Do you want to protect or share your work?

I’ve just finished working through the 5 day Open Content Licensing for Educators, which was developed by the Wikieducator community, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and Creative Commons. This was a whistlestop tour of copyright, Creative Commons and Open Educational Resources (OER). I learned a lot, particularly about the detail of copyright and the purpose of the different creative commons licences. It’s made me think about what it means to ‘own’ your work.

I have never felt a great deal of ownership over what I write because I rarely feel it is mine to own. When clients tell me I have got something just right I usually reply (because it’s true), ‘But I’ve simply written what you said’. I find it fascinating that people who are very fluent verbally are amazed when they see it written down. It takes on a different power and authority but it is still their thoughts and ideas that have formed my copy or learning materials. Most of my work is the outcome of conversations, collaborations and sharing. I have always remixed others’ ideas, with a strict eye on crediting where credit is due (the traditional term is ‘research’, but it’s basically putting a new spin on old ideas). I still love this  ‘Everything is a remix’ video and the simple mantra – copy, transform and design:

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

I rarely retain copyright over my work as that usually forms part of the contract with my client. That doesn’t bother me too much, but I do like to be credited for my contribution. It would be great to work with people who are going to apply share-alike licences to learning materials because that would mean that my work would get out to a wider audience, be used and reused – a much more satisfying thought than getting stale and out-of-date in some protected walled garden. The question then is not ‘how can I stop the wider community pinching my work?’ but ‘how can I share this with the wider community?’. I hope I will find a way to do this and still earn a living as a course designer.

If you want to read the content for the course, it’s still available on Wikieducator here. And this wonderful little film by Justin Cone says it all for Creative Commons.


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