Sustainability Outside the Box

You pretty much would have to have been living in a cave for the past decade not to have picked up on the sustainability buzz sweeping through sectors from chemical production to health care to broadcast journalism. The Wikipedia entry on “Sustainability” has had almost daily editing activity for the past three years and includes more than 300 (top notch) citations/references. Still, the definition is far from universally understood and far from static.

Ratner (2004) points out that the whole concept may be expressed as statements of fact, intent, or value with sustainability treated as either a “journey” or a “destination.” In terms of media attention and general public awareness, sustainability is primarily an environmental issue. We think of “going green” and carrying cute canvas bags to the super market. But succession planning and resource utilization strategy are just as much part of sustainability as those cute canvas bags.

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The Results are In…

Well, here are the results of our little licensing quiz…Hopefully someone will correct me on the things I’ve got wrong…

QUESTION #1:
What license should I apply to my dog-training video if I’m cool with releasing openly (and feel everyone should be) but I’d rather my client’s puppies not show up in someone’s animal cruelty presentation?

RESPONSES:
CC-BY-ND-SA
(2)
BY-SA-NC
BY-ND
Creative Commons

My intent was for this to be BY-ND-SA. BY is almost inherent in anything not “all rights reserved.” The statement about feeling others should be open as well implies a Share-Alike clause and No-Derivatives would protect those puppies from ending up in an unseemly remix. This hypothetical trainer doesn’t mention any objections to someone else making money off the video

QUESTION #2:
As a director (not playwrite) can I stage a CC-BY-ND play in a different time period or geographic location (eg. 1960s New York instead of ancient Japan)?

RESPONSES:
YES! : 1

NO : 4

A bit of a trick question… staging a play is not a publishing activity. As long as I am not publishing this as an adaptation of the original author’s work, I am completely within the rights granted directors, performers, users etc. usually lumped under “creative license.”

QUESTION #3:
Am I allowed to create an instructional slideshow on Baroque architecture by combining CC-BY-NC photos from Flikr with CC-BY-SA music from Magnatune and my own narration?

RESPONSES:
YES! : 4
NO : 1

Neither of these licenses limit derivative works, and an instructional slideshow (that might not have been very clear–I meant for classroom use) is well within the non-commercial clause of the photos, so I should be fine. Incidentally, depending on the extent of the resources used in my presentation, this kind of use would be acceptable even if the works were under traditional copyright.

QUESTION #4:
Which license(s) would I be able to apply to the resulting product?

RESPONSES:
CC-BY
CC-BY-SA (2)
CC-BY-NC-SA
None, at least not legally…

If I understand properly, in order to re-mix these resources, their licenses must be not only compatible (which would make CC-BY-NC-SA a viable option) but exactly the same. Practically, we could probably license this BY-NC-SA, but according to the letter of the law, the licenses of the photos and the music are not remix-able.

QUESTION #5:
Classify each of the following licenses based on the type of use permitted:

RESPONSES:

ARR                  :  R – R – R – R
BY                      :  RRRR
BY-SA               :  RRRR
BY-ND-SA        :  RR – R – R
BY-NC               :  RRRR
BY-NC-SA        :  RRRR
BY-NC-ND       :  RR – R – R
BY-NC-ND-SA : RR – R – R

Everyone got this one exactly right. I guess that illustrates well the fact that on their own each license and its bounds are pretty clear…it’s the compatibility issues that introduce the confusion and complexity.

Disclaimer: This was a game. Only a handfull of responses are represented. In no way should any of the following results or analysis be given scientific, statistical, or practical credence of any kind 🙂

State of the Movement…

I’m taking “Introduction to Open Education” from David Wiley this semester. Incidentally, you can too! (love it when people practice what they preach) And I would highly recommend it. Our first “quest” (the course is an erratic spin-off of World of Warcraft) is to research and summarize the history of the Open Ed movement…briefly.

Like almost any revolution, OpenEd began in almost pristine idealism. Again typically, the idea germinated and finally erupted in several tight-knit enclaves almost simultaneously right around the turn of the century (still have trouble getting that term not to conjure up images like this). Wiley obsessed about reuse and learning objects and drafted his own open license. Downes evangelized connectivity and information access as a basic right. Creative Commons plotted mass expansion of remixable resources from audio to images to law briefs and drafted their own set of licenses. And MIT sent spasms of shock and awe through the higher education world when it announced plans to make all lecture notes, syllabi and course materials free and open to the public. Meanwhile, the giants of the Free and Open Software movement looked on with that wistful mixture of love and pity that only a group 10 years further down the road could understand.

Things have since gotten a bit messier. I’m not suggesting anything like the Reign of Terror at MIT or slaughtered innnocents at Rice’s Connexions hub, but (perhaps significantly in the twilight of multi-million dollar funding grants from giants like Hewlett and Gates) Open Education seems to have moved past the riot in the streets; “death to copyright–free education for all!” and on to the hunkered-down, brutal-facts strategizing, consolidating, and compromising that we all hope will move these rabble-rousing edupunks sustainably into the mainstream.

Today, nearly everyone seems to agree that sustainability is the issue–then again, nearly everyone today seems to agree that’s the issue. But whether they’re talking about incentive and reward structures for content creation, the current license compatibility issues that keep real content remixing part of the sales pitch rather than the lived experience, or the dark question haunting the server banks from Palo Alto to Houston to Logan–“will this thing survive once the funding dries up?”–the main voices in the arena seem to be doing a little less talking past each other.

So, while we are likely years if not decades away from the complete expulsion of copyright and other vestiges of colonial closed-ness, and there are still some minefields to be navigated, I’d say the open education rebels have won some signficant battles and at least educational content is well on its way to revolution.