What is Alternative Licensing?


As new forms of publication and scholarship begin to take hold, the academic world is examining standard forms of licensing and rights management and finding them lacking. While current copyright and intellectual property laws focus on restricting use of materials, authors are beginning to explore new models that center on enabling use while still protecting the academic value of a publication. Some rights are still reserved, but some are proactively licensed at publication time to encourage re-use. These approaches make it clear which rights are licensed for various uses, removing the barrier of copyright and smoothing the way for others to access and use one’s work. One such approach is that taken by Creative Commons, an organization that supplies easy-to-understand, “some rights reserved” licenses for creative work. Authors simply review the list of rights they can grant or restrict, make their choices, and receive a link to a written license that spells out how their work may be used. The licenses work within current copyright laws but clearly state how a work may be used. Copyleft is another alternative approach; often used in open source software development, copyleft describes how work can be used and also governs how derivative works are to be licensed as well. Models like these are beginning to gain acceptance among artists, photographers, and musicians; scholarly papers and reports are increasingly released under alternative licenses. Some organizations, such as the New Media Consortium, have made it a policy to release all their work under licenses that facilitate sharing and reuse.

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Nov 1, 2011 10:21 am

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • I have been discovering many mixed responses from the art and design folks I am working with regarding open licensing such as Creative Commons. In many cases, their artifacts are the expressions of their craft. So sharing for reuse can be a challenge. On the other hand, artists and designers are notoriously looking for inspiration from amongst each other and benefit greatly from exposure. They also benefit greatly when museums make their visual digital archives available. That said, I think many of them "get" intrinsically the notion of giving back and sharing. I still think we have a ways to go in terms of highlighting the value to those who take that leap. Case studies that show the value to professionals in the art and design field (I think we have those in music) would be useful. - Mara Mara Nov 24, 2012
  • Open source creates platforms for students to hack and develop new innovations. Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc/) is a great example of that. Clearly, any open source software with decent documentation can do the same. This is a virtuous cycle. Students can become active developers and designers of the platform itself over time and provide essential feedback back to the projects. Google summer of code is also an excellent example of formalizing this effort.
  • With Digital Literacy/Skills identified as important, the fact that students are identifying a need for Licensing/IPR information is something that needs addressing (http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/education/education-hfe.htm ) - neil.witt neil.witt Nov 27, 2012
  • I see a connection to the topic e-publishing: the trend to "Make-it-Yourself" leads to self produced e-books in open standards (e.g. epub3). These documents will be published open access. So the trend to alternative licensing could lead to self produced digital textbooks under a creative commons license - in other words to open content (another important trend...).- rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Nov 27, 2012 I agree! - lisa.koster lisa.koster Nov 28, 2012
  • Appropriation exisits in all forms of creative endeavour and copyrighted works and IP will always be subverted and recontextualised, alternative licensing may help learners understand and engage with the creative process, rather than faced with the dictat firewall of traditional copyright law which encourages subversion without reflection (as there is no alternative) learners can apply digital literacy skills and build upon the canon with approval and with collegiality- DaveP DaveP Dec 1, 2012
  • I am an academic librarian. I see a growing interest in this in some of the academic community (notably: those less concerned about tenure due to having it or due to not being tracked for it). I'm currently participating in an unglue.it campaign to try and release one of my own books with a Creative Commons license. It is also worth noting, there are challenges in funding these types of projects or fitting ordering in for non-traditional materials for libraries. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Dec 2, 2012

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think the topic of how technology now enables the potential for massive amounts of artifacts to be preserved, discovered, and used is necessary. Creative Commons didn't really matter before that was possible.- Mara Mara Nov 24, 2012
  • Licensing/IPR is all about Risk, there's a number of tools from the Web2Rights project that can help with this (see
    Risk Management Calculator
    - neil.witt neil.witt Nov 27, 2012
  • Copyright is effectively dead - once it costs more to police it than it returns - alternative licensing will become mainstream - see Gary's Social Media Count http://www.personalizemedia.com/garys-social-media-count/ under the heritage tag to compare US box office revenue and loss due to piracy.- DaveP DaveP Dec 1, 2012 Indeed...it's a remix, remake and collaborative world (and yes, we need to give credit those who began the work, too.) - michael.lambert michael.lambert Dec 2, 2012
  • In the higher ed world, how tenure processes lock faculty into publishing in certain venues, that use specific licensees. - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Dec 2, 2012 Seconded. - lcshedd lcshedd May 2, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, research, or creative inquiry?

  • There will be a trend to self produced documents in higher education that could replace the DRM protected and/or expensive licensed textbooks.
  • This definitely connects to e-publishing and I agree with the post right above mine. I believe self-produced e-books that incorporate many different mediums will emerge in colleges/universities. Reminds me like an e-version of the "course pack" my professors would develop and sell for their courses. Found an interesting artcle about an e-book published on this topichttp://www.teleread.com/textbooks/the-coming-e-publishing-revolution-in-higher-education/ - lisa.koster lisa.koster Nov 28, 2012
  • The widespread and growing adoption of Open Access research - institutional and governmental mandates on open access are growing and will challenge traditional copyright.- DaveP DaveP Dec 1, 2012

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • The OER IPR Support project has developed a number of tools around institutional and individuals use and understanding of CC licensing issues (http://web2rights.com/OERIPRSupport/) - neil.witt neil.witt Nov 27, 2012
  • The Internet2/EDUCAUSE etextbook project is a new slant on licensing, whereby the institution licenses textbooks from the publisher, in much the same way as in the past the institution might buy software license in volume. Some 25 schools are participating and the cost savings to students is appreciable. - mbrown mbrown Nov 29, 2012
  • Unglue.it - lauren.pressley lauren.pressley Dec 2, 2012
  • Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form