Oct 24, 2007

OpenED week 8: Reflections

I have looked through some of the blogs posted in week 8 of the Open Education course, and made some personal reflections. These are described in this blogpost, which ends with an argument on how to reach sustainability by mixing commercial activity with educational activity and the creation of resources. Both social as economical sustainability are attained according to this value mechanism (if internal and external factors allow it, of course). Read and post your comments!

Jennifer Maddrell gives us a very nice overview of different OER setups, making a distinction between the effort done by the supplier of OER (centralized), and the effort done by the end-user or learner (decentralized). I think this is a pretty good distinction, although I would like to add that learner can be teachers as well. She explains that OER produced with a lot of effort by the supplier (most OCW projects), but with a low learner engagement might not be sustainable. Maybe MIT will be, because they are rich and will probably make some better and more interactive content in the future, but all the followers, including my university, will not. In the interview about the future of Delft OCW with Professor Wim Veen, he stressed two points: engaging materials and education and user involvement in the discussion about and creation of resources. The value of the OCW environment will increase with the engagement of the community being active in it. This will be accomplished with interactive and learner centered content, and the empowerment of users worldwide to contribute and discuss content, and to connect on the site.

She makes a mistake to say that UK Open Lab Space is an example of her "Blissful connections" model, the model where there is little supply side effort, and a lot of end-user engagement. This can be explained with the following short email-conversation I had with Patrick McAndrew (OpenLearn). I asked;

  1. Do you intend to commercialize the open resources, or involve sponsors in another way.
  2. Also, value-added services could be important for sustainability, what VA services do you have in mind for the project.
  3. What about lowering costs through collaborative authoring on LabSpace, does that plat any role?
Patrick answered;

In brief though to reflect current thinking I can answer your questions but the answers may change!

  1. No we do not intend to commercialise. We do not rule out advertising or sell through but more as interesting things to try than revenue. We do see that aspects of our work will attract further funding.
  2. Assessment, tutoring, certification, support for collaborative partners.
  3. WE are very keen to develop this capability to open up the value in LabSpace but not as route to lowering costs.
Another aspect of sustainability is being efficient in providing open content from OU content and bring the work we do closer to everyday work so that it is straightforward to do and also enhances experience for our producers.
Answer 3 shows that empowering users is not a way to lower costs for this project. The costs have been made already, yes, and publishing the LearnSpace content on LabSpace is done for free. But it means that you cannot build a business around this model without taking into account the LearnSpace: you need LearnSpace to fill LabSpace! Making this not a blissful place, but an expensive model, where "assessment, tutoring, certification, support for collaborative partners" form the basis for sustainability.

Connexions does empower users and adopts the decentralization of OER production (and therefore some engagement) with users as a means to lower costs. But the resources are not that interactive, and do not engage students to a high degree. A true blissful place, one that will undoubtedly reach the surface of the OER ocean one day, is an environment that includes manuals and tools, and some centralized and decentralized support, to enable any user creating or improving interactive content, and connecting with concepts and people.

Jon Thomas (Smart Marbles ) compares sustainability of OER with the business model of Ben & Jerry's:
Ben and Jerry’s has 3 goals: a product quality mission, an economic sustainability mission, and a social contribution mission. Each part of the mission must thrive in order for Ben and Jerry’s to remain in business. One can imagine an open education business following somewhat the same pattern. Focusing on a three-part emphasis of content quality, economic sustainability, and social impact.
He warns us as well to be careful with the comparison, because of the different properties of education and ice. Especially the non-subtraction of content compared to ice is mentioned as difference. I would also add that social value in OER is in most aspects the same as quality. Still, focusing on quality, economic sustainability, and social impact is right on target I think, because you can have high quality resources with little social impact, such as "Introduction to kitesurfing". A resource with more social value would be "Explaining and calculating the forces during kitesurfing", but I can be wrong. Jon explains that over time, Ben & Jerry's goal to be a charitable organization was not a hindrance, but ended up contributing to the business model itself.

He considers the VA-model the most interesting way to become sustainable, which is called the Segmentation Model by Wiley. I agree, I truly think that institutions can become sustainable by offering many different VA services with their open content, even more sustainable than not offering open content and relying on their old (closed) business model.

Benkler explains that modularity and granularity is an important aspect of peer production. He explains that encyclopedias are much easier to collaboratively edit and create than textbooks, because the latter requires internal structure and coherence. Antonio Fini asks whether the encyclopedia model would be more sustainable for OER. I think that is a valid question, but he does not elaborate more on it, which is a pity. I would say that making the creation of OER as learning objects (without coherence) lowers the barrier, and therefore increases the sustainability. It could also have lower value for those individuals (or companies) seeking a coherent set of learning objects. This value can therefore be added and form the basis of a business model, for example the creation of On-Demand courses based on freely available OER. The non-commercial clause that is attached to the could be problematic then.

Rob Barton remembers us to have a look at the Open Source community, and points out that their experience is much greater than ours (the OER community). Acknowledging the difference between software and OER, he makes a good point in how content does not differentiate the value of a university. This was also mentioned in my previous post, with interview with Professor Wim Veen about the future Delft OCW environment: "The value of the Open Educational Resources site is not determined by the content that is placed on it, but by the community that is engaged in it." He gives a rather funny (or sad?) example of how reputation (or value) is seen:
After Boise State University's perfect season, capped off by a win over Oklahoma in a BCS bowl, a survey showed that the national recognition for their football team had a positive impact on the school's reputation for academics and research (although the two are probably not related). There will always be something else to differentiate schools on, but it does not appear to be the content taught in the classroom.
And he concludes with a good point, which is pinpoints exactly the most important thing to focus in order to reach sustainability of an Open Education Program.
If the content becomes free, where does that leave degrees that are based on mastery of that free content? That one is going to have to wait for another day, but I imagine it will come down to paying for the actual differentiating features of an institution.
Acid Scorpio takes the advertisement model as one to consider, and extends Google initiative to make mobile services (calling, messaging) free, and paid by advertisers:
Imagine then if you will a "Google-U" university. Going for a Psych degree or certificate? Taking a Psych 101 course? Information is aggregated from all across the internet about all the topics you'll need to know in order to complete the courses required. Click to access the first course, watch an Ad. Download that diagram, advertisement must be watched first. All aspects of a course could be commercialized in order to allow for a sustainable business model. For a while you were able to get dial-up for free as long as you watched / read advertisement in between websites. Google is also intelligent enough that it could suggest products / services relevant to the information you are looking up. Google-U could be used to draw people in to view yet more pages that use Google's Ad-words engine.
I think that advertisement will play a role in offering OER, but not a large one. The commercial influence of companies or institutions will be much more intrinsically linked with the OER system and resources. What does that mean? Well, this advertisement model is based on the following transactions:
  • Commercial institution gives money to sustain OER environment; and
  • Commercial institution recieves audience towards he can direct commercial offerings.
This is a rather limited view on sustainability, something Acid Scorpio admits as well. The problem with this model is that the value of the content will diminish with the increase of commercial activitity. Another problem is that if you want to allow reuse of this content, the reuser could offer this content without the advertisements, making it more attractive than the original, which means that advertisers will not be happy. The only way to do this is through a search or aggregation machine that is superior, I guess.

A more elaborate, and possibly more sustainable way of mixing commercial activity and OER is to follow a similar, but distinct transaction:
  • Commercial institution (or agent) offers or organizes learning opportunities: internships, challenges, symposia, etc.;
  • Commercial institution helps develop resources; and (in return)
  • Commercial institution is able to make network with and make use of experts and students.
You see that there is hardly any advertisement needed, and that commercial activity can even increase the value of OER, rather than decrease it. My opinion is also that commercial activity creates opportunities for practition, because it usually forms the last link to valorization of knowledge. It should therefore be intrinsically linked with learning, and OER as well.

I have written an article a year ago on a "value mechanism" that should make educational settings not just engaging, participatory, valuable, but sustainable as well. This mechanism, picture below, can be seen as a mechanism that will make a sustainable OER environment as well. It is very simple, but the more complicated stuff concerns the criteria to make this mechanism work.
In short, it works as follows. A person (anyone: teacher, student, worker, hobbyist, etc.) is interested in some domain or specification, and finds a relevant community, or creates a relevant network. This network consists of people with specific knowledge, able to teach and help this person. After being introduced to the subject, the person can make him/herself valuable in the network, by sharing and applying his specific knowledge. By being active he/she improves the network, and his or her online identity or status. Being a network, with network characteristics, this improvement will attract more people, who potentially can increase this network even more. Some of these people are looking for opportunities to make money out of the innovation done in the network, or just want some advise on specific subjects. Through flexible employment mechanisms these people might also be interested in hiring smart persons in the network, trustworthy persons. This trust and smartness is translated in the online ID of any person, and combined with specific characteristics of the person it will make searching for the right person easy and effective. By providing services for the network, paid or non-paid, value is created for both the person as the network.

OpenED week 8: Sustainability (exploration)

An interesting and familiar subject last week. Because of computer problems I have not been able to post earlier, but this enabled me to read to some of the other postings. This post will not reflect much on these posts, but elaborate in detail on sustainability, in specific in relation to the Delft OCW. Week 8 of the Intro to Open Education course was about David Wiley not being able to comment on 60 blogposts a week, next to his normal job, and about building a sustainable model around OER. In specific, David asks about how to give credentialed degrees around OER, and what is or should be the role of the government. The following readings have been provided;

Sustainability has different meanings in different settings. The term is used often to refer to the ability of ecological systems to be usefully productive. Sustainability links present with future, because choices made now should not compromise the opportunities or possible benefits in the future. (WCED 1987) The way we treat our oceans for example cannot be considered sustainable. Although profits are being made nowadays, through overfishing a large populations are driven to extinction, ruining ecosystems, but also doing a bad service for future generations.

Sustainability does not concern solely ecological and environmental systems, but relates to the continuity of economic, social, and institutional aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. Economical sustainability relates to the extent that end-users rely on subsidies or financial inputs, institutional sustainability merely addresses the effect changes have on the social structures and institutions, and whether these changes are sustained by them. (Ripamonti et al. 2005) Clearly, there is no or little relation with nature, ecology, or environment. Hence, the focus of sustainability of OER should be on the economical and institutional sustainability, and sustainable development. Hargrove and Smiths (2005) mention a number of relevant principles addressing sustainable development, such as dealing cautiously with risk, uncertainty and irreversibility; integration of social and economic goals in policies and activities; equal opportunity and community participation; a commitment to best practice; the principle of continuous improvement; and the need for good governance.

An ICT environment needs both financial support as social and institutional acceptance, making it a complex, intertwined issue. In designing viable alternatives for sustaining OER different aspects, such as costs and benefits, technical compatibility, social and institutional acceptance, and social gains, need to be addressed. Rather, the online educational resources should create better visibility, higher reputation, and an increased quality of education. The sustainability of the initiative depends on the costs of providing high-quality resources, but taken into account the positive consequences stated in the project goals. Sustainability, or the continuous ability to meet the goals set by the organization, will not be approached as a purely financial issue, but motivation, usefulness and quality of materials, and other issues are important as well.

Challenges for sustaining OER

Wiley (2006) explains that there are two important challenges concerning sustainability in an open education program (OEP).

  • The first challenge is meeting the costs for creating and redistributing the educational resources.
  • The second challenge is to create resources that will be used and reused, i.e. valuable resources!

The creation of OER requires individuals to put time and effort in developing them, digitize material, checking for copyrights, and provide quality assurance. Costs that are made for providing bandwidth or other costs for the dissemination and sharing of resources need to be taken into the sustainability account as well. The second challenge, providing usable resources, has to do mainly with the format of materials, and consequently the ability to reuse the materials. Reusability of materials concerns the ability to contextualize, translate, adapt, and use educational resources. This is important, because the effectiveness of education depends not so much on the information itself as on the way the information is brought to students. There is a trade-off to be made here. Although reusability is an important objective in open education programs, many resources are published in formats that do not allow easy formatting and localization. As explained by d'Oliviera (undated), in many cases it involves much less knowledge and costs to produce materials formats less easy to adapt or localize, than in more flexible formats as XML. The reusability issue and the costs to transform materials into more flexible formats, such as costs for training, technology, and mechanisms, are part important when discussing sustainability, because they both addresses social acceptance as the economical viability. The illustration below gives a nice overview of the main sustainability challenges.


Reflecting sustainability, or the "ongoing ability to meet the goals of a project", on the above, it means the the ability to produce, share, localize, and learn from open educational resources. This does not imply that solutions are always to be sought in the financial domain. Wiley (2006) and OECD (2007) describe the most important factors in an OER project regarding sustainability. These factors will be explained below, and each factor will be addressed in a separate section. These aspects are always seen in the context of a project's goals, since sustainability is described as the ongoing ability to meet the goals of a project. (OECD 2007)

  • Organization: Is the centralized MIT model preferred, the decentralized Connexions model, or something in between?
  • Non-monetary incentives: How can you engage volunteers in production, support, and management?
  • Resource types: The types of resources that will be offered, and the media formats in which these resources will be shared are important considerations, because there are many instances when a certain format inhibits the reuse (for example videolectures, PDF, etc.).
  • End-user reuse: What kinds of reuse will be best contribute to the project goals? How will support be offered to the end user in case of reuse of content? Will this be done centralized, or decentralized in a network of volunteers?
  • Funding model: How will the project be funded, now and in the future?

Delft OCW goals

The following goals have been described in the Delft OCW project proposal. Delft University of Technology wants to

  • contribute to the development of open knowledge organizations in worldwide networks;
  • show reputation to all relevant institutions, and confirm her leading position; and
  • promote the quality of modern higher education, because feedback of the academic community is possible when resources are online.

The project plan adds to this that the project shows added value for lifelong learners, the international reputation, and the attraction of researchers.


Benkler (2005) explains the peer production of Open Educational Resources as a way to achieve sustainability. Open source software may provide with technical tools without substantive investments. Wiley (2006) claims that sustainability can be reached through the reduction of friction and decentralization, capturing intrinsic motivation of individuals to contribute without financial recompensation. He literally states that decentralization means the active involvement of students. This decentralization happens through the peer production of open resources and sharing them in P2P (peer-to-peer) networks. In an earlier work, he posits it very clearly:

It seems to me that sustainability and scalability are problematic only when people rely on others to do things for them. Scalability and sustainability happen more readily when people do things for themselves. Centralizing open educational services is less scalable/sustainable. Decentralising them is more scalable/sustainable. Wikipedia has two employees and well over a million articles in multiple languages. We need to learn this lesson if open education is really going to reach out and bless the lives of people. (2005)

Downes (2007) follows the same argument, saying that the centralized model (MIT) uses more resources, and is likely to cost more, but offers more control over quality and content. The distributed model (Connexions), which assumes co-production of resources and decentralized management, may involve numerous partnerships, and rely on volunteer contributors. These approaches are much cheaper, but there is less control over quality and content.

Delft OCW

The first phase Delft OCW is implemented according the centralized MIT model. A number of educational resources from leading disciplines will be put on a site, after which a university-wide implementation may follow. The project proposal describes a number of issues that may become important in the future.

  • ICTs enable students to study more place and time independent in the future. Especially concerning the participation in the IDEA League (a group of cooperating European technical universities), and the cooperation between the different institutions in providing learning spaces and creating and executing of educational programs collaboratively are important aspects.
  • The report refers to the developments in the field of research, where more and more researchers post their articles on online platforms and form 'open research centers'. Besides research, the university strives for online presence of all educational content.

Although the project has adopted the MIT model initially, a centralized one-way model of producing and maintaining OER, a shift has been described towards a more open environment where individuals have more opportunities to contribute (see the figure below). Starting of as a repository of educational resources, where teachers can publish their materials, the project has to evolve in something much more interactive, where anyone can contribute and communicate about resources. These different stages of development are explained in the figure below: from repository, to depository, to communication around resources (and communities).


The first stage can be described as a repository containing educational resources and courses of teachers at the university. Users can download or view those resources online, without much possibility for interacting. The second stage involves the empowerment of users to not only use resources, but add resources as well in a depository. This stage is supplemented by a final stage, where communication around these resources is facilitated. This is referred to as a lab-environment, and the comparison is made with the LabSpace environment of the Open University UK. The formation of communities is an important element in the MERLOT and the Connexions initiatives. The figure above shows the shift in ownership from centralized respository, where teachers add their material, to a community based project where each member or participant can add and discuss resources. Adopting a more decentralized model, a project is said to be more scalable, but there is less influence in the direction and quick publishing of resources.


Motivation is crucial in sustaining a decentralized environment. Non-monetary incentives stand at the core of the social production of educational resources and will be crucial in order to create thriving communities where educational resources are reused and remixed constantly. Larsen & Vincent-Lancrin (2006) say that contributors are motivated to make OER material available because of their contributions might be adopted, modified or improved. Professors and researchers freely reveal their work to build recognition and promotion or receive tenure. (Kansa & Ashley 2005) These intrinsic motivations for sharing resources show that the sharing itself happens in a community. Fox & Manduca (2005) argue that without an existing culture there might be no motivation to share, because potential contributors do not feel 'obliged' to share, or have not experienced the value of sharing.

The design of the website and the organization behind it will influence the possibilities of recognizing and promoting these incentives greatly, and should be considered carefully. Horton (2005) states that an organization that depends on volunteers needs clear overall vision, strategy, and roles for participants. Downes (2007) makes the comparison with the way the Apache Foundation is organized. Being a 'meritocracy', it organizes its volunteer staff to serve more or less enviable roles depending on the value of their contributions. Another important issue concern open licenses. Creative Commons, a set of open licenses for cultural and informational goods, plays an important role: contributors of original resources can stay 'owner' of the resource, while freely distributing it. Open licensing through Creative Commons, which is easy to understand and use, significantly lowers the barriers for contribution. Digging a bit deeper unveils many difficult issues that are concerned with Creative Commons.

Types of resources

Koohang & Harman (2007) describe the relation between sustainability and instructional design & presentation; cost of production and maintenance; support of OERs; and OER communities of practice as a means of decentralization (and increased scalability). Wiley (2006) describes the differences between learning and teaching resources. Teaching resources are designed on the assumption of existing knowledge of the domain. Experts are better able to understand and use these resources than a person unfamiliar with the subject. Resources used for learning must be richer, go into more detail, and are more expensive to produce than resources used for teaching. The project proposal of Delft OCW states that it will not focus on learning resources, because this will be a greater barrier for getting teachers and other contributors involved. Still, high quality instructional design (inclusion of sound and appropriate learning theories into digital contents) and presentation (user interface) of OER produce learning, which in its turn contributes to the sustainability. (Koohang & Harman 2007)

Wiley (2006) explains further that a careful consideration should be made between the following two sometimes contrasting goals:

  1. Publish OER as efficiently as possible; and
  2. Support end-user reuse (and remix) of our open educational resources.

For example, it is quite easy to record a lecture on video and post it on the internet, but to reuse this type of material is almost impossible. To convert materials in highly flexible XML-documents may be very difficult, but it enhances the possibility to adapt and remix the resources. With regard to the first few pilots, the position of the TU Delft is very clear: publish OER as quick and efficient as possible. About the future, where end-users might be able to publish materials themselves, the contrast between these goals (easy publishing versus reuse) is very relevant. The reusability and adaptability of OER could contribute to shorter lifecycles of materials, and increased quality maintenance.

Another issue here concerns the way the OER environment and project relates to all different kinds of resources, whether online videos are considered educational, or websites, podcasts, weblogs, and more. Extensive research has shown that the medium of delivery (text, video, audio, etc.) does not significantly relate to the effectiveness of the resource: "Educational effectiveness is a function of the design of the materials and not the channel by which they are conveyed."

Types of end-user reuse

The meaning of end user reuse is the way how users will be reusing the educational resources. The difference between reuse and remix is mentioned on the LabSpace website:

Reuse could take the form of using some of our materials in the classroom, directing other individuals towards the freely available materials and tools, drawing on the content in your own writing, study or research. Remixing could take the form of reworking, rewriting, and translating units.

Wiley (2006) has summed up the most common ways of reuse, of which the most relevant are listed below.

  • As-Is: users do not have the rights or possibility to edit educational materials, and are able to use them without any modification or alternation. This means without special software or plugins.
  • Technical adaptation: resources are changed, but only in technical format. The content stays the same, but a website can be adapted with a certain stylesheet, for example.
  • Remixing: the most relevant type of reuse concerns the ability of a user to access the source code. Users will be able to change the content of the resource according to their own wishes. The type of resource influences this possibility, because not all file types enable the user to access the source code, which is necessary to be able to change it. Because most users will not be skilled in reusing and adapting digital resources, it is crucial to have tools that make it easy to remix and adapt educational materials. An example is a WYSIWYG editor, rather than someone editing in XML, the latter being necessary to change modules in LabSpace.

Other common reuse possibilities are translations of resources, adaptation of resources according to some cultural aspects, which includes company-cultures or cultures within academic disciplines, pedagogical adaptation to resemble better a certain pedagogical style, and annotation, which means altering mostly physical materials for better recollection or overview (using colored highlighters, notes in the margin, etc.).

Downes (2007) takes a simpler approach and describes two broad models: either resources are used and compiled 'as is', so without modification, or OERs are downloaded and adapted to the user's needs, and subsequently uploaded to the system again for potential use of other users. The latter model may require some sort of user registration. Walker (2005) further argues that sustainable implicitly means reusable, in the way that the content types are flexible enough to be adapted to local needs and conditions. This relates to the previous component, types of resources, because only a number of formats enable remixing of content.

The way support is offered to individuals that want to contribute or reuse material should be considered. The Delft OCW project proposal contains the following diagram to support users in uploading resources. As can be seen, this is a centralized approach, but with the extra comment that extensive use of student assistants is projected. It is questionable whether this approach is scalable, and whether it addresses the benefits of tapping into the many small contributions of a decentralized network (crowdsourcing). Tools should be considered to take away some of the need for support. For example, a WYSIWYG editor enables individuals without technical knowledge to edit content than a text field in XML-code.


Funding and revenue models

Most open educational resources projects start with external funding. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is one of the most important drivers behind the OER-movement, investing millions of dollars in numerous projects around the world. MIT recieved millions in funds to set up their project, and this project may become sustainable in the long run, because of the enormous funds recieved. Some experts on OER (Downes 2007, Dholakia 2006, Koohang & Harman 2007, Benkler 2005, Wiley 2006) have argued that (for other institutes) the MIT model might not be sustainable in the long run, because it needs constant funding. They describe different relevant funding models, which are summarized in OECD (2007).

  • Endowment/foundation/donation model: a project is set up and maintained through funds or large donations. This start-up capital can create sustainability in the long run, because interest rates cover the exploitation costs, but if not, the project needs to find alternative methods to create sustainability. A transfer towards a government-support model could be such an alternative that falls in the same domain.
  • Segmentation model: open educational resources are provided for free next to "value-added" services, such as Ask-an-Expert (@ MERLOT), print-on-demand (@ Utah State University), training and user support, etc.
  • Conversion model: this model represents a more widely used model of giving away something for free, and by doing that, creating a 'customer' base, who might be a potential customer for other, related services. This model is adopted by for example Linux distributors RedHat and SuSe, or the educational community software Elgg.
  • Voluntary support model: a model based on fund-raising campaigns. Companies and individuals are approached to donate, once or annually. The membership model relates to this: a group of interested parties join resources which are sufficient for the covering the operating costs of a project. Sakai, an open source collaboration and learning environment, uses this model to fund the development.
  • Contributor-Pay model: a model used for publishing articles, where the contributor pays for the costs of a direct publication within an online repository.
  • Replacement model: open content or software makes current systems or resources superfluous, which results in cost savings. A new OER-environment could, for instance, result in the replacement of Blackboard as the main learning environment.
  • Sponsorship/advertisement model: the free access to resources involves a marketing strategy. 'Free' radio and television is an example, but in several OER initiatives the commercialization is much less explicit.

Partnerships and Exchanges can play an important role in the (collaborative) funding of large OER projects as well. The goal of the OCW project is, after a successful university-wide implementation, to connect not only with the other technical universities in the Netherlands, but possibly also with others in the IDEA league. Partnerships could address redundancy in for example software or course development.


We have seen in the above that sustainability involves many aspects. A "solution" does not only depend on the goals of a project or organization, but also on the environmental factors and opportunities. Clearly a hybrid form must be sought, and each of the mentioned factors should be deliberated. In the following post, where I will reflect on others who have posted this week, I will make my personal ideas a bit more clear. This post is more on defining and exploring sustainability of OER.


Oct 23, 2007

Interview Wim Veen: Future of Delft OCW

Last week I had an interview with Professor Wim Veen. He is the author of the well recieved (read the review by Jay Cross on Amazon.com) book "Homo Zappiens, Growing Up in a Digital Age" about the positive aspects of short attention span fever, disdain for school, and independence, showing an optimistic take on kids and technology today.

Professor Veen is a member of the Delft OCW project group and is responsible for creating a vision about how the future of Delft OCW should look like to be sustainable. I discussed this with him in an extensive interview, following the line of thought on sustainability by David Wiley. You can find the interview report on my wiki.

Some interesting notes;

"The value of the Open Educational Resources site is not determined by the content that is placed on it, but by the community that is engaged in it."

" The lab environment can be described as an online environment that is social and has a wiki spirit: anyone can use, contribute, and discuss resources, and people can easily form networks or communities. Communities are fostered on this site, and it is attractive for its users not only because of high quality content, but of the opportunity to connect with others."

"The ultimate objective of OCW is that DUT will become a hub in knowledge networks."

"Specific goals of the lab environment is that next to content, we will facilitate processes that empower students, anywhere, to (i) add content, (ii) communicate about content (with or without “disturbing” the teacher), and (iii) collaborate on creating new TU-approved content. Ultimately, the course of a teacher will become a hub in a knowledge network. Students should be able to enhance or improve the network. We need something like a labeling system that defines the TU approved content, which would not only be content that is made within the university, but approved."

"In specific, the trend of 2D to 3D will continue, and will have a valuable place in learning. This should be monitored very well, until a 3D standard will come, and do something with it."

"The largest social capital on the university are our own students. I would like to see students enriching and improving the lab environment itself. This means that teachers should stimulate them as well in doing this. Not just consuming behavior, but actively participating in the improvement of the environment. Courses that show a lot of activity will appeal to other teachers, who will desire the same level of activity. What is needed for this?
  • teachers to enable this behavior

  • Rating system

  • TU Approved labeling system"

"Branding is crucial. Take Berkley's initiative to put their courses online on !YouTube... they are not so wel received. Old-fashioned teaching in large classrooms, video materials of low quality: their brand can actually hurt instead of improved by these videos. The university should also be aware that by putting static PDF documents rather than high quality interactive and flexible content online, the brand value might not be increased, but hurt. Following the same line of argument, the university's brand may increase very much if the content is of high quality. As mentioned, a course format and accompanying support per faculty is needed for this. A strong focus must be on the visualization of the content: human-computer interaction."

Oct 18, 2007

Delft OCW Live!

This week we went live with the Delft University of Technnology Open Courseware project. It is a great initiative similar to MIT OCW. My thesis aims to propose a design of this project that will sustain in our rapidly changing learning landscape. A difficult, but very interesting task.
clipped from ocw.tudelft.nl

Challenge the future

"TU Delft is dedicated to finding sustainable solutions for social problems. The university’s core tasks include delivering know-how and building knowledge networks in an international context. OpenCourseWare is one of the means by which we are contributing to this mission"

Jacob Fokkema,
Rector Magnificus

The first MSc programs with courses in Delft OpenCourseWare are:

Courses in the following fields will be published early 2008:

blog it

Oct 15, 2007

OpenED Week 7: Copyright issues (cont'd)

This week continues the interesting topic of copyright, copyleft, and the public domain. The following resources have been digested this week;

QUESTIONS: Can you think of license options that CC is currently missing that would benefit the open education movement? As the CC and GFDL licenses are incompatible, how can OCW content be legally remixed with Wikipedia content? Some people claim that the Creative Commons ShareAlike clause provides most of the protections people want to secure from the Creative Commons NonCommercial clause. What do you think these people mean, are they right, and why? Is copyleft good for the open education movement? Why or why not?

Instead of making a personal (independent) blogpost on copyright issues, I have tried to reflect more on other people's thinking this week.. I have taken some of the blogposts about this subject that interested me most, and criticized, applauded, or augmented them with my own musings. In remixing my thoughts with others, I hope to answer some of the questions above. First my favorite Creative Commons video:

Fair use... morality & control-ability

I question the implication that remixing Wikipedia content "illegally" would cause problems. I really don't think that a non-profit organization as Wikimedia will bother much tracking and suing people or institutions who do this, because they don't care and don't have money. A rich institution like MIT, who might care about reuse (Open Courseware licenses are usually somewhat restrictive), and has the money and expertise to proceed, will still be very careful I reckon. Their name and fame, for many institutions and individuals a motivations for opening up, is at stake when publicly going to court without clear moral backings. An example is Blackboard, a company that became widely despised after their failed patent suit. Especially if the remixing concerns free educational content or expanding knowledge worldwide, which is in line with the objective of Wikipedia and MIT. In my opinion, Meg asks the right question:

"Why haven't we focused more on expanding "fair use"? Certainly this would be one way around the above conundrum [i.e. "illegal remixing"]. It would also help solve problems with using copyright materials."

Rob Barton has a similar view:

"I hope something can be worked out so these licenses can be more compatible with each other, but it seems unlikely to happen quickly. In the mean time, it may just be a liberal application of fair use that allows a mixture among the various incompatible licenses, along with a sprinkle of a gentleman's agreement not to sue."

And there we are... Like Meg, Rob is not seeking the license incompatibility in more licenses or license agreements, but in an expansion of fair use, or gentleman's agreement not to sue. But then... who will decide on the fair use..? I think no one in particular, but the process of use and reuse, of remixing and adapting, and of claims and cases, will in the end make out what is to be allowed, and what not, and that this will become clear for the end-user. It might be just better to see how things evolve over time, let people do things wrong (who hasn't ever downloaded films or mp3's illegally?) than to commission some kind of document containing the ultimate solution.

  • Letting the definition of fair use evolve and expand over time to overcome license incompatibility is better than to design new licenses and set new rules.

In addition to this intelligent perspective of redefining fair use, I question the control-ability. I can imagine it will be pretty difficult to monitor restrictions imposed by these licenses, or by the people making the resources licensed as such. I think that if the use of resources do not really go against one's own personal moral standards, one would use them anyhow. I don't think a small private educational publisher in some poor country would consider asking permission to MIT to use and their resources, especially if they improve them, if their financial position would not even allow the smallest contribution. They would just do it. And maybe even doing a good job, because their competitor might offer similar resources for a much higher price...

  • Moral values are stronger indicators for the reuse and remixability of artifacts than rules and restrictions.

Creative "intermediary" licenses?

Greg Francom explains his opinion about Creative Commons and educational content, and I was tended to agree with him, but later on, I was somewhat reluctant to agree with him.

"Is any restriction of freedoms bad? I can see the value of having intermediary licenses such as share alike and non-commercial as a kind of gateway to help apprehensive individuals begin to license their original work. These licenses, however, still restrict end users from using resources in certain ways as David Wiley points out. I agree with him that the ideal and future goal is the public domain."

Greg has a good point: the wide range of licenses will get more people involved, but other aspects, such as the presentation and the entry level are important as well. As Rob says:

"CC works because it is simple, and I believe it is important to keep it that way."
Rob Barton is right... keep the barrier low! Make and present it simple! This is key, because otherwise most people will get confused and NOT license their content.. which subsequently becomes copyrighted automatically. The presentation of the of the CC licenses on the Creative Commons website, their great videos and their international marketing, in combination with the wide range of possibilities, is attractive to nearly anyone.

Regarding the restrictions of some Creative Commons licenses, I acknowledge the difficulties mentioned, but I do not agree to the full 100% with Greg, Wayne's and David's concerns. I would want any licensee to consider his/her license very well, and that the choice of license should be an informed one. So when someone chooses a specific license, specify the main problems that relate to this license. Make the NC and SA discussions as clear as the licenses themselves, and inform institutions about it. I also agree that Non-Commercial and Share-Alike clauses sometimes create inefficiency or incompatibility, but I don't think that the ideal and future goal for learning materials is solely in the public domain... I will try to explain that by commenting on another quote by Greg:

"I think that when people say that share-alike will cover all of the needs of the non-commercial clause... [...] If a company sells a creative item that is licensed with the share-alike clause and not the non-commercial one, then they are also required to release this item for free to the general public. Selling an item that you must also provide free to the public would not work very well."
Mmm... Share-Alike covering all the needs of the Non-Commercial clause... I don't think so. Imagine me being professional photographer, and I put my pictures online under CC-By-SA. Some other guy could for instance make a beautiful photo book, or agenda, with my pictures, and sell that commercially. He could bring out this book as Share-Alike, meaning that anyone interested in re-publishing or remixing this photo book would have to name the original author (me), and put the same CC license on it as I originally put on it. But he would be able to sell the photo book or agenda or whatever other artifact he made out of my photo material. And there are situations thinkable when I would not agree to this, for example when I sell my own photo books and agendas on my website.

  • Share-Alike and Non-Commercial are complementary, not the same.

Greg forgets that remixing can happen in different ways and that Sharing Alike is not just copy-paste the original content and provide it online under a Creative Commons license. Remixing is adding content, changing, localizing, translating... etc..: which means adding value. And the remixer might want to be paid for that added value, which is totally acceptable. Or the original creator might not be willing to enable remixers this kind of use... because it interferes with their own business model, or just because it does not feel good... which might be a pity, but totally acceptable as well.

  • Not offering the Non-Commercial clause will create more copyrighted material.
  • The future of open learning materials resides in the whole copyright spectrum: copyleft is good for education.
To explain this in more detail, consider the value for the creator if he (or she) can commercialize his artifact, whilst putting it openly on the Internet. I have explained that not allowing him to forbid commercial use by others means that he might copyright his stuff. By acknowledging potential future or current commercial value for the creator you draw individuals and institutions into a more open, or less restricted, domain. In fact, more reuse and remix possibilities are achieved because of Creative Commons and copyleft. Möller states that
"there may be circumstances where -NC is the only (and therefore best) available option, but that number of circumstances should decrease as the business models around free content evolve."

And he may be right that commercial use might even create more value in the end, but shouldn't this judgment be made by the creator?

Value of Public Domain

To get back on last week's discussion about what the value of the public domain is versus CC... I think I want to point out to Greg Francom that he should not forget the opportunity losses when you do not offer other licensing options to individuals, which might be less ideal for the remixer. If they do not license their content, you know it will be copyrighted and all rights reserved. I believe in the diversity of possibilities offered by CC and think that a much larger number of people would open license their materials if all options are offered, isn't that real openness? I can imagine different situations where the creator indeed would restrict the use somewhat, because otherwise he or she will not be able to profit from it. I agree that the public domain is more useful for the remixer, but what about the value of reputation of the original creator?

  • If you do not specifically disallow commercial use by including the Non-Commercial clause in your CC license, it is possible that you will loose some opportunities for making money out of your CC licensed content, whether educational or not.

Another thing I would like to stress is the relative risk of imposing some rights on an artifact. The owner of the artifact A who reserves some rights, always runs the risk that there is a viable alternative artifact B licensed less strict, and the remixer will prefer B at the cost of the owner of A.

  • Restricting reuse on an artifact involves the risk of replacement by a more openly licensed alternative.

Stephen Downes, as one would expect, has an opinion about the NC (Non-Commercial) clause of Creative Commons:

"And again I iterate that the only people harmed by CC-NC-By are commercial exploiters who seek to cordon off the market for academic content as their own and to systematically loot it for their own benefit and at the expense of people who most need free - and noncommercial - content."

Is there no commercial use possible that will enhance the product? There are arguments in favour of enabling commercial use, because that will stimulate innovation around the content, or provide services to people, making the content or product more attractive. Open source experiences usually provide us with an answer, with a longer history in open licensing. You could argue that commercial exploitation of open source software has caused successful adoption of it. Take Linux, which is the foundation of many large businesses, not only having instrumental value (as the software used within the company), but as the core around which the business is built. I don't think anyone can deny that commercial use can have a positive effect on the development of open content, whether software or educational resources.

So what exactly is commercial use? I do not specifically know in what way open source software forms the "raison d'être" of organizations like RedHat or SuSe. The source code remains open, I suppose, but the code that is added as well? Translated to educational resources, what about adding pictures, changing the format, and specifying the resource to a specific context, and sell the package to customers that are in need of such a thing? Should this be forbidden? Or don't you agree that this enhances public value? I suppose commercial applications in many cases form the last step towards true end-user value. The valorization of half-useful open educational resources cannot or may not happen without at least some commercial exploitation. We should not forget that these organizations or people do add some significant value to the resources, whether it is in marketing, aggregation, contextualization, or in any other service value. People or organizations sometimes do not have the time or knowledge to search and aggregate, put into sequence, translate, or fine-tune content that is freely available online. Why should it made impossible if there are people/organizations willing to do that for a certain prize? You see that I here criticize NC, but I am not against it, as I explained earlier.

So.. is Creative Commons perfect?

No. It is not, and I don't think they claim to be. Although there are a lot of options available to the users of the licenses, some are left out. Some of us discussed the Attribution clause, which is included in every Creative Commons license. I agree that this should not be always included, because one could think of instances where, for example, you don't care that they attribute your content, but you want your content to be shared alike. I also think that users of CC-NC licenses should be able to define instances of commercial use they want to disallow: "Some Commercial Use Reserved". In that way the creator can protect the commercial value of his creation in more specific terms, meanwhile opening up for other uses, including commercial ones, which might increase value in the long term.

Interesting... the definition of "free" (According to OXFORD English Dictionary)

1 not under the control or in the power of another. 2 permitted to take a specified action. 3 not or no longer confined, obstructed, or fixed. 4 not subject to engagements or obligations. 5 not occupied or in use. 6 (free of/from) not subject to or affected by. 7 available without charge. 8 generous or lavish. 9 frank and unrestrained. not subject to the normal conventions; improvised. (of a translation or interpretation) conveying only the broad sense; not literal.

Oct 12, 2007

Why people will soon be marrying and having sex - with robots

The digitization of humanity...

David Levy, originally from London, has made the controversial forecasts about the future of human-robot relationships in his Ph.D thesis.

In "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners", he argues that current trends in robotics and artificial intelligence mean the leap to humans and robots forming relationships is not far away.

Once robots become more like humans, David Levy believes romance between the two, and even sex and marriage, will be possible

"Are not love and sex and reproduction at the very core of being human, even to the extent that they are immune to computerisation?

"Yes, they are at the very core. No, they are not immune to computerisation."

He continues: "An emotionless robot would be a mere machine so a logical step in the development of humanoid robots is to endow them with emotions and enable them to detect emotions in humans.

"Robots can then respond to a person's emotions in ways that help the robot to interact as humans do.

Oct 6, 2007

OpenEd week 6 - Copyright

This week, and the next, will be centered around copyright issues. Initially I regarded this as something not so interesting, but after reading some background material (including a comic book, Bound by Law), and grasping the valid concerns stated by the authors, my interest had grown like a lotus in the mud. It is a truly interesting and dynamic domain, and the decisions made nowadays will greatly influence our future possibility to stand on "the shoulders of giants", small or large. I will shortly discuss the public domain, copyright, and the rise of open licenses in relation to these concerns with copyright legislation. Also, the relation with open educational resources, and the value of these if being put in the public domain, is discussed.

The following background readings in copyright and the public domain have been used in this blogpost.

Basics of copyright
I will discuss the basics of copyright to start with, followed by a short explanation of the public domain and the open licenses that cover the space between these two extremities. Copyright is an apparently simple right to get or have: the origin of the work has to be in the author holding the copyright. Copyrights hold for
  • Books, manuscripts and speeches and other nondramatic literary works
  • Computer programs
  • Music (lyrics and recordings)
  • Cartoons and comic strips
  • Photographs
  • Drawings, prints, and other works of visual arts
  • Motion pictures and video recordings
  • Dramatic scripts, plays, and screenplays
  • Games
The rights related to copyright concern reproduction (also of derivative works), production and distribution of copies, and the performance and display of the work publicly. Two moral rights are recognized by the US as well, which concern attribution and integrity. They allow the author of a work to claim authorship and to prevent the use of his/her name for something he/she did not create or for a derivative. Moral and copyrights are not omnivalent, some cultural works, such as sound recordings and architectural works can be protected by other rights. The length of the copyright depends on the year of origin of a work, and of course the country where the material comes from, because of differences in laws over time and geography. Fair use implies that copyrighted material can be used "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research". It also applies in other areas, as some of the examples below:
  • Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment;
  • Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work for illustration or clarification of the author's observations;
  • Use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied;
  • Summary of an address or article with brief quotations, in a news report;
  • Reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy;
  • Reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson;
  • Reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports;
  • Incidental and fortuitous reproduction in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.
Public domain
On the other side of the spectrum there is the public domain, where works can be used for whatever reason by whomever. Unlike earlier days, it now applies that if works are published without further notice, they are copyrighted, instead of part of the public domain. Instances of public domain works include works where copyright is expired, governmental works, titles/slogans/names and other works that cannot be copyrighted (although possible with trademarks), forfeiture, and abandonment (through for example Creative Commons licensing). It is impossible to appropriate or copyright content that belongs to the public domain.

It is interesting to discuss the boundaries of public domain and copyright. It could be difficult to distinguish PD and copyrighted content, and because of that, people may use apparent PD works (but are not PD) to develop new works (derivatives), which they put in the public domain, and that is illegal. A number of open licenses, or copyleft licenses have been brought into existence, to grant some subset of copyright to the public or to prevent commercialization or other use not intended by the creator, and to improve the reuse and remix of works. They usually forbid proprietary distribution, but can include more specifications on how to use the material (software, images, etc.).

The space between
The GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License, used by, amongst others, Wikipedia) and Creative Commons licenses exert a number of controls on the use of the work they license, but what controls exactly and how do they differ from copyright and public domain?
  • Public domain comprises the body of knowledge and innovation (especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions) in relation to which no person or other legal entity can establish or maintain proprietary interests within a particular legal jurisdiction. This body of information and creativity is considered to be part of a common cultural and intellectual heritage, which, in general, anyone may use or exploit, whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes. (Wikipedia)
  • The purpose of GFDL is to make a manual, textbook, or other functional and useful document "free" in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this license preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others. This license is a kind of "copyleft", which means that derivative works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense.
  • The GFDL can be compared with the Creative Commons (CC) Attribution/ShareAlike license. Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." In specific, these are the most common options Creative Commons offers;
    • Attribution (By). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.

    • Noncommercial (NC). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only

    • No Derivative Works (ND). You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

    • Share Alike (SA). You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

Creative Commons offer to license your work using other 'open licenses' that are most commonly used, or to copyright it, or to put it in the public domain. Actually, almost any type of protection can be found and utilized on their website. Offering your work under a Creative Commons license does not mean giving up your copyright. It means offering some of your rights to any member of the public but only on certain conditions.

So how do these domains relate to each other? Creativity is by no means a stand-alone feature of a person or institution. Quite the contrary, it needs a rich public domain, as been said by Judge Alex Kozinski in the dissenting opinion for the 1993 White v. Samsung Electronics case. Lawrence Lessig, a prolific writer on copyright issues and one of leading persons behind Creative Commons, explains that new cultural works are built on top of others, and that copyright prevents this to happen, because of the trouble of having to consult the copyright owner, buy off the rights, etc. These are all all transaction costs, thus strict copyright legislation will favour large companies over individual creators. The value of the public domain, he explains, cannot only be measured in terms of profit, but also "comes from the content of a work being placed into the Public Domain to be discussed in print, copied, derived, modified, mixed, remixed, or respun into some new work." Copyright would therefore, if applied rigorously on almost everything, stifle innovation and progress. And, interestingly, that is quite the opposite of the original intend of setting up copyright legislation, which should "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

David Wiley challenges us to think about the value of the public domain in relation to the the "open domain", where works are conditioned, but open to use. As we have seen, there are different ways to openly license your cultural works, allowing different levels of freedom to use, remix, and distribute. The question is impossible to answer, because
  1. No specification is made about which Creative Commons license; and
  2. It is common wisdom that overprotecting works is as dangerous as underprotecting it, and that creativity needs a rich public domain.

Both the public domain and copyrighted domain are needed, because public good requires a mix of public and private. Individuals may find incentives in the possibility of owning their works and being able to make money out of it. Other don't see the value of protecting it and just give it away to the public. It will depend on the author, but also on the work that is created. Therefore, by asking what would be the net benefit of licensing (ALL) works under the GNU Free Documentation License, would imply that it would be impossible to copyright works. This, in turn, would take away the incentives I just mentioned, causing a negative effect to the public good, because innovation would stifle. Making all works available for reuse and remix under these licenses might not have a positive effect on the net value of the public domain in the longer term.

The same arguments count for the issue of simply placing OER in the public domain and the net benefit for the open educational resources movement. Most educational institutions are (like) private organizations and have to compete with others, and increasingly in an international playing field. Their educational resources therefore, can be considered as something that could be competitive advantageous. By opening up, but not allowing commercial use (which is a difficult clause), the barrier for such an institution becomes lower. Also, because many OER-initiatives depend on the contributions of many individuals, whose reputations are of paramount significance to them, it might be impossible to become sustainable if contributors cannot impose attribution.

As Rufus Pollock explains the reason for copyright; "Thus while making existing knowledge open is optimal (for public value), such a strategy may not be compatible with ensuring its creation in the first place. When the first-best solution of up-front funding is impractical or inefficient we may have to make difficult trade-offs between the costs of restricting access and the benefits of providing creators with greater incentives to produce work."

Evidence shows that the benefit of placing work in the public domain (PD) is that public domain works are more likely to be made available to the public. Pollock also showes that this access to older (PD) works generates value not only for the consumer but also revenue for the firms involved in re-issuing these PD works. Older, coppyrighted works gathering dust in vaults or even rotting away generate no revenue or value for society, and represent a tragedy for any nation’s cultural heritage.

So what about Open Educational Resources?
There are three broad possibilities that apply for educational resources:

  • Do nothing will mean that the works are copyrighted. Still, if openly placed on a website, the works can be used according to the "fair use" doctrine, meaning that copyrighted works can be used without consultation for some educational or non-profit purposes.
  • License your work, and choose a license that is very open (GFDL, CC-By), open with more restrictions for use (CC-By-NC-ND), or plain right copyright it.
  • Give the work to the public domain and state that it is part of the public domain.

We have seen that not doing anything will mean in most countries that the content is copyrighted. This would not be a good option for social welfare. License the work under copyright laws at least makes it clear that it is copyrighted, but will cause it to be used for purposes determined by the author, and permitted by the author. This is not a good option within academic circles either, so that leaves us with a number of open licenses, out of which the creator has to choose a license to his or her likings. Creators need to be informed well, because the different provisions of the Creative Commons licenses can create incompatibility with other works, licensed differently.

Freedom of expression?
Lawrence Lessig explains that the United States (and possibly other nations as well) are currently facing an enormous threats regarding copyright legislation. Strong political movements try to extend copyright terms over longer periods of time, which benefits only the copyright owners. These are, taking into account that copyright already lasts 75, 95, or 120 years (depending on the type of work), family or publishers of the copyrighted content. They have the power to decide if and how material is used. The following premises explain that extending copyright does not create incentives for people that might be responsible for progressing science or creating useful arts, but merely granting a windfall to existing works.

  • Copyright law's constitutional purpose: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts; and
  • Creativity needs a rich public domain; scientific progress and new useful arts are built on top of existing ones.

Lessig states that this strong political group, existing of lobbyists from Hollywood and recording industry, aren't so much defending the rights of creators, they're defending a certain business model. This group intends to create a "permission culture", rather than "a world in which there are few barriers to entry, where a blog can create a major political scandal, a $218 digital film can go to the Cannes Film Festival, a podcast can reach tens of thousands of listeners, a mash-up can savagely criticize the government's respons to a hurricane, where recording and remixing technology better than anything Phil Spector ever had may come bundled free with your laptop." Current copyright legislation creates more and more barriers for creative individuals, who do not possess the time, money, or knowledge to clear their works of copyrighted material. In addition, the clearance itself is an enormous barrier of creating new material to start with.

He also refers to the lack of requirement in current copyright legislation of filing or renewing copyright. This results in a vast domain of works, where "it's so hard to know what material is available and what material is not available... So there's this mass of unsorted material out there that could or could not be available for public use creating vast uncertainty. As we said, just at the time that technology is enabling all sorts of new creativity, to build on this material and do stuff with it, the law is getting in the way and locking it up."

In the end, a clear warning is stated by Lawrence Lessig; "We live in a time when our culture is increasingly tone-deaf to legitimate criticisms around the world. If there's ever a time when we have to open up the opportunity for people to be critical and spread their creative message it's now. Yet, just at this time, there's this copyright war that's shutting down channels of communication in the name of defending property rights. But in defending those property rights what you're also doing is disabling an extraordinary system of expression that could be doing our democracy an extraordinary bit of good."

Aoki, Boyle, and Jenkins (Bound by Law) confer that although copyright seems to eradicate opportunities for artists, and that copyright might stifle innovation and the progress of science and useful arts, it should not be neglected or violated. It can be a valuable tool for any kind of creator, also when he or she wants to share the work without charge. But they agree with Lessig that the system should not slide out of balance any further. The Creative Commons initiative therefore is very positive, because it provides low barriers for licensing work in any way a person wants. And clear information as well, which is needed to get people and institutions aware of the lost value of overprotecting works. The barriers are extremely low, and it provides, in absence of good copyright legislation, a great counterpart that will make the increasingly complex and abundant online world of information more transparent and useful.