Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ignore copyright and blissfully create OER

One of the themes coming from SXSW was comments that 4chan founder Christopher "moot" Poole made in how Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) doesn't get it. And how anonymity isn't cowardice but allows a greater freedom to create. I agree.
"totally wrong on anonymity being total cowardice. Anonymity is authenticity. It allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, raw way. The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself.” - Poole
I believe this also applies to the creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). I Increasingly believe that people are not contributing to OER projects in any significant way due to having to assign copyright to the works they create or not being encouraged to contribute anonymously. Other than Wikiversity, as far as I know, there are no OER efforts where people can contribute in any depth with complete anonymity. I believe having to login to a system to create OER and having to assign a copyright is hindering the success of OER and its widespread adoption. Here is why I believe this;
  1. In the OER context, copyright is there to protect the institution. fair-use and fair-dealings allows anyone to use copyrighted materials for research and  private study. And the interpretation of these should be liberal and ask whether the dealing with the content was genuinely fair. Any materials you create are yours regardless if you assign a copyright (unless you gave this away via professional or contract obligations). And due to fair use / fair dealings anyone can use the materials you have created. Given you are creating and learning within an OER context openly sharing is a part of the journey. So why be burdened with having to decide upon, think about the issues around assigning a copyright to your work? Just create, participate, use, reuse, and enjoy your learning! Leave the copyright issues to the institutions, not the learners.
  2. I also believe having to assign a copyright (creative commons, gpl or other) can be a barrier to contribution. Its intimidating for the newbie. I know I've been considering the issue for a number of years and I have switched between CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC-BY-NC-SA, copyright rejection and a complete abstinence. And I distinctly remember wading into the copyright arena with hesitation, at first brush it can be pretty heady stuff. And if a graduate level technology person hesitates (me) what do other adult learners think when confronted with the copyright issue. If one of the main ideas behind OER is to encourage contribution why put a barrier in the way. Just encourage people to create, use and re-use and don't think about copyright; for what they are doing falls under fair-use / fair-dealings.
  3. Anonymity would allow you to create OER with reckless abandon (in an unvarnished, raw way), without fear of some kind of academic scrutiny. If the OER is referenced, used, and reused that proves its worth, regardless of who created it. In the end it is about your own personal learning, if what you have created has a value to others that is a bonus, but not the purpose. And I will hedge that the deeper the personal learning in creating the resource, the more valuable the resource is to others.
Why is the OER movement so adamant upon the learner / creator having to create public profiles and assign some form of copyright? When the reciprocal of no license and anonymity could increase contribution. And could even leave the community of OER creators, users and re-users to identify the quality OER through their referencing, using and reusing.