OpenFiction [Blog]

Dealing with copyright in OCW

Posted in intellectual property, open education, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on September 22, 2010

Another really nice piece by Ethan Watrall in the Chronicle that provides advice to individual educators looking to share their educational materials openly. This one deals with copyright issues in OCW, specifically how to manage third-party content. Generally he discusses three options:

  • Use authentication judiciously
  • Use only openly licensed materials, and
  • Use your nerve, and just put it out there

I’ve seen all three of the above used with success. To them, I’d add a couple of other strategies:

  • Just ask: In a digital age, it’s not that hard to locate owners of content, and a surprising number will allow you to publish their materials under an open license
  • Paraphrase: Content is not code, something I can never say too much–you can copyright the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself, so short of creative writing, most text content can be effectively rephrased. Likewise, data cannot be copyrighted, only its presentation. Data from charts and graphs can be used to create new, openly licensed charts and graphs.
  • Poke around: Many journal articles that appear in traditional journals are also posted openly in preprint from. You may find open what at first appears closed.

But nonetheless, I appreciate Ethan’s ongoing efforts to encourage and empower individual educators to share their materials. ‘Course, I am not a lawyer, so this is not to be considered definitive legal advice.


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