When is a Remix no longer a Remix?

As many of you may know, I’m a big supporter of Creative Commons and the ideals of open sharing. I publish most of my stuff under a CC licence, usually BY-SA, because I think sharing is important and I believe that the world is a better place if we allow others to build on what we do (in the same way that I often build on the influences of others).

So, a while back I published a couple of things to the OER Commons; a site where teachers can upload and freely share their educational resources with others. The general idea is that if you publish to OER Commons, anyone can take your work and remix it and build upon it to create a version for their own individualised use. For busy teachers who all too often find themselves “reinventing the wheel” in the creation of their own teaching resources, it’s a brilliant concept. You can also attach metadata to the resources you share to make them more searchable, and even map them to the US Common Core standards if you wish. If someone finds your work useful, but wants to make slight changes, the site provides the option to remix the work, connecting the new work with the old work via metadata. Like I said, it’s a brilliant concept.

One of the resources I published to the OER Commons was a worksheet called “What Rights, where?” which aims to be a guide on how to select the appropriate Creative Commons license for a piece of creative work. It links to a Google Doc which suggests a range of scenarios and asks the user to think about which of the CC attributes might be most appropriate for the circumstances.

I got an email the other day informing me that another OER Commons user, Binod Deka, had made a remix of my What Rights, where? worksheet. I was pleased to think that someone liked it and might have found it useful enough to remix it for their own needs. After all, that’s the whole point of OER Commons.

Of course, I was also curious as to what changes he might have made to it, so I took a look at his version to see what was different. You can see his version here. The weird thing is that, from what I can see, it bears absolutely no resemblance to my original. His seems to have just removed 100% of the content that I provided, and he has replaced it with a plagiarised cut and paste of information from the Wikipedia definition of what Rights are. It’s a related idea I suppose, but completely disconnected from my original work.

I suppose it’s one of the risks you take when you share openly, that you have to trust that people building upon your work won’t destroy more than they create. While I’m glad to see my work getting used, I’m not too thrilled about the idea that his work of plagiarism from Wikipedia purports to be a remix of something of mine. I don’t think it was done with malice or any ill-intent, but it’s a bit annoying. It’s also a bit ironic that the work that gets credited as the source (mine) gets cited with a remix link, and the work that is actually used in the remix (from Wikipedia) is not cited at all.

I like the term “remix” because it implicitly suggests that the original work should still be somewhat evident in the new work. A remix is not designed to completely mask the original work in the same way that students are taught to hide their original sources lest they risk an accusation of plagiarism. I have no issue with someone remixing my work, but I’m perplexed by the idea of my work not being even remotely evident in the remix.

All of this got me thinking… At what point is a remix no longer a remix? For that matter, when does plagiarism cease to be plagiarism? And how much originality needs to added to an idea of influence before you can legitimately consider it to be a new work?

As always, your thoughts are valued in the comments…

Featured Image: Acrylic Paint from Wikipedia

Lessons in Creative Commons, Part 2

Here’s the follow-up from my last post about the copyright claim that YouTube made on a video I made using a Creative Commons soundtrack. You can read the previous post for the start of the story if you’re interested.

Since then, I’ve had conversations with several people about the issue. One was Jeff Price, the CEO of Audiam. Audiam was listed by YouTube as the entity responsible for policing the claim. Audiam is a service that musicians can use to track the use of their music in YouTube, although I think they also monitor Spotify and a few other streaming services as well. Basically, when a musician signs up to use Audiam’s services they upload a sample of their music which gets passed on to YouTube and fingerprinted. Fingerprinting is a process whereby the track can be compared against existing tracks to see if it matches, thereby identifying the copyright status of the music. If a match is made, YouTube flags it as a copyright violation and that was the problem I was having. It’s all done algorithmically of course, there are no actual people involved in the process, and in principle it’s a great idea.

My contention was that the track in question was a Creative Commons licensed track and therefore had been incorrectly identified by the system, so I appealed the infringement claim by YouTube/Audiam.

I had a few back and forth exchanges with Jeff Price about the problem. While we probably didn’t quite see eye to eye on everything, overall I thought it was a productive conversation. I was impressed and thankful that Jeff took the time to engage in the debate with me, although in the end, I didn’t feel that anything was really resolved. Basically, Jeff insisted that if I wanted to track to be released from the copyright claim I had to contact the musician and get them to ask Audiam to exempt my use of it. My argument was that a Creative Commons license was designed to avoid the need to do this and that it already grants that permission in advance. Jeff didn’t contradict me on this point, he just insisted that I either buy a license or get an exemption.

The most informative exchange I had was with the actual musician who created the piece, a guy called Enrique Molano. It took a bit of online detective work to find out who was responsible for the track but I eventually connected with Enrique through LinkedIn, where I discussed the issue with him. And that’s where it got interesting…

So here’s the lesson part of the story.

Enrique replied, very nicely, with a link to a support thread from Jamendo that contained the following information…

(No Derivatives is) the most misunderstood paragraph of the CC license. People think that as long as they don’t cut or trim the music, they can use it for their videos, but this is not true. Music with ND attribute is for listening only. You can make unlimited copies of it on various mediums, include it in playlists and compilations, embed it on websites, use it as music on hold or business background music, but you can’t use it as soundtrack for videos, games, audiobooks, presentations, etc. As the legal code says:

“(you can) make such modifications as are technically necessary
to exercise the rights in other media and formats, but otherwise
you have no rights to make Adaptations.”

People often argue that using an unaltered song as a soundtrack to a video does not make the video a derivative work, because the song itself is not recast or transformed in any way. That’s where “Don’t build upon this work” takes place. Coupling the music with additional content such as images, audio, or motion picture, is considered “building upon”. The legal code is very explicit about it:

“For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical work,
performance or phonogram, the synchronization of the Work in
timed-relation with a moving image (“synching”) will be considered
an Adaptation for the purpose of this License.”

Thus, as far as No Derivatives licenses are concerned, videos that use an ND-licensed song violate the terms of the license.

Say what?! I use Creative Commons a lot, and this is certainly not what I’ve been led to believe. I’m guessing that many of you may have also been under the same misconception. I’ve always understood that the No Derivs component of a Creative Commons license means that you can’t remix, change or edit the music, but I never realised that limitation extended to using the track, unchanged, as a soundtrack. But apparently this IS the case. Using a CC license with an ND property means you are NOT allowed to build upon the work, including using it as a soundtrack to a video.

The fact is, putting a CC BY-ND-NC license on a piece of work is just about as restrictive as leaving a full Copyright license on it. You still can’t really use it for anything without permission or paying.

While I feel a bit foolish not knowing about this detail of the ND license, I’m apparently not the only one. In his email to me, Enrique said “Sorry about the inconvenience. We’ve got about 200 claims from Audiam, apparently all of them under the same confusion.”  I don’t like being wrong but I am glad that this little journey taught me some things that I didn’t know. Engaging in the conversation with Jeff Price was interesting and useful (although we could have avoided a lot of our back and forth had he simply pointed out that an ND track can’t be used as a soundtrack under the terms of the CC license). I’m thankful that Enrique eventually pointed it out, and that caused me to delve into a whole lot more background reading about Creative Commons, including re-reading the actual legal code in these licenses. I also learned there are significant wording changes between CC v3.0 and CC v4.0.

But at the end of it all, I learned the bottom line. If you want to use Creative Commons music with an intention of including it in a video, even if you don’t modify or remix the actual music track itself, DON’T use a license that includes the ND property.

If you produce content and your intention is to share it, and if you want to provide others with the necessary permissions to build upon your work, stick to one of the “Culturally Free” licenses, either CC BY, or CC BY-SA.  Even a well intentioned use of No Derivs (or even Non Commercial) just causes a whole lot of headaches for those who want to legitimately build upon your work.

Featured image “I love to share” from  Creative Commons HQ on Flickr

Lessons in Creative Commons

A few weeks ago Linda and I got home from a short holiday in Bali. We had a great time, and managed to collect a few snippets of video along the way using a GoPro camera. A few days after I got home I managed to stitch a few clips together into a little video summary of the holiday using my own footage and some Creative Commons music that I sourced from Jamendo, one of of my favourite sources for CC-licensed music. I used a happy little track called “8_Happiness AC2” by an artist called “Music for your Media“. The track was licensed under a CC BY-ND-NC licence – meaning that if I attribute the artist (I did), don’t modify the music (I didn’t), and not make money from its use (I’m not), I was welcome to use it. That’s the nice thing about Creative Commons licensing; the terms and conditions of use are clear, explicit and fairly unambiguous.

Or so I thought.

After I edited the video – all 2 minutes and 52 seconds of it – it was published to YouTube. The next day I received a notification from YouTube saying that the sound track used on the video was a copyright violation, and that it contained “Disputed Third Party Matched Content”. In other words, someone was claiming that I’d used the music without the correct permissions from the copyright owner.

I don’t believe that it is “Disputed third party matched content”. I sourced the music track as a Creative Commons media asset, which was clearly indicated in the download link on the Jamendo site, as shown here…

download_happiness

“Free and legal for personal use” seems pretty unambiguous to me.

The Jamendo website also has a nice simple explanation of Creative Commons files on its FAQ page…

“Jamendo can be free and legal thanks to Creative Commons licenses. They grant the right to download and share music for free and legally. Artists choose to use these licenses, and to use Jamendo as a means to share and promote their music.”

“Creative Commons are licenses that enable musicians to give away their music for free while protecting their rights. They are easy to use and compatible with internet standards, and allow rights holders to authorize (or not) certain uses of their music, such as commercial uses and derived works.”

There was a link in my YouTube Video Manager dashboard to dispute the claim, so of course I disputed it. I provided the links to the site that I got the file from, pointed out it was a CC track, and assumed that would be the end of it.

Then today I got another notification from YouTube that my dispute had been rejected and that the original claim of using Disputed third party matched content would be upheld.

dispute_rejected

As a longstanding supporter of Creative Commons, I was pretty pissed off that the “copyright holder”, a label called Audiam, was jerking me around like this.  The track I used was clearly a Creative Commons track and my use of it was clearly within the requirements of the BY-NC-ND license. I have my own suspicions about why they are making this claim, but I’ll save the theories for now.  I don’t know what deal Music for your Media may have done with Audiam, but I do know that the file I sourced was issued under a clearly defined, non-revocable CC license.

Feeling very annoyed, I decided to appeal the ruling because in this instance I’m convinced I am right. Although it would be trivially simple to just substitute another piece of copyright free music from the YouTube media library and be done with it, it’s the principle that matters here.

preface

So I clicked the link to appeal the dispute and provided the following information to YouTube…

Thanks for looking into this alleged infringement and making a ruling but NO, I cannot agree with this ruling. I know it would be far simpler to just remove the video from YouTube or to replace the soundtrack with a different piece of music, but there is a principle at stake here. I believe that your ruling is incorrect and I’d like to dispute it further. Despite the risk I take in having you find against my use of the music again, I know that I am in the right and I want to defend my use of Creative Commons licensed material.

The piece of music in question, “Music for your Media – Happiness is Here” was sourced under a Creative Commons license from Jamendo, one of the Internet’s major sources of Creative Commons music.

The link at which I retrieved the MP3 file was this page… https://www.jamendo.com/en/track/1147331/8-happiness-ac2

When clicking the Download button on that page the license terms of the music are displayed as Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Use of the track is clearly summarised on the download dialog as follows…

Some Rights Reserved – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND
You can copy, distribute, advertise and play this track as long as you:
Give credit to the artist
Don’t alter, transform or build upon this album
Don’t use this album for commercial purposes

I have not violated any of those terms. The music is credited in the closing credits of the video, I have not altered or remixed the track. I have not used it for commercial purposes, it’s simply a personal video about a holiday I took in Bali. (non commercial even includes the fact that YouTube ads are turned off for this video)

I am a longtime user and contributor of Creative Commons material. I am well aware of how CC licensing works and it seems very clear to me that this work was released under a Creative Commons license, and that my use of it was well within the requirements of that license.

I should also point out that CC licenses are not revocable. As stated on the Creative Commons wiki FAQ, “CC licenses are not revocable. Once something has been published under a CC license, licensees may continue using it according to the license terms for the duration of applicable copyright and similar rights. As a licensor, you may stop distributing under the CC license at any time, but anyone who has access to a copy of the material may continue to redistribute it under the CC license terms.”

So even if Audiam, the label claiming ownership of the music, has changed their mind about the licensing of this track, this does not affect my use of it.

To sum up, I have sourced this track legally and through legitimate means. I have completely complied with the terms of this non-revocable CC license. A CC licence is a pre-granting of permission to use a media asset. I do not need to contact the copyright owner to seek permission because that permission has already been granted.

I fail to see how this could possibly be seen as a copyright infringement, and I hope that common sense and a more complete application of the principles of Creative Commons prevails.

I await your response.

Let’s see what happens. I’ve heard of people making these spurious copyright claims before but this is the first time it’s happened to me. The reason is generally that if they win they get the right to place their ads on my video and earn money from them. Most people don’t bother fighting it because it’s simply too much work to appeal, it runs the risk of getting a copyright strike against your YouTube account if you lose, and it’s just far easier to roll over and give in.

Not me, not this time. There is an important principle of freedom at stake here and that’s worth fighting for. I’ll let you know what happens.

Featured CC Image by Kev-shine on Flickr

Rules are Rules. Sort of.

QEWWhen I lived in Canada for a while, I was always a little bemused by the Canadian approach to speed limits. The maximum allowed speed limit on the QEW and the 400-series roads around Toronto is 100km/h and yet if you actually do that speed you just about get run over. The locals routinely cruise the highways there at 120-130km/h and there’s no issue.

I like to drive fast too, but it used to frustrate my sense of logic when I’d ask my Canadian friends why they didn’t observe the speed limit.

“Oh, it says 100,” they’d say, “but nobody actually drives at 100, we drive at 120.”

“Why don’t they just raise the speed limit to 120”, I’d ask.

“Because then people would just do 140” came the reply.

Apart from being a really strange view of human nature, I’d then ask, “Why don’t you just post the speed limit that you actually want people to observe and then enforce that, instead of having this vague gray area where people do what they aren’t supposed to do on the understanding that nobody really minds?”

This same logic struck me today when I saw an RT from Sandy Kendell leading to a tweet from Bill Ferriter, an outstanding educator from North Carolina who shares and blogs a lot of his great work with the online community. It said…

tweet1

I followed the link, and sure enough, it’s an outstanding resource rubric for helping students understand how to leave a good blog comment.  I know that many teachers will find it a really valuable and useful resource.

But then I noticed that there was a copyright notice at the bottom of every page that said…

Copyright Notice

The PDF resource seemed to be being given away freely on Twitter, but there was a fairly obvious Copyright notice at the bottom of every page. This struck me as odd, since Copyright essentially means that you cannot use a resource without prior permission from the author.

Following the link to “download this page” took me to the webpage where I could buy the book that this free resource came from. A little confused about how a copyrighted work was being given away so freely, I responded with a question on Twitter, phrased briefly to stick within the 140 character limit, which started a conversation with Bill…

tweet3

To me, this is all just grey area. If there is an intent to share something that can be used without asking permission, then adding a Copyright notice to it really muddies that intent. The conversation bounced back and forward between Bill and I over Twitter, where I was making the point that, if it’s a free resource that is being given away, then perhaps a better way to do it would be to mark it with a Creative Commons license that clearly indicated up-front how users could make use of this PDF. Marking it with a CC BY-SA-NC, for example, would mean that it could be shared freely for non-commercial purposes, with attribution, and the permission to do so was being given in advance. This eliminates the requirement to contact the author to ask permission, since permission has been pre-given.  That’s the whole point of Creative Commons.

By marking work with a Copyright notice it explicitly says that you cannot use this work without first asking permission. If people do actually follow the rules, that probably means Bill will be kept busy answering a whole lot of “Do you mind if I use your worksheet” emails.

In our twitter conversation Bill made the comment that it was his intention to make the worksheet freely available and that people were welcome to use it. The confusion arises because this same worksheet is very clearly marked with a Copyright notice.  This is just like my Canadian friends who speed along the 100km/h QEW at 130km/h – the sign says one thing, but we do the other. In this case, we say that the resource is free to use, but we signpost it with a notice saying otherwise.

I’m not intending to single Bill out here… he does great stuff, is a prolific sharer online and I have great respect for him. The problem, as he pointed out to me, is that publishers still largely don’t “get” this stuff and they don’t know that alternatives to full copyright exist, or if they do they are too afraid to use them. As an author myself, it astounds me how out of touch most publishers are with the ideals of controlled sharing. There are tons of examples of “Don’t do what I say, do what I mean”. I just think it would be far better if we just said what we mean right from the start.

Bill was trying to defend the publishing industry, reminding me that they are just figuring this stuff out like the rest of us, but I think those of us who understand this stuff should make it our moral duty to educate those who don’t, and help them understand how some of the restrictions they instinctively use, like the indiscriminate stamping of Copyright symbols on everything they publish, work directly against our goals of sharing resources freely with colleagues.

As educators, many of us make things to share with our colleagues – videos, photographs, writing, music, etc. As creators and sharers of educational content, I think we have an obligation to make our sharing intentions crystal clear.  If we intend to freely share our work, then we should clearly indicate that with the use of Creative Commons, Public Domain or some other open license that reflects our intent. If we want to protect our work and restrict access to it, then we should make use of Copyright. But I see a real problem when we confuse the message by not making that intent absolutely clear right from the start.

To paraphrase Dr Suess, you should always say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Then there is no second guessing, no intuiting of intent, and everyone knows exactly where they stand.

CC BY-SA photo by dougtone

Philly to Sydney with Year 2

If you like, you can skip right to the bottom of this post and just watch the video, but I always find the story behind the story kind of interesting. So I thought you  might like to know a little bit about how and why this video was made.

It started out with a simple tweet from my buddy Kim Sivick in Philadelphia.  It started a conversation that went something like this…

Do I know anyone who might make a quick Welcome to Australia video?

I sure do.

And besides, I owe Kim a favour. When I was running blogging workshops with our staff last year I was hoping to tap into the experiences of some very blog-savvy educators by getting them to Skype in and talk to our teachers about the realities and the practicalities of using blogs in the classroom. When I asked for volunteers on Twitter (where else?) Kim Sivick  was one of those who generously responded and agreed to spend time talking with us to share her expertise.

I also got to meet Kim in person at ISTE in Philadelphia last year too, so it was nice to “close the loop” on our virtual meetups.

Kim’s idea was deceptively simple. Get our kids to make a short video about a virtual trip to Australia, and in return her classes would make a video about a virtual trip to Philly for us.

With virtually zero planning, I dropped into one of our Year 2 classrooms and asked the teacher there, Lisa, if her kids would like to make a video for these students in Philly and she jumped at the chance. In no time, Lisa and I had a bit of  a brainstorm on what sorts of things we might do, and she started working with the kids to write a script using GoogleDocs. The script gradually evolved and took shape over the next few days.

I’d been wanting to do some work with chromakeying, or greenscreening for a while, but had just never gotten around to it. It wasn’t something I’d done before, but I suggested to Lisa that if we shot the video of the kids in front of a greenscreen, then it might be fun later to try and drop in the images of various parts of Australia as backgrounds. She thought that sounded pretty cool, so I went to our IT Director and asked if I could buy an inexpensive greenscreen kit. It was one of those things we’d talked about buying for a while, but never quite got around to it. With a reason to need it now, we went online and ordered it on the spot.

When it eventually arrived we set up a date for the shoot. The classroom was transformed into a studio for the morning with lights, camera, and plenty of action. I used iPrompt Pro on my iPad to transfer the script, and then held it up just under the camera lens as a  scrolling teleprompter so the kids could read the script as naturally as possible. We shot it on a Sony HiDef camcorder at 1080i/50. It took a few takes to get things right, but the kids really worked hard to do it was well as possible. Being able to repeat a section over and over in order to get it right was a valuable part of the learning experience.  When it came time to shoot, we all had fun calling out things like “Quiet on the set!” and “Rolling!”  and “Action!”, and running things just like a real movie set. I think the kids had a lot of fun recording it.

I took the footage back to my desk and dumped it all onto my MacBook Pro to ponder out the best way to edit it.  Although I definitely do want to get the kids doing more video work themselves, getting them to edit the footage was not really the learning goal for this particular exercise… it was all about their performance for the camera. After some experiments with iMovie I eventually decided that I’d cut it together with Premiere Pro instead. Premiere Pro was certainly not a program that I knew well, but this seemed like a great chance to get cosy with it. I’m glad I did… it’s a very impressive NLVE tool and I like it a lot more than Final Cut Pro 7.

I always try to make sure we set a good example for students regarding copyright, so it was important that all the background images were available under a Creative Commons licence. I think it’s really important that we demonstrate to our students that you can actually make worthwhile digital media without continually breaking copyright law. All the background images are CC licensed, as are the two pieces of music that I included, both from jamendo.com. The two videos were not released under CC, but using their YouTube contact address I wrote to the owners of both and both were more than happy for us to use their clip. One even offered to send us the hi-def footage! Most people are pretty generous if you just ask. Remember, Copyright doesn’t mean “you can’t use it”, it just means “you can’t use it without permission”, so if it’s not CC, then do the right thing and get permission! It’s just not that hard. (Publishing works under a Creative Commons license makes it much easier of course because it’s essentially an “up-front” permission which is pre-granted as long as you stick to the uses stipulated by the copyright owner)

After a couple of days of editing over the weekend, I did the final render to a 720p .m4v file and uploaded it to YouTube as a private link so the Philly kids (and our kids) could see it the next day.  Here’s the finished product…

It always nice to ceremonialise things that are a bit special, so we set a date for a premiere screening and invited all the Year 2 mums and dads in to watch. When the Year 1 Philadelphia kids watched it, they all wore Aussie bush hats and set up their classroom like the inside of a plane to watch the video.  We had our screening this morning and the movie played to a packed classroom of excited Year 2 students and their parents. Proud parents. Excited kids. Performing for a real audience. Making opportunities to create and practice and iterate. Immediate feedback. And lots of fun and laughs. An authentic learning experience?  You better believe it..

Kim tells me that her kids are working on the sequel for us, showing us their virtual trip to Philadelphia, so we are looking forward to that.

Lisa, our Year 2 teacher, now keeps asking me when we can do our next global project, and is coming up with lots of cool ideas for how it will fit into next terms syllabus.

Overall, I think I’d consider this whole thing a win, wouldn’t you. 🙂

Why Creative Commons?

Although I’ve not managed to keep up fully with the Open Content Licensing for Educators course being run by the WikiEducator group this week, I have managed to spend enough time with to do a bit of thinking about copyright, Creative Commons, and what all this stuff means to me as an educator. The course has been a good introductory overview of these issues, although I was already fairly aware of much of  the information being shared. The real value was in connecting with other educators from all over the world and hearing so many different perspectives on how traditional copyright can be so debilitating, especially in the developing world.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this copyright law stuff, but I have been taking a keen interest in the work of the Creative Commons folk for quite a while now and I try to take every opportunity to promote the benefits of the Commons. Reading through the forums, it’s clear that this hasn’t been the case for everyone, and it’s been great to see so many interested educators taking their first steps towards knowing more about CC and OER, and sharing ideas on how it can benefit them. As an exercise in spreading the excellent work of Creative Commons, the course appears to have been a great success.

Because I feel like I’m coming at the course content from a slightly different perspective, I decided to make this short video as a summary reflection on what Creative Commons means to me. It was prompted by a comment by Wayne Mackintosh in the previous post on this blog, where he pointed me towards a similar reflection video by Justin Cone, the producer of the Building on the Past video. As someone who has been pushing CC for a while, I thought it would be appropriate for me to take the opportunity to capture a few thoughts about it.

http://www.vimeo.com/21453342

I’d love to read some comments about how Creative Commons has made a difference to what you do as an educator.

Becoming More Open

One of the things I feel quite strongly about is encouraging the responsible sharing of educational content through appropriate open licenses. There are lots of problems created by traditional copyright, and anyone who works in a school knows just how silly the copyright rules can be at times. While I understand the need for content creators to protect their work from being stolen and to protect their right to make a living, there are many times when the rules imposed by traditional copyright just seem completely absurd.

I’ve pushed the idea of Creative Commons for a number of years now, and I try to make sure that everything I produce is published under a CC license. I want to share by default, not by exception, and I can’t help but imagine what a better world we’d live in if everyone did the same. It’s so ironic that so many teachers are the most blatant abusers of copyright, yet feel so affronted when it’s suggested that they license their work in a way that might allow others to use it freely.

For quite a while now I’ve put a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike license (or CC BY-NC-SA) on this blog (and most of the other sites I publish). I originally decided on that license type because it seemed logical to me… it implied that you can use my work without the need to seek permission so long as it was attributed to me, you didn’t restrict others from also taking it from you, and you didn’t make money from it. It seemed logical.

Tonight, as part of the Open Education Content for Educators course I’m doing with the Wikimedia Educators group, I read an article called The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons -NC License. I’d heard other people talk about why, for educational purposes, it’s a good idea to not include the Non-Commercial limitation in a CC license, but I’d always included it anyway because, while I’m happy to share, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to see other people getting rich off my work. However, I’ve realised that including the -NC limitation raises a whole lot of other issues that I hadn’t considered, and may actually make it harder to use my work than traditional copyright. I don’t want that. I want to be able to share freely, and to allow anyone to make use of what I create and write.

The use of an -NC license is very rarely justifiable on economic or ideological grounds. It excludes many people, from free content communities to small scale commercial users, while the decision to give away your work for free already eliminates most large scale commercial uses. If you want to obtain additional protection against large scale exploitation, use a Share-Alike license. This applies doubly to governments and educational or scientific institutions: content which is of high cultural or educational value should be made available under conditions which will ensure its widespread use. Unfortunately, these institutions are often the most likely to choose -NC licenses…

…Recognizable and genuine free content communities can only evolve around the principle of true freedom. You have the chance to send a clear message whenever you license your own works. You have the chance to be heard, amplified by the voices of free content supporters around the planet.

For this reason, I’ve decided to remove the -NC requirement and change the Creative Commons licence on this blog to a CC BY-SA licence.

If you also publish work under a Creative Commons license, I’d encourage you to have a read of this article and consider opening up your content to help build a freer, more open world.

As an aside, one of the conversations we are having at my school at the moment is about changing our mindset about the content we create, and perhaps making everything we do available under an OER or Creative Commons license. For a large independent school like ours this is a big step, since in many ways, our content is a valuable commodity and is part of the reason that parents send their children to our school. Some would view it as our competitive advantage, and the notion that we might make it freely available is seen by some as crazy. But nonetheless, we are serious about investigating ways to license what we create as Open Educational Resources and to look at lifting that ridiculous rule that says everything you produce while at school is copyright owned by the school, not the teacher. We want to find ways where it can be used freely by both. I have no idea just where this discussion will end up, and just how open and free we might be able to make things, but for a school like ours it’s wonderful to seethat we are even having the conversation.

PS: If you have a WordPress blog, you might like to use the Creative Commons Configurator, a free WordPress plugin that adds both human and machine readable information to your posts. It’s super easy to use, and is one of my favourite WP plugins.

If you use Microsoft Word, there is also a free add-in you can install called the Creative Commons Add In for Microsoft Office. It adds a button to the ribbon that lets you include a CC license of your choice to any printable document. If you must use Office, it’s a nice add-in to have.