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Supporting the EFA and MDGs with Open Educational Resources

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Should OER favour commercial use?

A key issue in the open education arena is whether OER should favour commercial use.

This is a complex topic involving a wide range of perspectives which suggests a continuum of considerations rather than a definitive binary answer.

This discussion will roughly mirror the structure of an Oxford-style debate. However, in the pursuit of improved understanding of a complex topic the participants will be the ultimate winners by virtue of your engagement. 

Your votes and comments are needed to build a collective stream of digital consciousness in changing our world for the better -- that is, through degrees of openness in education.

You will need an account on this platform to cast a vote. If you don't have an account for the UNESCO OER Community, you can request an account from Abel Caine (email: a.caine@unesco.org) or Wayne Mackintosh during the course of the debate (email: wayne@oerfoundation.org).

Debate timeline: 18 April 2011 - 6 May 2011

This is an archived debate.

19 April - 20 April. Guests: Ahrash Bissell, Erik Möller, Lisa Petrides, Neil Butcher

Your vote

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This debate has finished. Voting is now closed.

Votes

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Yes: 57%
No: 43%
Yes: 65%
No: 35%
Yes: 66%
No: 34%
Yes: 65%
No: 35%
Yes: 67%
No: 33%
Yes: 66%
No: 34%
Yes: 65%
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Yes: 67%
No: 33%
Yes: 65%
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Yes: 62%
No: 38%
Yes: 59%
No: 41%
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
Yes: 57%
No: 43%
Yes: 57%
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Yes: 57%
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Yes: 57%
No: 43%
Yes: 57%
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Yes: 56%
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Yes: 57%
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Yes: 57%
No: 43%
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Position of the house

A key issue in the open education arena is whether OER should favour commercial use. The concept of open education resources (OER) encapsulates a simple but powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that the open web provides an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse knowledge. Many teac ... more

Guests (opening phase)

Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE) is an independent non-profit organization pioneering a financially sustainable model for the development and distribution of high quality OER. Ahrash Bissel, Progect Manager at MITE provides insights into thei ... more

Inspired by the free culture and the free and open source software movement, the Wikimedia Foundation, home to Wikipedia, do not permit the use of the non-commercial or no-de ... more

I have perhaps a unique vantage point as both a researcher in the field of OER and a provider of OER professional development; as well as a provider of metadata through our open knowledge network, OERCommons.org, which aggregates metadata from over 350 content partners around th ... more

OER Africa's approach to licensing: OER Africa is an initiative of Saide (www.saide.org.za). OER Africa’s mission is to establish vibrant networks of African OER practitioners by connecting like-mi ... more

Pro

The question of this debate, “Should OER favour commercial use?”, can be answered many ways. Rather than make a moral or ethical argument, I will provide an opening statement which problematizes the mechanism by which commercial uses are disallowed. In other words, I will answer “Yes” on techn ... more

Contra

It was in 1995 when I first aspired to demonstrate the suitability of the World Wide Web for educational materials and in demonstration of this I posted a document I had authored a couple of years previous for my students at Grande Prairie Regional College, Stephen’s Guide to the Logical Fallacies. This work – and none of my ... more

Comments

In my opinion, the most efficient way of addressing the considerable educational and sustainable development challenges we face globally, is for users of OER to be free to use the learning resources for any purpose and be free to adapt them (e.g. translate, localise, recontextualise, ...), and be free to make a living by offering such services (translation, etc.) to society, and by enabling wider access to the knowledge (e.g. by selling OER and derived works on media or in forms accessible to learners).

Such freedom, Stephen et al, also means that NGOs, government departments, commercial organisations, individuals, local communities (or anyone) are free to make a plan to make the resources available to learners and to society _gratis_ in a scalable and sustainable manner.

If you are worried about commercial exploitation, then use cc-by-sa to ensure the results of the above process of continuous improvement carry the same freedoms to future learners, educators and others. The emergent commercial competition would be on (e.g.) offering better translation services, more efficient dissemination services, lower cost media options, better customisation of learning resources, learning design innovation, etc. - with each incremental improvement being shared back to society.

For more on this perspective and some historical background (from free software, through open source software to OER and libre knowledge) see:
http://wikieducator.org/Say_libre

Kim Tucker 1313 days ago

I've argued in favor of the NC clause (contra commercial use in OER) fairly extensively in the preliminary and culminating posts of this recent series that identifies some of the dilemmas inherent to openness in education.

http://drapestakes.blogspot.com/search/label/Dilemmas%20of%20Openness

Naturally, I welcome any push-back and other constructive feedback related to these ideas. Are there any dilemmas I may have missed?

 

Draper Darren 1313 days ago

Favoring commercial use IS a restriction. The proponents of commercial use are writing about this as if some right is being taken away. If it is the right to silo learning for profit, then I hope this will eventually be the case. The commercial companies have had their chance and they have shown us how inflated prices can get and how corporate control does not always equal the best learning materials. There are plenty of teaching and learning models that have not relied on money to move them forward. Few people without a direct corporate interest would believe that the publishing companies have our students' best interests at heart. 

Geoff Cain 1314 days ago

I think that OER favour commercial use. Besides, two things have to be considered:

Reward of the learning object creator will motivate him/her. So, he/she will create more learning objects. In addition, he/she will be requested for qualified learning objects.

A high cost of learning object could decrease their use when considering that not all learners could pay for the use of learning objects.

 

FATHI ESSALMI 1314 days ago

I would like to approach this topic from a more ideological view, than from a technical license view. I start from the general principle, that content should be free - the essential concept that the collective knowledge of humanity should be accessible by the same group.

The fullest embodiment of such a principle, is that any individual should be able to access and make use of any content at will, including, in my opinion, commercial uses. Part of the rationale for this, is that production of content for commercial uses has long been a driver of continued innovation in our societies, and as science grows increasingly more complex, the idea of the independent 'hobbyist' inventors becomes ever-more fanciful.

The principle of equity on the other hand, dictates that any content-creator deserves fair compensation for their work. In line with the above principles, use of their work should be free - but this does not exclude them being compensated fairly where such work generates profit. The problem which remains is defining 'fair' - a topic which was initially addressed by patent law and subsequent case law. Unfortunately, decades of lobbying by content-firms has shifted this concept more and more in favour of the content-producer, and away from the public-good, destroying the balance on which the whole system was built.

Thus, it is no longer a situation of defining only what commercial-use means - to move forward, we need new models for what commercial-use entails - to create a new 21st century balance between the rights of the public and the rights of the author.

Anthony F. Camilleri 1314 days ago

A gift of knowledge

Resources to learn more about Creative Commons licenses in education

If you are new to the OER world and want to learn more about the specific terms of the licenses being discussed in this debate, please consult this tutorial:

We acknowledge the suport from UNESCO and the collaborative teamwork of volunteers from the OER Foundation, WikiEducator, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and Creative Commons who developed these learning materials. They are licensed under a CC-BY license.

Wayne Mackintosh 1314 days ago