GEORGE SIEMENS: So, David, we've set up a problem here. We've talked copyright, the value that it has as a creative enterprise, and in fostering and incentivizing creativity, but through a limited commercialization timeline.
We've seen the challenges of copyright, both in terms of our curriculum, in terms of our content, and the fact that everything we do in a classroom that's captured digitally is automatically copyrighted. And that means we have to get into a very difficult dance of soliciting and seeking permission when we want resources from someone.
Entire departments are set up on universities to play this function of copyright clearance and so on. But there has to be a better way, especially in a knowledge age that's digital, network-- things move fast. What do we do instead?
DAVID WILEY: So thank you for that bump and set. I will now spike. This is the purpose of Creative Commons. I think the shortest, best description I've ever heard of why Creative Commons exists is to save the world from failed sharing.
So Creative Commons is an organization that creates copyright licenses, which already is starting to sound formal and hard to understand and terrible and make you want to go to sleep. But the purpose of the Creative Commons licenses is to give you and me and other people who have made a creative work-- we have some kind of knowledge artifact that we've created, and we instead of wanting to commercialize it, we want to make it available to others to use to translate, to build upon, to extend, to engage in all these activities that we have talked about earlier.
And just tell you both in language that's easy to understand and in terms that are legally binding, I hereby grant you permission to engage in all of these activities. That's the purpose of Creative Commons is to make it basically cut and paste easy for people who want to share, but who find their work automatically subject to copyright protection that maybe they didn't even want, to have a very simple way to say actually. I want to give the world the set of permissions where they can go and collaborate and engage and build upon.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So for somebody who's just listening to that short description, it must seem a little intimidating to look at different copyright laws, different legal structures, Creative Commons, and so on. And yet the process isn't difficult at all.
The first time I set a Creative Commons license, you click a couple of buttons, you copy and paste some code if you want to embed it in a template or just something that you just list from the bottom of slides or at the end of a document or whatever else.
So can you maybe talk a little bit about what is the process and what are some of the choices that, say, a teacher who's looking at subjecting some of her work to Creative Commons, what might a teacher or a prof do in order to make that happen?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah and just to address the question that you hinted at earlier first, as we talked about before, copyright is really different depending on where you live. And maybe one of the main values of Creative Commons is the efforts that they've made with local teams in many, many jurisdictions around the world to make sure that the Creative Commons licenses actually operate in very similar, useful ways in all of those jurisdictions.
So they've done a lot of the hardest work-- work that we didn't even know we needed to do, probably, that they've taken that on and done it. As a faculty member though, you've created, you've written an essay, you've written a book chapter, you've written something that you want to put a Creative Commons license on and now you're trying to decide how do I do that.
Creative Commons makes that super easy with basically a license wizard where you answer two questions and then hit a button and then it presents you with some code that you can just copy and paste into the bottom of your slides or the bottom of your web page or on that article that you're about to hand out to students. And it's really super straightforward.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So how does Creative Commons play with copyright then? So if I'm going to submit a chapter to a book, it's a copyrighted book, can I throw a Creative Commons license on that chapter?
DAVID WILEY: So the answer is actually hidden in the question, right? Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses. So if copyright goes away-- for example, work that's in the public domain that isn't protected by copyright, Creative Commons can't operate on that piece of content any more, because if you don't hold the copyright in the work, you can't license that work to someone else.
And so Creative Commons layers on top of copyright, only functions because copyright exists. And says, essentially, if I were if I'd created a video, and I was going to share it with you under Creative Commons license, that Creative Commons license would tell you, I hereby grant you these permissions as long as you meet these certain conditions.
And so for example, it might be, I give you permission to take this video, make mash ups of it, translate it into other languages, cut it up into different segments and do things with it, so long as you attribute me as the original creator of the work and you don't try to claim that it's your own work. You don't plagiarize my work.
And as long as you meet that condition, then you have all of these permissions. But-- and here's a place where copyright actually turns out to be useful in this process, is that if you don't meet those conditions, now the license tells you you don't have permission to engage in those activities anymore. And if you try to engage in those activities without meeting the condition, I as the copyright holder it can come to you and say, you're violating my copyright.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So for example, if I created a license that say noncommercial Share-Alike and attribution, and you then decide to come along and say, oh OK, this is a useful resource. I'm going to bring this into my own curricular materials, but then you bring them in-- so you attribute it to me, but you decide to not attach a Share-Alike license to it. Which would be in violation of my stated license.
So in that case, if you created it but decided not to share it, you would be in violation of my copyright terms then.
DAVID WILEY: Right because the Creative Commons license says I grant you these conditions under these terms. And as the user, if you fail to meet the terms, you don't get the permissions.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Who polices it? See this is the challenge we have publishers. They have a very well staffed legal team to make sure that people's feet are held to the fire, so to speak, around copyright compliance.
Creative Commons doesn't have an extensive legal team that scours the world telling people that they shouldn't be doing that. Who's policing it or is it right now more just an honor system that likely is subject to a fair amount of abuse. Because a person who created a nice image on a blog and attached Share-Alike attribution requirements, but it doesn't get attributed, it doesn't get Share-Alike use by let's say a certain group of individuals, what would they possibly do?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah, so I would say that in place of a team of lawyers who are paid full time to go and scour the web, the Creative Commons-- the policing of whether people who are using CC license material are meeting those terms or not is really done by the community.
So it's not uncommon when something happens with my own work or maybe you've had this experience, for me to get an email from someone who says hey, I saw this work that I knew was yours over in this other place did you know it was being used this way. I do some very light monitoring of how my work gets used but not a ton. Normally if something weird is happening, I find out from another member of the community.
GEORGE SIEMENS: It doesn't seem like a terribly effective way of doing it though. By the same account, the recourse that's available to an individual whose work has been used, do you write your own cease and desist order? Is that a bit of a weakness right now in Creative Commons or is that something that you look at more and say, that's just the nature of being in open spaces?
It's like a bank, you have a certain amount of bad debts that you're willing to tolerate, as long as you still stay afloat, you're going to tolerate 2 and 1/2 percent of bad debts on the loans that you give out. Is that the mindset we should be taking toward Creative Commons compliance?
DAVID WILEY: I think it's more like that. I think if you find someone who's flagrantly violating the terms of your license, first you'd send them an informal email, and say, hey, I see this happening, I noticed that you're not complying with the terms of the license, and if they write back and say, yeah well, what are you going to do. Then there's a pure legal path which then involves cease and desist letters and things like that.
But then there's also a community engagement path, where you go out to the community and say hey community, this bad behavior is going on, I need the community's help in helping this person understand that's bad behavior. And then there can be education that's done via blog posts or tweets or e-mails or things like that to help that person know that we are a community of people, we share with each other, we share with the world, but there are norms in this community of people who use CC licenses and one of the norms that you actually obey the terms of the license and we try not to escalate things on the legal side.
We try to take care of it inside the family, as it were, by I'll tell you first, then maybe if you get 30 or 40 or 50 other people telling you, hey, what you're doing is really not great. And now your brand as an individual or an organization starts to be tarnished by lots of blogging and things-- talking about how somebody is not respecting these terms, that there are non-legal kinds of pressures that can be brought to bear.
And is that a weakness? I don't think it's a weakness. I think it's just a different approach to how we engage with and police and protect each other's investments in these works that we create and share with each other.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So is there any value-- so Creative Commons then is primarily, as you clearly articulated, it is a set of permissions tied to certain conditions, built essentially on the copyright model. Creative Commons though, has no stake in necessarily policing it. They establish and set up some of the criteria, so it's not like you could go to Creative Commons and say, dear Creative Commons, someone is not listening to me.
You're basically through a more of a network informal approach, like you said, a type of bringing to attention community norms, community values. That would be the primary discourse approach that you would suggest someone take whose copyright or whose Creative Commons license has been violated.
DAVID WILEY: I think the only thing I would add to that is that Creative Commons is a member of that community. So you can go to them and say, hey, this is going on, what advice do you have for me? And they could suggest several things to do, and one of them might be to go get some legal help.
But they would be a member of the community, who in a really egregious case, might help shine the light on that bad actor to try to encourage better behavior.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So it's the main point, again, is the value of Creative Commons then, is essentially to align licensing scheme that enables open, rapid sharing in a way where you're not consumed with seeking permissions from the original creators, and that's better aligned, for lack of a better word, with the architecture and the zeitgeist of today's information and sharing landscape. Would that capture the intent of Creative Commons?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah I think I would add not just consumed with all the time of seeking permissions, but if you can find the rights holder, and if you could-- which is really hard in the first place. And if you can come to terms, then after all the time that you spent doing that, then you have to pay for those permissions.
And those permissions that you buy are going to be very narrow. So you're going to get permission to use it with 30 students in the classroom. You're not going to be able to acquire permissions to share it publicly on the open web, give people permission to make all the copies they want, translate it into other languages, or things like that.
So it really is about saving the world from failed sharing. Right now, it's just so difficult to share, and it takes all the friction out of that process of finding, asking for, paying for permissions, and just makes it very smooth and easy.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So why do you hate capitalism, David? I'm looking at-- shouldn't somebody who creates content have a right to earn money from it? Why should they share? Why should it be available for free?
And I say that very much tongue in cheek, because I think it's worth emphasizing that money is one type of transactional entity. There are other types of transactional entities which would be-- I could get recognition and exposure that would sell a book that I wrote, or I could get recognition or exposure that helps me to advance a cause that I'm passionate about, that means a lot more to me than just money does.
And so from my end, it's this idea that the transactional entity that you seek may be money, it may be reputation, it may be impact. And the current copyright structure doesn't allow us to achieve those multiple transaction entities in the same effective way that Creative Commons does. Would you agree with that?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah, what is the incentive for a person to go out and swing a hammer all weekend long building a house for Habitat for Humanity when they could just as well go contract with a construction company for the weekend and swing hammers and get paid to do it?
And there are people who choose to do that, but we do tend to look at either contributions to open source software or contributions to the commons of Creative Commons open educational resources and look at that and think, this is the craziest, most difficult to understand thing I've ever seen happen. Why would somebody do all this work and give it away?
But if you look in every other part of your life, whether it's loaning a lawnmower to your neighbor, or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, or reading books to kids in the library-- we all volunteer, we donate time and effort in lots of ways-- and for lots of reasons, to your point, for many different kinds of incentives. And this is just another way of volunteering in the community as it were.