I gate-crashed a lecture on copyright that Naomi Korn gave at Edinburgh University. I’ve had an interest in copyright for as long as I have been working with open access and open educational resources, about ten years. I think I understand the basic concepts pretty well, but even so Naomi managed to catch a couple of misconceptions I held and also crystallised some ideas with well chosen examples.
First, quick intro to Naomi. Naomi is a copyright consultant (but not a lawyer). I first met her through her work for UKOER, which I really liked because she gave us pragmatic advice that helped us release resources openly not just list of all the things we couldn’t do. Through that and other work Naomi & colleagues have created a set of really useful resources on copyright for OER (which are themselves openly licensed).
We are setting up a new honours degree programme which will involve use of online resources for work based blended learning. I was asked to demonstrate some the resources and approaches that might be useful. This is one of the quick examples that I was able to knock up(*) and some reflections on how Open Education helped me. By the way, I especially like the last bit about “open educational practice”. So if the rest bores you, just skip to the end. Continue reading →
About once a year I go to some meeting or another on libraries and eBooks. I nearly always come back from it struck by the tension between libraries, as institutions of stability, and the rapid pace at which technology companies are driving forward eBook technology. This year’s event of that type was the Scottish Library and Information Council’s 13th annual eBook conference. The keynote from Gerald Leitner, chair of the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations task force on eBooks was especially interesting to me in introducing the Right to eRead Campaign.
Leitner spoke about the ecosystem around ebooks and libraries and about the uncertainty and instability throughout the system. Can lending libraries compete with commercial lending of eBooks (Amazon kindle unlimited, £6 per month for over half a million titles)? Publishers too are threatened and are fighting, as the spat between Amazon and Hachette shows–and note, it’s not publishers who are driving the change to eBooks, it’s technology companies, notably Amazon and Apple. Libraries are at risk of being the collateral damage in this fight. And where do book lovers fit in, those who as well as reading physical books read ebooks on various mobile devices?
Leitner made the point that consumers and libraries very rarely buy eBooks; you buy a limited license that allows you to download a copy and read it under certain restrictions–and no, like most people I have never bothered to read those restrictions though I am aware of the limit to the devices on which I can read that copy, that I am not allowed to lend it and that Amazon can delete copies remotely (I don’t use Apple products, but I assume they have similar terms). A consequence of this relates to the exhaustion of rights. Under copyright authors have the right to decide whether/how their work is published, and the publishers may have the right to sell books that contain the authors work. But once bought the book becomes the property of the person who bought it; the publishers rights are exhausted, they cannot longer forbid that it be resold or lent. The right to lend and resell is provided by Article 6 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the EU Rental and Lending directive (2006/115/EC). Library lending rights are written into statute and accompanied by remuneration for authors. Ebooks, intangible, licensed and not sold, are classed as services by the EU Information and Service Directive (2001/29/EC), and for these there is no exhaustion of rights, no right to resell or lend, and no statutory guarantee that libraries may provide access.
The EBLIDA right to eRead campaign is about trying to secure a right for libraries to provide access to eBooks. The argument is that without this right to access information itself becomes privatised at the cost of an informed democracy. The campaign is asking for a statutory exemption with IP law, or mandatory fair licensing that provides libraries with the right to acquire and a right to lend.
When the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) technical working group started its work it focused on identifying the properties and relationships that were important for educational resources but could not be adequately expressed using schema.org as it then stood. One of those important pieces of information was the licence under which a resource was released, and so the LRMI spec from the start had the property useRightsUrl “The URL where the owner specifies permissions for using the resource.” When schema.org adopted most of the LRMI properties, useRightsUrl was an exception, it was not adopted pending further consideration–not surprising really given the wide-ranging applicability of licence information beyond learning resources.
Back in June the good news came that with version 1.6 of schema.org included a license property for Creative Works that does all that LRMI wanted, and more.
What does this mean for LRMI adopters?
Some adopters of LRMI have already started using useRightsUrl. Such implementations are valid LRMI but not valid schema.org, which means that they will only be understood by applications that have been written specifically to understand LRMI and not by the general purpose web-scale search applications. This is sub-optimal.
In passing, let me mention another complication. With schema.org you have a choice of syntax: microdata and RDFa 1.1 lite. With RDFa there was already a mechanism for identifying a link to a licence, that is rel=”license”. Just to complicate a little more, RDFa allows name spacing, and the term license appears in at least three widely used namespaces: HTML5, Dublin Core Terms, and the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language–hopefully this will never matter to you. To exemplify one of these options I’ll use the HTML that you get when you use the Creative Commons License Chooser (but let’s be absolutely clear, what I am writing about applies to any type of license whether the terms be open or commercial):
The good news is that all these options play nicely together, you can have the best of all worlds.
If you are already using itemprop=”useRightsUrl” to identify the link to a licence using LRMI in microdata, you can also use the license property and rel=”license”. The following LRMI microdata with a bit RDFa thrown in works:
If you are using LRMI / schema.org in RDFa, then the following is valid
<body vocab="http://schema.org/" typeof="CreativeWork">
<a rel="license useRightsUrl"
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence
License does what LRMI asked for and more
In my opinion the schema.org license property is superior to the LRMI useRightsUrl for a few reasons. It does everything that LRMI wanted by way of identifying the URL of the licence under which the creative work is released, but also:
It belongs to a more widely recognised namespace, especially important if you are wanting to generate RDF data
I prefer the semantics of the name and definition: a license can include restrictions of use as well as grant rights and permissions.
the range, i.e. the type of value that can be provided, includes Creative Works as well as Urls
That last points allows one to encode the name, url, description, date, accountable person and a whole host of other information about the licence (albeit at the cost of the not being able to do so alongside LRMI’s useRightsUrl quite so simply)
The inclusion in schema.org of the license property is good news for aims for LRMI. If you use LRMI and care about licensing you should tag the information you provide about the license with it. If you already use LRMI’s useRightsUrl or RDFa’s rel=”license” there is no need to stop doing so.
This is a longish summary of a presentation I gave recently, covering why I was talking, the spectrum of openness, the ways of being open, the range of activities involved in education and how open things might apply to those activities. You may want to skim through until something catches your eye 🙂
Why I did this
When Mariekeasked me to give a “general introduction to open education” for the Open Knowledge Foundation / LinkedUp ProjectOpen Education Handbook booksprint I admit I was somewhat nervous. More so when I saw the invite list. I mean, I’ve worked on OERs for a few years, mostly specializing in technologies for managing their dissemination and discovery; I’ve even helped write a book about that, (which incidentally was the output of a booksprint, about which I have also written), but that only covers a small part of the OER endeavour, and OERs are only a small element in the Open Education movement, and I saw the list of invitees to the booksprint and could see names of people who knew much more than me.
However Martin Poulter then asked this on Twitter
Anyone remember who said that the way to get information on the internet is not to ask for info but to give false info? Google isn’t helping
and I thought why not take inspiration from that approach. I can say stuff, and if it is wrong someone will put me right; it’ll be like learning about things. I like learning things, I like Open Education and I like booksprints. So this is what I said.
I wanted to emphasize that Open Education covers a wide range of activities. It has a long history, which we can see in the name of institutions like the Open University, but has recently taken on new impetus in a new direction, not disconnected with that history, but not entirely the same. Being a bit of a reductionist, the simple way to illustrate the range of Open Education was to reflect on the extent and range of meanings of Open and the range of activities that may be involved in education.
The spectrum of openness
A couple of weeks ago this discussion on the spectrum of open passed through twitter. At one extreme you have “proprietary”, i.e. the commercially licensed use of other people’s resources covered by copyright or patents. Is this open? Well not in the sense of Open in OERs, but it is more open than material which is covered by non-disclosure agreements or trade secrets, and “fair use” or “fair dealing” may sometimes offer an exemption to needing a licence. So it makes sense to start the spectrum of openness here. Then you move to more liberal licences, say Creative Commons Licenses with ND or NC restrictions, through Share Alike to the most liberal attribution-only (CC:BY) and unrestricted (CC:0) licences. And then you pass into illegal use which ignores property rights, for personal use, for sharing (piracy) or claims that something is what it isn’t (counterfeiting).
When using, sharing and repurposing resources, teachers tend to work in the part of the spectrum spanning from proprietary through to the ignoring of property rights. It is interesting to reflect that much technical effort has been spent on facilitating the former (think Athens, ShibbolethAccess Management Federation, and single sign-on solutions for identification, authentication and authorisation), political effort on legitimising some of the latter (e.g. use of orphan works, exemptions for text mining) and educational effort on avoiding what is not legitimate. One of the benefits of the OER/Open Access approach is in avoiding effort.
The ways of being open
That all focusses on open access to and use of resources, but there are other ways of being open, seen in terms such as “open development” “open practice” “open university” and even “open prison” which all have something to do with who you allow to participate in what. There is much gnashing of teeth when this sense of openness gets confused with openness of access and use; for example complaints that a standard isn’t open because it costs money or that an online course isn’t open because the resources used cannot be copied. Yes you could spend the rest of your life trying to distinguish between “open” “free” and “libre”, but in real life words don’t align with nice neat categories of meaning like that.
I don’t think participation has to be open to everyone for a process to be described as open. As with openness in access and use, openness in participation can happen to various extents: towards one end of the spectrum, participation in IMS specification development is open to anyone who pays to be a member, ISO standardization processes are open to any national standardization body; wikipedia is an obvious example of a more open approach.
This form of openness is really interesting to me because I think that through sharing the development of resources we may see an improvement in their quality. I think that the OER work to date has largely missed this. And incidentally, having a hand in the development of a resource makes someone more likely to use that resource.
Activities involved in education
I think this picture does a reasonable job of showing the range of activities that may be involved in education, and I’ll stress from the outset that they don’t all have to be, some forms of education will only involve one or two of these activities.
Running down the diagonal you have the core processes of formal education (but note well: this isn’t a waterfall project plan, I’m not saying each one happens when the other is complete): policy at a national through to institutional level on how institutions are run, for example who gets to learn what and how, and who pays for it; administration, dealing with recruitment, admissions, retention, progression, graduation, timetabling, reporting, and so on; teaching, to use an old-fashioned term to include mentoring and all non-instructivist activities around the deliberate nurturing of knowledge; learning, which may be the only necessary activity here; assessment, not just summative, but also formative and diagnostic–remember, this isn’t a waterfall; and accreditation, saying who learnt what. Around these you have academic and business topics that inform or influence these processes: politics, management studies, pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, library functions, and Human Resource functions such as recruitment and staff development.
OER interest tends to focus on the teaching, learning, assessment nexus at the middle of this picture, but Open Education should be, and is, wider. Maybe it would be useful to try to map where some of the other open endeavours fit. Open Badges, for example sit squarely on accreditation. Open Educational Practice sits somewhere around teaching and pedagogy. Open Access to research outputs sits roughly where OER does, but also with added implications to pedagogy, psychology, management and philosophy as research fields. Open research in general sits with these research fields but is also a useful way of learning. Open data is a bit tricky since it depends what you do with it, but the linked-up veni challenge submissions showed interesting ideas around library functions such as resource discovery, and around policy and administration, and learning analytics kind of comes under teaching. Similarly with Open Source Software and Open Standards, they cover pretty much everything on the main diagonal from Admin to assessment (including library). And MOOCs? well, the openness is in admission policy, so I’ve put them there. I suspect there is a missing “open learning” that sits over learning and covers informal education and much of what the original cMOOC pioneers were interested in.
I was asked last week to provide some good examples of embedded licences in OERs. I’m pleased to do that (with the proviso that this is just my personal opinion of “good”) since it makes a change from carping about how some of the outputs of the UKOER programme demonstrate a neglect of seemingly obvious points about self-description. For example anyone who gets hold of a copy of the resource would want see that it is an OER, so it seems obvious that the Creative Commons licence should be clearly displayed on the resource; they would also want to see something about who created, owned or published the resource, partly to comply with the attribution condition of Creative Commons licences but also to conform with good academic and information literacy practice around provenance and citation. With few exceptions, the machine readable metadata hidden in the OERs’ files (such as MS Office file properties, id3 tags, EXIF etc.) are an irremediable mess, especially for licence and attribution information which cannot on the whole created automatically, and so are generally ignored. Also, the metadata stored in a content management system such as a repository and displayed on the landing page for the resource are not relevant when the resource is copied and used in some other system. So what I’m looking at here is human readable information about licence and attribution that travels with the resource when it is copied. Different approaches are required for different resource types, so I’ll take them in turn.
Text, e.g. office documents, MS Word, Powerpoint, PDF
Pretty simple really, you can have a title section with the name of resource creator and a footer with the copyright and licensing information. You can also have a more extensive “credits” page at the end of the document. Running page headers and footers work well if you think that people might take just a few pages rather than the whole document. Example text OER with attribution and licence information. Note that the licence statement and logo link to the legal deed on the Creative Commons website. Example OER powerpoint with licence and attribution information. Note how the final slide gives licence and attribution information of third party resources used.
Basically a special case of a text document, the attribution and licence information can be included in a title or footer section, scroll down to the bottom of this page to see an example. For HTML there is a good case for making this information machine readable by wrapping the information in microdata or RDFa tags. Plugins exist for many web content management systems to do this, and the Creative Commons licensing generator will produce an HTML snippet that includes such tags.
Really the only option for putting the essentially textual information about licence and attribution into an image is to add it as a bar to the image. The Attribute Images and related projects at Nottingham have been doing good work on automating this.
A spoken introduction can provide the information required. BBC podcasts give good examples, though they are not OERs; also the introduction to the video below works as audio.
An introductory screen or credits at the end (with optional voice over) can provide the required information. See for example this video from MIT OCW (be sure to skip to the end to see credits to third party resources used).
Podcasts (and other RSS feeds)
As well as having <copyright> and <creativeCommons:license> tags in the RSS feed at channel and item level, Oxford Universities OER podcasts use an image for the channel that includes the creative commons logo. This is useful because the image is displayed by many feed readers and podcast applications. Of course the recordings should have licence information in them just as any other audio or video OER.