Category: CC or not CC

things we can name

Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USN (covered)
My choice of platform for Thing13 of our 23things is Media Hopper.

You may wonder why Media Hopper is called Media Hopper. You will know the following definitions of hopper:

hopper ( agric) :  a container for a loose bulk material.
hopper ( minecraft ):  a block that can be used to catch item entities, or to transfer items into and out of other containers.
channel-hopper( tv) : quickly changing from one channel to another to find something you want to watch.
Grace Hopper ( rolemodel) : an inspirational computer scientist. She developed the implementation of standards for testing computer systems and components and coined the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches when she removed a moth from her computer.
Dennis Hopper (role model):  just cool.
space hopper ( toy ):  just orange and bouncy.

As I was explaining to Vicki, our Digital Recruitment and Marketing intern just the other day, Media Hopper gathers together all the mixed up multitude of video material from all over the University; brings it into one place; channels it into our VLEs, websites, portals and courses; applies standards and metadata  is very cool.

I think it’s important to name things after inspirational women when you can, and Grace Hopper fits the bill for me.

Vicki will now be using videos in Media Hopper to liven up our LinkedIn presence.


people make things open

University of Edinburgh Spy Week Wikipedia edit-a-thon 02
Open practice in action.
Thing 12 of our 23 things is OER.

I talk a lot about OER. Last week I was talking about it in Barcelona,  this week I’m talking about it in Paris, in two weeks I’ll be in Berlin. I also write a bit about OER. On this blog and occasionally for case studies and articles.  My work in creating a culture of openness is  featured as a case study by  OEPS. At the moment my homework is to write a case study for Gill and Fred to include in their new book.

I am also pleased to be able to make the case for new posts based on our institutional commitment to open. We have had support to extend contracts for our OER Adviser and our Wikimedian in Residence. We have also just signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Library at a time when they are working to open up huge swathes of their collections.

The task is to find OER to use in my work. I enjoy finding OER to use in my blog and presentations. Other OER I use in my work tend to be the OER about OER such as:

(1)Open Educational Resources infoKit JISC[online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016].

(2)Compelling Reasons to Adopt Open Educational Resources [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016].

things right to copy

Carmichael, Alexander. Field Notebook © The University of Edinburgh
Carmichael, Alexander. Field Notebook © The University of Edinburgh

Copyright is a hot topic in the heady world of lecture capture.  It’s also Thing 11 in our online course 23 Things for Digital Knowledge

We are lucky to be able to learn from best practice at other institutions.  The excellent Jane Secker  ( UK Copyright Literacy) has been doing some research to find out what the issues are. She has surveyed UK HE institutions.

The position regarding copyright ownership is enshrined in statute – the Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988.  Section 11(2) provides that copyright created in the course of an individual’s employment vests in the employer.  Often this statutory right is backed up with provision in a contract of employment but our University of Edinburgh standard contracts are not explicit in this regard. As a result academic colleagues can sometimes be a bit surprised by this.

I expect we will need to support our colleagues with advice something like this ( adpated from Birkbeck)


Can I use copyright material in my lectures?

You may sometimes wish to use copyright work (e.g. an image, video clip or piece of text) belonging to another person or organisation in the course of your teaching.  The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) currently states that copying for educational purposes is permitted, so long as it is not undertaken by a mechanical process. This essentially means you cannot scan, photocopy, or record (using lecture capture) copyright works without explicit permission from the owner.

In terms of lecture recordings, your options are as follows:

  • Pause the recorder
  • Edit the recording later
  • Provide links to the relevant material instead
  • Use Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Just record audio

Are there exceptions that would allow copyright works to be used?

Showing a video, such as a clip from a film and playing music is permitted under the law, so long as it is solely for the purposes of education and the lecture is not recorded.

Similarly, you can use small amounts of copyright material for the purposes of ‘criticism and review.’ Clearly, good practice requires acknowledging your sources, and stating where it is being used for criticism and review. In this case the work can be included in a recorded lecture.

What am I allowed to include in a recorded lecture?

The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Licence allows small amounts of published copyright works (books and journals) to be copied for teaching purposes. This includes illustrations and images within the works.

In addition, if material that you find online is licensed under Creative Commons (CC) – a less restrictive form of copyright – then you will be able to show this material in a lecture that is being recorded. Again, the source should be acknowledged.

What about material from YouTube?

The copyright in material that you might show from sites such as YouTube lies with the creator of the video, so you would need to obtain permission directly from them (YouTube cannot grant this on their behalf). Some of these materials may be available for educational use or under a CC licence. Although it is permissible to show these recordings for educational purposes, and to provide links to the material, you should exclude this content from a recorded lecture. This can be done by pausing the recording whilst the clip is being played.

Streamed services such as the BBC iplayer or Box of Broadcast National (aka BoB National) may also be used in class but again are not to be included in recorded lectures.

What about using images in my teaching?

Although easy to download, online images are frequently subject to some sort of copyright, and unless you own the copyright yourself, it is usually NOT legal or acceptable to download them and use them in your recorded lectures.

There are several ways that you can legally use images in your recorded lectures:

  • Use images where their copyright has expired
  • Many sites e.g. Flickr, allow you to use images under a Creative Commons (CC) licence – all CC licences mean the copyright owner must be attributed.
  • There are an increasing number of Open Educational Resources that allow the use of images in this way.
  • Contact your Subject Librarian – they will be able to sign post CC subject specific image sources
  • Create your own
  • Obtain permission to use them from the copyright holder

What about other cases when you can show material you don’t own in lectures?

There are several other instances when you can use copyright material, including:

  • When the copyright period in the material has expired
  • When University of Edinburgh owns the copyright of the material e.g.  publicity material, other learning and teaching resources produced by the University.
  • When you have specific copyright clearance ( under licence via the Library) to use the materials in this way.

What are the risks associated with using copyright material?

You are responsible for making sure that your recorded lectures do not infringe copyright. University of Edinburgh, however, is at risk of prosecution for infringing copyright, either within recorded lectures, or by uploading materials to a VLE, public folders, or another website.

Although it may be legal to use these materials within a class, it does not necessarily make it legal to include them within a recorded lecture and/or upload these to  a VLE.

impact of football OER

Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, sive, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (24696368309).jpg
By Centre for Research Collections University of Edinburgh – Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, sive, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura, CC BY 2.0,

A 17th Century map of Iceland became our most popular OER for football fans during Euro 2016. The image ‘Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura ‘ which belongs to our Centre for Research Collections was added to Wikimedia in February as part of our Wikimedian in Residence partnership project. It was then used to illustrate  an article about Iceland on English and German Wikipedia. It has now been viewed more than 2 million times.

Iceland’s Euro2016  matches were on 14 June (1-1 with Portugal), 18 June (1-1 Hungary), 22 June (2-1 victory over Austria), 27 June (2-1 win over England), and 3 July (2-5 defeat to France).  Around each of these events people all over the world were keen to learn about this surprising nation.  Viewing numbers ( numbers of hits) show appreciable spikes for the matches against Portugal, England, and France.

On German Wikipedia spikes against each of the matches regularly exceeded 100,000 page views.

The biggest spike was for the victory over England!

east for EDEN

This week I’ll mostly be in Budapest for EDEN16. The conference is called ‘Re-imagining Learning Environments’. It’s my first time to EDEN, and I’ll be keynoting in the theme: ‘Opening up education’. I’ll be talking about the initiatives , projects, examples of good practice and the new business models we are championing at University of Edinburgh.


light reflections on OER16

Interpretation of my #OER16 keynote (c) Beck Pitt CC-BY
Interpretation of my #OER16 keynote (c) Beck Pitt CC-BY

It was lovely to see you all at #OER16 in Edinburgh.  It was a great personal pleasure to host the conference and to listen to the papers and speakers. For me it provided  an excellent excuse to have so many friends and colleagues here.

When Lorna and I passed across to next year’s chairs it was a relief to know that the conference will survive and thrive for another year.

I gave the last keynote, the one usually punctuated by the poorly stifled sound of wheely suitcases escaping from the back of the room. Jim, Catherine, Emma and John are hard acts to follow.

You can watch all the keynotes ( and many of the sessions) on MediaHopper, they are all excellent.

One of the benefits of being the last keynote is that the many flavors of openness had already been rehearsed and debated by other people in the room. And that many of my excellent Edinburgh colleagues had already covered the detail of our services and projects. The keynote offered me a chance to reflect on the themes of the conference and why it made sense to have it in Edinburgh.

I spoke about the Edinburgh vision for OER and the journey that brought us here. I spoke about technical and copyright debt and  the importance of doing your bit when we live in shared space.

If you get a chance to watch all the keynotes, which I hope you will, you will see 5 very different people in very different jobs/contexts taking different approaches to identifying the value proposition for open.  But none of them are doing it alone. That’s the beauty of the thing.

After you watch Emma’s talk know this: as well as her excellent Shakespeare credentials, Emma is also the woman who helped one of Oxford’s oldest colleges to rethink the power of the portraits on its walls -‘Dead white men’ make way for women at Oxford (Guardian, Sept 14)- and as such , one of my inspirations for The Playfair Steps.

big fish at #OER16

ticketMy keynote is mostly written, I know who I’m going to introduce and where I am chair.  I’m looking forward to see you all there. Got your ticket?

My presentation is called ‘Open with Care: contents may have shifted during flight’.  Emma Smith’s is called ‘Free Willy’. Last year Josie brought the dolphins, this year Emma brings the orca.  A whale of a time will be had.

looking forward to a lion

'A Lion Lying in the Grass'. Photograph of a lion (female) lying in the grass in Africa in the early 20th century. © The University of Edinburgh
‘A Lion Lying in the Grass’. Photograph of a lion (female) lying in the grass in Africa in the early 20th century. © The University of Edinburgh

Wishing you all a happy holiday. I have never been so exhausted by the end of term in my life! It’ll be lovely not to have to get up in the morning.

technical debt for OER

Me trying to find a book on technical debt. Photo credit: LTW, University of Edinburgh CC-BY
Me trying to find a book on technical debt. Photo credit: LTW, University of Edinburgh CC-BY

Three weeks ago,  while preparing  my presentation for e-learningforum@ed conference I was musing on the similarities between ‘technical debt’ and what one might call ‘ copyright debt’.

I was thinking about institutional risks of not being open. Institutional risks are sometimes legal, sometimes reputational, sometimes financial.  Mostly, at IT directors’ meetings we talk about the need to mitigate risks early on, and avoid risks in the future.

Generally,  the risks of not engaging with open practice are reputational: Other institutions are doing it; we might miss out on this good thing; we should be seen to be bold in digital education and leading edge in our open research. There is a risk to our reputation if colleagues do not seem to be up to-date-on licensing and refer to online materials or data as ‘open’ when they are not. But most of those risks are easily hidden under a smear of open-washing and a vagueness about the definition of open in different contexts.

These are not risks which will ever convince a VP Finance and Resources to invest.

If you want to convince an IT director or a CIO to invest in systems which have built-in  open-licensing workflows,  protecting the institution against the risk of expensive copyright debt may be the way forward.

My definition of ‘copyright debt’ is based on my understanding of ‘technical debt’. Technical debt is a metaphor often used in IT to explain why it costs so much to replace IT systems. I  use it to explain why rather than spending my budget on new exciting learning and teaching functionality, I am having to spend it to replace something we thought we already had.

You can ready about technical debt on Wikipedia. It’s the cost of not doing something properly in the first place. From the moment you build a system poorly, without due attention to software code rigour and process, you begin to accrue debt and then interest on that debt. From the moment you don’t fix, patch and maintain the code, the same thing happens. At some point you are going to have to go back and fix it, and the longer you leave it the more expensive it will be*.

From the moment a colleague tells you that they don’t have time, or don’t care about the copyright licensing and metadata on their teaching materials and load them up into a VLE, online course environment, departmental website, online course-pack, lecture power-point slides, whatever, you start to accrue ‘copyright debt’.

Someone will have to go back to those materials at some point to check them, figure out who made them and when and check for 3rd party content. The longer time passes (or staff change) between the original materials   being uploaded in to the VLE the harder it will be to find the original source.

The cost will hit at the moment that you migrate from one VLE to another, or from one website to another, or from one media asset management system to another.  At that point lecturers and departmental administrators will be asked to confirm that they have copyright permission for the materials they are migrating, and they will say ‘ I have no idea, in fact I don’t even remember/know where all the bits came from’.

They will suggest that someone in a central service (usually the library) should do the checking, and that is where the cost hits. No-one in the library is super-human enough ( unless you pay them a lot)  to check all the hundreds of teaching and learning materials in your VLE, so most of it will just be binned and colleagues will be outraged that they have to make it all again.

I’d suggest the common causes of copyright debt include (a combination of):

  • Business pressures, where the business considers getting something released sooner before all of the necessary copyright searches are complete.
  • Lack of process or understanding, where the businesse is blind to the concept of copyright debt, and make decisions without considering the implications.
  • Lack of flexible components, where materials are not openly licensed, the re-use permissions are  not flexible enough to adapt to changes in course content.
  • Lack of time, which encourages colleagues  to do quick  google searches and take materials they find without checking the license.
  • Lack of metadata, where content is created without necessary supporting metadata. That work to create the supporting metadata represents a debt that must be paid.
  • Lack of collaboration, where knowledge of open practice isn’t shared around the organization and business efficiency suffers, or junior learning technologists  are not properly mentored.
  • Parallel development at the same time on two or more VLEs  can cause the build up of copyright debt because of the work that will eventually be required to move content from one to another. The more content developed in isolation without clear licensing , the more debt that is piled up.
  • Delayed reformatting – the  formats which were used for creating learning objects quickly becomes obsolete. Without clear permission to make adaptations it is hard for older TEL materials to be converted to new formats.  The longer that reformatting is delayed, and the more content is written to use the older format, the more debt that piles up that must be paid at the time the conversion is finally done.
  • Lack of alignment to standards, where industry standard features, frameworks, open technologies are ignored. Eventually, integration with standards will come, doing it sooner will cost less.
  • Lack of knowledge, when the content creator simply doesn’t know how or why to use open materials.

The challenge in all this of course, is that the individual academics making the materials don’t care about the longer term cost to the central services of this debt. This argument won’t persuade them to take the time to change their practice, so we must build rigour for open practice  into the workflows of our enterprise-wide systems and services as soon as we possibly can, making it easy for colleagues to make positive choices.

Or else we risk a whole heap of copyright debt.

*Basically it is the software equivalent of ‘ a stitch in time saves nine’.

(While I was doing this thinking, I bumped into  a session at #OER15 called  ‘the cost of not going open‘ by Viv Rolfe which also looked to quantify costs. Viv’s approach is to look at costs and savings around academic time spent creating materials, which complements my thinking rather nicely.)