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ICDE Keynote: Lawrence Lessig - ODL in a changing world

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Patrick McAndrew
3 October 2011

Lawrence Lessig led with the position that "Copyright is necessary" especially in the digital age. The copyleft and copyright position share a view that there should be rights held by artists, but differ in the view of publishers that "copyright is for publishers". Which is *not* the legal position (established in England 1774).

In the context of education and science copyright is not essential. But the academic world has terrible access built by "us". The restrictions have nothing to do with the *intention* of copyright that was designed to protect culture rather than science. The open access movement is responding to the costs and unfairness in the "for profit" model. The science commons principles for open science sets out what is needed to give freedoms to use the information (see http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Science_license). The success of Plos (Public Library of Science) and gradual adoption of CC-BY/CC-BY-NC means that 71% of science articles published last year had an open licence.

Lawrence showed a brilliant range of videos e.g. (from soderberg.tv) that demonstrate the clash between "18th C copyright and 21 C technology".

Ceative commons has now reached 500bn items released with the more open licence. This voluntary reform is mitigating the old legislation.

The future of education is not Harvard (despite him being a Harvard Professor) but rather a variation on Open & Distance Education. But to deliver its potential the copyright problems must be solved - with a hybrid of commercial and open. This could tap the "amateur" creators as well as the professional. Again voluntary reform is needed to retain free access to material that can be built upon to adapt and share. The need to clear out the uncertainty through the work of e.g. UNESCO to free up content. Standardised free licences are needed - avoiding customisation under the "Freely licensed content must be interoperable" principle (FLCMBI). The wikipedia example of moving from GNU-FDL to CC-BY showed how care is needed. These licenses have the same intention but the requirement to keep the licence kept them apart. The UK was cited as the source for a couple of failures: the BBC-Creative Archive licence and the Open Government Licence. Both destined to be forgotten - as they cannot mix with other licences.

The ethics of universal access to knowledge encourages openness.

Lawrence ended with an explanation that we cannot expect formal revisions until the US Government reforms itself not least because of the funding regime that means "30-70%" of a politician's time is spent in deaiing with fund raising. This in turn has the efffect of biasing attitudes. This makes the blocking of IP legislation almost a certainty as politicians act to support existing power bases. Unless the world moves first to shame the US.

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Lawrence Lessig, 24th ICDE World Conference, 2011

Lawrence Lessig, 24th ICDE World Conference, 2011

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