3.4 Open Licensing

Activity 13: Choosing the most appropriate Creative Commons license for your needs

Choose one output you have created or are planning to create –i.e. a presentation, blog post or a framework document.

  1. Consider which Creative Commons license you would use.

  2. Review others’ contributions. What do you think are the advantages
    or disadvantages of someone else’s choice?

Share your thoughts in the forum and comment on at least one other post.

Once you’ve finished, go back to section 3.4.

The most open license offered is a CC-Zero/Public Domain license, but that might not be appropriate. Generally, for academic writing (given the importance of citation and reputation-building) I’d advocate at least a CC-BY license.

I’ve seen a lot of academics choose CC-BY-NC-SA (attribution, non-commercial, share-alike) licenses, however. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about share-alike (I feel that to some extent it does discourage use, but I can see why it is important to some people) but the non-commercial clause really irks me. I suspect a lot of academics see it and gravitate towards it by default without really engaging with the implications of the license, or considering if they even actually care if their work is commercialised or not. Has anyone else encountered this ‘default is non-commercial’ approach when talking about open licensing with academics?

The OERRHub uses CC-BY, not only because it is required by the Hewlett Foundation, who fund the project, but also because it is one of the most liberal licenses, one of the most ‘open’, which is what we are trying to be.

To be honest, I don’t know whether academics tend to go for CC-BY-NC as default but I’d like to think that if they do, they have thought about the implications of their choice, who knows?


Context is everything: I work with data and methods and science, and I get paid with grant money. My motivations in publishing openly are to ensure other researchers and data enthusiasts can read and use my stuff, so my concerns are very different from, say, an artist’s concerns. If someone does something cool with my data and cites me, that’s a good thing. If someone takes an artist’s awesome image and sells it on journal covers without telling anyone, that’s not okay. My answer comes from a data/science perspective.

Most of the vocal open access people in my field go for CC-BY, though I’m curious about why you’d object to the noncommercial clause. I can absolutely understand why an academic might prefer that…and I can imagine an institution requiring it (because if it can be monetized, there’s a whole tech transfer department in most unis that will want a piece of it first).

I have a personal preference for SA, but I’ve noticed there’s not a lot of love for it.

Because reputation is important in research, my answer is kind of based on the zeitgeist in the field. I’d tend towards the least restrictive license I can get away with given institutional and publication guidelines, and it looks like it’s possible in many cases to go straight for CC-BY.

I’ve started to use a Creative commons license on my blog, CC-BY-SA. However, I still only have a very superficial understanding of copyright. To date, I’ve simply answered the prompt questions on the CC website and copied the code for the license. I’ve also checked out what licenses other people working in this area attribute to their work; it seems to be either CC-BY or CC- BY-SA. I think I need to understand the implications of share alike more fully.

Well, I’m still researching this and considering options. I’ve seen a couple of artists who also make moving image who have some clips on their website which are protected and some which are freely available to download and use under a creative commons license. I respond to that idea although it’s not really suitable for my work - perhaps for some areas. I think that in my own work I am still confused about what might be research which could be openly available to others, and what is my core work and creative capital. There are so many overlapping layers and edges. And since research is not my core activity, but part of my art practice, there are additional formatting and time issues which need to be considered. However, open research is surely about establishing conversations about ideas, and that’s a good place to start from.

You’re absolutely right about an artist’s concerns. However, much art education and practice now involves thoroughly researching projects and also engaging with researchers in other disciplines. Formats for open art research dissemination may still have to be invented, as copyright issues are involved, However, I believe there are creative solutions to be discovered and developed, again using the methodologies and findings of other research disciplines and forums, such as this.

I spotted this in our hashtag on twitter and thought it might be useful to link here: the Open Definition 2.0 has been released: http://blog.okfn.org/2014/10/07/open-definition-v2-0-released-major-update-of-essential-standard-for-open-data-and-open-content/ (h/t @catherinecronin)

The CC-BY license is my choice for research. But for OER, I feel that any open license that allows educational resources to be more freely and widely used is perfect.