Creative Commons and Copyright
For this response, I’m using my particular context, as a teacher educator in a higher education institution. Since the focus for this discussion is on how Creative Commons licenses work within copyright law, I’ll focus on how these two impact my work as a teacher educator in creating and using course materials.
- How would you explain the relationship between Creative Commons and copyright law to someone new to Creative Commons? What kinds of examples would you use?
Copyright comes first! As an educator, author or creator, the minute I fix my conception, idea, image into a tangible format (draw, create, make, record), I own the rights to that work. As a teacher educator, the copyright comes first for all the work created by others that I wish to use in my course of study with preservice teachers.
Fair use is a semi permeable layer on top of copyright! As a teacher, I can fairly use materials that others have created and have copyrighted. When teaching in the classroom or in an online course, I can use, share and reference some of this material. There are limitations, so this layer can only stretch so far. It is somewhat permeable since there are specific rules applied to what I use, where I use it, and how I share copyrighted materials. This can limit me when creating course content and materials.
Creative Commons is a set of coloured overlays that surround the copyrighted materials I have created or that I can use in my teaching. The colours and applications vary, depending on the license designation and use. First, I need to identify and separate the stuff I make and create from the pile of stuff other people have created and made. For my own creation, I can include a Creative Commons license on my works (unless bound by my employer’s policies on copyright) so it can be shared in the ways I choose e.g. CC BY. For the work created by others, I need to examine how they want their work to be used and respect that designation when I use it in my course materials. If it’s licensed with Creative Commons overlays, then I can use all, some, or none, based on their sharing requirements. If the works are OER, then I am not bound by the fair use requirements. If they are not, then I can stretch the fair use layer over the materials I wish to use in my teaching. The total colour effect of the CC overlays will determine the overall effect on the complete ‘body of work’ I can include in my course.
- Give an example of the common struggles educators face in accessing and/or using & sharing OER.
One challenge or struggle for educators is determining the original copyright of the material they wish to use, particularly for commonly used content, and then figuring out which overlays apply to that work. Often, it is not clear, or has not been designated by the creator of the material, how it can be used. For example, I have only recently started using CC licenses on the materials I create. For earlier materials, that I have posted online, it will not be clear to others how I wish to share or the original sources for the information.
I have not always attended to the CC license on the works I’ve integrated into the works I’ve used. As with many other educators, the fair use overlay has created opaque understandings about what is copyrighted and what is not. When I use material in my course that is available on the web, it does not mean it is CC licensed or that it is OER. When I create an open, online repository as a course, it does not mean that others can necessarily use or share this material since there are fair use issues that they may not be able to see or understand.
Another issue that educators face is the open vs. closed learning management system (LMS) in which learning and teaching often takes place. This is like putting a black overlay over top of the copyrighted material, making it unsearchable and out of sight for all, except those with the code to see inside. There may be great materials available, that are CC licensed, in an LMS, such as this CC course for example, which are not accessible without an account or log-in credentials. Unless this same course material is posted to an open, password free, accessible URL location, then it is not searchable, usable, sustainable, or remixable for my educational purposes. Educators who only teach from within an LMS are limiting their sharing from behind the black curtain or invisible overlay. The materials used in the LMS may be copyrightable, fair use shared, or creative commons created, but they are bound in ways that limit rather than permit.
As a teacher educator who is passionate about modelling open educational practices and pedagogies, but who is bound by institutional requirements, there are limitations to where, when, and how I share course materials with my students, and with others who are interested in the same topics. I have published course materials on open web sites for each course I’ve taught, but the challenge that I now face, is ensuring that this can be sustained, maintained, accessed through open licensing, and supported within the structures of my institutional policies and mandates. This CC Certification course is making CC licensing and copyright adherence very clear to me.
There is much work I need to do to get my CC licensed house in order!