Anatomy of a Creative Commons (CC) Licence

As it’s Open Education 2019 in Arizona next week I have had to get a little ahead on the CC Certification course assignments.  We were asked to write another presentation, this time on the parts that make up a Creative Commons licence.

Anatomy of a Creative Commons (CC) Licence from Robert Farrow

What is copyright?

We have our second assignment for our Creative Commons course due today.  This time we were asked to write a short presentation on copyright basics.   If you find any slides useful feel free to make use of them!


Creative Commons TimeLine

I am currently studying for a Creative Commons certificate for educators and we have our first assignment. We were asked to publish assignments online, so I’m putting mine here on the blog. Although all the content on this blog is CC-BY I’ve added additional attribution.  The brief was to write a timeline for Creative Commons which explains the key events around its establishment.  It’s difficult to know where to stop with this kind of thing because you can certainly keep expanding the story.  I’ve focused mainly on copyright but you could tell a pretty interesting open education story from 2008 onwards…

Year Event
1886 The Berne Convention provides the first international agreement for managing copyright and mandates several aspects of modern copyright law such as automatic registration, mutual recognition between nations, what qualifies as a protected work, what rights are connoted or expressed, and where exceptions or limitations might apply.  The Convention is widely adopted, being revised in 1908, 1914, 1928, 1948, 1967, 1971 and 1979.


1909 1909 Copyright Act (USA) establishes that works that were neither published nor registered did not enjoy statutory intellectual property protection (U.S. Copyright Office, 2003).
1952 The Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) was developed by UNESCO as an alternative to the Berne Convention. UCC was aimed at developing countries who tended to be importers rather than exporters of copyright. This further strengthened international co-ordination and convention around copyright.
1976 The Copyright Act of 1976 updated copyright law for the age of mass communication. It covers a wider range of authorship, works, and technologies than superseded law. Important codifications include fair use and transferal of copyright. It also codifies the following rights:

·       to reproduce (copy) the work

·       to create derivative works

·       the right to distribute copies

·       to perform the work publicly

·       to display the work publicly

1983 Free software movement founded with launch of GNU
1989 World Wide Web launched.  Through the 1990s the Internet will extend authorial reach but raises many issues with regards to copyright across national boundaries and associated regulation.
1993 EU Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonises the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights. The directive instructs EU members to establish a baseline copyright term of life plus 70 years and to deny this longer term to the works of any non-EU country whose laws did not secure the same extended term. One effect of the Directive was in some countries to remove some works from the public domain and return them to copyright.
1995 The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995 (DPRA) amends the Copyright Act of 1976 by including the right to perform a sound recording by means of digital audio.
1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty provides additional protections for copyright which reflect advances in information and communication technologies since the establishment of copyright law. Features of note include recognition of computer code and databases as literary works; and prohibition of technological circumvention of copyright protection (WIPO, 1996).
1997 The No Electronic Theft Act criminalises copyright infringement where there is no intention to profit. Prior to this act, some commercial or private benefit was needed to prove a criminal intention – see United States v. LaMacchia 871 F.Supp. 535 (D.Mass. 1994).
1998 U.S. Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) or “Sonny Bono” CTEA further extends copyright protection by 20 years to 70 years after the authors death (U.S. Copyright Office, 2003). For corporate rights holders the extension was to 120 year after creation or 95 years after publication. The act represented the latest effort to extend copyright terms in favour of copyright holders and was at least partly motivated by the potential expiry of long-standing corporate intellectual property.  The CTEA represented the 11th extension of USA copyright in 4 decades.  One result of the CTEA was that no copyrighted material published since 1923 could pass into the public domain until 2019.

Despite this extension of copyright power, there were significant developments towards openness.  Also in 1998, the “open-source” movement is formalised with the release of Netscape’s web-browser code and the establishment of the Open Source Initiative. The term “open content” is proposed (Wiley, 1998) to describe content that anyone is free to use or adapt.

1999 Copyrights Commons is formed to legally challenge the copyright term extensions resulting from the CTEA. The constitutionality of the CTEA was challenged by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig and internet publisher Eric Eldred.
2001 Copyrights Commons evolves into Creative Commons, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the number of works in the public domain.
2002 The first set of Creative Commons licenses – partly inspired by copyleft and GNU – are published with the intention to close the gap between private copyright and the public domain (Geere, 2011). The licences comprise: a plain language textual summary; legal code to express permissions reserved; and machine-readable code to allow search engines to differentiate openly licensed content.
2003 The CTEA appeal case (Eldred vs Ashcroft) finally makes it to the Supreme Court, who upheld the constitutionality of the CTEA in 2003.  However, the justices dissented in their opinions with respect to whether (in pragmatic terms) perpetual copyright was in the public interest (USSC, 2003). The key issue was balancing the private and moral rights of copyright holders while attempting to support a vibrant and enriching commons.   This would determine the future trajectory of Creative Commons licensing, which provides authors with the flexibility to determine how their works are used without giving up their moral rights to be recognised as the author.
2004 This year saw the first revision of the Creative Commons licences. Since 2004, all Creative Commons licenses (except CC0) require attribution of the original author (Creative Commons, 2004).
2006 Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 updates Council Directive 93/98/EEC. This Directive increased copyright protection from 50 to 70 years, following the precedent of the CTEA.

A European court rules that Creative Commons licences are legally binding in one of the first legal tests for open licensing (Marson, 2006)

2007 The Developing Nations and (1 of 3) Sampling licenses are withdrawn by Creative Commons (Lessig, 2007).


2009 Creative Commons withdraws the Sampling Plus and NonCommercial Sampling Plus licences from use.


2016 Creative Commons announces an organisational strategy focused not only on increasing the size and range of the commons but also on the actions and interactions actors have around that open content (Creative Commons, 2016).

The CC0 licence is introduced to provide a route to relinquishing rights over a creation (in all countries).

2017 More than 1.4 billion works are published on a Creative Commons licence (Creative Commons, 2017).  Creative Commons has 104 chapters worldwide, forming a global affiliate network of advocates and experts in the technical and legal aspects of copyright. Getting involved in the network can also be done through their newsletter or via social media. Developers can contribute to the construction and refinement of new digital tools for copyright and licensing.


Creative Commons (2004). Announcing (and explaining) our new 2.0 licenses.

Creative Commons (2016). Strategy and Ideas.

Creative Commons (2017). State of the Commons.

Geere, D. (2011). The history of Creative Commons. Wired.

Lessig, L. (2004). How I lost the big one. Legal Affairs (March/April).

Lessig, L. (2007). Retiring standalone DevNations and one Sampling license. Creative Commons.

Marston, I. (2006). Creative Commons license upheld by court. CNet.

U.S. Copyright Office (2003). Certain Unpublished, Unregistered Works Enter Public Domain.

USSC (2003). ELDRED et al. v. ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL (2003). No. 01-618. United States Supreme Court.

Wiley, D. (1998). Open Content.

WIPO (1996). WIPO Copyright Treaty. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

UK Open Textbooks: key points

Last month I presented the UK Open Textbooks project at the Learning On/With the Open Web event organised by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab and held at the Coventry Transport Museum.

You can see the submission here but I thought it was a good idea to record the headlines here in case the conference site is removed at some point. The full report on the activities of the UK Open Textbooks project will be available from December 2018.  Keep an eye on the Twitter feed for more info!

An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license, and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers and members of the public.  The UK Open Textbooks project (2017-2018) has explored the readiness of the UK open textbook market through a combination of survey research, interviews, and a series of case studies.  Key takeaways include:

  • 20% of students who start a UK degree course will not finish, with maintenance costs a significant factor
  • Current students will average £50,000 in fees and maintenance loans upon graduation
  • NUS data indicates an average spend of £1,000 per student year on books and materials
  • 88% of UK students claim to have skipped purchasing a textbook because of price
  • There is a significant body of research demonstrating the quality and efficaciousness of open textbooks and OER more generally
  • Open textbooks are funded by universities, foundations, governments and other institutions to disrupt the traditional model of textbook publishing
  • In the open model, authors are typically paid for their work, which is then released under an open licence (usually Creative Commons)
  • This allows content to be freely copied, shared, edited, remixed and used in new ways without further permissions
  • Using open textbooks can also lead to significant innovations in teaching and learning through open pedagogies and open educational practices
  • Many UK universities have begun to explore the possibilities!

We are currently assembling a report that will summarise the impact of the activities we have organised in the course of the project – this will be available in December 2018.

What I heard, what I did not hear and what I wish I had heard… Reflections on the World Conference on Online Learning, Toronto, 2017

Interesting blog post from Paul Prinsloo that captures some of the tensions in educational technology today…


Recently I’ve had the privilege of attending the World Conference on Online Learning in Toronto, organized and hosted by Contact North I Contact Nord. What a conference it was! At times, it resembled a medieval marketplace or bazaar with a variety of voices and opinions demanding attention. In addition, amid the noise and excitement, if one listened closely, one heard silences, things that were not said, things that were left out, or things you just missed hearing because you were at a different part of the conference.

So what did I hear? What did I somehow miss? Moreover, what did I wish I heard?

What I heard…

In our discussions about online learning, we have to put pedagogy central and first, and not technology.

The first of the five presenters in the opening plenary of the conference, Laura Czerniewicz (University of Cape Town) posed, at least for me, the most…

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Open, Online, Flexible and Technology Enhanced Models for Learning (OOFAT) interim report presentation

Today I’m presenting results of the OOFAT (Models for Open, Online, Flexible and Technology-Enhanced Learning) at The Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2017: Higher Education for the Future – ‘Accelerating and Strengthening Innovation’.

Here are a copy of the slides for those who are interested…

Unconference: ethics #opened17

RpouvAiI’m in Anaheim, CA., land of forest fires and Disney, for this years Open Education conference.  This year, for the first time, there is time allocated for an unconference session.  This seemed like a good opportunity for collect information about ethical issues delegates might be experiencing ahead of the the PILSNER seminar I’m delivering on Monday, so I offered to run a session on ethics.  However, this couldn’t go ahead because I got sidetracked into something else.  But here’s a blog post with some of the ideas I would have shared for anyone who is interested.

I produced a summary of some of my thoughts around ethics and openness for a Towards Openness session at OER17.

This is a basic summary of my paper, A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education (2016).  In Monday’s presentation I intend to outline the approach taken and highlight some specific instances of ethical issues to foster dialogue.  Here are some of the areas under consideration:

  • A colleague at a community college in the USA explained to me that there is some disturbance within his institution as a result of conflicting priorities around openness and cost.  They have a threshold of $40 per student/class for materials to be considered ‘low cost’.  Some commercial providers are using OER to put together offerings that are presented as ‘open’ when then in fact are run for profit.  Openness and cost are often conflated in this way and this provokes a challenge:  should we be purist about openness and advocate only for what we consider to be the most open/moral approach to expanding provision, or should we just be entirely pragmatic about these kinds of issues and concentrate only on whether students have access to the materials they need?
  • Guerrilla research: it’s increasingly possible for researchers to work independently of institutions, making use of publicly available data.  This is perhaps the most extreme example of ‘open’ research in that it happens entirely outside of the institutional structures and processes that are supposed to ensure or promote ethical behaviours.  It’s also possible to create a relatively high profile for this work through dissemination on social media.  How do we ensure that ethical standards are being met?
  • Equity and inclusion were real buzz words at this conference, but I sometimes find that these phrases have a platitudinous quality when we don’t acknowledge that these are more complex than they first appear.  For instance, should we take ‘equity’ to refer to ‘equity of opportunity’ (who gets to take part in education and under what conditions) or to refer to ‘equity of outcome’ (where the goal is to equalise educational outcomes)?  Should it refer to both?  If so, which is prioritised?
  • Another area that generated interest at the conference was the idea of educational bias and how it might be minimised.  This gave rise to questions about making the canon or corpus of a particular subject less “white, Christian and male” – philosophy came in for particular criticism – but there were also suggestions about teaching in such a way as to minimise this kind of bias.  I confess that I am not that clear on what this looks like.  Freire was mentioned as an inspiration.  But it seems to boil down to a combination of criticality, inclusiveness, contextual awareness and deconstruction of the status quo.
  • The place of social media in research is somewhat vexed.  At one end of the scale we have things like Facebook’s emotional contagion study which would have struggled to pass an institutional review because of its willingness to cause harm to participants, but since Facebook is not governed in the same way as educational institutions people have few options in the way of redress.  This case gets to the heart of the difference between our expectations about how our “open” data will be used and what happens in practice.
  • Another area I think is worth considering is the role of social justice in all this.  For a lot of open education advocates this is at the core of the movement.  But rarely do we hear about the concept of social justice being unpacked in the context of open education.  There are competing visions of social justice.
    • For Plato, social justice is a kind of harmony between individuals and the state which enables people to find the roles to which they are best suited (nb., not necessarily the ones they want).
    • Aristotle advocated a kind of redistributive justice where goods and wealth were assigned to people according to their merit – though this favoured – and perhaps only included – aristocratic males.
    • In the Scholastic tradition the idea of social justice becomes more intimately connected with religious service and religious harmony. Aquinas connected this with the Christian idea of caring for the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged.
    • During the Enlightenment we see the emergence of the idea that a civilised society should provide (equity of) opportunity to its populace; this is distinct from the idea that the poor should somehow be looked after (equity of outcome).  J. S. Mill argued that virtue should be consistently rewarded; a kind of meritocracy (equity of opportunity).
    • Another approach is the ‘social contract‘ which consistently sets out rights and expectations
    • In a modern context we have visions of social justice like that of Rawls, who argued that we must in some sense provide a hypothetical consent for the organisation of society and this is done through compliance with the tenets of a liberal conception of justice: freedom of thought; political liberty, rights, and so on.
  • If we are focused on equity of opportunity our guiding light is something like a principle of fairness; if equity of outcome then the principle is something like equality.

Resisting the surveillance project: Siân Bayne keynote at #altc

This keynote presentation began by describing the ‘slow death’ of Yik Yak, an anonymous geosocial networking app launched in 2013.  The software allowed people in close proximity to send and receive short, anonymous messages and write posts (Yaks).  It was heavily marketed on university campuses.  Yik Yak was totally anonymous, and was moderated by community voting.  Edinburgh students used the app to ask questions.  The hyperlocality of the app meant that interactions were limited (e.g. discipline specific, location specific) rather than campus-wide.

Between July 2016 and May 2017, 46,637 Yaks were downloaded and analysis.  In addition, two undergraduate research assistants kept reflective diaries, and data was pulled from other studies the researchers were involved with at the time.

The research team assumed that the hyperlocality of Yik Yak was the key element, but in fact anonymity was the the most important thing for students.  The app developers made a similar misjudgement.  Their tinkering with the app eventually removed the anonymity and this was followed by outcry from the user base.  The return of anonymity was eventually restored, and the data gathered by Edinburgh showed that, for their local users, use of the app picked up again.  At a global level it never recovered, and Yik Yak went from #3 in the download charts in 2014 to #447 by 2016.  On 6 May, 2017 the app was closed down and the company sold for $1 million – having been valued at $400 million just two years before. The failure of the developers to understand the importance of anonymity in their app was symptomatic of a more general failure to understand the value of their product for their market.

There was widely reported abuse, harassment, victimisation and toxicity on Yik Yak, and this was to some extent enabled by the anonymity.  To deal with this, the developers tagged the app as for adults on the App Store, and prevented the app from working in schools.  This cut a lot of the user base.  A system of word filtering was also introduced to flag potentially offensive tweets.  The community also tended to down-vote abuse and up-vote positive messages.  Black, Mezzina & Thompson (2016) found that there was abuse on Yik Yak, but not so much as to demonise the platform as a whole.

Bachmann et al (2017) argue that anonymity can enable disinhibition and create safe spaces:  anonymity need not be associated with toxicity.  Students at Edinburgh used Yik Yak as a support network, notably for mental health issues. Bayne argues that we need to stop seeing anonymity as evidence of some kind of deviancy or an unwillingness to reveal.  As Nissenbaum (1999) argues, the value of anonymity is in acting or participating while remaining out of reach and unattainable.  (Compare this with the ubiquity of Facebook and the way that it is practically essential for students who wish to have a social life or join groups.) Lanchester (2017) provides a good overview of worries about Facebook surveillance.  Bachmann et al (2017) make the point that anonymity is a barrier to both platform capitalism and surveillance culture more generally.

Two conclusions:

  1. When designing digital learning environments, we need to allocate space for un-namability and ephemerality.  E.g. designing pop-up tools that delete themselves.
  2. The surveillance project is opposed to our instincts for an effective life.  Zuboff et al (2015) suggest this leads to a kind of psychic numbing that makes us less attentive to the operations of surveillance capitalism.  In designing teaching we should actively educate against ‘psychic numbing’.

Open Cyborgs at #altc

I’m in Liverpool this week for the annual ALT Conference. I’m primarily here as part of the UK Open Textbooks project to assist and understand the adoption strategy used by OpenStax.

In the opening keynote Bonnie Stewart encouraged us to understand embodied work and embodied perspectives as important as the ‘rational’ perspectives that have traditionally informed academic inquiry.  She appealed to Haraway’s (1985) socio-feminist conception of the cyborg as a model for open practice in education.  “The cyborg gives me a model of hope and possibility… not faithful to norms (as in a bell curve) but capable of inspiring actions and projects.”  My own reading of Haraway identifies this position with the following adjectives: genderless; un-alienated; independent; oppositional; un-hierarchical; rhizomatic; irreverent; subversive; quintessential; bodily; illegitimate; monstrous; inorganic.  (Most of these appear to be negatively defined – i.e. defined by what they are not. This is also common for open approaches.)

Representation Simulation
Bourgeois novel (realism) Science Fiction (postmodernism)
Organism Biotic component
Depth Surface
Perfection Optimization
Organic division of labour Cybernetics of labour
Reproduction Replication
Community ecology Ecosystem
Freud Lacan
Sex Genetic engineering
Mind Artificial Intelligence
World War II Star Wars
White capitalist patriarchy Informatics of domination

I found this table more helpful in explaining the difference between traditional, hierarchical positions and the “informatics of domination”. (I left out some of the more esoteric elements of the table.) Here are a couple of quotes that also seem to be useful for understanding the position:

“The cyborg is not subject to Foucault’s biopolitics; the cyborg stimulates politics, a much more potent field of operations.” (p.302)

“One important route for reconstructing socio-feminist politics is through theory and practice addressed to the social relations of science and technology, including crucially the system of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations. The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code.” (p.302)

I am not sure I understand the cyborg theory outlined in the paper well enough to say whether it really makes sense – but it’s an interesting take on how to identfy the normative dimensions of openness. For me it’s perhaps close to the kind of contrarianism presented in Deleuze & Guattari’s (1972) Anti-Oedipus, perhaps because of the common interest in Lacanian decentralisation of the psyche.  (Similarly, they also speak of ‘desiring machines’ and ‘rhizomes’.)(Wikipedia reports that feminist Lacanians like Irigaray also an influence.)

Haraway summarises her argument as follows:

  1. The production of total, universalising theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality (probably always and certainly now)
  2. Taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts

Cyborg theory is anti-essentialist and aims at overcoming the patriarchal dualisms, taxonomies and logics (self/other, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial) that have characterised Western history.  This belief in emancipation and freedom is one that many open practitioners share, but here the approach is deconstructive.

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