The Creative Commons, the organization behind the increasingly-ubiquitous Creative Commons licenses, has recently announced the formation of a new division, CCLearn. The stated goal of CCLearn is to minimize the legal, technical and social barriers that impede the sharing and reuse of educational materials.

Towards this end, one of the activities of CCLearn will be to encourage those who create educational resources to make them available free of legal and technical barriers that discourage adaptation and creative reuse. The Creative Commons license, by which creators can waive their copyright claims as long as their works are used for non-profit educational purposes, is a major tool toward creating such “open educational resources.” So a major initiative of CCLearn will be to encourage those who create education resource to employ CC license or some similar mechanism to communicate their desire to share those resources with the educational community.

Equally important, of course, is the ability to find resources that are made openly available for educational purposes. An important aspect of CCLearn will be its Open Education Search, a tool that “aims to direct search engine traffic to the incredible diversity of OER repositories and communities.” This tool should make it much easier for faculty members to find resources they can use in their classes without having to worry about copyright concern. It is a frequent and bitter observation that our system of copyright law does not accommodate the needs of education very well, even as it relies on institutions of higher education for much of the material that populates that system. Careful attention as CCLearn develops its open education search tool is called for; it promises a system that could offer both a potential solution to some of these copyright problems and an immense resource for creative approaches to teaching.

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  1. Hi Kevin
    At OpenLearn the Open University in the UK are making a contribution to the re-thinking of the intellectual property regime in higher education. We believe that `none of us is as wise as all of us’ and by providing free access to OU course material and making it possible for others to change this material and share back to the community, we’ll increase both the quality of the material and the cultural applicability and validity of that material.

    OpenLearn content is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. This means that anyone may make use of OpenLearn content freely and without charge. Users are free to amend, rework and combine OpenLearn content with any other content issued under a similar licence for non-commercial purposes. The only condition is for any reuse to acknowledge our original work.

    Our choice of the Creative Commons licence has generated a great deal of debate within both the commercial rights industries and within education. Commercial rights holders are both intrigued and threatened by the development of new ways of licensing intellectual property that are not based upon territorial markets, payments or technological protection. Reaction has ranged across a very broad spectrum; from the comment of one legal advisor “Anyone who chooses to use a Creative Commons licence either doesn’t understand what they are doing, or doesn’t care” to that of some proponents of open educational resources who see our choice of a non-commercial licence as unnecessarily restrictive.

    Our own position is that we chose the Creative Commons licence as the licensing mechanism that best allows us to deliver the outcomes of the OpenLearn project: wide acceptance worldwide, easily understandable terms, and a degree of protection against unauthorised commercial exploitation of resources that we intend to deliver freely to the global educational communities. It is not our remit to support commercial businesses by giving them access to free content.

    We find that the Creative Commons model delivers our licensing requirements very effectively, and we were anxious to get started in a very pragmatic way with the business of producing and delivering open content. Our focus is very definitely on the licence as a means to an end – we are much more concerned with releasing content rather than concentrating on developing the perfect licence. Having seen too many projects stall while waiting for a perfect solution, we took the approach of adopting a licence and then measuring its impact as we got on with the project.

    So far, the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence has delivered everything we have hoped for. And not least among those deliverables has been entry into the debate generated around open licensing in general and the Creative Commons licence in particular and we have been engaged in debating and sharing experiences with colleagues in education, and with commercial rights holders and representative licensing agencies worldwide.

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