Self description and licences

One of the things that I noticed when I was looking for sources of UKOERs was that when I got to a resource there was often no indication on it that it was open: no UKOER tag, no CC-license information or logo. There may have been some indication of this somewhere on the way, e.g. on a repository’s information page about that resource, but that’s no good if someone arrives from a Google search, a direct link to the resource, or once someone has downloaded the file and put it on their own VLE.

Naomi Korn, has written a very useful briefing paper on embedding metadata about creative commons licences into digital resources as part of the OER IPR Support project starter pack. All the advice in that is worth following, but please, also make sure that licence and attribution information is visible on the resource as well. John has written about this in general terms in his excellent post on OERs, metadata, and self-description where he points out that this type of self description “is just good practice” which is complemented not supplanted by technical metadata.

So, OER resources, when viewed on their own, as if someone had found them through Google or a direct link, should display enough information about authorship, provenance, etc. for the viewer to know that they are open without needing an application to extract the metadata. The cut and paste legal text and technical code generated by the licence selection form on the Creative Commons website is good for this. (Incidentally, for HTML resources this code also includes technical markup so that the displayed text works as encoded metadata, which has been exploited recently by the OpenAttribute browser addon. I know the OpenAttribute team are working on embedding tools for licence selection and code generation into web content management systems and blogs).

Images, videos and sounds present their own specific problem for including human-readable licence text. Following practice from the publishing industry would suggest that small amounts of text discreetly tucked away on the bottom or side of an image can be enough to help. That example was generate by the Xpert attribution tool from an image of a bridge found on flickr. The Xpert tool will also does useful work for sounds and videos; but for sounds it is also possible to follow the example of the BBC podcasts and provide spoken information at the beginning or end of the audio, and for videos of course one can have scrolling credits at the end.

2 thoughts on “Self description and licences

  1. Hi Phil,

    As you well know this was something we considered during our OERP Phase 1 project with the backpage for resources. The solution was a little old fashioned perhaps but it did the job.

    (I’d like some suggestions on how we might achieve what we set out to do in a way that is less clumsy and cumbersome. So far I’ve not seen anything that satisfies the requirements.)

    It is concerning that one loses the connection to the CC info by not having the details clearly visible in, on or within the resource itself and this is something that needs more attention going forward.

    As you rightly say, as soon as you view a resource way from the hosting platform you lose/ miss all of the background that provides that info.

    This relates to something I mentioned to Jorum during the competition they ran a few months ago. Several of the entries, despite being labelled as CC in Jorum, carried no mention of that when viewed. Some even contained conflicting info within the T’s & C’s of the main site. (luckily the winner was great and ticked all of the right boxes!) CC needs to be clearly indicated to avoid any potential confusion on the part of the user. ambiguity will cause uncertainty which will deter users at the end of the day.


  2. Alex, thanks for the reminder about the Engineering OER project. Yes, that’s just the sort of thing I had in mind. Of course, a page of text for licence, acknowledgements and credits isn’t possible in all cases, but where the full details cannot be put onto the resource then a CC logo and a link to further details is way better than nothing.

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