Creative Commons vs Copyright

This week we have been drawing up a draft of Terms and Conditions for Cloudworks prior to sending it to the legal team. I have spent some time over the last week or so looking at the advantages and disadvantages of Creative Commons; this is a bit of a hot topic at the moment and there's plenty  of opinion out there! The Media Institute published an article Public Licences: the Gift that Keeps on Giving a couple of weeks ago and which seems to fairly objectively summarise the pros and cons. I have also tried to find workable alternatives to CC, and the only one I have found seems quite clumsy - the default position would be 'traditional' copyright, and contributors would need to agree/ not agree to sharing (and agree the conditions of any sharing) each time they set up a Cloudscape or commented on a Cloud. I have come to realise that whatever approach we choose to use (and especially  if we choose Creative Commons) it will be important to ensure that contributors are well informed in a variety of ways, with links and explanations throughout the site and in supporting materials.

It is worth noting that Cloudworks doesn't support file sharing, so all documents, slidehows, videos etc currently linked to will be seperately covered by the Terms and Conditions of the website they sit in. The Cloudworks Terms and Conditions would however apply to photos/images, Cloudscape descriptions and Cloud comments. And, if we ever decide to support file sharing in the future, the licence would apply to those too. We had expected to use a document pretty much identical to OpenLearn, however, we have come up against a number of issues that are bothering us in relation to using a Creative Commons licence. The biggest of these is the application of CC retrospectively to previously submitted contents. We can send emails to all contributors advising them of the new Terms and Conditions, and asking them to confirm that they are happy for the licence to apply to their contributions. We could assume that contributors to a public site would expect open access and use of their ideas and views etc, and if they didn't respond we could assume acceptance - but we couldn't be sure that the email would have been recieved. If our default position is that we remove material from those who don't get back to us, then we may lose a great deal of interesting and engaging material from the site.

The second issue (if we decide to go down the CC route) is around which strand, or combination of strands, of the licence to use. The key purpose of Cloudworks is to allow users to share, adapt and comment on learning design, so getting the balance is very important. OpenLearn have gone for the Attribution-Non-Commerciaal-Share Alike strand, which personally I think is probably right for Cloudworks, but I accept that some contributors may not want to see adaptations of their ideas, comments or pictures/designs freely shared. This is an ongoing issue for us and user comments would be gratefully recieved!

  Posted by Rebecca Galley on 21 July 2009


Giota Alevizou says...

"We can send emails to all contributors advising them of the new Terms and Conditions, and asking them to confirm that they are happy for the licence to apply to their contributions. We could assume that contributors to a public site would expect open access and use of their ideas and views etc, and if they didn't respond we could assume acceptance - but we couldn't be sure that the email would have been received."  

I agree, and I think that most people that tend to use Cloudworks are like-minded individuals regarding sharing ideas and views  (to put it more academically, they are participants in similar to us, communities of interest and/or discourse). Since there's no file-sharing facility, I think attribution-non-commercial and share-alike strands are sufficient. We can definitely email all registered participants mentioning that this is the licensing regime that Cloudworks follows retrospectively and from now on. We can attach an agreement like this to people that register from on.

I understand that this maybe a slight deterrent for people to share arguments that maybe exploring in papers and/or are stemming out of research, but on the other hand, this is not about sharing scientific arguments, but ideas, opinions and links to resources/projects, etc. There is no copyright on ideas, and there is no copyright on people's interpretations of others' presentations, ideas, and/or indeed papers. Problems only arise in spamming, commercial branding, or indeed slander, defamation and libel... I assume that these are covered by the CC OpenLearn license/terms and conditions of use anyway. And since Cloudworks belongs to the institutional platform of OU, I think it is useful to be covered by such conditions anyway.

Perhaps we can put a clause on the section 'about Cloudworks'?

21 July 2009

Rebecca Galley says...

@Giota thanks for this Giota. I found our discussion earlier in the week really helpful in clearing my mind about this - the more I was exploring options, pros and cons etc  the more indecisive I was becoming about what I thought! I really strongly agree that the key to this is the way we communicate the issue of copyright and 'etiquette' around the site. I feel it needs to be woven into the site so that it becomes 'cultural' rather than a bolt-on issue.

22 July 2009

Juliette Culver says...

Could we give people the option of whether to make their contributions CC like is done e.g. on flickr?


22 July 2009

Doug Clow says...

This is a huge and complex issue.

There's two main issues for Cloudworks that I see: what licence to go for, and what to do about existing contributions.

On what licence to go for, I say simple CC:BY - rationale on my blog here:

But basically, Cloudworks is about sharing, and we want to make that as easy as possible.  And Stephen Downes' fear about commercial enclosure seems particularly unlikely to come to pass for Cloudworks content.

We should, however, make it absolutely crystal clear that we're requiring a non-exclusive CC licence, not transfer of ownership, so the contributors retain all their IPR and can relicence it under whatever terms they like to whoever they like in future.

I'd also argue that we should let the contributors own their own data, and allow them - if they really want - to remove it from Cloudworks at some future point.  That's administratively hard, I know, and could lead to all sorts of awkwardness if people insist on taking their ball away from archived converations.  But remember the fallout when Facebook tried to enforce the opposite view.  The right way to get people to behave well is to treat them well, I think.

On what to do about existing content ... we're in real trouble.  I think the only sensible option is to contact people individually and ask them if it's Ok.  It'll be a nightmare to manage, and most of them will hate us for spamming them.

A halfway house would be to pick up Juliette's idea of giving people the option of CC, and making that the default for all future contributions, but not for existing ones.  But I don't think that's a runner.  One difficulty is that it robs the CC licence of a lot of its effectiveness in terms of encouraging reuse of this stuff: it's not going to be instantly clear what you can and can't reuse and how.  We'll almost certainly end up with discussions where some of the contributions can be remixed/repurposed/reused but others can't, which is just a horrible mess. And what about a Cloud (or wiki!) edited by two or more people with different rights settings?  There's no right answer to that question.  Worse, if we override my view and go for a Share Alike licence, there's no answer that wouldn't violate the rights of one of the two editors.

So in summary, I say go for CC:BY as the default licence from now, and do the horrible legwork of contacting existing contributors to get permission or removing their contributions.  It's the least bad option.

23 July 2009

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