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MIT’s 4-star openness rating and Stephen Downes on commercial/ non-commercial use of OERs

June 8, 2011

Via Scoop.itOpen learning news

Stephen Downes takes issue with the MIT proposal to create a four-star rating system to show levels of openness in metadata linked to open access content. His main concern seems to be the high rating given by MIT to licences that allow commercial reuse of the content. He says “If you can block access to something and demand payment for it, it’s not open. It is certainly not ‘more open’.”

This is a good point: there has been much discussion amongst UK OER projects about the non-commercial clause in CC licences, and a gradual swing towards eliminating this requirement, with the main argument being that it is impossible to enforce non-commercial use. There is also the murky question of what actually constitutes commercial use. (For example, if University X uses OERs from University Y with fee-paying students, does that constitute commercial use?) And so it is, I think, for purely pragmatic reasons that many institutions are now releasing OERs without the non-commercial stipulation.

Pragmatism aside, I can see Stephen’s point that commercial reuse of an open access resource totally contradicts the spirit of openness. And actually, if we were to take our pragmatic argument to its logical extreme, we would abandon CC licences altogether because of the difficulties inherent in a) enforcing them, and b) removing all possible murkiness of interpretation from them. So I’m ready to have a rethink about that non-commercial thing.

Coming back to MIT’s proposed 4-star rating system, it’s worth emphasising that the framework is only meant to apply to open metadata, and not to the resources that the metadata refers to themselves.

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