By way of some background, I am currently the digital publishing manager at the African branch of Cambridge University Press (CUP), the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Prior to joining CUP, I worked as a consultant conceptualising and implementing innovative digital solutions for academic and local government initiatives in South Africa. During this period I launched The Ulwazi Programme with colleagues from the eThekwini Municipality. This collaborative digital library project collated user-generated, local-language, indigenous knowledge content and published it openly under a Creative Commons license. Based on this experience, as well as my desire to explore how a traditional publishing business could engage with with the open movement and the plethora of freely-available content online, I applied to attend the Institute of Open Leadership (IOL) workshops. The week-long sessions were intense; a bootcamp in open licensing and open education. More importantly, the workshop brought together some of the top minds currently working on open ideas. In formal and informal discussions, these mentors shared their thinking with me on open business models, providing examples of successful and sustainable open initiatives.
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.