Copyright – any alternatives?

Well before I go to the assignment, I want to tell you about an argument I had today – because of this course. It was not about educational material or copyright in general but about open access to scientific literature – still about the question why should sb do this – so maybe interesting for Teemu.

The argument was about OA and structures of the German scientific community – I talked to a friend of mine and why he would not publish his dissertation (history) nor his articles open access – not even parallel to a publication with a well known publisher (&even if his publisher would agree).

He said the structures in the historian community wouldn’t allow this, he would be out of business in his discipline, publishing OA would decrease his reputation. We were going further into it and he said that even if he was established, he would probably not advise any of his students to do so. Exclusiveness seemed to be really important to him – & he was afraid of cut and paste. Also his research would probably only be “important to some people in Germany as it is about an inter-German subject” and they’d certainly be able to buy or lent a book. Well at the moment – thank god – he doesn’t profit of any public funds.

The point I want to make is that we need to change structures and thinking. After this argument my conclusion was that faculties should – as Harvard FAS (with some waivers)- oblige their staff to publish OA – so that no young unestablished scientist would have to worry about his or her career (and sb. who thinks that research needs to be exclusive just has no chance to proceed with this thinking). Now – when I think about it, I’m in doubt – I believe in free will and free decisions – so is this really a way to go?

Right, back to the assignment:

What have I learned.

  • Copyright development was related to the birth of printing press – so technology that could reproduce writing industrially.
  • The Statute of Anne 1710 was the first ‘modern copyright’, it underlined the rights of the author (rather than the publisher). For 28 yrs (Lessings said 14). In the coming centuries publishers were fighting for a longer and longer period of protection.
  • At the moment we are at the highest level of copyright protection despite we think of us as being far further developed as in the past.

Some news for me

  • Copyright is to protect the rights of the author and his economic interests. In Germany that would be moral rights and exploitation rights, in some countries moral rights are not as extensive.

Anyway the most important point for me this week was this: we need to secure those who want to use their creativity and build OER and therefore we need to ease copyright.  Reasonable licences for those who want to give the rights to the public domain, Creative Commons licenses to distinguish what rights are given to the reuser.

BTW – I think Nichthus is right – of course we need to have authors and publishers who invest their creativity, time as well as money – honored. And this is why I can totally understand my friend – I would never asked him to risk his career and I can understand that he wants to make the most of his work. On the other hand I believe that publicly funded research needs to be accessible. I have seen prices rise for journal subscriptions – that is insane. Universities have to pay for publicly funded research results – that is insane.

But the question is – are there alternatives. Are there OA models that are sustainable.


Standing on the shoulders of Giants

I very much like the idea of the present being related to the past. I think it’s reasonable for everybody to look for one’s cultural and scientific roots and OER activists definitely can refer to the thinking of the philosophers of the age of enlightenment. So we dwarfs stand on the shoulder of giants and therefore look further (if we connect to the roots, the past helps us to even more advance in the present).

I would automatically think of Immanuel Kant thinking of the age of enlightenment. I wouldn’t dare to say I read and understood his books but a few thoughts I remember. He does not only describes enlightenment as freedom to use one’s own intelligence but also as a responsibility: if you have the means you are responsible for your maturity and independence. Have courage to use your own brain – dare to know (sapere aude!). Kant is very much about autonomy and states that ethics develop from the subject’s autonomy in thinking. For education the age of enlightenment means a lot – if you are asked to question everything and rely on your reason you need to develop capabilities in analyzing and judging. If it’s important for your society that you think – then society has the duty to provide you with the means – regardless which class you belong to. If you are not able to pay for education there need to be alternative ways: scholarships, state loans, public libraries, folk high school etc.

At the moment we are at a turn point in Germany – for several decades access to universities was free – now we introduced study fees in several federal states. What I find worse – studies showed that education in German schools is not giving children from different social backgrounds the same possibilities.

I’m convinced that primary education needs to be free (as it is in Germany). German schools still need to change and long more for equality in chances than they provide at the moment. On the other hand I can’t deny that I think that study fees are justifiable as long as you allow enough and fair possibilities for scholarships and study loans & provided that you use the money for the education system – still the state should not be left off the hook. But as adults you are responsible and you decide which way you go. I know I’m not radical about free education but I want education for all.

So you might ask why I think that OER is a way to go –

for me OER means free access to educational material not free formal education (so tutoring and certificates etc.). I believe that formal education needs to be obtainable – free to those who cannot pay, affordable to those who can. I believe in informal and life long learning which can be triggered with OER and last but not least I believe in collaborative new learning forms as a chance for a change in educational methods.

Le Mill – Wikiversity – further thoughts and impressions


Right, now the server answers in a reasonable time. So here are my further impressions. I still thing that LeMill is a very nice and thought through environment. After I read where it came from (EU Project) I understood why there is a lot of content deriving of Eastern European countries. It made me curious cause I know next to nothing about our new EU partners I have to admit. Well – naturally I was confronted with a language problem pretty soon. I find it great to have a multilingual Europe – but on the other hand it does create problems.

My first content is an image in LeMill – I like the tag idea and I think this is reasonable. One word for methods which I was very curious about – other then at the content area tags did not do it for me here. I would have prefered a kind of hierachy.

Usability here is pretty much okay – still not intuitive.

On the other hand the impression of abandonment of before didn’t vanish. I added a link in a discussion group that interested me. But this one was a one person group (that now has two persons :-)) I pretty much doubt he will come along and interact with me. I would say, the rss feed is not enough for a forum discussion – you need email notification.

Conclusion: good intention, needs more active participants and a “Recent changes” area (maybe I didn’t see it?)


I have used Wikis before so I chose LeMill for my exploration. But I have to say I love Wikis and the way of collobaration there. I’m not very good in designing pages but when I come along a site in Wikipedia with a broken link of sth which I’m sure of – I do try to help. Wikis are not everything but for a start: collaborationg via wikis is quite handy. Not so good for discussions sometimes – so I’d combine it with a forum if an in-depth discussion is needed.

LeMill – first impressions

Registering at LeMill was quite easy and yes, it was tiring to do the  introduction thing. But it was more difficult to look for a group that I could fit in. And it was quite slow. I will retry in a couple of hours. For now I think LeMill is a great infrastructure. It just needs to be used in terms of community. I know there are over 3000 content pieces.  But I didn’t get the chance to go into it yet.

Will be back later.

Commentary on the Projects

OpenLearn – great resources for self-learners as there are full courses and even prorgrams which you can take. A login is required to join in the activities but you are also able to retrieve the mostly textual content without registration – I find that great, so you know what you give your personal data for).
Reusing: you may and most times it’s even allowed to remix the content – which makes it a Level III resource. So this is also interesting for teachers 🙂 Non-commercial use only. Packaging in standards such as SCORM and IMS.

On the other hand if you want the services such as qualifications – you need to pay. No uploads it’s their own publishing page. Common language is English.

Connexions – reusable objects. Collaboratively developing and sharing is enhanced. Thought to be very modular – so in my eyes a good resource for teachers looking for content. Licensing is in CC – so you may or may not reach Level I, II or III.

MIT Open Courseware – very varying in the content. Mostly propriatery formats as PDF etc. Still interesting as I think of MIT as high quality.

LeMill– first one I didn’t know before. Find and share learning resources. Even collaborate. Apparantly standarized content (Scorm). They differntiate between media pieces and learning resources. There’s a method section – I have to look deeper into this one. There’s a login require.

Wikiversity – I love Wiki’s for teaching so I like Wikiversity. I’m not convinced it will become a Meta-University as mentioned in Tuomis text but I think it could be one way to go. there’s a section on learning material that is quite handy yet not very developed for HEI teaching. I just read about the experiment Moodle on the sandbox server – so yes – the problem with a wiki might be that you don’t have enough features even if it’s an elaborated one.

Commentary on Tuomi’s text

In his paper Open Educational Resources: What they are and why they do matter Ilkka Tuomi develops an elaborate definition of OER. Tuomi does state his opinion right at the beginning: he is convinced of OER to change the education radically in the next years: a new approach to learning and knowledge creation.We get to know different perspectives.

Coming from the Open Source Movement Tuomi starts to investigate the term Openness: he states that there are social characteristics such as freedom to use, to contribute and to share (so with OER this is most often the case because of IPR)- as well as technical characteristics such as a deeper insight to interoperability (not only the interface standards) and availibility of technical specifications. For the economic side he makes an intersting differentiation between a private resource (which is not open but rival), a common pool, a public good and an open fountain. So an OER requires to be a non-rival good that find itself at one of the following levels of openess:

I: provide non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge about the resource
II: services that can be enjoyed by anybody
III: can be contributed to (in a defined way – Mertonian norms)
Levels are non-normative, meaning Level III is not better than Level I.

Educational: Tuomi defines learning as an individiual and social development.

Resources – the defintion of “resource” is a stock or supply of materials or assets that can be drawn on in order to function effectively. Resource is used in very varying contexts.

Commentary: this is a comprehensive article on the definition of Open Educational Resources and I’m glad I read it. In my eyes the definiton got a bit heterogeneous – so we have Open Source Products for Learning and Open Access Journals included? It makes sense with the definiton – no doubt. But in my eyes a heterogenous definition weakens the movement.

On the other hand I find it a bit timid to say that there’s no normative differentation between the three levels of openess. Surely Level III would enhance a lot more the possibilities for learning & teaching, so why don’t we say this and also welcome other levels? Just politics?

Hi – everybody

Right – so this is for the OER Course: I started a new blog for the course as my own blog is in German plus we don’t support clips on our installation. So – who am I – here’s my very short introduction:
In case you wonder- the drawing behind me is a New Zealand carving.