HENRY TROTTER: I'd like to take this opportunity to share one of the lessons learned during our research about the relationship between educators' OER creation activities and the policy landscape in which those activities take place. To start with, it is worth remembering that the ability of educators to create and share OER is premised on them holding copyright over the teaching materials that they develop. This is because during the process of sharing their materials openly, they must re-license them using an open license standard, such as Creative Commons, a process that only the copyright holder can legally initiate.
However, in many countries, we find that local educators typically do not possess copyright over the teaching materials that they develop. Their employers do because national legislation often grants copyright to the employer of any works created by an employee in the course of their duties. This includes the teaching materials that educators create for instruction.
So for school teachers, this might mean their national or provincial education departments hold copyright over their teaching materials, while for higher education lecturers, it is usually their institution which does. Thus, while educators are typically free to incorporate OER into their materials as users, they are often able to share their own teaching materials openly as OER because they have no legal standing to do so.
This is the case, for instance, in Afghanistan and South Africa, where their national copyright acts place copyright over employees' works in the hands of employers. Such language is modified, however, in Columbia, where the copyright act states that higher education "professors" are granted copyright over their lectures or talks. And this law is substantially modified in Mongolia, where creators of any type of work enjoy "non-economic," intangible rights over their creations, while employers can only claim copyright over them if they are to be commercially exploited. Since the sharing of OER does not entail commercial exploitation, this should theoretically allow Mongolian educators to share their teaching materials as OER.
Yet while national copyright legislation establishes a default approach to copyright management across a country, institutional managers and employers can alter this through their intellectual property policies. For instance, the University of Cape Town's IP policy automatically grants to lecturers copyright over their teaching materials, allowing them to re-license them as OER. And while the University of South Africa, or UNISA, which is a massive distance education institution, does not go so far as this, it does allow educators to petition the university to obtain copyright over specific teaching materials for the purposes of sharing them as OER.
These approaches do not appear to be the norm, though, as most of the education institutions engaged by ROER4D prefer to retain copyright over educators' teaching materials for themselves. In such situations, then, the best possible approach may be to simply encourage the institutions to take it upon themselves to share their educators' materials as OER. MIT, of course, pioneered an approach similar to this with its OpenCourseWare, and global south institutions, such as Wawasan Open University in Malaysia, are also taking an institutional approach to OER sharing.
But while it would be tempting to suggest that all institutions should do the same, our research also found that such an approach requires a certain level of funding and capacity that not every institution has. Thus, as we learned through the ROER4D project, when we, researchers and advocates in the OER community, promote OER policy development or interventions, it is always important to first understand the policy landscape that such developments would occur in.
One key question to ask is-- who is the potential agent of OER creation and sharing? In other words, who holds copyright over educators' teaching materials? Is it the educators or perhaps their employers? Only once this question is answered can we begin to strategize an approach to developing OER-friendly policies in otherwise highly diverse legal, historical, and cultural contexts. Thank you.