slide presentation, or infographic (or choose another medium) in which you describe the Creative Commons licenses as well as how and when they might be useful to your institutions’ work. At a minimum, include a description of:

  1. the three layers of the CC licenses,
  2. the four license elements and the icons that represent them (Links to an external site.)
  3. the six Creative Commons licenses,
  4. how the CC licenses affect exceptions and limitations to copyright, and
  5. how the CC licenses affect works in the public domain.

— See all the assignments in the course here.

 

This one was challenging to fit on an infographic–it’s got more words than I would like to include. I wanted to come up with some unifying theme and decided on “by the numbers,” which works best for the first three sections; the last one is a little bit pushing it into the numbers theme!

I used canva.com to make it, and a template that had approximately these colours (though I had to change them a bit to make them fit web accessibility standards).

 

Infographic that explains Creative Commons licenses

 

 

 

OER and Advocacy on Campus workshop

I was invited to give a workshop at the Student Union Development Summit at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, August 19, 2018.

I was asked to talk about open educational resources and student advocacy. Here are the slides for the workshop, in downloadable, editable Power Point format: OER & advocacy on Campus (SUDS 2018) (.pptx)

 

Explaining CC BY-NC and BY-SA

For the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking right now, our discussion question this week was [there is a publicly viewable doc with all the discussion questions and assignments for the course]:

Both the NonCommercial restriction of the Creative Commons licenses and the ShareAlike condition of the licenses are poorly understood by novice CC users – and even some long-time users. How would explain the issues with NC to a person choosing to use a CC license for the first time? How would you explain the way SA works to a person choosing to use a CC license for the first time?

I wrote a quite long reply, which I’m copying here for possible future reference!


 

I started thinking about the issues and questions with these two elements of CC licenses about 5 years ago, when I was really starting to dig into OER and open licenses. I was taking a course from the Open University on open education, and we were asked to choose a CC license for the works we create. I decided on CC BY and explained why I hadn’t chosen NC in one blog post, and why not SA in another blog post. Re-reading these, I find the thoughts there still resonate with me. But asking people new to these ideas to read through two long posts would be too much!

To explain NC and SA to someone new, and some of the possible issues with one or both, I’d say something like the following. I’m going to assume I’m speaking to either a post-secondary instructor, student, or staff member, since that’s the context in which I am most often speaking about Creative Commons.

NonCommercial

Say you find a resource that has a CC BY-NC license. This means that it cannot be used for a “commercial” purpose. According to the terms of this license:

NonCommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

What’s important here is the use of the resource, not who or what organization is using it. Regardless of whether it’s a teacher, a student, someone in a government, or a for-profit corporation, the question is the same: is the intended use primarily for monetary compensation? If so, then the resource can’t be used. If not, then it can be used, even by the corporation.

Lack of clarity

Note that whether something counts as a commercial use isn’t always easy to determine, including in an educational context. Just because we work or study at a university doesn’t mean we are exempted from the NC restriction. This means that if an instructor wanted to assign a resource licensed CC BY-NC for a class, and put it into a course pack that the bookstore copied and charged students for, this could go against the NC license: if there is a charge beyond just cost recovery for copying (e.g., a bookstore markup), then this would be a violation of the NC part of the license.

There are other difficult cases in the educational context, where it’s unclear if a use would count as commercial or not. What if a post-secondary institution created a MOOC that was available free of charge but students could sign up for a certificate, in which case they’d have to pay? Can the MOOC use content licensed CC BY-NC? I have sometimes gotten honoraria to give presentations and workshops at various institutions; would it be a violation if I used content licensed CC BY-NC in my slides? We could probably find answers to these questions, but the point I’m making is that determining whether a use is primarily for “commercial advantage” or “monetary compensation” is sometimes murky, and even if we find answers to some test cases, others will pop up.

The result of this is that material licensed with NC simply may be used less often by well-meaning, conscientious people who legitimately wonder about whether their particular use would violate the license. (Of course, neither NC nor all rights reserved will stop the non-well-meaning people!).

What’s your goal?

When choosing a license for one’s own work, one should consider the what one’s goals are. If the goal is to share the work so that it is used widely, then perhaps NC isn’t the best. As one of the other students in this course has pointed out in the discussion board, if someone could take what you’ve created and make it even better by making an interactive resource (for example), but they need to make some money in order to pay for the system and labour their using to do it, doesn’t it seem to make sense that they could be compensated for that? And the resource gets even more used than it might otherwise. So if widespread use is one’s main goal, others using the work and adding more to it, even if they charge some money, still fulfills that goal.

Also in the discussion board for this course, someone pointed to a 2016 blog post by David Wiley called “Advocating for CC BY” that raises an important point I hadn’t considered before: all of the CC licenses require attribution (CC0 does not, but it’s not a license), and the attribution must include a link to the original work plus a notice of the CC license. You can also specify how you want to be attributed, and in that specification you could require that people say that “this resource is available for free at … [give a website]”. This could serve a similar purpose to NC: it could mean that those who want to make a profit just off the resource itself couldn’t do so because they’d have to say the resource is free elsewhere. Of course, if they’re adding value to the resource somehow people might still be willing to pay for that, but again, if they’re adding value then it seems legitimate for them to ask people to pay for that value. And if people only want the resource then they can get it for free at the download link.

 

ShareAlike

If one is still worried about others possibly using their resources for free and then adding something to them to make money, they could consider a “share alike” license, such as CC BY-SA. This requires that if anyone creates a derivative using a work licensed with an SA element, the new work has to be licensed with the same license (or an equivalent license) as the original. This is a good license to use if one’s goal is not only to have one’s work widely used, but also if one wants to ensure that derivative, downstream works continue to be able to be used and adapted without cost. If one used CC BY for one’s work then it could be enclosed by someone else into another work that is put behind a paywall and has all rights reserved, and so is neither easily accessible nor able to be revised without express permission.

Harder to make money (but not impossible)

Let’s say one created a resource, licensed it CC BY-SA, and someone else took that resource and made it into an interactive one, to stick with the same example as above. The new work must also be licensed CC BY-SA. In this case, then, it’s harder for the second person to charge money for the work. They could do so, but someone else could just come along, download it, and put it up somewhere else with the same license and legally that would be fine.

So SA can make it harder to make money from a derivative work. But SA is not the same as NC, and one can make money by using works licensed CC BY-SA. The share alike clause only applies if one makes a derivative. But let’s say one uses an image licensed CC BY-SA in an online course that people have to pay to register for. If the image is used as is, not altered at all, then this is legally permissible (I think! Please someone correct me if I’m wrong!). Similarly, if you create a video and license it CC BY-SA, then someone else could use the video in its entirety, intact, in such an online course that costs money to take.

Remix restrictions

SA is not without issues, though; such works are less easily remixed with other works than, say, those with CC BY licenses. One has to worry more about license compatibility when putting together two or more works that have either NC or SA restrictions, as explained on this license compatibility chart.

What’s your goal? (redux)

So again, if wide usability is one’s goal, then perhaps simply CC BY (or CC0) is the best bet for one’s own work.

If one’s overriding concern is to share work free of cost and ensure that others can’t use it in a way that makes them money, then NC is probably better than SA. But it will likely be less widely used, as noted above, because of the lack of clarity (SA is clearer in that one can easily fulfill it by using the same CC license on a derivative as on the original work).

If one’s main goal is to share work and ensure that later derivatives continue to be available for free and have derivatives made from them, then CC BY-SA is the better license.