[okfn-discuss] On-line education is using a flawed Creative Commons license

Everton Zanella Alvarenga everton.alvarenga at okfn.org
Tue Nov 27 12:35:13 UTC 2012

Hi all.

I've sent Stallman text to this Open Educational Resources mailing list,
runned today by Athabasca University, but previously by UNESCO


and I do think it's important to convince people there on the problems of
the NC and ND restriction. There is some discussion going on <
(password required, I will ask them to open, the previous one wasn't
closed) and I think it is important to have UNESCO with a clear idea on the
best definition of open.

>From the last OER meeting in Brazil before the Paris meeting, both
organized by UNESCO, I am not sure people involved were aware of the
problems of these restrictions.


2012/11/26 Everton Zanella Alvarenga <everton.alvarenga at okfn.org>

> An interesting text by Stallman, which I copy bellow and emphasize some
> points in italic. We could improve the article on permission culture at
> Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permission_culture
> See also a recent post by Rufus
> http://blog.okfn.org/2012/10/04/making-a-real-commons-creative-commons-should-drop-the-non-commercial-and-no-derivatives-licenses/
> *On-line education is using a flawed Creative Commons license*<http://stallman.org/articles/online-education.html>
> Prominent universities are using a nonfree license for their digital
> educational works. That is bad already, but even worse, the license they
> are using has a serious inherent problem.
> When a work is made for doing a practical job, the users must have control
> over the job, so they need to have control over the work. This applies to
> software, and to educational works too. For the users to have this control,
> they need certain freedoms (see gnu.org<http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html>),
> and we say the work is "free" (or "libre", to emphasize we are not talking
> about price). For works that might be used in commercial contexts, the
> requisite freedom includes commercial use, redistribution and modification.
> Creative Commons publishes six principal licenses. Two are free/libre
> licenses: the Sharealike license CC-BY-SA is a free/libre license with
> copyleft <http://www.gnu.org/copyleft>, and the Attribution license
> (CC-BY) is a free/libre license without copyleft. The other four are
> nonfree, either because they don't allow modification (ND, Noderivs) or
> because they don't allow commercial use (NC, Nocommercial).
> In my view, nonfree licenses are ok for works of art/entertainment, or
> that present personal viewpoints (such as this article itself). Those works
> aren't meant for doing a practical job, so the argument about the users'
> control does not apply. Thus, I do not object if they are published with
> the CC-BY-NC-ND license, which allows only noncommercial redistribution of
> exact copies.
> Use of this license for a work does not mean that you can't possibly
> publish that work commercially or with modifications. The license doesn't
> give permission for that, but you could ask the copyright holder for
> permission, perhaps offering a quid pro quo, and you might get it. It isn't
> automatic, but it isn't impossible.
> *However, two of the nonfree CC licenses lead to the creation of works
> that can't in practice be published commercially, because there is no
> feasible way to ask for permission. These are CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA, the
> two CC licenses that permit modification but not commercial use.*
> *The problem arises because, with the Internet, people can easily (and
> lawfully) pile one noncommercial modification on another. Over decades this
> will result in works with contributions from hundreds or even thousands of
> people.*
> *What happens if you would like to use one of those works commercially?
> How could you get permission? You'd have to ask all the substantial
> copyright holders. Some of them might have contributed years before and be
> impossible to find. Some might have contributed decades before, and might
> well be dead, but their copyrights won't have died with them. You'd have to
> find and ask their heirs, supposing it is possible to identify those. In
> general, it will be impossible to clear copyright on the works that these
> licenses invite people to make.*
> *This is a form of the well-known "orphan works" problem, except
> exponentially worse; when combining works that had many contributors, the
> resulting work can be orphaned many times over before it is born.*
> To eliminate this problem would require a mechanism that involves asking
> _someone_ for permission (otherwise the NC condition turns into a nullity),
> but doesn't require asking _all the contributors_ for permission. It is
> easy to imagine such mechanisms; the hard part is to convince the community
> that one such mechanisms is fair and reach a consensus to accept it.
> I hope that can be done, but the CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA licenses, as
> they are today, should be avoided.
> Unfortunately, one of them is used quite a lot. CC-BY-NC-SA, which allows
> noncommercial publication of modified versions under the same license, has
> become the fashion for online educational works. MIT's "Open Courseware"
> got it stared, and many other schools followed MIT down the wrong path.
> Whereas in software "open source" means "probably free, but I don't dare
> talk about it so you'll have to check for yourself," in many online
> education projects "open" means "nonfree for sure".
> Even if the problem with CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-BY-NC is fixed, they still
> won't be the right way to release educational works meant for doing
> practical jobs. The users of these works, teachers and students, must have
> control over the works, and that requires making them free. I urge Creative
> Commons to state that works meant for practical jobs, including educational
> resources and reference works as well as software, should be released under
> free/libre licenses only.
> *Educators, and all those who wish to contribute to on-line educational
> works: please do not to let your work be made non-free. Offer your
> assistance and text to educational works that carry free/libre licenses,
> preferably copyleft licenses so that all versions of the work must respect
> teachers' and students' freedom. Then invite educational activities to use
> and redistribute these works on that freedom-respecting basis, if they
> will. Together we can make education a domain of freedom.*
> --
> Everton Zanella Alvarenga (also Tom)
> Open Knowledge Foundation Brasil

Everton Zanella Alvarenga (also Tom)
Open Knowledge Foundation Brasil
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