Category Archives: Open Online Courses

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

 

 

 

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.

 

How Creative Common licenses are linked to copyright

For the Creative Commons Certificate course I’m taking right now, one of the discussion topics for this week was:

In many ways, Creative Commons licenses feel like an alternative to copyright law. But the truth is that Creative Commons licenses only work because copyright law exists.

How would you explain the relationship between Creative Commons and copyright law to someone new to Creative Commons? What kinds of examples would you use?

Since my response will probably disappear into the ether after the course ends, and since it might actually be useful for me to think about and revise later, I decided to post it here (with a couple of additions made after I already posted to the discussion board).


If I were to explain the relationship between copyright law and Creative Commons to someone new to CC, say, if they were a faculty member at a post-secondary institution (like I am), I might start by using examples of creating research articles or book chapters.

When you write a research article or book chapter, you hold copyright in that work as soon as it is set into a tangible medium (such as a digital file on a computer). You can choose to copy that work how you wish, to post it on a website, to send it to colleagues via email, to make a poster with some of the same images/figures, to translate the work into another language, to try to sell it to someone else, and more. Others cannot do these things because they don’t have the same rights you do; they don’t hold the copyright, and if they want to do things like this they have to ask your permission.

But if you then work with a publisher of a journal or a manuscript, depending on the publisher and the context, you may have to give away some (or most) of the rights to be able to do these things. You may not be able to post your on a website, to make as many copies as you wish and give them all way, to create a translation, to use the charts/figures in another work, to try to sell it to someone else. It is now the publisher who owns the copyright in the work (or at least many of the aspects of your copyright rights). I once tried to post a pre-print of a book chapter I wrote in an institutional repository, and discovered that the contract I signed didn’t allow me to do that.

When you give your work a Creative Commons license it’s not like this; you retain copyright and the rights associated with it. If you apply a CC license to your work what this does is signal to others how they can use it even without asking your permission. But you still have the same copyright rights you would otherwise.

Often if you publish in an open access journal you retain your copyright and give your work a CC license that allows the journal to post the work on their site, allows readers to download the work to their computers, to print it out, and, depending on the CC license, to use the work for commercial purposes or to make derivatives like translations. CC licenses don’t replace or take away copyright, they work on top of it, making it easy for creators to signal to others what they may do with the work without asking permission.

Consider what this can mean in the context of teaching and learning. Say you want to assign a 2 or 3 of chapters of a book for a course. Students won’t be needing the whole thing, but if you want to go beyond what “fair dealing” might allow, and it’s not a book the library has (or there is only one physical copy), then you either have to ask students to purchase the whole book even though they’ll only use part of it, or look for some other resource for your course. Fair dealing in Canada is quite complicated, actually, and not always easy to figure out. In addition, sometimes electronic copies of resources are purchased through the library with licenses that override what fair dealing might otherwise allow, so things are even more complicated!

If that book were CC licensed (which some are!), you could post on a course website or physically copy just the chapters you need for your students, without asking permission from the author or the publisher. And the author still has the rights to do other things with the work, like post it in multiple websites or repositories, or translate it (or ask others to do so).

This brings up an important point, though: if you are able to use a work under fair dealing, any CC license does not alter your ability to do so. CC licenses work within the structure of copyright, so whatever you could do under copyright law, you can still do with a CC licensed work. Where using CC licensed works in courses can be useful is that you can go beyond what is allowed under fair dealing, and in some cases (depending on the license) you can also adapt the works to your own course & context, by taking out some parts, adding in images, and more.

 

A Brief Overview of Copyright: Slides

In the Creative Commons Certificate Course for Educators I’m taking at the moment, our assignment for Unit 2 (on copyright law) was to create something that provides the basics of copyright. One option was:

Create a video, slide presentation, or infographic (or choose another medium) in which you describe the basics of copyright law as covered in Module 2. Make an effort to create something that would be useful and interesting to someone else.

At a minimum, include descriptions of:

  1. the purpose of copyright,
  2. what is copyrightable and what is not,
  3. the relationship between copyright and other methods of protecting intellectual property,
  4. how a person receives copyright protection for their work,
  5. the public domain, and
  6. exemptions to copyright like fair use.

The instructions for all assignments in this course are publicly available.

For the Unit 1 assignment I made an infographic, but this time there was just too much information to include in a small space. So I decided to do some kind of presentation.

The conceptual structure I chose (a series of questions: what, who, why, when, when not) called out for a Prezi, because then I could include the information within each heading/question really easily. But then I discovered that Prezi is not accessible (at least, Prezi Next is not).

So I went with the tried and true Power Point. As with my previous assignment, I spent a lot of time ensuring adequate colour contrast for accessibility. I didn’t add alt text to the icons except in one place, because the icons are for decorative purposes; I ensured that (nearly) all required information is in the text (the one place where the icon added more, I added alt text).

This was a bit challenging because usually when I make slides I do so for a talk/presentation/workshop, and that means I’ll be speaking while showing them so I can give information orally. Here I had to include all information on the slides themselves because they are serving a standalone purpose. Hence, there is more text on these slides than I usually include!

You can see the slides on Speakerdeck, and download them in Power Point format for editing on the Open Science Framework.

 

Creative Commons Then & Now (CC Cert assignment)

I am taking the Creative Commons Certificate course for Educators this summer, and the assignment for the end of the first week is this (this is one of the two options):

Create a video, slide presentation, podcast, wikibook content, an infographic (or choose another medium) in which you describe the key historical events leading up to the launch of Creative Commons and the state of Creative Commons today. Rather than a disconnected list, create a narrative (tell a story) that ties events and people together. Try to create something that would be useful and interesting to someone who just heard about Creative Commons and wants to learn more.

There was also a list of elements of the story that need to be included, and I just barely managed to fit all of them on the infographic I created! (You can see all of the documents for the course, including the assignments, on the Certificate Resources page.)

I made it with Canva, and most of the icons were purchased through a subscription to The Noun Project. Besides trying to make the elements look good visually and be readable, the thing that took me a surprisingly long time was working on the colour contrasts on the infographic to try to conform to web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) for colour contrast. The default colours on the template I used from Canva did not conform to those guidelines.

I used the WebAIM colour contrast checker to play around with the background colours and the text/icon colours to make the contrast fit WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines. I am not certain I 100% succeeded; it was a laborious process with Canva, to find the hex codes for each colour and input them into the contrast checker. I just made the decision not to make the dotted lines under the years conform to the guidelines; it’s not a problem if those are difficult to see, as they don’t convey any meaning but are merely decorative.

When will we get to the point where templates on tools such as Canva just automatically conform to accessibility guidelines, or at least automatically have a checker that can help you test if they do and fix if they do not?

Overall, this took quite a bit of time this week, and if I took even more time I expect I’d be happier with it, but at some point one has to stop and move on to the next task!

infographic on the past and present of Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

OOE13 Twitter chat on open education

As noted in the previous post, I helped facilitate an open online course called OOE13 (Open Online Experience 13) in 2013 and 2014. In April 2014 I was in charge of the topic of open education for the course, and we had a couple of Twitter chats. This was actually the first one though it is coming second here in my post order.

I’m archiving the tweets here because Storify is going away in a few days. So think of this post as having been here since 2014.

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OOE13 Twitter chat on OER

From Sept. 2013 to May 2014 I helped co-design and facilitate an open, online course for educators (Open Online Experience 2013)  on topics ranging from connected learning to digital literacy to digital storytelling to open education. The domain we had is no longer kept up and has some other website on it, so you can’t get information there. But you can see a couple of other posts about it under the OOE13 category here on my blog

In this post and the next one I’ll be pasting in Tweets from Twitter chats we had in April of 2014, when I was in charge of that month’s topic, open education. Now that storify.com is going away, I need to archive what I had there, here on my blog!

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Why Open Twitter chat on CC licenses and “Why Open?”

On August 29, 2014, I helped facilitate a Twitter chat for a course I was co-designing and facilitating called Why Open? at P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University).

I had this Twitter chat archived at storify.com, but since it’s going away I’m moving the Tweets here to my blog instead. So imagine that this post was made in 2014!

I took out some tweets whose URLs went nowhere; apparently they have left Twitter or moved their accounts…

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