Copyright Complexity! Or should it be complication?

In consideration of copyright, creativity and control the question is:

“Is the preponderance of different types of licenses making it easier to reuse resources, or is it adding another layer of complexity which in effect works to place a barrier on using oer? In other words, are all these divergent licenses actually restricting the ways in which resources can be reused? Would it be simpler if we just had copyrighted work, which had to be cleared and public domain work which was free to use.”

Working from a known and relatively simplistic environment where you either draw from copyrighted content or from public domain content certainly seems less complicated.   Either you can use it freely or you have to ask for permission and live by standard copyright rules.  Lawrence Lessig would say however [something clearly stated in his “refrain”] that simply relying on current copyright law [and its expanding limits on free use] creates a less and less free society.  If this is true and encouraging creativity is the goal then alternatives for how people license creative works need to be available.

Having spent considerable time in the consideration of copyright and the options presented it does indeed present a complicated face.  Even though the intent was to provide alternatives and to make content more available [particularly for reuse, remixing, redistribution], licensing options like Creative Commons and GNU/GPL do add layers to navigate. On the other hand, as stated in the Tragedy of the Commons “No system that deals with human creativity can keep everybody happy.”

In consideration of the significant change to copyright [and the subsequent loss of openness] and the extension of rights to life plus 70 years [sounds like a sentence for a crime] some response is required. Despite the increased complexity, Creative Commons and GNU/GPL [and others] do provide that response.  If we want to use the creative works of others [and protect our own] then the cost of doing business is understanding how that person wants it used. It also means that the burden of understanding those limits assigned by specific copyright lies with us. The more people understand the nature of copyright the more likely they might be to assign copyright that encourages creativity rather than hinder it.

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4 Responses to Copyright Complexity! Or should it be complication?

  1. Vincent Jansen says:

    I like your opening line by keeping it simple, it is either copyright protection or is free to use in the public domain. This is what I also stated as my conclusion. As the state of entropy increases, there tends to increase in the complexity of open standards. Each person or entity wants to impact rights management of their own products. We have seen this in the battle for standards on music, videos and video players. This gives rise to a growing number of variations and confusion to end users, and increase in costs. However, the rights are set by the owners of the intellectual property and thus we see more and more variations.

    We also have witnessed the value of securing copyright, or protection of intellectual property by the recent sale of patents previously held by Nortel. There is a great value in protection of intellectual property rights at the corporate business level, however there is also great value in the intellectual level within the education sector. However,this value is shifting, and the value is more a factor of connections and knowledge property than knowledge and skills alone. This gives rise to greater sharing model which we expect will impact the copyright model.

  2. Jonathan says:

    The title sums it up well – Copyright Complexity! When I first entered the field of educations I was designing and delivering communication workshops. At that time I was living in Asia and did not have to pay too much attention to copyright implications.

    Once one enters a different working environment the issue of copyright can suddenly appear to be rather complex.

    You wrote: “If we want to use the creative works of others [and protect our own] then the cost of doing business is understanding how that person wants it used. It also means that the burden of understanding those limits assigned by specific copyright lies with us.”

    I could not agree more. It is up to the designer to understand the boundaries that shape this world of work and learn to operate within them (and perhaps push off these boundaries to new heights).

    Similarly, in my blog this week I expressed that the Creative Commons allow for alternatives and give the author flexibility in how she or he will choose to publish their work.

    Perhaps, like you said, if more people were informed of copyright and understood the history and implications of it there would be more involvement from the community and then perhaps more change?

    Thanks for your post.

    Jonathan

  3. Damien says:

    ‘On the other hand, as stated in the Tragedy of the Commons “No system that deals with human creativity can keep everybody happy.”’

    I think this quote pretty much sums things up nicely. Having a range of structured licensing schemes hopefully provides enough balance between freedoms to licence your material in ways that suits your desire to be individualistic, but also share your individualistic contributions to the extent that they can become part of something bigger than yourself. These licences no doubt will evolve and adapt as the needs of creativity evolves and adapts in the larger ecosystem that is the human body of knowledge.

    Damien

  4. ebrownorama says:

    Stu,
    I think it behooves us as educators to state what others can do with our work. As explained in the readings on licensing in the OER Handbook for educators, it is clear that all work is copyrighted even if it doesn’t say so. However, we then need to state that our work is open for use, sharing, remixing and whatever if that is what we want, or we need to state what limitations we place on our work. It comes down to respect for each other–both in sharing our work and allowing others to use it to provide opportunities for learning to other students and educators, and in respect the creator of works that they have invested much time, resources, and expertise into the development of the resource so that perhaps it is not available to “do with what you want to”. Once we understand that and have the same goal in mind–opportunities for learning–then perhaps this will not be so complicated. Thanks for your thoughts!
    Eva

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