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

Emanuil Tolev emanuil at cottagelabs.com
Tue Nov 27 13:21:13 UTC 2012

That's an interesting stance coming from rms, seems like a considerate view

I'm glad he didn't simply draw the GPL-style line in the sand (make
everything viral to build a community). But then again, the GPL's about
proprietary vs. open, not commercial vs. open, and even though there is
often a relationship between commercial and proprietary, they are
definitely not the same and he's one of the people who best understand that.


On 27 November 2012 12:35, Everton Zanella Alvarenga <
everton.alvarenga at okfn.org> wrote:

> Hi all.
> I've sent Stallman text to this Open Educational Resources mailing list,
> runned today by Athabasca University, but previously by UNESCO
> https://deimos.cs.athabascau.ca/mailman/listinfo/oer-community
> 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 <
> https://deimos.cs.athabascau.ca/mailman/private/oer-community/2012-November/000469.html>
> (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.
> Tom
> 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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