Creative Commons, Open UBC

The Library & Open Education: Updates on Good Stuff at UBC

One of the trends at UBC that I’m excited about is the increasing support of the UBC Library for open education. I wanted to call attention to a couple of updates on the open front that are coming from the Library. First, the UBC Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office has posted new copyright guidelines for open courses and OER.  As the introduction to the guidelines state:

To create and preserve knowledge in a way that opens and facilitates the dissemination of knowledge to the world, UBC instructors are encouraged to utilize Creative Commons licenses, digital repositories and other open access channels to distribute their teaching materials broadly. These guidelines are intended to help instructors and course support teams make responsible use of third-party copyrighted materials in courses or in educational resources that will be shared openly on the Internet.

I think this is an important resource (disclosure: I was part of a group that helped review/draft the guidelines) as instructors are often worried that by embracing open pedagogies and open courses, they will run afoul of copyright laws. In my experience, the opposite is true, those instructors who are embracing open are often much more knowledgable and compliant about their copyright footprint than those behind firewalls. However, being able to point to a clear resource on how copyright works on the open Internet is a great first step to pre-empting copyright concerns for open education. Even better, the resource clearly states the Copyright Office’s commitment for providing direct support for navigating the various shades of copyright grey in teaching in the open.  Related, the Copyright Office has also published a general guide on Creative Commons.

Another update is from UBC’s institutional repository, cIRcle. In cIRcle, users already have the ability to select and attach a Creative Commons License to their work thus stipulating how others can share, remix, or reuse their work. However, the folks over at cIRcle recently released version 2.0 of their standard license that users grant to the repository for the purpose of archiving their content. For the first time, the license (pdf):

will provide re-use rights. The Re-use rights spell out the conditions under which people who find your work in cIRcle are allowed to re-use that work. This Creative Commons license is known as the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs, or CC BY-NC-ND license.”

By baking in reuse rights directly into the new license, the folks at cIRcle are clearly highlighting the value of UBC’s intellectual output and underscoring how the institutional repository is also an OER repository.

Too often the conversation about open education is “why open?”, not “why not open?” The Library, though, is working to shift that outlook.
Library Icon by Pieter J. Smits from the Noun Project; CC-BY-3.0

BCopenEd, UBC Wiki

Why University Wikis Need Open Licenses

Unlike traditional scholarly publishing, a defining characteristic of the wiki model is a lack of barriers between the role of reader and that of editor; users are usually free to move back and forth between the roles at will. Due to this collaborative nature, the question of reuse of wiki content can be more complicated than it is for non-collaborative platforms. The author or creator of a work is generally considered to be the owner of that document’s copyright. However, the inherent ability for any wiki user to modify or expand upon another editor’s work makes it difficult to apply individual authorship or ownership to wiki-based content.

Content on collaborative wikis can thus be considered to be works of joint authorship of all the editors who collaboratively edited and compiled that page. The issue of joint authorship is particularly important around republishing; As Black et al state (pdf), republishing content becomes a community matter as one wiki editor cannot grant republishing or reuse permission without the express permission of the other editors (2007).

A community-based level of permission for reuse can be easily granted and expressed through the use of an open content license, such as a Creative Commons license, that allows for modification and reuse. Individual users would agree (such as through a terms of use), that any content they contribute is done so under the wiki’s open license thus allowing for basic wiki functionality of community editing and reuse. Black et al (2007) further state that for wikis where there is no explict copyright license:

It may be argued that due to the inherent nature of a wiki as a fully editable website that allows any user to read and add content to that state, a license that allows for these basic functions must be implied as a matter of necessity (p. 254).

An open content license thus should be seen as a best practice for the core functionality of university-based wikis: republishing jointly-authored works. Due to their collaborative nature and purpose, most educational and non-commercial wikis do specify an open documentation license that allows their wiki content to be republished, reused, and modified. For example, academic wikis which specify Creative Commons licenses include the Thompson Rivers University Wiki, the University of Calgary Wiki, the CUNY Academic Commons Wiki and many more.