Saturday, February 15, 2014

Something old, something new, something borrowed ...

20-October-2009 - Something old, somethi by I Am Rob, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by I Am Rob on Flickr

This post is another assignment on the course Open Content Licensing for Educators that I'm doing just now. The old custom of what a bride should have on her when getting married, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," is rather applicable here as I try to include examples of various license forms in one article to meet the requirements of this week's course assignment. Here's the task:

Prepare a blog post of approximately 700 - 900 words in two parts:
  • Write about a topical concept or interesting idea of your choice (400 - 500 words). You don't need to restrict the topic to education, it could be a hobby or personal interest. This component of the blog must include:
  • Text you can legally copy and modify about 300 words.
  • Sources from a minimum of three different Creative Commons license types or open usage declarations (this is intended to explore your knowledge and the challenges associated with license compatibility when choosing the license for redistribution).
  • Over and above the Creative Commons sourced material, this section of the post must also include an extract of all rights reserved content legitimately used under the exception provisions of your national copyright act.
  • You must include at least one image in your post which can count as one of the required license types for this post.
  • Based on your preferred license preference and the legal requirements of the materials you have copied for reuse and adaptation in your blog, you must apply a Creative Commons license for your derivative work which meets the legal requirements for remix compatibility.
  • Your blog post must include proper attributions for the materials you have reused.
    (Text CC BY Some rights reserved on WikiEducator)
Admittedly this is a rather contrived post as I try and tick the boxes indicated above but it's still a challenging exercise and I have a few questions that I would like to get some feedback on from the course facilitators and other participants. When I started this blog I put a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial, share alike license on it meaning that you are free to copy, reuse and remix the material under the conditions that you do not use it commercially and must share whatever you create under the same license as this. However, over the years I have used a lot of CC photos to illustrate my posts and they have the full range of CC license forms. To avoid conflicts I wrote a restriction on my BY-NC-SA license that it only applies to my texts and that photos may have other licenses (now and again I include a copyright photo that I have asked permission to use). Is this acceptable or do I have to severely restrict the types of CC photos I can include so as not to conflict with the blog's overall license? As I understand it my overall license BY-NC-SA means that I cannot include any CC material that has the condition no derivatives since that conflicts with the blog's overall license. Material that has BY-SA is also not possible since I cannot then share alike if I add the non-commercial condition.
Public Domain CC0

The idea of aggregation where new content is created by mixing other openly licensed content and then gathering the final content package under a license that does not conflict with the licenses of the content used, is not the simplest concept for the busy teacher to grasp and practice. Some colleagues solve the whole problem by simply not including anything they haven't produced themselves and only linking to other sources. This is certainly the safest course if you find the world of copyright simply too complex to spend time on. many years ago when we all discovered PowerPoint our presentations were suddenly full of wonderful photos, diagrams and video clips not to mention those extremely irritating animations and sound effects.

If I was writing this blog as part of my university work and using a blog platform owned by the university I would have more scope for including copyright material in the post, as required in the assignment above. On a university platform I would be able to use copyrighted material under a general agreement in Sweden allowing university staff to use copyright educational material for educational purposes. This is administered by a national organisation called Bonus Copyright Access:

Bonus Copyright Access is a Reproduction Rights Organisation (RRO) that licences reproduction rights to schools, enterprises, public authorities and other organisations. Bonus Copyright Access is a collective rights management organisation which acts as intermediary/facilitator between rightholders and users in the fields of reprographic reproduction and certain digital uses.
However since this blog is private I do not have such rights and unless I get specific permission I can only link to copyrighted resources of quote short text extracts (as I have just done with the quote above!).

To close with here's a wonderful photo that contains several layers of copyright issues all rolled into one image. The actual photo is on Flickr under a BY-NC license (fitting nicely under my blog's aggregated license) but since it's a photo of a company's trademark it could be a case of copyright infringement. However the company here is obviously breaching the copyright of the official copyright logo and the question arises over whether the photographer is wrong to photograph a breach of copyright?

Copyright? by Stephen Downes, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License by Stephen Downes on Flickr

Confused? You will be ...
I cannot claim that I am any less confused about digital rights after this course than I was before but I am aware of the complexities in a more structured way. Copyright in a digital environment is today so complex and full of anomalies that no teacher or student can be expected to understand it. They either choose to ignore the problem and go on copying whatever they like in blissful ignorance or do everything themselves. A middle way is essential and Creative Commons would seem to be at least part of the answer. The key is to get CC adopted as mainstream practice.

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