The economies of openness

Week 4 was a cliptastic week on the Stanford Open Knowledge MOOC with a plethora of remixed videos arguing for and against current digital copyright laws and other legal and economic issues of openness.

The Copyright clearance video explained it well: “copyright is complicated” – even more so when you start working across country and sector boundaries.

Rights like fair use (where use is based on best practices and takes in to account the purpose and character of the use, e.g. commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work) help the situation, but as most of us knew before embarking on this MOOC copyright is out-dated for the digital age. In the UK our equivalent fair dealing is limited to research and private study (both must be non-commercial), criticism, review, and news reporting.

Interested in looking at something beyond the arguments around licensing I decided to put my energy into watching law professor Yochai Benkler on Open-source economics looks more deeply at the economics driving the democratization of cultural production. His argument is that years ago producers had to be able to raise financial capital to start producing news content. There was an industrial knowledge economy but it was market based or government owned. This requirement has been inverted by the Internet. There is now a distributed knowledge economy, capital is still required but it is spread out, resulting in communication and computation sitting in the hands of population. The issues are no longer just quality but relevance. We now have four transactional frameworks: market-based or non-market based, decentralised or centralised. There is more competition but also new opportunities – toolmakers for new systems, building platforms etc. Social production is a fact, not a fad, in some contexts it is more efficient than markets or firm, but it is a threat to and threatened by incumbent industrial models.

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This week the expert on hand was Dr. Cable Green, Director of Global Learning for Creative Commons. Cable is a member of the Open Education Advisory Group of the Open Education Working Group I co-ordinate so nice to see him involved. Cable has posed three questions for the course attendees with some suggested answers. To summarise, his questions were:

  1. What does open educational resources (oer) success look like? “what is the world we’re trying to create?” “how can we quantify it?” “are there intermediate ‘mile posts’ or changes of state, either catalytic or symbolic that we want?”
  2. Where can NGOs, foundations and individual open advocates have the most impact? What are the things we must do and/or are best positioned to do? What opportunities are out there for us that we’re missing?
  3. What role does open policy have to play?
  4. What metrics should we track? If we could only pick a few metrics to guide us, what would they be? What would show we’re collectively having impact?

Great questions and I hope to share them with the Working Group sometime soon.