Tag Archives: Creative Commons

“More Free” #OpenEdMooc Week 2

Part 1 – The commons

Understanding Free Cultural Works

Creative Commons provides a range of licenses, each of which grants different rights to use the materials licensed under them. All of these licenses offer more permissions than “all rights reserved.”

To help show more clearly what the different CC licenses let people do, CC marks the most permissive of its licenses as “Approved for Free Cultural Works.” When you apply these licenses to material you create, it meets the Freedom Defined definition of a “Free Cultural Work.” Free cultural works are the ones that can be most readily used, shared, and remixed by others, and go furthest toward creating a commons of freely reusable materials.

What does “Approved for Free Cultural Works” mean?

CC uses the definition of free cultural works at Freedom Defined to categorize the CC licenses. (Freedom Defined is an open organization of free culture advocates and researchers; the definition was developed by its community as a parallel to efforts such as the Free Software Definition, to have a standard for defining Free Culture.) Using that definition, material licensed under CC BY or BY-SA is a free cultural work. (So is anything in the worldwide public domain marked with CC0or the Public Domain Mark.) CC’s other licenses– BY-NCBY-NDBY-NC-SA, and BY-NC-ND–only allow more limited uses, and material under these licenses is not considered a free cultural work.


Part 2 – Stephen Downes


According to Stephen Downes: (On the topic of CC-BY-NC and CC-BY-NC-SA licenses)


  • licenses that allow commercial use are less freet han those that do not, because they allow commercial entities to charge fees for access, to lock them behind digital locks, and to append conditions that prohibit their reuse
  • works licensed with a Non-commercial clause are fully and equally open educational resources, and are in many cases the only OERs actually accessible to people (because the content allowing commercial use tends to have costs associated with it)
  • the supposition that works that cost money can be ‘free’ is a trick of language, a fallacy that fools contributors into sharing for commercial use content they intended to make available to the world without charge the lobby very loudly making the case for commercial-friendly licenses and recommending that NC content be shunned consists almost entirely of commercial publishers and related interests seeking to make money off (no-longer) ‘free’ content.

“…people may attach licenses allowing commercial use to their work if they wish. I have no objection to this. But such people should cease and desist their ongoing campaign to have works that are non-commercial in intent, and free in distribution, classified as ‘not free’. Content that cannot be enclosed within a paywall, and cannot be distributed with commercial encumbrances attached, is just as free – indeed, more free– than so-called ‘free’ commercial content.”


Part 3 – My Reflection

Is BY-NC-SA ‘more free’ than the commons page above suggests?

Before going into this, I want to first state that I believe “No Derivatives” is very closed. If you can’t build on previous work, the work is being locked down.

With respect to By-NC-SA, I predominately use this for things that I share. That said, my default for family photos tends to be full Copyright when I can (on sites such as Flickr). But for educational work that I create, I use By-NC-SA specifically because I think this makes my work ‘More Free”.

Continuing on a personal note, I have gone after a few people that have shared my work in inappropriate ways. For a while, my ‘Pair-a-Dimes’ blog was ranked very high on Google, I’m not sure what I was doing right, but since then Google has gotten wiser, and my ranking has plummeted. Before that happened, my Statement Educational Philosophy was on the first page for many searches, and often one of the first 3 hits. As a result, it is pretty well read, and unfortunately, fairly well plagiarized too. A search of just the first sentence in quotes will give you a listing of some appropriately and some appropriated copies of that sentence. Other sentences in quotes will find more of the same.

In most cases, I roll my eyes and try to take it as flattery, but in 3 specific instances I have gone after people:

  1. A student teacher that took my work then added fake references to make it seem like it was a research paper she had written, when every word of the work was mine.
  2. A professor that had all his copyrighted work linked to his page where he shared my philosophy as his own.
  3. A “Buy Essays” site that was offering a heavily copied version of my work for sale.

I have also (inadvertently) found my work behind paywalls or in moodle courses that I don’t have access too, but I have not gone after these uses, although they are the very reason that I think BY-NC-SA is more free than other licences. In the case of a Moodle course, it is likely that the students in the course had to pay to get into the course, and rather than linking to my work, it is copied and the Share-Alike aspect is not respected, and since I can’t see the work, I’m not even sure if it is attributed to me?

So that is a look at my personal experience with work being copied. I’m honoured by some of the ways things I’ve written have been quoted, and shared, but I also want that sharing to be as ‘Open’ as I have been, and I think that making work Non-Commercial does that. It keeps the work in the open, and not where others can profit in the process of withholding what should be free.

In fact, I absolutely love it when someone takes one of my ideas and runs with it… expands on it, and yes, even disagrees with it. When conversations like this happen out in the open, we all benefit.

So when Seth Godin shares, “Why I want you to steal my ideas“, I totally understand what he means:

“Ideas can’t be stolen, because ideas don’t get smaller when they’re shared, they get bigger…

There is, of course, a difference between stealing and passing off. When you pretend that those taken words are your words, you’re no longer taking an idea — you’re taking an implementation. When you pretend that you are the originator, the original source, and you’re not, you’ve corrupted your work by claiming authorship, when you are merely contributing synthesis. This hurts your reputation as well as the person you stole from, because our society values authorship and origination.

The amazing thing about giving credit, though, is you never run out. Like ideas, the more credit is shared, the more it can be worth, to the giver and to the recipient.”

If a work can not be used in a way that closes it off for commercial reasons, without consent, then isn’t that ‘more free’ that a work that is only attributed, but then used and re-used on walled websites or in courses or programs or presentations that cost money?

Originally, I had intended to redo this image, rather than write a blog post. However, I’m not sure that I would know how to order this with BY-NC-SA being ‘more free’?

And yes, it was Stephen Downes and not me that came up with the idea of this being ‘more free’.

And yes, I want any good ideas that I might have to be ‘stolen’ in the way Seth Godin wants his to be as well. 

I’ve benefited from open sharing and learning and I want others to be able to do the same.