New Steps in Licensing University Courseware

Columbia University's online learning efforts took a major step forward last week when the University resolved to license the core content in Eric Foner's new series of American history MOOCs on edX with a Creative Commons license that will allow edX's students — anyone anywhere, in fact — to copy, share, adapt, even remix the videos and the videos' key media components, including transcripts, without their having to ask anyone for prior permission, as long as this work is done for noncommercial purposes.

With this generous act the University joins, and in some ways surpasses, publishers and providers of other so-called open or free culture assets.With this generous act the University joins, and in some ways surpasses, publishers and providers of other so-called open or free culture assets. It joins Wikipedia, Flickr, the Open Courseware (OCW) Consortium, and OCW's flagship institution MIT in providing liberally licensed content — hundreds of millions of such assets are now up, online — to education from education. It also surpasses the achievements of these institutions by publishing new material from a major, current humanities course — one taught by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian — purposefully, as the Center says, across platforms with multiple user groups in mind, with licenses that help each of them use the content in ways they find meaningful, and in ways they want. These platforms include edX, Columbia's websites, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, Twitter, even Wikipedia.

For Wikipedia, a separate license will need to be negotiated. The CC license that will grace Professor Foner's content in edX and on YouTube (read it here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), liberal as it is, is far from the fundamentally free license that will allow orthodox Wikipedians to permit our content, especially if we push it on proprietary video player formats, into the encyclopedia.

We'll hear more about all this (expect an earful) when Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation visits with us to give a talk on "Libre Software, Libre Education" on Friday, October 17.

Meanwhile, as a long-time advocate of this kind of insanity, whose work writing and producing has been funded since 2004 by the Hewlett Foundation, Creative Commons, Ford, and others — Frank Moretti and Maurice Matiz brought me here years ago to publish videos just like this (see: http://opencontent.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/) — I could not be prouder and more grateful.

Read and watch more about CC-licensed work for education and video here:

Read more about video in Wikipedia here:

And, please join us on October 17, to argue with Stallman (verily at one's peril).