EdTech Factotum #9: Access vs York, OpenStax & Unsplash

July 14, 2017

EdTech Factotum is a weekly newsletter of 3 interesting things I have read, watched or listened to in the world of educational technology, online & blended learning, and open education.

Here are 3 things I found interesting this week.


Ignoring the Supreme Court: Federal Court Judge Hands Access Copyright Fair Dealing Victory

Michael Geist, July 13, 2017

A troubling and significant ruling on copyright in Canada this week, not only post-secondary institutions, but for anyone asserting their fair dealing rights under Canadian copyright law. Access Copyright has won a lawsuit against York University that is, no doubt, sending a cold chill down the spine at higher education institutions who chose to opt out of Access Copyright agreements in 2012, as York did.

In a (very brief) nutshell, Access Copyright took York to court for unauthorized copying of material. York’s primary defense was educational fair dealing. The judge sided with Access Copyright. There is obviously much MUCH more to this case, but that is the very TL;DR summary.

However, as Geist points out, there are a number of troubling aspects of this decision that go against previous judgements about fair dealing in Canada, and he believes that there are “very strong grounds for appeal”.

In the post, Geist focuses primarily on the judge’s limited interpretation and application of fair dealing which runs counter to the broader and more liberal interpretation of fair dealing offered in the past by the Supreme Court.

The trial judge acknowledges the Supreme Court’s emphasis on user’s rights, but quickly downplays it by restricting the fair dealing analysis. The Supreme Court may have called for a large and liberal interpretation to fair dealing, but the trial judge, fresh off a similarly restrictive approach in United Airlines v. Cooperstock, holds a different view.

This is a long post that deals with interpreting a legal decision, but it is an important one for educators in Canada as it could have significant implications on everything from institutional funding to academic freedom to deeper oversight by institutions into the resources being used in the classroom by faculty. Broader still, it calls into question just what does educational fair dealing mean to the courts?

This is something that you will likely be hearing much more about in the coming weeks, months and years.

If there is a positive right now it is that it strengthens the argument for expanded use of open educational resources. Open educational resources are clear & explicit in their permissions to do many of the activities that York now finds itself having to defend in court. However, that does feel like cold comfort for those of use who believe that educators should have easier and wider access to use and reuse copyright materials with our students.

If you want to dig into this more, here is the 124 page PDF document of the judges decision.


OpenStax Launches Learning Platform

Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, July 11, 2017

I think this is another positive move ahead for open education as OpenStax follows the lead of another OER-first organization, Lumen Learning, in developing an OER learning platform. Commercial publishers are moving beyond resources and have long recognized that learning platforms that incorporate tools like quizzes and self-assessments are the future.

The challenge for the open education world now will be to avoid the silo-ization of these platforms and learn from the mistakes of the past. As more open education organizations transition from the development of open resources to the development of open education tools, we need to pay close attention to technical interoperability and open standards to ensure that the platforms being developed to support OER are truly open platforms. That they are fully interoperable with existing technical systems being used in education.

This is a road that we need to be heading down in open education – the development of If we are going to have a true open education ecosystem, we need to not only pay attention to technology standards, but work together to ensure that all these systems actually work with each other, and with existing educational systems. And yes, that means the LMS.


The bespoke license

Martin Weller, July 10,,2017

Just before I left for a short holiday break, Unsplash (which has become a go-to source for me for high-quality openly licensed images for presentations) sent an email to users saying they were changing their licensing terms.

Originally, Unsplash used a CC0 licence, meaning that anyone who uploaded images to Unsplash released their photos into the public domain, making the Unsplash collection the least restrictive source of reusable photos on the web. Unsplash then changed their license to address an issue they were having with someone cloning the entire collection and setting up their own competing site.

Now, under the terms of CC0 license, cloning all the photos is perfectly acceptable use. However, while it is an acceptable use, it is hard to find fault with Unsplash wanting to prevent the wholesale duplication of their services. I agree with Martin when he says that “Unsplash were not doing this for nefarious reasons.” From what I know of Unsplash, they have been active and positive contributors to open since launching their service.

I also agree with Martin that creating your own bespoke license is not necessarily the answer. As someone who has had to deal with a custom license (those of you in British Columbia may remember the BCcommons license from many years ago), it is a real PIA for everyone, including those who are administering the license. You are pretty well doing it all alone, which is my argument to you if you are thinking of creating your own IP license. Creative Commons (or any other established copyleft or open IP license) gives you the support of a wide community and well established organization that can help with the complexities of managing open content. Becuase, as simple as open licenses may appear on the surface, they are complex. Save yourself the headaches and avoid the siren call of DIY licensing.

Thanks for reading. Clint


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