Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beginning of the great California Community Colleges sell-out?

All of the California Community Colleges now require that all works funded by the Chancellor's Office be licensed as CC-BY. There is some good news in this, in that these works will now be much more widely available for re-use, and for adaptation. However, there is a real danger in this approach. The Creative Commons CC license grants blanket permission for commercial use downstream, with no obligation except attribution. This means that the private for-profit "education sector" can take these works funded by the public and use them for profit-seeking, with no obligation to make the works or derivatives that they create freely available. Ultimately, this could undermine the whole public college sector. Let's hope that the Chancellors recognize this mistake sooner rather than later and rectify the problem by making works open access, but not CC-BY.

Update: here is a bit of background that may be helpful to understand the danger. The state in question, California, has a reputation of being home to private for-profit "education" businesses with a clear-cut interest in profits and less than clear interests in actually providing education. Probably the best illustration of this is expressed in this Examiner piece, California tops list of US states with most diploma mills.  Kolowich's recent article on MOOCs in the Chronicle of Higher Education, while it focuses on lack of interest in credit for MOOCs, discusses the trend toward introducing legislation requiring public colleges and universities (including in California) requiring acceptance of MOOCs for credit. On the surface, this looks like a great idea - if students can largely learn on their own through low-cost online platforms, why not? However, the problem with this is that the substance behind the MOOCs comes from the largely public and private not-for-profit education sectors. If all of the work produced by faculty on salary in the public sector can be used by for-profit companies without recompense either to the faculty or to the public, and the cheaply built MOOC competitors take away work from the public sector, then ultimately this undermines the public education sector.

There is far more at play here than Creative Commons licensing. However, CC licensed works are distributed and used in a real world where there are many variables at play. Aside from the licenses per se, there are the people and organizations that use them with the full range of motives and purposes of human endeavours.