Paul Stacey

Open Business Models – Call For Participation

In our capitalistic world competition for limited resources and profits are the driving forces of business. Social value, environmental value, and other non-monetary forms of ROI are rarely factored in to the bottom line.

But some businesses are incorporating social goals into their operations and adopting triple bottom line frameworks. Some are becoming B Corporations. TedX talks like this one from Jay Coen Gilbert are influencing the thinking of entrepreneurs. And still others businesses are eager to create a business that is not only socially responsible but also modern in its use of digital, and open licensing strategies where the aim is to maximize access, use, and distribution. For many entrepreneurs use of Creative Commons is a key enabler of both social goals and financial success. Startups and existing businesses are exploring new alternative business models using Creative Commons licenses as either an enabler or core component of their business – see the many examples at TeamOpen.

Screen shot of TeamOpen web site.

For every one of those examples there are many others who want to move in that direction but don’t know how. It’s not easy to figure out how to run a business that is both financially sound and socially responsible. It’s not easy to transition business models from strategies that are focused on locking customers in and producing products and services that are not easily copied, to one where you give customers choice and encourage them to copy, modify, and freely distribute your products and services. It’s a big change.

One of the most frequent questions I get in my Creative Commons work is “How do I earn a living, pay the bills, and keep the lights on if I openly license my work and give it away for free?” Underlying this question are deep seated needs to a) be financially compensated for the work we do, b) manage costs and revenue responsibly, and c) not have others unfairly earn income off your work. These needs are matters of survival and social norms we operate under in a society based on capitalism.

This question and others like it come not just from people in the private sector but the public sector too. Here are a few variants of the question.

One public sector variant pertains to sustaining open initiatives that receive special grants or startup funding. When the one-time special funding runs out how does the open initiative sustain itself? What are the models for sustainability?

In the private sector, startups are designing businesses around openly sharing as much of their product and service as possible for free, while at the same time generating enough revenue to operate a business. What are the business models for that?

This is something that really interests me and I’ve written about the economics of open and open business models before – see here and here.

This year, through gracious funding from the Hewlett Foundation, my Creative Commons colleague Sarah Pearson and I, are leading an open business models initiative that aims itself squarely at answering questions like these. We aim to make visible how open business models work and provide tools and strategies for designing and developing your own.

Open for business sign
Building an open source business by Libby Levi licensed CC BY-SA

We want to do this work in a community-based way with all of you. We published a Creative Commons Open Business Models Call For Participation blog post today.

We’re inviting participation in these open business model activities:

  1. Join us in designing, developing, and iterating a set of interactive Creative Commons open business model tools that anyone can use to design an open business model.
  2. Use these open business model tools yourself to generate your own open business model(s).
  3. Share the results of your participation including the open business models you generate.
  4. Provide feedback and recommendations for improving the Creative Commons open business model tools and process.
  5. Partner directly with Creative Commons on developing an open business model for your specific initiative.
  6. Participate in a Creative Commons workshop on generating open business models.
  7. Contribute to a Creative Commons open business models report.

See our Creative Commons Open Business Models Participation Activities document for further details on each of these activities, including specifics for participation, and links to the tools.

As you’ll see in the Open Business Models Participation Activities document we’ve also created a Creative Commons Open Business Models Google+ community as a forum for sharing, participation, and interaction.

We’re just getting started but I’m totally excited about doing this work.
I think its potentially a really big thing and hope you’ll all consider participating in this work to grow the commons through open business models.

The Commons

After years of working with, and for, Creative Commons this spring I had an epiphany. Creative Commons is not just about making things “open” its about building a “commons”.

What, you say? Thats so obvious. I mean really, commons is part of the name.

Maybe so, but my experience is that everyone focuses on how Creative Commons makes things open.  We all talk about Open Educational Resources, Open Access, and Open Data. No one talks about the commons. The very idea that there is a commons has, for the most part, been lost.

All that changed for me this spring. The commons now looms large in my thinking.

So just what is a commons?

One type of commons I’ve been exploring and reading about is the natural resource based commons. The air and water are good examples accessible and shared by all. Other examples of natural resource based commons are Swiss alpine pastures, huerta gardens in Spain and Portugal, and salmon fishing in British Columbia, Canada where I live.

Heather Menzies book, Reclaiming the Commons For The Common Good explores how “commoning”, cultivating community and livelihood together on the common land of the earth, was a way of life for centuries. In her words:

“It was a way of understanding and pursuing economics as embedded in life and the labor, human and non-human, that is necessary to sustain it. It was a way of ordering this life through local self-governance and direct, participatory democracy. And it was a way of knowing, through doing and the sharing of experience through common knowledge and common sense.”

Reclaiming the Commons Book Cover

Reclaiming the Commons is both a memoir and a manifesto recounting Menzies’ exploration of how her ancestors in the Highlands of Scotland managed their commons, the real tragedy of the loss of the commons, and the reemergence of the commons as a vital means of re-enfranchising people as responsible participants in common good governance locally and globally.

Natural resource based commons are not limitless. They are rivalrous and depleteable. The physical form of natural resources mean that if I have a fish and give it to you I no longer have the fish. Natural resources exist in limited supply with removal and use depleting that supply. The physical form and depletability result in competing rivalrous use interests. Natural resource commons require community management to ensure sustainability and equity of use. Water may be a natural resource based commons but many regions live in drought conditions making water for things like irrigation a commons based resource that requires community management.

So just what is a commons?

A commons is a pool of resources, a community that manages them, and the set of rules or agreements by which they are managed.

I used to think of community management of natural resource based commons as being implemented by either 1. government which takes on management of commons on behalf of it’s people, or 2. market based systems where natural resource commons are managed based on supply and demand economics.

But, I’ve been reading the work of Elinor Ostrom who won the 2009 Nobel prize in Economics for her work studying different commons all around the world. Ostrom’s work shows that natural resource commons can be successfully managed by local communities without any regulation by central authorities or privatization. Government and privatization are not the only two choices. There is a third way – management of the commons by the people directly involved and impacted. The physicality of natural resource commons give them a regional locality. The community in that region has the most familiarity, history, and direct relationship with that natural resource commons and is best situated to manage it.

As the book Governing Knowledge Commons points out, “Ostrom’s approach to governance of natural resources broke with convention by recognizing the importance of institutions intermediate between private property and the state in solving problems of collective action. These intermediate institutions, are collective, locally organized, means for governing and making productive and sustainable use of shareable, but depletable resources such as fish, water, and trees.”

Governing Knowledge Commons Book Cover

Ostrom’s work on the commmons is substantial and required reading for anyone trying to understand the commons and how it works. She constructed empirically informed frameworks, theories, and models based on study of real world commons. Here are a few samples of her work that I find useful when thinking about the commons.

Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework reveals the design principles of a commons and provides a structure for analysing the social and ecological interactions of a commons. This framework can be used to model an existing commons and to diagnose problems or explore alternatives.

Institutional Analysis and Development Framework

Ostrom primarily studied natural resource commons. The resources in these commons have specific biophysical characteristics that affect their use. In each case there is a community of users who have an interest in or are impacted by the use of commons resources. Inevitably a set of rules evolve that regulate use within the community usually blending together formal legal rules with social norms. Rules define who is eligible to take a position regarding use of the commons, what they must or must not do in their position, whether a decision is made by a single actor or multiple actors, channels of communication among actors as well as the kinds of information that can be transmitted, and rewards or sanctions for particular actions or outcomes.

Positional rules, determining who is eligible to take a position regarding use of the commons, include:

  • Access: Right to enter defined area and enjoy its benefits without removing any resources.
  • Withdrawal: Right to obtain specified products from a resource system and remove that product from the area for prescribed uses
  • Management: Right to participate in decisions regulating resources or making improvements to infrastructure.
  • Exclusion: Right to participate in the determination of who has, and who does not have, access to and use of resources.
  • Alienation: Right to sell, lease, bequeath, or otherwise transfer any or all of the preceding component rights.

The Action Arena is where the social interactions and decisions about the commons occur. It’s where exchanges take place, rules are made, entitlements are allocated, and disputes resolved. Actors choose from among the available action alternatives based on their own interests and desired outcomes. Individual costs and benefits are weighed against the social costs and benefits of the whole community. In many cases regularized patterns of interaction emerge creating social norms of behaviour and establishing a kind of balance or equilibrium. In a natural resource based commons these social interactions result in outcomes that frequently affect not just the actors and community but the resource system and resource units themselves. Evaluative criteria can be such things as economic efficiency, distributional equity, and sustainability.

The key take-away for me from all this is the principle that the commons can be self governed. The typical binary options of government regulation or market economics are not the only options. If sustainability is the goal then community-based self-governance using common-property regimes might yield better results.

Part of my epiphany this year has been seeing the commons in this new light. Talk of the commons and public good has largely been subjugated by dominant discourse around politics and the economy. But I increasingly see that the commons offers us an alternative way forward, a kind of middle ground balancing the role of government and markets. With the world increasingly divided into haves and have nots, rich and poor, a commons approach that addresses the needs and interests of the public seems like a long overdue and necessary antidote.

Around the world governments are increasingly converting natural resource based commons, historically managed on behalf of the public by the government, into property which is leased or sold to businesses who manage the resources. These governments believe that markets are a better way of managing commons than government regulation.

There is a long ongoing history of taking public commons, separating it off, enclosing it, and privatizing it. This process is called enclosure of the commons. David Bollier’s book Think Like a Commoner talks about enclosure of the commons this way. Enclosure is:

“dispossession of commoners as market forces seize control of common resources, often with the active collusion of government. The familiar debate of “privatization versus government ownership” does not really do justice to this process because government ownership, the supposed antidote to privatization, is not really a solution. In many instances, the state is only too eager to conspire with industries to seize control of common resources for “private” (i.e., corporate) exploitation. Regulation is too often a charade that does more to legalize than eradicate market abuses.”

Think Like A Commoner Book Cover

I’d never really thought about it before but Robin Hood, the popular children’s story, is really a story about the commons. Essentially the king takes pastures, forests, wild game, and water used by commoners and declares them his own private property. Commoners are evicted from the land, fences and hedges erected and the sheriff and his men given authority to ensure no commoner poaches game from the kings land.

Contemporary examples of commons enclosure are numerous. Government agreements allow mining companies to extract minerals from public lands, timber companies to clear cut public forests, oil companies to drill in pristine wilderness areas, and commercial trawlers to decimate coastal fisheries. Management of commons based on market systems tends to result in over exploitation as pursuit of profits and power override public interests.

Natural resource based commons have no human producer. Humans are users only. But there are lots of other forms of commons that humans produce. Highways, roads, sidewalks, and public squares for example. Jonathan Rowe’s book Our Common Wealth – The Hidden Economy That Makes Everything Else Work does a good job of exploring how such public spaces are a form of commons that we share. Rowe expands the commons to include languages, cultures, and technologies. The Internet is a kind of commons. He shows how there is a symbiotic relationship between the commons, the economy, and even our personal and planetary well-being.

Our Common Wealth Book Cover

And then there is the knowledge and culture commons, the creative commons in which I work. There are several aspects of the knowledge and culture commons that make it different from natural resource based commons. One difference is the inherent nature of knowledge and culture. Knowledge and culture are non-rivalrous and non-depletable. If I share an idea or some knowledge with you we both end up with the idea and knowledge. If I sing a song you too can sing it with me. Giving it to you does not mean I no longer have it.

The non-rivalrous and non-depleteable nature of the knowledge and culture commons mean that the rules and norms for community management of knowledge and culture commons can, and ought to, be different from how natural resource based commons are managed. However interestingly the global default is to apply property law and copyright to knowledge and culture commons resources creating an artificial scarcity that makes them more like natural resource based commons. This artificial scarcity is time-limited though as all knowledge and culture resources eventually pass into the public domain the name we’ve given to the knowledge and culture commons.

It’s intriguing to revisit Elinor Ostrom’s models and frameworks and explore how they might be modified to fit with this alternative form of commons. Its a challenge to transition from a model based on scarcity to a model based on abundance. The biophysical form of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital. Digital based resources can be copied, shared, distributed and used at costs which approach zero dollars and at a scale that makes them increasingly accessible to the entire world. The knowledge and culture commons is as much a global commons as a local one.

I’m increasingly seeing the knowledge and culture commons as having two forms; 1. a large global commons comprised of all open and shared creative works, and 2. a local commons made up of curated collection of resources drawn from the global commons that have local relevance and have been customized to fit local needs.

I was delighted to have my early exploration of the commons in 2014, bolstered by the arrival of Ryan Merkley as Creative Commons new CEO. Ryan places a strong emphasis on the importance of building the commons movement and establishing a vast pool of free and open content online: data, academic research, educational curriculum, videos, music, pictures, and more. Under Ryan’s leadership Creative Commons published The State of The Commons. This report succinctly documents the growth of the commons.

Growth of Creative Commons licensed works

It also shows what parts of the world are contributing to the commons.

Global Creative Commons contributions

Ryan also encouraged us to re-examine the goals and work Creative Commons is engaged in and encouraged a re-imagining. The resulting sharing of ideas among my peers was inspiring.

Here are some of the ideas I put forward that reflect my thinking about the Commons.

Creative Commons is currently doing a great job at enabling sharing of creative works.
But we don’t know why people are sharing.
We don’t know what their intent is.

In the context of Elinor Ostrom’s framework Creative Commons has established some great rules-in-use, but we have not put in place a complementary technical component to support the community based social interactions involved in producing and managing the commons.

I imagine a technical component, added to the Creative Commons license, that allows creators to express intent and solicit the support of the open community in achieving it.

Once the why of sharing is known so much more can happen. Each expression of intent is a Creative Commons value proposition statement.

In addition to stating why they are sharing I think it is equally important for Creative Commons to enable the sharer to have a means for saying how others can help them achieve their aim.

Adding technical functionality that allows sharers to seek the help of others in achieving the aim associated with sharing adds a social component to Creative Commons license. We connect creators to each other – for all kinds of reasons.

I imagine it enabling creators to form communities of common interest around openly licensed content collections – for curation, remix, enhancement, additional development, …

I imagine it as enabling the development of creative works that require multiple talents – someone for the video, another person for the audio, musicians, writers, .. Collective content creation through collaboration.

And many other use cases.

I see this as having the potential to migrate Creative Commons from simply being a license that is put on content to an enabler of connections between people. Creative Commons will have not just a content value proposition but a social one.

Given this focus I suggested the following as a area of focus for maximizing impact.

Creative Commons can have the most impact by focusing in on purposeful sharing. A great deal of Creative Commons use is secondary – sharing as an add-on to some other primary function or purpose, sharing as an act of generosity, sharing as an expression of values based on moral principles, sharing in response to mandate.

Much of this sharing lacks an expressed explicit goal, intent, or purpose – sharing with unexpressed, but hoped for consequences. Creative Commons can amplify impact by enabling expression of purposeful sharing and rallying the help of others in achieving sharing goals.

A great deal of sharing and CC use is by autonomous individual users or organizations acting on their own. CC can generate greater impact by creating a mechanism for the formation of social networks and collaborations around CC licensed works. The opportunities Creative Commons is missing are not some sector we’ve ignored but the social dimension of sharing. The formation of social networks of Creative Commons users collectively working together on achieving some shared goal is a missing piece Creative Commons is positioned to enable. Moving Creative Commons use from a form of individual expression of rules and permissions to Creative Commons use as a form of collective action will magnify impact.

Ryan asked us to identify the metric we would track and I said:

My one metric is – User expressed value (or user expressed ROI).
Ask users how their use of CC generates value.

This can be achieved by adding to CC tools a mechanism for expression of purpose, a means of inviting others to join in achieving that purpose, and a method for showing progress and outcome.

CC use generates diverse forms of value.
It can be financial – money saved or revenue earned.
It can reputational.
It can be a gift or altruistic.
It can generate personal value, or generate value for others, or both.
CC value takes a myriad of forms.

CC value is generated through personal and group action.
An individual, a corporation, a government can all generate value through CC use.

The people, stories, and values associated with CC use are inspirational.
User expression of CC value is a mini-human interest story revealing new ways of doing things, new outcomes.

Users know why they use CC and the value it generates.
We should invite them to express the value they are generating.

My one metric is – user expressed value.
From this one metric a diverse range of value will emerge for which additional metrics can be defined.

And finally Ryan asked us, What does winning look like?
Here is how I see it:

I see winning as looking like:

A move away from GDP as a measure of health of a country to “”quality of life”” indicators that evaluate the well-being of a society based more on environmental stewardship, democratic participation in society, equitable distribution of wealth, good health, and contributions to and use of the commons. Winning means Creative Commons and metrics associated with Creative Commons are used as one of the quality of life indicators measuring the economic and social well-being of a nation and the world. Winning means quality of life measures and global well-being inform and affect the decisions and actions of individuals, communities, organizations, businesses, and government. Winning means CC use is a key means of enabling quality of life.

Winning means a change of state from accumulation of personal wealth, personal property, independence and autonomy to shared wealth, shared property, and creative collaboration with others. Intermediate mile posts include a recognition that profit-making pursuits have limited scale and sustainability. Mile posts include replacing or supplementing the use of profit-making practices with commons-making practices for innovation, scale, and sustainability. Winning is not necessarily completely replacing profit-making with common-making but rather a balancing of the two and a symbiotic relationship.

Winning is based on abundance not scarcity. Winning is a move away form the market consumerism economy based on scarcity to a sharing economy based on abundance with Creative Commons being a key enabler. Accompanying this is a surge of participation, creativity and innovation. Individual acts of sharing are as important as government and market forces.

Winning means Creative Commons use solves big global social and economic problems and in doing so leads to growing understanding of the importance of balancing private sector pursuit of profit with the common pursuits building common wealth. Winning means distributed, networked collaborative production builds out common wealth and at the same time reduces the reliance on personal ownership replacing it with shared access and permission to use (within limits). Winning is a form of global activism that benefits all humanity without regard to national boundaries.

There are a lot of ways this can be quantified. Currently sharing is “”off the books”” and not tracked as a means of social or economic well-being. Current societal measures focus on growth as measured by production and consumption. However, the emergence of a “”sharing economy”” brings with it the opportunity to measure sharing in economic and social terms. People are deriving income and other non-monetary rewards from sharing. This manifests itself as a diversification and expansion of suppliers, better usage of existing resources, and a desire to make the world a better place.

Metrics associated with sharing recognize the shortcomings of unlimited growth in an increasingly resource limited world, and the growing inequitable distribution of wealth. Sharing saves money, amplifies participation, creates easy access to goods and services, and leads to more abundance.

Metrics should measure not just the number of resources being produced but the number of people producing those resources and the benefits to both the creator, downstream users, and society as a whole.

I share these ideas not to suggest that Creative Commons will implement them but as a way of showing how a shift of emphasis from “open” to “commons” generates different concepts and strategies.

Focusing on the Commons has led me to see the work we are all engaged in differently. It has been exciting to discover a commons-based alternative to government and market based forces. Going in to 2015 I look forward to balancing talk of the global economy with talk of a global commons. One where everyday citizens can participate independent of government and market pooling their knowledge and creativity as an expression of kindred spirit and for the common good of all.

Joy to the Commons and a Happy New Year all.

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A Systems Approach to Open

In the 1990’s I worked for Hughes Aircraft of Canada developing large scale air traffic control systems for international customers around the world. Air traffic control systems are large, complex, mission critical systems. After extensive requirements gathering and analysis an overall architecture for the air traffic control system was defined including complete hardware and software requirements. Development of something so large required the overall architecture to be broken down into subsystem components which were then distributed to different teams for development. The lead systems engineering team had the responsibility of integrating developed subsystems into the final air traffic control system and ensuring that the overall architecture design and requirements were met.

This kind of approach is called systems engineering. The key characteristics of systems engineering are that it:

  • gathers, analyses and shapes customer requirements into an overall system
  • takes a holistic view that breaks the overall system down into components and integrates developed components together into a whole
  • uses and coordinates an interdisciplinary set of expertise and teams
  • focuses on not just the initial development of the system but its life cycle and iterative improvement over time
  • combines technical and human-centred practices and work processes

The early days of open licensing and open resources were primarily shaped by innovators and early adopters using Creative Commons licenses and creating open resources as independent individuals. What I see now is open moving from an individual activity to a large scale system wide activity similar to systems engineering. As open matures a more holistic approach is being adopted involving many people working together.

Increasingly I see a systems approach to open as being the most strategic and impactful. A systems approach takes a multi-stakeholder perspective, strategically considering all the stakeholders in a value chain and how they can work together to achieve a common goal. This shifts the focus from individual adoption of open practices to system-wide adoption. A system working together can achieve greater impact than an individual.

Let me give a couple of examples.

The BCcampus Open Textbook Summit held in Vancouver 16-17-Apr-2014 brought together a wide range of organizations and people who are all collectively working on adopting, adapting, and authoring open textbooks for students. An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license (such as Creative Commons), and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers, and members of the public. While online versions of open textbooks are available for free if students want hard copy they can print out their own or order a low-cost print version.

Open Textbook Summit logo

The open licensing of a textbook makes it possible for others to add to, adapt, translate, localize, and otherwise improve it. Everyone has 5R rights to:

Retain: Make, own, and control their own copy of the textbook
Reuse: Use the open textbook in its unaltered form
Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the book
Remix: Combine the book with other openly licensed content to create something new
Redistribute: Share copies of the original textbook, revisions, or remixes with others

The BCcampus Open Textbook Summit featured speakers representing a wide interdisciplinary group of expertise including government & institution senior administrators, faculty, students (and here), librarians, authors, publishers, and technologists. This wide representation of multiple stakeholders who all play a role in creating open textbooks is a great example of a systemic approach. Each stakeholder’s involvement in creating and using open textbooks is important but it is the cumulative effect of multiple stakeholders working together that creates the greatest impact.

More about the BCcampus Open Textbook initiative can be found here.
If you want to see examples of open textbooks start here.

One of the great things about the BCcampus Open Textbook Summit was that it brought together not only multiple stakeholders but multiple regional open textbook initiatives. Representatives of open textbook initiatives in California, Oregon, Washington and beyond were all in attendance. This enables sharing and comparing of approaches and lessons learned not just from different stakeholders but from different regional system wide initiatives. Its fascinating, and informative, to hear about the BC open textbook initiative and compare it to the one in California, or Washington, or Oregon.

Inevitably the adoption of open practices requires stakeholders to change current modes of operation, sometimes dramatically so. Change of this magnitude can be disruptive and may threaten traditional roles and responsibilities, business models, and financial structures. A natural reaction to such change is fear, risk aversion, and preference for the status quo.

To generate movement and acceptance I’ve found it important to keep the focus on the shared goal, cause, or issue that open solves. In the case of open textbooks the shared goal is making education more accessible and affordable for students. Having a shared goal as the primary focus make business models, roles, modes of operation and the like secondary to the main goal. When the impetus and value associated with achieving the main goal are big enough, change happens, the system and stakeholders adapt, new models and modes of operation emerge. Adoption of open practices is best enabled when the value proposition of doing so is high.

Open textbooks are one great example of a systems approach to open.

Another example emerged for me in the context of leading an open models working group for the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). Our task was to generate a range of open models that enhance the scalability and sustainability of food safety. Our primary goal was to show how open practices can support GFSP’s efforts to help ensure safe food, increase food supply chain value, accelerate economic growth, alleviate rural poverty, and improve public health outcomes. This is the big picture goal the GFSP seeks to attain.

Can adoption of open practices help the GFSP achieve this goal? If so, how?

The Global Food Safety Partnership is a public/private partnership representing many different stakeholders including:

  • governments
  • funders
  • regulatory agencies – public regulators, inspectors and managers
  • private sector agri-food processors and manufacturers
  • farmers and producers
  • universities, service providers, trainers and certification bodies
  • international organizations
  • non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

This suggests that a systems approach to open is required. It won’t be enough for one stakeholder to adopt open practices. The goals of GFSP are too large for that to be impactful. Achieving the big goals of GFSP requires multi-stakeholder coordinated participation.

One of the significant benefits of open practices is that they open up the opportunity for new stakeholders to get involved and participate. Food storage and cooking at home, the poor, the farmer, the food market seller, the street vendor, these uses and stakeholders are not well represented at the GFSP table. Adoption of open practices opens up the opportunity for them to be involved. If GFSP has a goal of alleviating rural poverty it is essential that they be engaged as active participants.

A systems approach to open offers opportunities for information sharing, public participation, and collaboration. Multi-stakeholder adoption of open practices generates cumulative benefits for all stakeholders. In a systems approach to open the more stakeholders participating the greater the impact.

Applying a systems approach to open for GFSP considers the role of each stakeholder and what open practices they could adopt that would contribute to the big picture goal GFSP is seeking to realize. Its not a one size fits all approach. Different stakeholders adopt different open practices. Government and funders might adopt open policy that require deliverables produced through the funds they provide to be openly licensed. Providers involved in generating food safety training and learning resources can publish their content as Open Educational Resources. There are many forms of open and a myriad of open practices can be brought to bear on a shared goal.

For the GFSP we defined nine different open practices stakeholders could adopt:

  1. open content (including Open Educational Resources and Open Courseware)
  2. open data
  3. open access (research)
  4. open government
  5. open source software
  6. open standards
  7. open policy
  8. open licensing
  9. open hardware

GFSP Open Model Big Picture

For each type of open practice we provided GFSP relevant examples. Here’s a sampling:

  1. open content – see Digital Green and Food Safety Knowledge Network
  2. open data – the US web site releases government open data.In 2012, a national annual competition was created as part of the Health Data Initiative to stimulate the innovative use of health data in apps and products. The “Health DataPalooza” is now a sold out event attended by over 2,000 health providers, technology developers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and community advocates and has resulted in the launch of new products and companies. OpenFDA, providing easy access to public data of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and highlighting projects using these data, will be implemented in September of 2014.
  3. open access (research) – There are a number of open access journals and online publications that provide free and open access to scholarly articles specific to food safety, foodborne illness, manufacturing and processing practices, etc. In 2007 the US National Institutes of Health enacted an open access policy requiring the researchers they fund to make their final, peer‐reviewed manuscripts publicly available no later than 12 months after official date of publication. The number of open access journals is rapidly increasing – the Directory of Open Access Journals lists over 9,000. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) and BioMed Central are two popular examples relevant to food safety.
  4. open hardware – See Open Source Ecology and Farm Hack for examples relevant to food production and food safety. Photosynq is an open research project whose goal is to create a low cost, hand-held measurement device which researchers, educators and citizen scientists can use to build a global database of plant health. A low cost mobile prototype has been developed to replace the large, expensive and stationary equipment that was previously required to measure photosynthesis.

One of the challenges in open work is helping people understand the myriad forms of open and how they work. Defining open practices, along with associated value propositions and examples goes a long way to establishing a common lexicon and a tool box of methods that can be strategically deployed.

All that and more is captured in the GFSP Open Models Concept paper. Feel free to read the whole thing if this interests you. I also want to express deep appreciation and thanks to Theresa Bernardo and Garin Fons who co-wrote this paper with me and to Chris Geith and the World Bank for the opportunity.

Writing the GFSP Open Models paper led me to have a heightened interest in the use of open practices for food related issues. My colleague Puneet Kishor at Creative Commons shared with me another great example – the Open Source Seed Initiative. Linux for Lettuce and The Carrot Hack provide thoughtful coverage of this important development.

Open Source Seed Initiative web site

I also recently finished reading Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Zero Marginal Cost Society (highly recommend) which contains a few other fascinating examples including Shared Earth connecting land owners with gardeners and farmers, and HerbShare which is fundraising to develop online, searchable community maps of fresh herbs available for sharing.

Open Source Seed Initiative web site

A systems approach to open combines a wide range of open practices across multiple stakeholders and applies them to a shared common goal. It’s exciting work that not only accomplishes short term goals but sets in place a process that can scale, iterate, and sustain over the long term.

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An Exploration of Open Licenses and Financial Remuneration

October was an action packed month with the Creative Commons Canada Salon, Open Education Conference, and BCcampus OER Forum.

Some personal highlights:

The BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation, and Technology open textbook announcement. This initiative will support creation of open textbooks for the 40 most popular first and second-year courses in the province’s public post-secondary system. The open textbooks will be openly licensed and made available for free online, or at a low cost for printed versions, to approximately 200,000 students. I’m especially pleased that BCcampus will lead the implementation of this initiative engaging B.C. faculty, institutions, and publishers through an open request for proposals. Tony Bates’ excellent blog provides additional insight and I personally am hopeful that some coordination can happen between BC and California where, in late September, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that provide for the creation of free, openly licensed digital textbooks for the 50 most popular lower-division college courses offered by California colleges.

Visual Notes of Honourable John Yap’s announcement at #opened12 (CC BY-NC-SA) by Giulia Forsythe

Giulia Forsythe’s graphic facilitation skills wonderfully captured the BCcampus OER Forum events too. See – BCcampus OER Forum Summary.

The Open Education Conference was fantastic this year. The jam-packed program had an amazing array of sessions organized around micro-themes including – world wide initiatives, business models, open textbooks, open assessment, alternate credentials, social media and OER, data and analysis, and open from a wide range of perspectives including legal, faculty, students and librarians. Open has clearly gone beyond content and is pervading the entire education sector. The conference web site program has presentation materials and audio streams from sessions. I encourage you to explore them and see for yourself how open education is evolving. A stand out highlight was the evening dinner boat cruise with an awesome OpenEd music jam featuring attendees plus Gardner Campbell and John Willinsky, two of the keynote presenters. A conference where the keynote speakers rock out – my kind of conference! Enjoy it yourself:

Special thanks to Novak Rogic for these awesome videos.

While there is a great deal to assimilate coming out of all these events, I find myself thinking about matters from the Creative Commons Canada Salon that took place in Vancouver 15-Oct-2012.

This event featured a panel of practicing artists sharing how and why they use Creative Commons licenses for their works. I found the remarks of documentary filmmaker Ian MacKenzie especially intriguing. Ian referenced the gift economy, alternative ideas on money and the public commons from the book Sacred Economics, and crowdfunding.

Here’s why this is occupying my thinking. There is a natural inclination to think that Creative Commons open licenses are in opposition to financial remuneration. The thinking goes like this: “If I license my creation in a way that gives others permission to freely access and use it I’m forgoing financial compensation associated with charging for access and use.”

As I consider this I am puzzled by what I see in education.

Lets say I’m an educator employed by a public educational institution. My salary is essentially paid for by public taxpayer dollars. Given the way the economy works – if you pay for a good you get that good, it’s natural to expect that works developed by the educator should be freely accessible for use by the public. Yet this is not the case. Course materials educators create during their publicly paid for employment are not freely available to the public that paid for them. Shouldn’t public funds result in a public good?

But, you might say, it takes money to make the course materials educators create available to the public. This is true, but digital changes the economics of doing so. With digital the cost of copying is close to $0. The cost of distributing digitally is close to $0 as was so eloquently laid out by David Wiley in his presentation at the BCcampus OER Forum. See David Wiley’s presentation in it’s entirety Why Open Education and OER, and their implications for higher education institutions.

Lets try a different example. Lets say I’m faculty engaged in research. I apply for research grants from the national government and use those grants to conduct my research. When I complete that research the results ought to be available to the public who paid for them. But, and this is what I find puzzling, public access to the results of research requires another payment of public money in the form of a journal subscription fee even when the journal is digital. Given that the peer-review process is also supported through public funds, the public ends up paying for something three times, as Dieter Stein outlined in his keynote “Open access: effects and consequences in the management of scientific discourse.” at the University of British Columbia’s Open Access Week. The public 1. pays the scientist, 2. pays to publish, and 3. pays to buy publication. Why does the public have to pay three times?

For more on this I highly encourage you to watch Open Access Explained? from PHD Comics.

See why I’m puzzled? The economics underlying public education are not in line with our expectations of how economies work and, even more puzzling, aren’t in the best interest of the public who is paying for it.

But let me come back to my earlier point. There is a natural inclination to think that Creative Commons open licenses are in opposition to financial remuneration. The thinking goes like this: “If I license my creation in a way that gives others permission to freely access and use it I’m forgoing financial compensation associated with charging for access and use.”

At least in the context of someone being paid by public funds an open license that gives others permission to freely access and use the work isn’t in opposition to financial remuneration. The financial remuneration took place. The Creative Commons license ensures the obligation to the public is fulfilled.

However, what if we look at this from the perspective of an artist, a writer, a musician, a filmmaker. I’d expect artists to be thinking, “I made this and if anyone is going to make money on it it’s going to be me.”

Is it possible to openly license your creative work and still make a living?

I keep coming back to this question as it seems fundamental and generalizable to everyone.
Special thanks to Martha Rans for ensuring it stays front and centre in my thinking.

And so with this question on my mind I paid special attention when Ian Mackenzie spoke at the Creative Commons Canada salon.

Ian Mackenzie speaking at the Creative Commons Canada salon.

My exploration of Ian’s remarks around the gift economy, alternative ideas on money, the public commons and crowd funding took me in interesting directions. Here’s a bit of what I found.

Sacred Economics is a radical rethink of societal values, the role of government, and the commodity we use as money. It envisions decentralized, self-organizing, emergent, peer-to-peer, ecologically integrated expressions of political will. Government becomes the trustee of the commons including “the surface of the earth, the minerals under the earth, the water on and under the ground, the richness of the soil, the electromagnetic spectrum, the planetary genome, the biota of local and global ecosystems, the atmosphere, the centuries-long accumulation of human knowledge and technology, and the artistic, musical, and literary treasures of our ancestors.”

Sacred Economics imagines an ecology of money with many complementary modes of circulation and exchange. In a sacred economy, money goes to those who “contribute to a more beautiful world – for community, for nature, and for the beautiful products of human culture.”

I’m not doing the Sacred Economics justice. There is much to admire and ponder in this work. For a more complete synopsis I encourage you to view Ian Mackenzies video on Sacred Economics.

I found the ideas on alternative forms of money intriguing and spent some time looking at Bit Coin see here and here.

I also ended up checking out a Policy Agenda for the Sharing Economy.

Ian has developed expertise with crowdfunding to the extent that he now offers consulting, strategy sessions and workshops on crowdfunding. His web site has a great list of crowdfunding resources and platforms. The crowdfunding platform listing is particularly interesting as it differentiates general crowdfunding platforms from specialized ones dealing with things like Business, Environmental, Scientific, Social Causes & Non-Profits and hey, even Education! Did you know that Scolaris crowdfunds personal scholarship fundraising?

How about Degreed? Degreed is crowdfunding to create the world’s first Digital Lifelong Diploma, which will ‘jailbreak’ the degree and enable learners to reflect everything they’ve learned, from any source, throughout their lives.

At Kickstarter there is a whole section devoted to artists who are seeking and getting remuneration for their Creative Commons licensed work. See

As I consider larger world events around financial markets, bailouts, and countries massively in debt or bankrupt it makes we wonder whether indeed our current economic model and it’s underlying financial system is serving us well. Clearly a sharing economy, alternative forms of money, and crowdfunding are changing social norms. Whole new conventions around getting paid, raising money, and making an investment are emerging.

Creative Commons licenses are situated within this changing landscape. As I explore the financial remuneration opportunities associated with use of Creative Commons licenses it’s important to point out that Creative Commons license options specifically offer creators choices around licensing their work in ways that provide others with permissions that specify commercial or non-commercial use. An artist who openly licenses their creative work with a Creative Commons license can do so in a way that specifies that users can copy, adapt, modify, publish, display, publicly perform and communicate the work but only for non-commercial purposes. This ensures any financial remuneration coming from the work goes to the creator. On the other hand it encumbers the work with restrictions that may prevent users from using the work in innovative and entrepreneurial ways which the creator could benefit from downstream.

There are a great many differing opinions out there around the suitability of different Creative Commons licenses for different use cases. In fact this is a hotly debated topic right now. See:

I especially appreciated David Wiley’s observations on these discussions in a 27-Nov-2012 Oer-community post where he commented:

“Just as there is not One True License, there is not One True Perspective on this debate. A few examples:

  • Some people look at OER issues from the perspective of the content, and some see them from the perspective of the people who use the content. Content-p drives people to favor SA licenses, to insure that derivatives of the content always remain free. People-p drives people to reject SA, so that derivers always remain free to license their derivatives as they choose. Which is the One True Perspective?
  • In this thread we have already seen people who view NC from the perspective of the licensor and others who see NC from the perspective of the licensee. Licensor-p sees NC as enabling and facilitating commercialization. Licensee-p sees NC as forbidding commercialization. Which is the One True Perspective?
  • As we’re also seeing on this thread, we can look at OER from the perspective of Access to content (without which permissions granted by licenses are meaningless) and from the perspective of the permissions granted by Licenses. I recently discussed these two perspectives in more detail on my blog ( Which of these perspectives is most important? Which is the One True Perspective?
  • As a final example, some people look at “open” from the perspective of a Bright Line test, while others take a more Accepting perspective. Bright Line-p enables people to make clear distinctions between what is and what is not open. Accepting-p enables people to recognize and value movements toward becoming more open, without passing judgments on people who “aren’t there yet.” Which of these is the One True Perspective?

…LICENSING ARGUMENTS ARE ARGUMENTS OF PERSPECTIVE. When we argue that one particular way of licensing is better than others, we’re really arguing that one perspective is better or truer than others. In other words, whenever we make an argument that says “everyone should use a [free | NC | etc.] license,” we are making a _religious_ argument – an argument which dictates the perspective by which we think everyone else should be judged.

When we move licensing outside the realm of religion, we can recognize the … importance of perspective. We can also realize that, depending on the peculiarities of a specific context and the personal or organizational perspectives of a specific licensor, different licenses will be optimal under different circumstances.

It would be great if the world were simple enough that One License to Rule Them All could exist, but it doesn’t. I wish to Heaven we would stop arguing about it, and just respect individuals and organizations to understand their own contexts, goals, and perspectives sufficiently well to pick the license that best meets their needs.”

There clearly are two sides to the open licensing equation. On one side is the creator or licensor of the work. On the other side is the user or licensee of the work. Openly licensing creative works entails considerations of both. Personally I prefer a range of licenses that provide creators choice in specifying open permissions and limitations. One assertion I’d make is that the more open the license the greater the market participation and the greater the innovation opportunity.

As you can tell I’m very interested in understanding the business models associated with open licensing. There is so much more to explore but let me close this post with a couple of additional examples of how Canadian artists are using Creative Commons licenses.

OK, lets take fellow Canadian Brad Sucks latest album “Out of It”.

Brad sells direct from his own website. You can buy the CD & all the MP3s or just the MP3s as a whole album or individually. Brad recommends a price for each but Brad offers flexible pricing – you can type in whatever price you’re willing to pay or download all the MP3s for free. Brad licenses the whole thing with a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) license and encourages you to copy and share with your friends.

In his blog about the album he says:

“The only reason I, a dude who made an album by himself in a country basement, has had any sort of success is because people took it upon themselves to share my music with their friends. They remixed it, they used it in their videos, they played it on their podcasts, they included it in software and games and it took on a life of its own.

To sabotage that would be a huge, retarded mistake. Instead I’ll be grateful if Out of It worms around the world in even close to the same freaky way I Don’t Know What I’m Doing did and continues to.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying I love you Internets. Thanks for all your support and I hope you like Out of It.”

Hmmm, interesting. One way artists are making this work is by going direct to fans via the web. The Internet and digital formats change the economics reducing the need for middle men publishers and distributors. Personally I’d prefer as much financial remuneration for artistic creative works as possible go directly to the artist so I’m thinking this is a positive direction overall. It’s also fascinating to see flexible pricing and encouragement of copying.

One final example. Celine Celines based in Montreal has started a new company of open fashion. Using open data and Creative Commons (CC-BY) licensed images from NASA Goddard Photo and Video’s Flickr photostream her first collection is a series of silk scarves. The Hubble images captured on silk are beautiful – see for yourself at her online boutique gallery. This is an interesting example of a user/licensee, Celine, making a creative work out of a creator/licensor NASA image in a way I expect NASA never imagined.

Large silk scarve (CC BY-NC) by Celine Celines

I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities.
The range of business models and opportunities is vast and varied.
Lots more to come in future blog posts.

Copyright and Personal Transformation

Packed up my office at BCcampus, took down the artwork, threw away the small amount of paper archives I had, loaded up the pickup truck, and closed the office door behind me. Thus ends almost 9 years at BCampus – the longest I’ve worked anywhere.

Judging by whats in the truck it’s amazing how small a footprint I’ve had. A rug, an odd ToDo chair that has been my place of work (instead of a desk), and a lamp that I like beside me – especially in the dark rainy days of winter.

On the other hand I’ve been sent e-mails by many people across BC’s post-secondary system expressing thanks and saying I’ve been an inspiration. Oh my, maybe that footprint is bigger than I think. To be honest I’ve been surprised by what many people have said in their e-mails to me. I had no idea they felt that way or thought those things – in some respects I wish I’d known!

BCcampus has been an amazing learning experience for me and I’m grateful to my senior management team colleagues, the entire BCcampus staff, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and the broader network of connections I’ve made across higher education. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to help create BCcampus and believe it has become a world class innovation that is both an inspiration and an accomplished provider.

My career has followed an adult learning and educational technology trajectory, for which there has been no career path. All of us in educational technology are inventing our own careers and so I’m particularly delighted with this most recent turn as my career path leads me to Creative Commons. I’m taking everything I’ve been doing at BCcampus and moving it up onto an international level where I hope to have more impact. I look forward to engaging with others who are adopting open willingly, strategically, and with some excitement.

I’ve written extensively in this blog about my own personal experiences with Open Educational Resources and with the open movement more broadly. I’ve come to see “open” as a fundamental change not only for education but for society and the world at large. I can imagine a world where the sharing efforts of all raise the bar on standards of living and create a new global economic future based not so much on growth but on better global use of collective works.

This blog has been quiet over the last few months as I’ve been dealing with the practicalities of wrapping up BCcampus work and making arrangements for my new role at Creative Commons*. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some off grid time at Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island where life was barefoot in nature, walking the beach, and riding boogie boards in the big surf. Time immersed in nature with no phone, no e-mail, no computer, no TV is wonderfully liberating and I came back rejuvenated and raring to go.

While I haven’t written much I have been following with great interest a number of significant developments including:

  • AUCC, ACCC, and Canadian university and college settlements with Access Copyright
  • Passing of new Canadian copyright legislation
  • Canadian supreme court ruling on copyright cases
  • UNESCO Paris OER Declaration
  • Adoption of MOOC’s by elite universities and for profits – edX, Coursera, Udacity, …
  • UK and European adoption of open access requirements for publicly funded research
  • developments around Creative Commons version 4 and release of new Creative Commons license generator

Thought I’d get back in to the swing of things by writing a short synopsis on some of these:

AUCC, ACCC, and Canadian University and College Settlements with Access Copyright

Most countries have copyright collectives – organizations which collect royalties or payments from licenses, performances, and even blank media, for the ostensible purpose of distributing it to copyright holders, creators, or engaging in activities which benefit copyright holders or creators. In Canada we have Access Copyright. Back in June 2010 Access Copyright proposed new interim tariffs that would raise the fee they collect from post secondary institutions across Canada from about $5/student to $35/45 per student. Amazingly this was proposed without business case financial justification and without any disclosure of the catalog of works in both print and digital form that they represent. In addition Access Copyright expanded definitions of what a copy is in highly contentious ways and mapped out extensive reporting and access requirement expectations.

Access Copyright’s proposed interim tariffs, new copyright definitions and reporting requirements were met with widespread objections from CAUT, ACCC, AUCC, CLA, Canadian Alliance of Students, and others. I wrote about this development in Jan 2011 Access Copyright’s Royalty Demands Spark Interest in OER. By May 2012 at least 34 Canadian colleges and universities had opted out of Access Copyright.

In January 2012 the University of Toronto and the University of Western struck special deals with Access Copyright agreeing to an interim tariff rate of $27.50. This was met with considerable dismay Critics say universities paying to hyperlink is ludicrous such that the UofT Faculty Association Questions the Access Copyright Agreement.

In April 2012 the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) reached an agreement with Access Copyright agreeing to interim tariff rate of $26. Amazingly this deal was struck secretly, behind closed doors, without communication with AUCC’s own members.

At the end of May 2012 Access Copyright Announces Agreement With the Association of Community Colleges of Canada on a Model Licence for $10 per student.

OK, let me see if I have this right, Access Copyright starts out saying the fee per student will be $35-45. They then negotiate agreements with various organizations for rates of $27.50, $26, and $10. The variation in rates is puzzling. There was no business case explanation for the initial interim tariff fee and there has been no explanation for the reduced fees. On what basis are these rates being set?

These agreements continue to be widely questioned – The Best Possible Outcome for Universities, Really?, Why Universities Should Not Sign the Access Copyright – AUCC Model Licence, A Bad Deal: AUCC/Access Copyright Model License Agreement with many calls for universities not to sign the agreement. Some universities, like the University of British Columbia had taken bolder more principled positions.

While I (and many others) are critical of the way Access Copyright is handling its mandate I want to be perfectly clear that I personally believe writers, artists, musicians and other creators should be fairly compensated for their work. An artists life is frequently one of poverty (aside from the mega hit makers) which I think undervalues their cultural importance. However, I question whether collection agencies like Access Copyright are really serving the needs of creators – a view somewhat substantiated by Brian Brett Speaks Out: An Open Letter on Access Copyright and the Canadian Copyright Emergency. Third party middle men intermediaries seem more intent on funding their own activities over those of the creator. As William Patry notes in his book How to Fix Copyright “The largest problems facing authors today are not unauthorized uses but the obstacles put in the way of buyers willing to pay for access to or copies of the work. I hope this changes as new web-based business models emerge that allow creators to get paid directly.

Passing of New Canadian Copyright Legislation

In June 2012 the Canadian House of Commons passed the Copyright Modernization Act Bill C-11 reforming Canadian copyright law. The new law has a significant impact on education expanding the conditions under which educators can use a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder. Changes in the new act include:

  • Expansion of fair dealing to education, satire and parody. (Am I the only one who finds it deliciously amusing to find education lumped with satire and parody? I”m sure Canadian comedy shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report are pleased at the inclusion of satire and parody). Fair dealing allows educators to use copyrighted works for private study, research, criticism, review, and news reporting. There is no explicit definition of what fair dealing means. Essentially you have to use the Supreme Courts six criteria for evaluating fair dealing – 1. the purpose of the dealing, 2. the character of the dealing, 3. the amount of the dealing, 4. alternatives to the dealing, 5. the nature of the work, and 6. the effect of the dealing on the work. While these six criteria are useful, the lack of a clear definition means that for most educators fair dealing is, and will continue to be, vague and ambiguous.
  • Non-commercial user generated content. The new act distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial use. Non-commercial user generated content gives educators greater liberty to create instructional materials (within the parameters of fair dealing) as long as the use is non-commercial.
  • Internet publicly available materials. This exception gives educators permission to reproduce and communicate works that are publicly available on the Internet. This will be a major relief for educators who are increasingly tapping in to digital web-based content. Under the new act this educational use of publicly available Internet materials is allowed as long as the audience is comprised primarily of students and the works in question are 1. legitimately posted by the copyright holder, 2. not accompanied by a statement prohibiting such reproduction, and 3. not protected by digital locks. This provision makes Access Copyright’s assertion that even a hyperlink is a copy for which users must seek permission seem bizarre.
  • Public performances in schools. The new act allows instructors to display films and other media works in class, provided that the works have been acquired legitimately. This amendment lifts restrictions that required educators to acquire rights for public performance before they could show such materials. Coupled with the Internet publicly available material exception educators will now be free to include videos and other materials from sites like YouTube in their instructional materials.
  • Technology neutral display exception in schools. The old act limited allowable technology reproduction to an overhead projector. The new act is more technologically neutral allowing for display via video projectors and other technological devices.
  • Online transmission of lessons. The new act allows educators to create “fixations” (weird terminology given that a fixation often refers to someone with an obsessive attachment) of lessons and transmit these fixations to students over the Internet. In addition to weird language this exception has some strange requirements that are not particularly in line with pedagogical practice. The institution must destroy the fixation within 30 days after students have received their final course evaluations. And students are to be prevented from reproducing more than a single copy of the lesson for personal use which they too must destroy by the 30-day deadline.

For additional information BCLA has provided a Bill C-11 Guide for Academic Instructors that outlines how the new bill affects education. Michael Geist provides a good summary of the overall outcome including a side-by-side table comparing the old act to the new act The Battle over C-11 Concludes: How Thousands of Canadians Changed The Copyright Debate.

While these changes give educators more permissions and clarity on what is allowed and not allowed I still think the best way to avoid the copyright minefield is to use Creative Commons openly licensed materials whereby the copyright holder explicitly gives permission. Using Creative Commons licensed resources removes the fear of litigation that shrouds copyright.

Canadian Supreme Court Ruling on Copyright Cases

In July 2012, amidst the tumult of copyright deals and reform, the Canadian Supreme Court made rulings on five copyright cases. These rulings were made using the old copyright act not the new one which has yet to come fully in effect. Reading these rulings was a breath of fresh air – clear lucid thinking well argued.

One area of ruling was around the nature of fair dealing. As described above fair dealing lacks a clear concise definition. Sam Trosow does a nice job of analysing pertinent Supreme Court considerations and findings related to fair dealing – see SCC decisions provide clear guidance on fair dealing policies. The ones that stick out for me are:

  • fair dealing is an important users right
  • teachers share a symbiotic purpose with students/users who are engaged in research or private study. Photocopies made by a teacher and provided to students are an essential element in the research and private study undertaken by those students.
  • “Private study” does not mean in solitude or geographically separate from the school. Students in a classroom can be engaged in private study.
  • Research can be piecemeal, informal, exploratory, or confirmatory. It can in fact be undertaken for no purpose except personal interest.

Howard Knopf seems equally proud of the Supreme Courts rulings and provides a comprehensive summary at A Proud and Progressive Pentalogy Day in Canadian Copyright Law.

These Supreme Court rulings affect Access Copyright and the negotiated deals it has struck with various organizations. Clearly those deals are far more restrictive than necessary and in some cases have institutions paying fees for activities they are fully allowed to do under law. Michael Geist provides an interesting take in Why the Supreme Court’s Copyright Decisions Eviscerate Access Copyright’s Business Model.

Who knew that copyright had such high drama! Great potential for a TV series.

In tracking all of these copyright related activities I’ve come to appreciate the increasing involvement of the public and emergence of outspoken voices. I’m particularly thankful for the coverage and analysis the following people have provided:
Michael Geist
Howard Knopf
Sam Trosow
Ariel Katz

Expect I’m not the only one who has learned a lot from these people.

While I admire and appreciate the analysis the above people are providing I’ve been surprised by the lack of coverage of open licensing using Creative Commons licenses as a means of cutting through the complex and often vague rights and permissions of copyright. If educators want to completely free themselves from being encumbered by copyright complications they should use and produce Creative Commons licensed resources instead. Doing so simplifies matters enormously.

As more and more organizations develop copyright guidelines and tools for faculty and staff to use (such as this one at the University of British Columbia I look forward to side-by-side workflow diagrams that compare the process you must go through to ensure you are allowed to use something under copyright vs the work flow process you must go through to ensure you are allowed to use something that is openly licensed via Creative Commons. The copyright workflow will inevitably be comprised of innumerable steps with many if/then branches leading to stop signs or legal counsel interpretations of possible risk. The Creative Commons license workflow will be one step or, in the case of non-commercial and share-alike versions, two or three steps, after which it’s clear sailing with no legal counsel intervention and no risk.

UNESCO Paris OER Declaration

I’m not the only one seeing the potential for open licenses and open educational resources to create new models of education. In June 2012 the World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress took place in Paris, France. Organized by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the World OER Congress brought together Ministers of Education, human resource development representatives, senior policy makers, expert practitioners, researchers, students and others to:

1. Showcase the world’s best practices in OER policies, initiatives, and experts
2. Release a 2012 Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to support the development and use of OERs
3. Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2002 UNESCO Forum that created the term OER

UNESCO member States unanimously approved the Paris OER Declaration (pdf).

This Declaration is the result of a yearlong process, led by UNESCO and the COL with regional and online meetings and final negotiations at the Congress. The Declaration recommends UNESCO member States:

a. Foster awareness and use of OER
b. Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
c. Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER
d. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks
e. Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials
f. Foster strategic alliances for OER
g. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts
h. Encourage research on OER
i. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER
j. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds

Having received unanimous approval it will now be interesting to see how governments, institutions and other organizations adopt policies and practices in support of these goals. This is a whole new business model for education – one that brings with it social and economic benefits.

The Creative Commons Opportunity

Before going to start my new job with Creative Commons I thought I’d map out what I see as the opportunity sectors which are undergoing change through use of open licenses. I tend to think visually and create representations as one page visuals – here is what I came up with (you can click on this to make it bigger if you want):

Essentially I’m seeing activity and new public and business models emerge across:

  • Open Educational Resources
  • Open Access
  • Open User Generated Creative Works
  • Open Data
  • Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, & Museums)
  • Open Government
  • Open Policies, Practices & Guidelines
  • Open Licenses
  • Embedding open license tools (like Creative Commons) in authoring and search engine platforms
  • Open Standards, and
  • Open Source Software

That’s a lot of open. The opportunity is large. Use and impact has only just begun. I’m looking forward to doing my part to grow the commons and by so doing generate global social and economic benefits.

(* 0941176 B.C. Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative Commons, the sole activity
of which is to provide services to Creative Commons and is operated separate from the Creative Commons Canada affiliate.)

2011 The Year of Open

The “open” space is expanding.
2011 has been a watershed year with open gaining traction and acceptance.

photo by Paul Stacey

Governments in Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the US have all adopted Creative Commons licenses to communicate broad reuse rights to the content, data, and educational materials they create. By doing so these national governments are seeking to:

  • promote creative and innovative activities, which will deliver social and economic benefits
  • make government more transparent and open in its activities, ensuring that the public are better informed about the work of the government and the public sector
  • enable more civic and democratic engagement through social enterprise and voluntary and community activities

This move to more open government is not just happening at the national level. Here in British Columbia the provincial government has established a Ministry of Labour, Citizen’s Services and Open Government and became the first provincial government in Canada to launch an open data portal.

Its even happening at the city or municipal level. The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil has decreed that all educational resources paid for by the city need to be Open Educational Resources (OER) licensed using Creative Commons license.

Its not just happening at the national, provincial, and municipal levels its happening at the organizational and institutional levels. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, better known as UNAM, has said it will make virtually all of its publications, databases, and course materials freely available on the Internet over the next few years. This is to include all magazines and periodicals published by UNAM, research published by UNAM employees, and online access to theses, dissertations and its approximately 300 undergraduate and graduate courses. The UNAM Online initiative seeks to achieve open access, public and free to all products, collections and digital developments of the university. This move is seen as part of the university’s mission. A way to give back to society what it is doing with its financial support. A way of being open, accountable and transparent.

Its not just publications, research, theses and other content that is going open, 2011 was the year that open pedagogies including Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) were adopted by mainstream big name institutions. A Massively Open Online Course is typically taught by faculty at an established institution to tuition paying regular students but is also open to enrollment by anyone interested for free. Only the tuition paying students receive accreditation. MOOC’s have been around for a while (see here and here) but this year saw the following fascinating examples:

Digital Storytelling DS106 – Jim Groom’s University of Mary Washington DS106 is an open, online course free to anyone who wants to take it. You can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. Participants develop skills in using technology as a tool for creative self-expression, building a digital identity, and critically examining the landscape of communication technologies. The 2011 version of this course invented a free form live streaming course radio station as a new form of teaching and learning. This course starts up again in January 2012 in case you’d like to sign up.

In the fall of 2011 Stanford Engineering professors offered three of the school’s most popular computer science courses for free online as MOOC’s, Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Introduction to Databases. The Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course generated over 100,000 enrollments and had to be capped. Students taking the course for free watch video lecture recordings, read course materials, complete assignments and take quizzes and an exam. What online students don’t receive, however, is one-on-one interaction with professors, the full content of lectures – or a Stanford degree.

In late December MIT announced MITx which aims to let thousands of online learners take laboratory-intensive courses, while assessing their ability to work through complex problems, complete projects, and write assignments (see FAQ). As with other MOOC style offerings students won’t have interaction with faculty or earn credit toward an MIT degree. However, for a small fee (yet to be defined) students can take an assessment which if successfully completed will provide them with a certificate from MITx. Whether this turns out to be anything more than the form letters Stanford’s faculty provide non-enrolled students who complete the course remains to be seen. But, imagine this scenario. A student signs up for a free MITx course, completes the assignments, pays the assessment fee and receives a certificate indicating successful completion. That student then decides to apply to and enroll in MIT proper. Would that certificate be accepted by MIT as transfer credit or would they force the student to retake the entire course?

Museums and libraries are going open. Check out the Commons on Flickr to see how libraries and museums are openly sharing what have been hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives, and how they are openly sourcing public input and knowledge into making these collections even richer. The Commons on Flickr openly shares photos where “no known copyright restrictions” exist, such as:

  • The copyright is in the public domain because it has expired;
  • The copyright was injected into the public domain for other reasons, such as failure to adhere to required formalities or conditions;
  • The institution owns the copyright but is not interested in exercising control; or
  • The institution has legal rights sufficient to authorize others to use the work without restrictions.

I think of these collections as partially open. The rights statements of participating libraries and museums are full of statements like; “It is your responsibility to determine what permission(s) you need in order to use the Content and, if necessary, to obtain such permission.” Not particularly helpful or encouraging of reuse. No where near as clear as Creative Commons licenses. However, I do really like the way they are seeking public input into the cataloging and data associated with these images. See No. 47. Crew member taking a movie of ice berg from the ship, Greenland, 1939 for an example of how Smithsonian images are being shared through the Commons on Flickr and how public input is improving the collection. It’s particularly heartening to see the Smithsonian directly interacting with end users.

Photo from Smithsonian Institution’s Photostream

In November 2011 Wired announced that all staff-produced photos will be released under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC) license in high-res format on a newly launched public Flickr stream. In making the announcement Wired notes; “Like many other sites across the web, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos at for years — thank you, sharers! It seems only fitting, and long overdue, to start sharing ourselves.”

Its great to see these examples of open leadership happening at the national, provincial, municipal, institutional, and organizational level and it makes me wonder – Is open going viral? Is open going mainstream?

There is growing government interest in seeing resources produced through tax dollars be publicly accessible. Governments at all levels are using policy and legal frameworks to open up access to publicly held information, promote transparency, and enable wider economic and social gain. These are all factors every government and their electorate are interested in.

I can’t wait for the day when more and more government officials recognize the benefits of open and establish themselves as proponents. Washington State representative Reuven Carlyle gets it in spades. See $64 million for out-of-date and educationally generic textbooks? Here’s a new approach, and Beginning of the end for $100 college textbooks: Legislature, colleges, Gates Foundation partner for examples of how a politician can make a difference by understanding and leveraging open.

I think of open textbooks as low hanging fruit. One of the most compelling open education initiatives to undertake. Open textbooks have a clear value proposition for students, parents, educators and public funders. CK-12’s flexbooks are totally impressive for the fact that they are Creative Commons licensed and for the simple way you can assemble a book as a .pdf, an e-book, or html and embed it in an LMS. And then there is Saylor’s Open Textbook Challenge which is offering a “bounty” of $20,000 if you submit your textbook to them and it is accepted for use in their course materials. I expect we’ll see open textbooks for high enrollment undergrad courses across the board.

While I’m interested in the full range of ways in which open principles are being used I’m particularly interested in how they apply to education. Governments could establish policy that requires public funds for education to result in education resources openly accessible to the public. Some governments have provided funding for development of educational resources under agreements that have the IP and copyright for those resources resting with the government. Governments could easily convert all these legacy educational resources to Open Educational Resources (OER) by simply using an open license like Creative Commons.

UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) published the UNESCO-COL Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education this year providing a set of guidelines to support governments, teaching staff, higher education institutions/providers, and quality assurance/accreditation and recognition bodies adopt and support OER.

The guidelines for government include:
a. Support the use of OER through the revision of policy regulating higher education
b. Contribute to raising awareness of key OER issues
c. Review national ICT/connectivity strategies for Higher Education
d. Consider adapting open licensing frameworks
e. Consider adopting open format standards
f. Support institutional investments in curriculum design
g. Support the sustainable production and sharing of learning materials
h. Collaborate to find effective ways to harness OER.

I look forward to seeing these policies adopted around the world, used at the national, provincial, municipal, and institutional level, and applied across all of education.

For public government, public service agencies, and not-for-profits open policy is a perfect fit. For the most compelling and articulate description of its obviousness I highly recommend you listen to Cable Green’s Sloan-C presentation The Obviousness of Open Policy which he gave in November 2011 (advance to time index 10:25 and click on the 4 arrows in the upper right corner to go full screen). In a digital world the potential is there for open to become a widespread win/win de facto policy with benefits for governments and citizens. The most amazing thing of all is that government support for open can happen at the policy and guidelines level without any additional funding. It’s hard to imagine why any entity serving the public interest wouldn’t adopt open policies when open can clearly generate social and economic benefits.

I’m highlighting these government developments around policy and open as I see them as an essential complement to the grass roots way open adoption has happened to date. Individuals, on their own, have embraced open. Photographers have uploaded over 200 million images to Flickr tagged with Creative Commons licenses. Wikipedia’s more than 3.8 million entries are openly licensed using Creative Commons. In June 2011 YouTube added the Creative Commons Attribution license as a licensing option for users and launched a Creative Commons video library containing 10,000 videos under CC BY from organizations such as C-SPAN,, Voice of America, and Al Jazeera. There are now hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos that users have posted with Creative Commons licenses.

People who tweet and use social networks appreciate openly engaging others in solving problems or providing advice. The New Einsteins Will Be Scientists Who Share explores this potential for science. Even Scientific American is in on the act with their citizen science site. I expect we’ll soon see national organizations responsible for research establish open innovation as an essential aspect of research agendas.

As might be expected there are a growing number of practices and technologies emerging to support this kind of open engagement. Knowledge in the Public Interest is using the concept of a JAM‘s for open engagement. A JAM is a a non-linear moderated discussion of fixed duration that is part creative brainstorming, part active dialogue, and part focus group. In a JAM participants share experiences, knowledge, and ideas, and collaborate in search of actionable responses to complex issues. It’s interesting to note that Knowledge in the Public Interest’s customized version of Moodle and its JAM process are similar to what BCcampus has been doing for years with its customized Moodle SCoPE seminars.

Idea Scale is another interesting example. The recently launched US initiative Digital Promise is using Idea Scale to generate and tackle “grand challenges” to spur breakthrough technologies that can help transform the way teachers teach and students learn. You can see grand challenge ideas submitted so far in Idea Scale here.

In education, Learning Management Systems are largely closed walled off online learning environments that require passwords and logins for entry. It was a welcome surprise then when in October 2011 Blackboard announced a series of new initiatives to provide greater support for open education efforts. Working with Creative Commons, Blackboard now supports publishing of open educational resources (OER) across its platforms. Support for OER enables instructors to publish and share their courses under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) so that anyone can easily preview and download the course content. Blackboard also updated its policy around fees so that there are no extra charges associated with sharing courses with outsiders such as other educators, auditors, or prospective students. Blackboard says it wants to help institutions share the content of their courses with larger, online audiences. When a technology vendor like Blackboard starts to support open then you know open is past the idea stage and going mainstream.

Given the growing personal use of open licenses by end users it makes sense for governments to do the same. Open will flourish when bottom-up grassroots efforts toward open take place in an environment supported top-down by policy.

photo by Deborah Stacey

My own work at BCcampus around OER has been an example of that synergy. Government Ministry of Advanced Education support for faculty development of online learning resources has been provided with the caveat that the resources be open and shareable. I’ve written about this initiative extensively elsewhere in this blog (see here, and here, and here) so thought I’d shine the light on a couple of other 2011 developments that add credence to the growing sense of open going viral and the synergy between policy and grassroots adoption.

In the US the Obama administration initiated the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program out of the US Department of Labor. The first round of TAACCCT grants made available and awarded in 2011 totals $500 million but a total of $2 billion over four years has been committed. This example of government commitment to open is the largest I know of and I hope others are inspired to follow suit. TAACCCT provides eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in 2 years or less, and that result in skills, degrees, and credentials that prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations, and are suited for workers who are eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program. TAACCCT funds are capacity building grants strategically targeted to assist workers adversely affected by trade agreements. All TAACCCT initiatives are expected to meet accessibility and interoperability standards and produce OER licensed using Creative Commons (CC-BY).

Wayne Mackintosh and the Open Educational Resource Foundation (OERF) in New Zealand have been doing just an amazing job of bringing to life the OER university (OERu). Here’s how the OERu is described:

The OER university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.

The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating institutions we will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.

The concept of an OERu gained widespread support and made incredible progress over the 2011 year. Institutions from around the world have become OERu founding partners including:

These founding partners represent Canada, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and India. For OERu to have attracted the interest and involvement of this many partners in a one year period is impressive. I’m particularly encouraged with the breadth, depth and reputations of these partners. It’s worth pointing out that the OERu openly invites other institutions to join. I expect many additional institutions from all around the world will join the OERu and follow the early leadership these founding anchor partners have shown.

Over the course of 2011 the OERu:

Perhaps the most impressive thing of all with OERu is that all of this has been planned and published openly on Wikieducator with invited and included participation from people all over the world. Got ideas you’d like to contribute to the OERu? Log on to the wiki and add them – input from all is welcome. OERu is not only about opening education its modelling how to do planning and development in an open and inclusive way. For the OERu, open is not just about content – its about all aspects of education, it seeks to engage and benefit all people everywhere, it’s a way of working. Outstanding!

photo by Deborah Stacey

Against this backdrop of growing global momentum and critical mass around open, 2011 has been a pivotal year of open for me personally too. Here’s my own personal 2011 top 10 open highlights:

#1. The University of Open articulates a vision of a new kind of university that strategically chooses to use and contribute to the code of Open Source Software, publish research openly using Open Access principles, teach openly in the public using Open Pedagogies, share data on it’s activities using Open Data, and involve faculty and students in developing and using Open Educational Resources (OER). This vision of an alternative ‘university of open’ serves as an inspiration for me. I’ve been thrilled to find this idea picked up and promoted internationally by Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning (Open Courseware, Open Content, Open Practices, Open Learning: Where are the limits?Tertiary Education: How Open?Open Universities: what are the dimensions of openness?Publishing with Public Money for Public Benefit)

#2. Award of grants for the 2010 BCcampus Online Program Development Fund which supports partnerships of BC public post secondary institutions in their development of online learning curricula as OER. This was the eighth consecutive round, the longest running publicly funded OER initiative I know of, bringing the cumulative 2003-2010 investment to $9 million. Kudos to BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education for its early foresight and willingness to back open over all these years.

#3. One of OER’s holy grails is reuse by others. I think there is a dearth of understanding about just what people think this means but this past year several significant events happened around OER developed in BC being picked up and expanded by others elsewhere. I find these examples fascinating as they represent real-life examples of what happens as OER mature. The University of British Columbia’s Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources are a great example of an OER initiative that started in BC and has expanded. The additional institutional partners brought on over time contribute to improving existing learning resources, developing new learning resources, and use existing virtual soil science learning resources for courses in their own institutions. I enjoyed helping bring together soil scientists in India with the core UBC team to further expand the work through an international partnership.

When someone says to me OER reuse I think about this – the formation of distributed social networks of faculty and students collectively working on shared curriculum.

Royal Roads University has a wonderful Open Educational Resources site and Mary Burgess, the lead for this initiative sent me an e-mail in November 2011 saying:

“We’ve had some exciting developments on our little OER project of late that I just had to share with you!

Last week, we found out that a consortium of Chinese institutions is using our Instructional Skills Workshop Online (shared from our OER site) – you can see it here.

And today, we found out that 2 of our Moodle customizations are being made part of Moodle core in version 2.3.

Finally, I had an email from a guy at the University of Madrid yesterday who is using another one of our Moodle patches.

We are over the moon that our work is of use to others!”

I love that last statement. It is exciting to see the work you openly share be of use to others.

#4. Consortium of BCcampus, WICHE, CCCS, North Island College, College of the Rockies and institutions in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado awarded Gates Foundation funded Next Generation Learning Challenges Wave I $750K grant for the North American Network of Science Labs Online. Especially momentous for me was the workshop we did at North Island College in Courtenay BC where over 50 educators, faculty and edtech specialists participated in a demonstration of the Remote Web-based Science Lab and in discipline panel discussions around the biology, chemistry and physics OER courses and labs this project is creating. This project is exciting and yet another example of an OER project that has been unfolding over several years in BC expanding outward and increasing impact through additional partners.

#5. Moodle Moot Canada 2011 keynote “Talking About All Things Open” with Terry Anderson, Stephen Downes, Gavin Hendrick and myself. Terry Andersons’ description of open scholarship was a key idea for me. I also got a blast out of openly engaging all conference attendees in crowdsourcing the Future of E-Learning.

#6. Open4Learning Educational Technology Users Group Workshop in Nelson BC. An awesome program exploring the diverse aspects of open in education from a BC perspective.

#7. OERu. I’ve described this initiative in some detail earlier in this post. It’s been fascinating to see this initiative evolve over 2011 and to be an active participant and facilitator in helping define what it is.

#8. Interview with Timothy Vollmer at Creative Commons resulting in Open Education and Policy

#9. University of Northern British Columbia Opportunity Side of Open talk, workshop on Finding and Using OER, and ABC Copyright Conference Especially enjoyed the conference Talkshop session exploring issues related to recent Access Copyright efforts to increase tariffs which caused many institutions to withdraw from Access Copyright and giving a keynote, the Opportunity Side of Open Part 2 which includes suggestions for actions faculty, students and institutions could pursue if they embrace and adopt open as a key aspect of their work.

I’ve received some inquiries from people as to whether I’ve evolved the University of Open concept. The answer is yes. Some of what I’ve been working on are these suggestions for actions faculty, students, and institutions could pursue if they embrace and adopt open as a key aspect of their work. I’ve been thinking about what people would do, how they’d behave, if they were committed to the University of Open. Here’s a brief synopsis of possible actions:

Open Faculty:

  • Make intellectual projects & processes digitally visible & open to criticism/comment
  • Do open research
  • Publish in open access journals
  • Self archive work for open peer and public review
  • Create a new type of education work maximizing social learning, participatory pedagogies, global connections
  • Teach open courses
  • Develop OER with communities of professional peers & students
  • Use open educational resources developed by others
  • Assign and author open textbooks

Open Students:

  • Use OER to select institutions & courses of study
  • Use OER for self-study
  • Engage in open study around OER with global peers of students
  • Assemble OER and open/free software tools into personal learning environments
  • Customize, enhance and develop OER (for credit)
  • Actively participate in social learning and form networks and connections
  • Track and use open data on learning to plan and manage learning process
  • Create open e-portfolios making learning projects, processes, and outcomes digitally visible

Open Institutions:

  • Work in consortia to develop and use OER for academic programs
  • Use OER to market & promote programs & coursesof study
  • Use Open Source Software and contribute to developer community
  • Reward (performance) and support (policy & funds) open access research publishing
  • Generate and publish open data around learning, scholarly activities, and outcomes/achievements
  • Create unique identity and establish value by extent of open activity and global benefits

#10. BCcampus Opening Education event. It’s really great to see in followup to this event that BC’s Electronic Library Network at their December meeting began planning initiatives around OER, open textbooks and a copyright course for faculty and students in 2012. I think librarians can make a huge impact on open and will play a much more central role in the way it plays out in education over the coming years.

photo by Paul Stacey

Going in to 2012 I see big opportunities for open to unfold on a larger scale. Summarizing calls for action from the above I hope:

  • Governments, municipalities and institutions adopt open policy and licenses
  • Legacy resources held by governments, municipalities and institutions are openly licensed
  • New grant funds for development of educational resources use open licenses
  • Faculty and students at the individual level automatically license their resources openly
  • International consortia form around the development and enhancement of open educational resources

For many “open” is not even on their radar screen. For others open is present but fragile. Still others think ‘Open-ness’ is growing, but in ways that are not quite what was anticipated by the more dedicated proponents of OERs. I agree with this last statement and hope I’ve depicted some of the breadth of ways open is growing in this post. I think open is past the tipping point. This year even institutions who were not early adopters began to find ways to be participants. I think there are even more people and organizations on the sidelines looking for a way to enter the field.

As is apparent from this blog Creative Commons licenses are critical enablers of open. 2012 will be Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary. I’ve been imagining ways I’d improve Creative Commons. Everyone in the Open Educational Resource (OER) space has been wanting some way for tracking reuse. I think this could be enabled through the license although I’d frame it differently. I think we should be tracking attribution which is a condition of all Creative Commons licenses. Ideally creators receive attribution notification when others reuse their work – like pingbacks, or trackback in social media. Its motivating for creators to know that their work is having an impact and valued by others. Tracking attribution will generate a means of showing impact akin to research citations. My colleague Scott Leslie has done some work around tracking OER reuse and I’m also intrigued by the Total Impact work Heather Piwowar is involved with.

I’ve also been thinking of the potential to go “beyond permissions to intentions”. Let me explain. Creative Commons licenses do a great job of complementing copyright by providing a mechanism for creators to express permissions they accord others in terms of use of their work. However, what is missing is any expression of creators intentions. Are they giving permissions and don’t really care how its used? Would the creator like to see derivatives of their work that others create? Is the creator really interested in finding others who want to collaborate with them on the continuous improvement of the work? This latter intention is in my view critical to the long term success of OER. All open initiatives succeed over the long term based on the size and vibrancy of the open community that gets built up around it. I really wish there was some means of expressing creator intentions so that others reusing the work can do so in ways that fulfill creator aspirations.

So in summary I see Creative Commons licenses as having three components:

  1. Permission – this component exists already. It’s how creators express the permissions they are according to creators in terms of attribution, creating derivative works/or not, allowing commercial use/or not, and requiring share alike/or not.
  2. Attribution – this component would make explicit how users are to provide attribution to the original creator and send the creator a trackback indicating attribution/reuse.
  3. Intention – this component would express the creators intention in making the work available through Creative Commons and provide a means for subsequent users to support those intentions.

I’d like to see each of these three functions embedded in the license and available to creators and subsequent users with one click. One of my big interests is in increasing the value proposition for creators.

This blog post provides a body of evidence on the many ways open expanded in 2011. I’d like to close this blog by celebrating one form of open that happens every year at this time – the way Christmas opens the human heart. Merry Christmas all.

photo by Deborah Stacey

Foundation Funded OER vs. Tax Payer Funded OER – A Tale of Two Mandates

This post is an expanded version of a paper I’m formally giving at the Open Education Conference in Barcelona November 2-4, 2010. Since submitting the paper back in September there have been several new announcements related to Foundation support for OER that I’ve included here in the blog but are not in the original paper. The conference paper has a prescribed word count so the original abbreviated version of this paper will be published in the conference proceedings. This is a hybrid paper in that I’ve kept the APA style references of the original paper but  also created links that allow for further exploration when read online. I plan to use this blog post to support the actual presentation at the Open Education Conference so I’ve added visuals for that purpose.

I’m publishing it early with the aim of getting some feedback and suggestions that I can incorporate into the actual conference presentation. If you are planning on attending the conference I hope this sneak preview stimulates your interest and makes you want to attend my session. Attendees at the session are invited to use their laptop to follow along and explore the many links provided while I’m presenting. If you aren’t attending the conference let me know your thoughts by posting comments and I’ll incorporate them into the presentation.


Most well known OER initiatives such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare or Rice University’s Connexions have been funded by foundations such as Hewlett, Mellon, and Gates. Foundation funding has been an essential component of establishing the OER field. However, foundation funding cannot be relied on for ongoing development and operations. Many OER initiatives are struggling to establish and transition to a future independent of foundation funding. A common and critical challenge is planning for and ensuring sustainability. (Baraniuk, 2008)

OER have now been in development and use since 2002. On the technology adoption lifecycle curve (Rogers, 1983) we’d say OER have come through the innovation phase, are striving for adoption, and aspire to cross into early majority.


To the extent that OER are a disruptive innovation we can also consider Geoffrey Moore’s variation of this model that depicts a chasm between the early adoption and early majority phase. Many disruptive technology innovations do not successfully cross the chasm and simply disappear (Moore, 1991).

Will this be the fate of OER?

OER need sustainable business models and most importantly sustaining funding. One way to think about OER funding is to map it to a traditional start-up financing cycle of investment.


The cycle of investment starts with seed funding provided by what the field refers to as friends, family and fools (FFF). Seed funding is usually a small amount required to kick start the effort. In the context of OER seed funding is the money put up by the institutions and organizations starting OER initiatives. As the development progresses a second round of funding is often sought in the form of angel investment. Angel investors typically invest their own capital to finance a ventures need. Angel investment is high risk. A large percentage of angel investments are lost completely when early stage ventures fail in the “valley of death”. Foundations have played the angel investment role for OER. Angel investment is high risk and short term. Angel capital fills the gap between friends and family and third stage funding where venture capital, banks, or initial public offering kick in.

Venture capital, bank, or IPO private investments are unlikely options for OER but the sustained funding need is real. A variety of funding models for OER have been proposed including:

  • endowment
  • membership
  • donations
  • conversion
  • contributor-pay
  • sponsorship
  • institutional
  • governmental
  • partnerships and exchanges
    (Downes, 2007)

In a public post secondary institution context traditional sources of funding are:

  • public grant funding from taxes
  • individual donations
  • organizational donations
  • advertising
  • fees for products or services
    (Lane, 2008)

One strategy for sustaining OER developments as they transition from early innovation to mainstream is for government and tax-payer public funding to take over from the early stage funding foundations have provided.

This paper examines some of the factors affecting the growth and sustainability of OER. It compares and contrasts foundation and government publicly funded OER initiatives in terms of global vs. local goals, licensing options, use cases, and outcomes. Emerging from this comparison are strategies and tactics that position OER for public funding, ongoing adoption, and a long-term sustainable future.

Foundation Funded OER

The OER movement has been dominated by foundation funding. The Hewlett Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been priming the OER pump with grants.

These foundations each have distinct identities and philanthropic mandates that shape the programs and conditions by which OER funding is provided. Funding awards are not provided in a no-strings-attached fashion. Foundation grants are awarded to initiatives that support the goals of the foundation.

If OER are going to transition to public funding its worth looking at foundation mandates and goals and thinking about the extent to which they match up with public funder mandates and goals.

Hewlett Foundation

The Hewlett Foundation based in Menlo Park CA makes grants to solve social and environmental problems in the US and around the world. The Hewlett Foundation, along with the Mellon Foundation, was the first to support OER, has provided large grants on an ongoing basis, and continues to play an active role. Of all foundations Hewlett is by far the most influential and largest investor in the OER field.

Hewlett has funded most of the major, well-known OER initiatives including:

The Hewlett Foundation’s OER goal is to:
“Equalize access to knowledge for teachers and students around the globe through Open Educational Resources.”
(Hewlett, 2010).

Mellon Foundation

The Mellon Foundation’s mandate and goals are largely around supporting higher education and the humanities including research libraries, centres for advanced study, art museums and art conservation, and the performing arts. (Mellon, 2004 pp. 9)

The Mellon Foundation’s role in open education has primarily been through awarding grants for initiatives that benefit teaching and learning through the collaborative development of open-source software. In the larger educational context that includes software such as uPortal, Kuali and Sakai. From an OER perspective Mellon’s focus has been on mass digitization of content in libraries and building archives and sharing content across institutions rather than supporting initiatives to develop open course content. But Mellon has partnered with other foundations to co-invest in large OER initiatives such as MIT’s OCW.

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation’s goals are to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. (Ford, 2010) The Ford Foundation has supported OER as part of the Partnership of Higher Education in Africa and IKSME’s OER ArtsCollab which is engaging teachers, learners, and practitioners in the collaborative development and use of OER in the arts and social justice.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation makes grants in global development, global health and the United States. The Gates Foundation is supporting OER as a disruptive innovation. The Foundation’s Technology in Post Secondary Success background paper states; “We will make investments to test whether community-developed and openly distributed course materials, platforms and technologies can effectively disrupt traditional teaching methods and increase student engagement.” (Gates, 2010a)

In Oct. 2009 Gates made a $5.3 million investment in the Washington State Student Completion Initiative. (Gates, 2010b) Of that total $1.8 million is going to the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges for an Open Course Library initiative developing 81 high enrolment courses as OER.

In Oct. 2010 the Gates Foundation announced plans to spend up to $20 million on the first phase of a Next Generation Learning program that could become as much as $80 million over the next four years. Open courseware is one of four areas being targeted for the first wave of grants. Open courseware for high-enrollment introductory classes like math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success is of particular interest.

In the OER context foundations like Hewlett, Mellon, Ford and Gates are angel investors supporting OER initiatives at a scale and with a volume of financing significantly beyond the start-up seed funding of OER initiators. Most foundations have global and humanitarian mandates and goals.

Foundation Funded OER Initiative Goals

We’ve looked at the goals of foundations lets now look at specific foundation funded OER initiatives and see to what extent their goals match those of their funding foundation.


Advance education around the world by publishing MIT courses as a public good for the benefit of all. (Hockfield, 2010)

Rice University Connexions

Connexions has two primary goals:

  1. to convey the interconnected nature of knowledge across disciplines, courses, and curricula
  2. to move away from solitary authoring, publishing, and learning process to one based on connecting people into global learning communities that share knowledge.

(Baraniuk, 2008, pp. 233)

UK Open University’s OpenLearn

To make some of The Open University’s distance learning materials freely accessible in an international web-based open content environment and, in so doing, to advance open content delivery method technologies by:

  • deploying leading-edge learning management tools for learner support
  • encouraging the creation of non-formal collaborative learning communities
  • enhance international research-based knowledge about modern pedagogies for higher education

(Lane, 2008, pp. 156)

Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

The OLI initiative is a research-based approach to OER. The fundamental goal of OLI is to develop Web-based learning environments that are the complete enactment of instruction. This includes developing better resources and practices, cycles of evaluation and improvement, and advancing fundamental understanding of learning. (Thille, 2008, pp. 167)

A second major goal of the OLI is to provide access to high quality postsecondary courses (similar to those taught at Carnegie Mellon) to learners who cannot attend such institutions. (Thille, 2008 pp. 175) To support this OLI’s website provides free online courses and course materials that enact instruction for an entire course.

Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to recorded lectures of a selection of introductory courses taught by faculty at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn. Registration is not required and no course credit is available.
(Yale, 2010)

Goals like “advance education around the world”, “publish courses as a public good” “connect people into global learning communities” and “expand access for all who wish to learn” align well with Foundation goals. But do they align well with government publicly funded education goals?

Publicly Funded OER

Government public funding of OER has not been as widely featured in the OER field as foundation funded OER initiatives. The authors own BCcampus initiative in Canada is one example, but a quick scan of the most highly cited OER initiatives shows just how dominating foundation OER have been. During the drafting of this paper the author contacted several leaders in the OER field and asked them to identify OER initiatives that are funded by public taxpayer dollars at the state, province or national level. The initiatives that emerged in response are:

For apples to apples comparative purposes the author has chosen initiatives focused on higher education open content as opposed to open educational practices, open source software, or other aspects of the field.

Lets look at the goals of publicly funded OER initiatives.

BCcampus OER

Funded through an annual Online Program Development Fund provided by the Ministry of Advanced Education the BCcampus OER goals are to increase credential opportunities available to students throughout the province by funding multi-institutional partnerships for the development of shared credit-based post-secondary online courses, programs, and resources.

BCcampus OER goals translate into three metrics:

  • partnerships
  • credentials
  • sharing & reuse

(BCcampus, 2010)

Southern Regional Education Board SCORE

Funded by the Southern Regional Education Board the goals of SCORE are to improve teaching and learning and achieve cost savings through a multistate K-12 and higher education initiative to share digital learning course content among colleges, universities and schools in SREB states. SCORE:

  • establishes school and college relationships to create, license and provide high-quality content
  • provides cost-effective learning resources for K-20 by sharing development costs among states and commercial companies
  • reduces duplication of effort
  • increases faculty and student productivity
  • adheres to e-learning standards

(SREB, 2010)

AEShareNet & edna

AEShareNet is a collaborative system in Australia established by the Australian Ministers of Education and Training to streamline the licensing of intellectual property so that Australian learning materials are developed, shared, and adapted efficiently. It plays an intermediary role between developers and users and in particular facilitates the transfer of educational resources between educational institutions. Its goal is to provide a process and online system that is streamlined, avoids duplication and increases efficiency. (OECD CERI, 2006 pp. 3-4) AEShareNet and other licensed educational resources are distributed through edna’s repository.


Funded by the Tertiary Education Commission, the objective of the New Zealand Open Educational Resources project is to develop courseware that will be freely available to all tertiary education institutions in New Zealand. Reduction in the duplication of investment is a primary goal, but without risking the pluralism of ideas and innovation that underpin a vibrant education sector. (New Zealand OER, 2010)


The UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) funded the JORUM initiative which put in place a repository for content UK higher education institutions wished to share. More recently JISC launched an OER content initiative to support the open release of existing learning resources for free use and repurposing worldwide. JISC OER will use JORUM as one of the vehicles for sharing.

The goals of JORUM are to enable the sharing, reuse and repurposing of learning and teaching resources through an online, repository service that supports policy, practice and productivity in learning and teaching in the UK and beyond. (JORUM, 2010)

The goals of JISC’s OER program are to explore the sustainability of long-term open resources release via the adoption of appropriate business models. Supporting actions may include modifications to institutional policies and processes, with the aim of making open resources release an expected part of the educational resources creation cycle. JISC’s OER program is expected to build the capacity of the sector for sustainable OER release, generate better understanding of OER reuse, and make OER easier to find and use. (JISC OER, 2010)


The Netherlands wikiwijs OER initiative goals include:

  • stimulating development and use of OER
  • creating options for specialized and customized education
  • increasing quality of education through more flexible and up-to-date materials
  • improving access to both open and ‘closed’ digital learning materials
  • reducing time to find and find resources that are quality and fit curriculum
  • increasing teacher involvement in development and use of OER

(Schuwer, 2010)

Goals like “increasing credential opportunities available to students throughout the province“, “establish school and college relationships” “develop courseware freely available to tertiary institutions in New Zealand” and “expand access to both open and closed digital learning resources” align well with government public funding goals.

Government publicly funded OER have local goals that serve citizen education access and credential needs.

OER Licensing

One way OER goals are being achieved is through use of licenses. The diagram below shows an OER licensing continuum. At the far left of the continuum is full copyright all rights reserved. At the far right end of the continuum is public domain no rights reserved. Licensing options are increasingly open as you move from left to right along the continuum.

Foundation funded OER do not involve license options. Instead a single Creative Commons license is used with the majority of initiatives going with Attribution or Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike.

In contrast publicly funded OER often involve license options along an open continuum. The authors own BCcampus OER initiative gives developers of OER a choice between local sharing within the province of BC through a BC Commons license or global sharing using Creative Commons. JISC’s JORUM initiative has followed a similar path and Australia’s AEShareNet uses an even more refined approach.

Recent publicly funded OER initiatives such as JISC’s OER and Netherlands Wikiwijs are being more explicit about dictating use of Creative Commons. But they still reference and acknowledge a need to support more closed resources. Lack of knowledge and fears around intellectual property, copyright infringement, quality and competitive advantage are still barriers to mainstream adoption and use of Creative Commons only.

It’s interesting to note that no OER initiatives are fully open. None are placing resources directly into the public domain.

OER Use Cases & Outcomes

Foundation OER initiatives mentioned in this paper primarily see OER as an act of publishing content and a form of public philanthropy. Use cases include:

  • marketing promotion of the institutions formal for-credit offerings (Wiley, 2010)
  • informal non-credit autonomous self-paced study (Lerman, 2008 p. 216)
  • academic planning for students enrolled at institution (Lerman, 2008 p. 222)
  • international distribution and translation, especially in developing countries (Lerman, 2008 pp 215 & 224)
  • assembly of OER into print-on-demand textbooks (Baraniuk, 2009, p. 2)

Foundation funded OER are typically housed on a destination web site or use custom built software resulting in controlled access and use. Most resources are not optimized for online delivery independent of the OER site. Despite the OER license used by many of these initiatives downloads are often not editable or modifiable given their fixed file formats such as .pdf.

Foundation funded OER initiatives are often more oriented to informal non-credit learning for students than to teachers. MIT is explicit in stating OCW, is not an MIT education, does not grant degrees or certificates, and does not provide access to MIT faculty. Initiatives like Carnegie Mellon’s OLI require instructors to ask permission for an account and even then use of the OLI OER must be done through Carnegie Mellon’s OLI technology rather than the instructor’s own institutions applications. As part of its sustainability strategy Carnegie Mellon’s OLI use by instructors even has fees.

The primary use case of publicly funded OER is for formal credit-based academic offerings rather than informal study by students. Publicly funded OER are often a form of curriculum development providing faculty with resources to use in their courses or in development of new for-credit offerings.

Publicly funded OER are typically housed in a repository which provides an access and distribution role but not usually a creation or course delivery role. OER are uploaded, searched for, and previewed on the repository but usually downloaded for use independent of the repository through an institutions own learning management system or other educational technology.


Comparing and contrasting foundation with government publicly funded OER initiatives reveals commonalities, differences, and a diversity of approaches.

OER goals/mandates, licenses, and use cases can be strategically situated within an overarching OER framework (Stacey 2006)

This framework can be used to define and refine strategy and tactics associated with any OER initiative. It can also be used as a basis for comparing and contrasting OER initiatives. As an example the following table highlights differences between the BCcampus OER initiative and MIT’s OCW initiative.

As shown in this table the publicly funded BCcampus OER initiative has focused on developing new online learning resources through system partnerships and collaboration. The content produced is primarily intended for faculty use in formal for-credit education offerings delivered via their institutions learning management system. The primary mandate for open sharing within the jurisdiction of the public funder is enabled through a BC Commons open license and global participation supported as a choice of the developer through a Creative Commons license.

In contrast the foundation funded MIT OCW OER initiative has focused on publishing a single prestigious institution’s existing lectures, course notes, and learning activities associated with campus-based classroom activity. These resources are freely provided as a public good for use primarily in informal non-credit learning. The foundation funded OER meets global philanthropic goals by mandating a single Creative Commons license but requires users to access the OER through MIT’s technologies.

Emerging from the comparisons made in this paper the following strategies and tactics position OER for public funding, ongoing adoption, and a long-term sustainable future:

  • ensure OER initiative goals fulfil public funder education access and credential needs first before serving global needs
  • establish OER development initiatives as multi-institutional partnerships with each institution using the developed resource in for-credit offerings right from the start
  • use OER development as a means of generating collaborations between institutions
  • incentivize use of OER from initiatives around the world in OER development and for-credit offerings of institutions
  • offer a range of OER licensing options along the open continuum
  • provide cost efficiencies and reduction of duplication by aggregating and distributing quality OER as a service
  • ensure OER have a form factor that is modifiable
  • support download and autonomous use of OER by institutions using their own technology especially learning management systems
  • look for ways to make OER creation and use part of regular operational academic practice


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