These days everyone who spends time online is a producer of content. This content could be the blog posts you write, photographs you take, research articles you publish, videos you upload – the list goes! As the producer of the content, you get to decide how to license it. You can retain copyright (current standard and in most cases automatically assigned); you can decide to use a Creative Commons license and retain some rights; or you can release the content into the public domain, relinquishing all rights.
The issue of copyright is an equally important consideration when developing and managing any online project, including an education project where you can decide whether to openly license your content or product as an Open Education Resource. Some organisations feel it is important to retain full rights to their content in order to commercially exploit them, however there is growing evidence that open business models (where some or all content rights are ‘opened’) can be successful in the ‘new economy’. I’ll write more on open business models in future posts. Deciding how to deal with copyright during the conceptual phase of a project is important and ensures that the project does not run into problems later, during the execution phases. With this in mind, I’ll attempt first to introduce the concept of copyright and then cover appropriate policies for digital education projects, including a discussion on Creative Commons.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a legal concept that gives the creators of intellectual property (IP) the right to assert ownership over the things that they create and receive compensation for their use. As defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, n.d), the works covered include anything from “books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.” Copyright basically applies to any “creative” work and prevents other people taking an individual’s IP and using it without their permission (whether the intention is to make money from it or not).