An Oxford case study by Melissa Highton, Pete Robinson, Rowan Wilson (in ‘’Copyright and e-learning: a guide for practitioners” by Jane Secker (Facet:2010)
This case study describes the approach University of Oxford has taken to licensing podcast ( audio and video) learning materials for widespread dissemination and reuse. There is a growing trend amongst educators to see open educational resources (OER) as a cost effective, sustainable and global approach to making high quality digital resources available to support learning and teaching. When material is made available publicly online there are legal processes and procedures that the department and individual contributor must follow to ensure that the material is sensibly recorded, edited and released in a manner that meets the University’s legal obligations. Success in this area is dependent on key parallel developments in creative commons licensing. Oxford University Computing Services worked closely with University Legal Services Office to ensure that the institution can be flexible and adept in making materials available for re-use by learners and researchers in the wider community.
In October 2008 Oxford University launched a new podcasting service using Apple’s iTunes U software. The Oxford on iTunes U service offers a wealth of academic audio-visual material from across the collegiate University and is managed by Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS). OUCS is the University’s primary computing infrastructure providing facilities such as the network backbone, central email, web, news, backup servers, virtual learning environments and supporting the effective use of IT in all disciplines.
All the material offered via iTunesU is free-to-download. The range of audio and video recordings reflects the breadth of high quality teaching and research across the University. The service proved to be very popular, attracting a global audience of the intellectually curious who subscribed to, and downloaded, over 2 million items in just over a year.
In April 2009 the podcasting team began a new project to release a significant proportion of Oxford audio and video assets as open educational resources (OER). This initiative was supported by the University senior management, by funding from the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The OpenSpires project focused on supporting strategic institutional learning and encouraging cultural change. The outcomes may inform and influence policy in other research-intensive institutions in the UK HE sector and beyond. (JISC, 2009).
Open Educational Resources are discussed briefly in Chapter Two. Well known university OER projects include: the MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative; Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative and the African Virtual University. Such initiatives aspire to provide open access to high-quality education resources on a global scale. The current trend towards OER is primarily values driven. Openness is increasingly seen as a desirable practice.
Open content initiatives must overcome considerable barriers to reusing educational content. University intellectual property rights (IPR) are complex in universities where there may be reluctance to “give away” resources with potential value. Academic colleagues often have legitimate concerns over attribution, reputation and digital and academic identity. Moves towards making materials freely available and openly available in digital form have required careful support work in learning technology services as well as changes and development in copyright licensing and law.
Although the values and underpinnings of the OER movement is strong and the availability of open educational content is increasing, its use and reuse is still hampered by confusion and incompatibility of licenses. Creating learning resources by drawing from a number of existing ones to create something new for a specific teaching context becomes a very complex task if the resources you are using come with different granted permissions. Although there are a number of different definitions of OER they all share some fundamental values; namely, that resources are licensed for unrestricted distribution and the possibility of adaptation and improvement. Recently OER producers have begun to take a consistent approach to the use of licensing. CCLearn is a division of Creative Commons dedicated to realising the full potential of the internet to support open learning and open educational resources.
The decision to grant a Creative Commons license to materials may lie with an institution, or it may lie with an individual. Where open educational resources have been commissioned under specific initiatives and projects, the ownership and intellectual property may be clearly located, where individual teachers and academics make these choices for themselves the decision making process may be more complex.
University of Oxford IP policy required that for every podcast recorded, an agreement form from the podcast ‘author’ be signed before it is made available. For the Oxford on iTunesU service the University’s Legal Services Office (LSO) drafted agreements to be used to cover all podcasting-style activities. Apple required the University to make promises (‘warranties’) about the kind of content that would be in the podcasts (no copyright infringement, nothing defamatory or pornographic etc), as well as requiring the granting of rights to the material (e.g. the right for Apple to use excerpts in promotional material). Since Oxford podcast materials are generated by, and owned by, the academic contributors, Oxford University, as such, could not grant those rights or make those promises for the material.
The solution reached in 2008 was that the iTunesU agreement between the University and the contributor should use almost exactly the same language as the agreement between Apple and the University. Since iTunesU has a very high public profile and therefore attracts more potentially litigious eyes (and ears) LSO resolved that there should be little difference between the ‘inbound’ language and the ‘outbound’ language. This reduced the University’s risk to a minimum, brokering a grant of warranties and rights between the contributor and Apple.
In 2009, however, during the OpenSpires project , that licence was reviewed. The iTunesU licence asked for rights and warranties ‘specifically in order to participate in the iTunesU project’. This meant that exercising the rights for other purposes was not allowable.
While iTunesU and OpenSpires were distinct projects, their sources of material are common. Ideally an Oxford contributor to iTunesU needed to be able to decide to Creative-Commons-license their material via OpenSpires at the same time they agreed to the stipulations for the iTunesU distribution. While this could be done via two separate agreements, ideally this would all be encompassed in a single, relatively simple, agreement.
What was needed was a new assignment for a new OER programme of webcasting. This agreement – like the iTunesU one – asks the contributor to give warranties that the material does not infringe the copyright of others and isn’t defamatory etc but in contrast to the iTunesU agreement, asks the contributor to ‘assign’(give) their rights in the material to the University. This enables the University to make much wider use of the material, possibly licensing it out themselves and using it for pretty much any purpose. The University then in turn gives the contributor a very wide licence back – meaning that they can do almost everything with the material that they could have done when they owned it.
Fig 1. Extract from draft University of Oxford OpenSpires recording release form.
[… ]We would like to capture your presentation in audio and/or video and/or still photographs. To that end we want to make certain that both you and the University of Oxford have the necessary rights and protections to continue to benefit from your presentation. At the end of the process a copyright release in the form attached will be generated, covering the captured presentation (the ?Recording’). If you are uncertain of the copyright status of any of the materials you intend to use in the Recording, please provide a list of these materials so that together we may discuss the situation.
The University of Oxford will hold the copyright in the Recording and will distribute it under a Creative Commons UK: England & Wales licence of your choice. So, for example, the Recording might be made available with the following notice:
When Oxford University made a commitment to publish materials as OER we planned to easily adapt our existing processes for podcasting and publishing. After discovering that the contribution form created to facilitate the original iTunes U project did not encompass any other activities than release on iTunes U the project team generated a second form to cover wider reuse and release under creative commons for the OpenSpires initiative. Learning technologists and legal officers have been working hard with all parties concerned to create a unified form that suits both these purposes, and is flexible enough to encompass future plans.
JISC (2009) Open educational resources programme. Available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/oer Last accessed January 5, 2010
MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative (http://ocw.mit.edu/)
Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/)
African Virtual University (http://www.avu.org/home.asp)
University of Oxford Open Content in itunes http://itunes.ox.ac.uk/
Open University OpenLearn (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/ )