The Non-commercial restriction in educational content
The Non-commercial restriction in educational content causes more problems than it solves, particularly when a resource might be useful in the developing world where people may not wish to preclude benefit from enhancements made by people who wish to allow commercial use.
The Non-commercial restriction in educational content
Prof Derek lives in South Africa and believes that educational content should be free , and that users should be free to copy , adapt and distribute it.
He feels that a restriction requiring changes to be made available under the same terms will protect that freedom . http://creativecommons.org/find/ I just discovered this amazing site that allows me to find content that has a creative commons license.
Prof Derek is excited about Creative Commons licenses, and he is glad that so many people share his view of a world where educational content is shared freely, where people are free to build on each other's work.
He starts to build his online biology course, building on the things that he has made available under an open content license for years.
Prof Derek goes online to do some searching for free content that he can use. He is looking for some material on marine algae. I will search for marine algae
Prof Derek is saddened and surprised by what he finds. There are lots of sites with Creative Commons licenses, but most of them use a NonCommercial restriction that is not compatible with the more free Attribution-ShareAlike license. Info, info everywhere and not a drop to use
It is not that Prof Derek wants to make money out of his content. He wouldn't mind, of course, but he knows that he won't.
It's just that he does not want to restrict what people can do with his content. The NC restriction is not compatible with this philosophy. I just want educational resources to be free.
Free as used here means free as in freedom, not absence of price. Free as in speech, not free as in beer.
It is clear that the nuances of license choice are not well understood in the educational and scientific community. What can I do to change things?
Prof Derek decides to put together a small lecture that he can use at conferences to try to promote the concept of freedom for educational content. I will have to use the conferences I attend to try to change things.
Free content is content that contributes to social good by recognizing four freedoms and one restriction that safeguards and promotes those freedoms.
With Free Content , everyone has a certain rights.
The right to copy , distribute , display , and perform the work without requiring further permission than that guaranteed by this freedom (freedom 1)
The right to exercise this freedom for any purpose under any circumstances , including commercial use (freedom 2)
The right to make derivative works (freedom 3)
The right to copy , distribute , display , and perform the derivative works (freedom 4)
One restriction ensures that the first four freedoms are passed on in derivative works .
If the work is altered , transformed , or built upon in any way, resulting work may only be distributed under an identical license that includes this restriction ( copyleft restriction )
Without this restriction the four freedoms are not protected in derivative works .
An optional further restriction is permissible with free content in that it may require the original author(s) to be given credit or attribution .
The original author(s) or producer(s) of the content as well as the author(s) or producer(s) of derivative works must be acknowledged and given credit for their contribution ( Attribution restriction )
The emphasis in philosophy of Free Content is on social good through promoting collaborative development and the adaptation and expansion of content.
We can think of Free Courseware as Free Content that is arranged in courses and made available in a structured manner via the Internet.
We can also imagine situations where content includes some but not all of these freedoms , and where there may be additional restrictions imposed. We can call this Open Content .
Open Content may restrict the conditions under which the content may be used. For example, it may impose a non-commercial restriction, or no t allow the production of derivative works .
The emphasis in philosophy of Open Content is access to content while protecting the author's wishes to restrict access to certain conditions.
All Free Content is Open Content but not all Open Content is Free Content .
We can think of Open Courseware as being Open Content that is arranged in courses and made available in a structured manner via the Internet.
All Free Courseware is Open Courseware but not all Open Courseware is Free Courseware .
Today, people often talk about Open Educational Resources (OER) covering both content that is norganized into courses as well as content organized into courses (courseware).
The problem with just talking about Open is that the vitally important concept of Freedom is lost. For this reason, I prefer to talk about Free and Open Resources for Education (FORE).
In the concept of Free and Open Resources for Education ( FORE ), Freedom is placed in the fore ground. This concept is not widely used or accepted, although hopefully, one day, the importance of the four freedoms will be widely recognized.
Prof Derek meets fellow biologist, Dr Claudia at a conference. Dr. Claudia has a NonCommercial restriction on her course materials. Claudia, can you please explain to me why you use a NonCommercial restriction on your Creative Commons licensed educational content? I just want to understand your choice of license.
Dr Claudia present a fairly standard reply. Prof Derek has heard this response before. Why should I let someone make money out of my work? Isn't it a bit obvious?
Prof Derek knows he has his work cut out for him. It is always a big job to explain the long term consequences of licenses. It shouldn't be about commercial use. It is about promoting freedom. May I explain what I mean?
Dr Claudia is willing to listen with a skeptic's ear. Sure explain away. But I don't think that you will make me change my mind. Besides, this is my institution's policy anyway.
Prof Derek begins the long talk to freedom. OK, let me get out my laptop and show you a presentation I made about Creative Commons licenses and Freedom
We can think of traditional copyright as a license within which the holder reserves all rights.
We can think of the public domain as being a license within which the holder reserves no rights at all. Of course, copyright and public domain are not really licenses.
In between full copyright and the public domain there is a spectrum of rights that you may decide to keep or relinquish.
This area of “some rights reserved” is the area where Creative Commons licenses operate. These licenses allow you to choose which rights to retain and which to give up in this in-between area.
These rights are defined and indicated by symbols, and can be combined in different ways to create different licenses.
There are only really four of them that we need to know about for now. Lets call them conditions.
You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work. This is called ShareAlike.
You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it. This is ND or NoDerivatives.
You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of your work - and derivative works based on it - but only for non-commercial purposes.
You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of your work - and derivative works based on it - but only if they give you credit. This is Attribution.
By combining these conditions in different way, Creative Commons has created a set of 6 different licenses.
Remember our definition of Free Content, and the four freedoms? Well, there are only two licenses that are compatible with this definition.
None of the licenses to the left of the gap contain all of the four freedoms that define Free Content.
Both of the licenses to the right of the gap contain all of the four freedoms that define Free Content.
There is thus a compatibility gap between the non-free licenses to the left, and the free licenses to the right.
This means that content licensed under non-free licenses cannot be mixed with content licensed under free licenses.
Recall that we can include a copyleft clause to protect the four freedoms even in derivative works.
This is the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which has these generational protections.
The Creative Commons Attribution license also has the four freedoms, but it lacks the generational protection of copyleft..
The NonCommercial and NoDerivative Works conditions are the cause of this incompatibility. They should only be used for good reason.
Prof Derek knows that he is still only partway down the road. He still needs to explain why Freedom, as he has defined it, is important for educational resources. OK, so I have talked about the licenses, but I have still not explained why freedom matters. So let me have a go at it before you give up altogether.
Dr Claudia, ever the good scientist, remains sceptical. She doesn't see why this notion of freedom matters. It is not the way people usually think about freedom, and she thinks he is just being a nutty professor. So why should I care about what you call freedom? Its way too abstract for me. Who really cares?
Prof Derek knows that this is the most difficult part of the story to tell. He has to be careful, as it is easy to fall down on this road. Can we agree that we want to see the availability of resources for education increase, and that we want to see people collaborating to create and use them? And by the way, when I say collaborate, I do not mean ONLY collaborate!
Dr Claudia cannot argue with the idea that there would be a growing wealth of educational resources that are created and shared collaboratively and individually. Sure, I can agree with that. How could anyone argue otherwise?
Prof Derek wonders if Dr Claudia has thought about the barriers to creating an abundance of educational resources. Then would you agree that the fewer barriers there are in the way of that happening the better?
Dr Claudia gets the concept of barriers immediately. It fits in with her experiences of creating content for her own courses. I remember once wanting to scan several pictures from a Magazine article to use on a website for my class. It took me a couple of months to get permission. Is that what you mean by a barrier?
Prof Derek is grateful that Dr Claudia has experienced some of the barriers he is talking about. Yes. That is exactly the kind of barrier I am talking about. There are others as well, but I think you get my point.
However, Claudia is still not convinced. She still doesn’t quite get the role of the license. You are trying to convince me to lose the NonCommercial restriction on my Marine Botany course, but how is that a barrier? I mean, anyone can use it as long as they don’t try to make money, no?
Prof Derek wonders if everyone believes that their work is so good that people will take it to make money. How can he make Dr Claudia understand that Free Licenses protect her rights. It is a barrier because content with the NC restriction cannot be mixed with content that does not have this restriction. In other words, it cannot be mixed with Free Content
However, Dr Claudia is still not convinced. She still doesn’t quite get the role of the license. But then, surely the barrier is with what you call the Free Content licenses? If they would all change to the NC restriction, there would be no barrier.
Prof Derek thinks back to the days of Apartheid in South Africa. He wonders if Dr Claudia would have argued that the problem was not with Apartheid, but with the fact that people found it unacceptable. I guess one could say that if you are not interested in freedom. But it is a bit like arguing that the problem with dictatorship is that people want democracy. If they accepted dictatorship it would be OK. That is a bit of an extreme analogy, but you get my point.
Dr Claudia starts to wonder why this particular concept of freedom is so important, and why Prof Derek takes this rather extreme perspective. You don’t seem like an extremist to me. So why does it matter? Why is what you refer to as Freedom so important. After all it is not like people will lose their lives over it.
Prof Derek thinks that perhaps the best way to explain it to Dr Claudia is by getting her to think further about barriers to active participation in building knowledge through building communities. You have already agreed that in order to get lots and lots of educational content, and to get lots of people using it and improving it and reusing it for their own purpose, it would be good if there were as few barriers as possible to that happening.
Dr Claudia thinks about this, and finds that it is a statement that she can agree with, as it fits her experience. It would be hard to argue with that. After all, the more resources there are, and the more ways they are used and modified, the better for me and for my students.
Prof Derek believes that he is getting somewhere. Well, whenever you place a restriction, then there is a barrier that has to be overcome. For people who believe in the concepts of freedom as I explained them, the NC restriction is a barrier to them building on the content and improving it.
But Dr Claudia is still sceptical. Well, you could just get their permission.
It is clear to Prof Derek that he still has a ways to go to convince Dr Claudia. Argmph! OK, that would be true if there was just one person wanting to use something from another person. But as the number of people and resources increase, the complexity of managing such permissions add significant overhead, and becomes a barrier.
Dr Claudia accepts that perspective, but comes back to the “why should people make money out of my work,” emotional argument. OK, I can see that point. But I still don’t see why I should allow people to make money from my work.
Prof Derek is beginning to think he should take up another cause! But Claudia, it is not really about people making money out of your work. It is about lowering the barriers to collaboration and improving your work. This will surely also come back to benefit you in some way.
Dr Claudia still wants to prevent people packing her work, claiming it as their own, and selling it. Look, I spent weeks working on those animations of algal reproduction. I don’t want someone to then package them and sell them as part of a book or CD and then I get nothing.
Prof Derek thinks that at last he can begin to make Dr Claudia understand. He pulls out his laptop and shows her part of a presentation he made at another conference. Let me show you something else on my laptop. I made this for another conference. Maybe it will help to convince you.
Freedom is protected and ensured because any derivative works must also be shared, and must further require that subsequent derivative works also require the same conditions. Nobody can derive work and not give it back.
This protection is the reason for the copyleft (or share alike in this case) clause in the license.
<ul><li>Someone can change it and sell it and I get nothing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WRONG: copyleft means that anyone who changes it must give the changes back under the same license </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Someone can edit it, and change the meaning, and attribute the new meaning to me </li></ul><ul><ul><li>WRONG: attribution also requires that changes be made known </li></ul></ul>
Prof Derek is hopeful that he has made a convincing case. So, you see, your rights are protected from pure commercial exploitation. If a CD ROM publisher did what you suggested, they would have to make the CD available under the same license.
At last Dr Claudia understands that there could actually be benefits from commercial use as long as the conditions of the license are respected. I see! I see! So, if someone extended my work to create something for commercial purpose, I could benefit. But it would require an enlightened publisher.
Prof Derek thinks Dr Claudia is becoming an enlightened educator. Yes, you are absolutely right. But right now, there are not many of them. The business models for Free Content are only just beginning to emerge. Free Content is way behind Free Software in this regard. But enlightened educators can start the ball rolling!
But Dr Claudia raises another concern that she has. This one has to do with resistance among other educators to getting rid of the NC restriction. Derek, you mentioned barriers. But there is another barrier. I work at the Awesome Technology and Research Institute (ATARI). At ATARI, our professors would never give their content away without a NC restriction. So if ATARI did not use the NC restriction, we would not have any content at all. So we all use the NC restriction because it is our policy in order to get their buy in.
Prof Derek is not surprised. He has heard this argument before from other professors from ATARI. He has a counter argument ready. So, you are saying it is OK to be less free when people don’t understand the benefits of Freedom?
Dr Claudia is still not subscribing to the concept of freedom Prof Derek uses. Well, not quite, but in the limited sense that you define freedom, I guess yes.
The barrier here is not the license, but people’s knowledge of what is at stake. Then ask yourself what is the real barrier here. Is it the license, or is it people's knowledge and attitude?
Dr Claudia experiences an ‘aha’ moment! Aha! I see. If the barrier is the license, you address it one way, but if the barrier is knowledge and attitude then you address it another way.
Prof Derek experiences an overwhelming sense of relief. Exactly!
Dr Claudia now takes on the role of the person giving the explanation. So, we should be trying to educate our staff at ATARI, instead of just accepting the build up of a mass of non-free content.
Dr Claudia has another revelation. Actually, we are creating an unnecessary polarization within the free and open content world.
Prof Derek experiences an overwhelming sense of relief. That’s exactly right, you see ATARI’s reputation and brand create ‘followers’ who also do not realize the value of freedom! Few institutions in the world besides ATARI could produce this effect.
Dr Claudia begins to see a mission for herself at ATARI. I think that I will go back after this conference and see if I can get an education and marketing campaign going to help our staff make the right choices, and to see if we can change our policy.
Prof Derek thinks if Dr Claudia can get it, so can others. After all, if they work at the ATARI, they cannot be incapable of learning new ideas and changing their mindsets. That would be excellent. Don’t get me wrong, ATARI has made a great start, and it has raised a global awareness of FORE (or OER as they call it), and that is a valuable contribution. Now maybe it is time to go the whole distance before there is real damage done.
Claudia has another idea. Maybe I can also speak to our funders, the Sweet Sweet Sugar Foundation. Maybe they can also help put pressure on us to change. Hopefully I won't get fired!
Prof Derek thinks he can now tell Claudia to have a look at his course materials. They are teaching almost the same programme. Maybe, if she would be willing to lose the NC restriction they could start their own community. By the way, Claudia, I have had my algae course under a Free License since 1998. Maybe we can work together on improving our content together.
Claudia becomes enthusiastic. Great idea. Lets see who else is here at this conference that might be interested as well.
Please click once more to see attributions And so the conversation ends, another small victory for Freedom.
This presentation uses content modified from the following sources under the terms of their license (BY or BY-SA). Conference speaker image by Jochen Topf from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jochen_topf/144965811/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/aplumb/133695419/ (aplumb) for the beer glass image and http://www.flickr.com/photos/87844368@N00/142750871/ (Henrik Moltke) for the Free Beer image, used in the Free as in Speech slide http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/ for the cartoon images