Universities, the Internet and the Information Commons
Video on MIT Open Courseware – from the UK (BBC?)
OK – that was the optimism; now for a few more details and then some discussion
Let’s start with the scam that’s been going on – it tells us that a university is a kind of factory that makes “content.” If you can just get that content away from these incompetents and put it in the hands of those who really =know how to package and present — then you’ll get some real money into the economy
Chuck Vest used to get asked – what is MIT going to do about the internet? After 2001, the answer finally became – put all our MIT content onto the internet and give it away. April 1, 2001 this was announced, to the consternation of those delivering distance education for $$
Ambitious goals were set, and 500th course got up by Sept 2003
Some snapshots of OCW – now there are 900 courses
The legal fine print — everything up there is under a Creative Commons license – faculty participation is voluntary – over 2/3rds of the faculty participates — and copyright is retained by the faculty — moving OCW out of the crosshairs of this who-owns-what
Which CC licence? One that specifically permits making derivative works.
httpd log statistics — 500,000 unique visitors a month; all over the world, lowest in sub-Saharan africa – China, India, Taiwan always big — from academic institutions, Harvard was 3rd on the list
13% of the visitors are educators; use data indicates a focus on course development, enhancing personal knowledge, planning curricula – lots of awards won and it’s been a big success
Even more so, derivative works – e.g. translations into Spanish and Protuguese (60 so far) Other consortia working to move to new languages — plus places putting up their own stuff – places in India, Vietnam, etc. adopting this OCW approach
Alignment with MIT core values — (a) commoditizing the content sharpens out focus on the substantive values of residential education — personalized attention, participation in learning and research communities; (b) helps to defuse complex IP issues of ownership and constrol that can distract the university from its mission to disseminate knowledge
DSpace: a repository that makes available the collective intellectual resources of the world’s leading research institutions — a digital repository run by MIT libraries – with HP and the WWW Consortium; note that there is also effort to ensure that the formats will be revised/translated — a permanent URL associated with each document, maintained by the library
Lots of things in DSpace — articles, reports, working papers, conference papers, theses, datasets, images, recordings of lectures, learning objects, reformatted digital library collections — the inclusion of actual datasets turns out to be an unexpected thing, but it looks interestin. DSpace will archive OpenCourseWare
Metadata based on RDF; many institutions participate and are part of a federated group of servers
Source is also open source; to join the DSpace federation, you have to make an institutional committment to the effort — several have signed up
Trying to make models that other places will follow — shared resources across the infrastructure of higher education
Those were two examples; they are part of the effort to strengthen the educations commons.
Why should universities do this?
(1) To help pursue our mission as institutions of higher educations and scholarly research – a part of MIT’s mission statement to “generat[e], disseminat[e] and preserv[e] knowledge” – note that publishers are not in this list when it comes to dissemination; it’s the Institute — librarians are “preserving”
These are big questions about the institutional role of universities — MIT has elected to answer these questions with things like DSpace and OCW
The library as not only the window of the institution onto the wider world of information, but also as the window of the wider world into the products of the institution
(2) Without initiative like these, traditional academic values will be increasingly marginalized, and university communities will be academically stressed
Napster era letter from USC to every undergrad – “USC’s purpose is to promote and foster the creation of intellectual property” (Note: education does not appear) (Sept 2002 letter to USC students from Dean of Libraries)
University of Chicago – “For this reason, we recommend that the University formally implement the principle that the University owns the intellectual property the faculty create at the University” – April 27 1999
UT Austin: Office of the General Counsel, August 2001 – paraphrase – students, making notes, are making derivative works of the faculty intellectual property – this is an impled license; you may want to make this explicit by asking the students to sign a license – a suggested license includes that they are my notes; for my own use, no commercial uses
Funny, yes, but also scare – Who Owns Academic Work? Coryenne McSherry – Harvard University Press, 2001
What’s going on in all these discussions is the conflating of academic rights and IP rights. The notion of ownership, versus the notion of community – we need to get out of this dead end
(3) To keep a seat at the table in decisions about the disposition of knowledge in the information age
Increasingly, the notion of academic scholarship viewed through the lens of property – danger of monopoly ownership and control of literature
Plots of the costs of journals – Reed-Elsevier is getting a lot of revenue – 10% per year growth rates – base costs of periodicals rising too fast – many schools can no longer manage it, including MIT
“The publication of research is a serious business, yet only costs a fraction of the funding of the research.” – president of Blackwell Science
But it’s an odd system: (1) authors give their property away to journal publishers; (2) publishers own this property and all rights to it forever, and allow the author to retain some limited rights, at the sole discretion of the publisher; (3) the university generally gets no specific rights; (4) and tghe public never enters into the deal at all
Some examples – Association of Computing Machinery allows (1) use in a future book; (2) can post a version on the WWW, provided the posting is limited to personal use by others (can’t, for example, end up in DSpace) — this is the radical liberal wing
Elsevier – a derivative work is ok, you can talk about it in a conference, …
Noncommercial ones are also pretty draconian – American Chemical Society – you can give a copy to no more than 50 colleagues; Can post the title, abstract tables and figures on the WWW site (but no other text) — and the ACS comes after people who violate this.
The NE Journal of Medicine is the king of the hill — you gave it to us, it’s ours – all you have is the fair use rights — nothing else at all
Why do we make this deal? Journal of Cell Biology uses language that suggest reputation is necessary (keepit away from the great unwashed) “Copyright should not be ceded to individuals” (!!)
Back to the Progress clause; publication is not the only way to accomplish progress; the way that we do this is getting blocked by the way we construct copyright
Google as the greatest research tool today – now Google Scholar – compare with ACS’s tool – and they have sued Google for trademark infringement on the use of the word “scholar”
A concordance site – can do this with Henry James, but not Toni Morrison, Hemingway or anything published after 1923
Will sophisticated research tools be stillborn by limited access to quality sources – limited by copyright – or, more likely, stimulate a set of network effects that will lead to greater concentration and monopolization of scientific literature
Consider Lexis-Nexis; their tool gives everyone strong reasons to publish through them, rather than other sources
There are publishers who are fairly explicit about this objective – Reed Elsevier’s recent publisher – 40+% profit margins
Private monopoly control of the scientific/academic record — this is what’s at stake
So, we start with the progress clause; the internet disrupts, diaggregates the way of disintermediation; actors try to get in the way, so they can extract rents
There is no copyright policy – just copyright law – will universities have a seat at the bargaining table (the one that Jessica Litman speaks about) – universities need to establish a position so that they get to participate in the fight (“we’re upstream of you guys — why do we need you again?”)
More generally – will creators have a seat at the bargaining table?
Creativity – Mickey Mouse/Disney and relativity/Einstein — the emphasis has been on making things work well for the Disneys of the world. Unfortunately, this also is making things work increasingly poorly for the Einsteins of the world.
Copyright makes it hard to build on other people’s work — hence, creative commons licensing needed – the CC heirarchy presented – demonstration of how CC works online
Where to next? Image searches demonstrated, using CC tools to make it work; a WWW site that mixes different music files – here’s what was used to make the mix – ancestry of sampling
The Internet Archive will host anything that you put a CC on – free hosting for CC licensed content
The Wired CD of CC content – other examples; and moving it overseas (some barriers — probably can never manage it in France, where droit d’auteur is inalienable)
Wrapping up — this is the job of universities; institutional instruments exist to do this; use CC licenses
Q: From someone who works at a journal – editorial oversight is expensive and important – aren’t there reasons for some kind of formal vetting, which is expensive? A: Agreed that this is necessary — there is a difference between open access and open season – there’s still vetting of articles. Note that referees are generally NOT paid; editors are paid to manage that process. There are different business models, and experimentation is necessary. But, the bottom line is that the different pieces of what it is to be a journal can be disaggregated – the question is how, and how it works.
The status quo is broken – it needs fixing
Q: What’s the role of the funding source (e.g. US Government) in establishing who owns what?
A: At MIT, the institution does not assert ownership rights; this is up to the scholar who is doing it, subject to the rules of the funding contract. So, it’s a contracts problem. Some fights coming, NIH is starting to require open access to results.