Archive for April 2013

Creative Commons Has Failed Me and My Heart is Breaking

Update: YouTube did take down the spammer copies of my videos – I am glad this worked out but still will move away from CC-BY for some of my material

Update: Bill Fitzgerald wrote an excellent post about this and points out that Createspace actually has a policy about this. That is great news – it was not the case several years back. I also get accused of histrionics by one of the commenters in his blog. I probably am guilty of histronics.

I understand that this is the fault of Copyright Law and not Creative Commons per se, but I am at the point where I will be using CC licenses on my materials less and less.

I am 100% committed to allowing reasonable use, reuse, remixing, translation, republishing of my materials, even commercial and non-commercial.

So for me, I have been using the CC-BY license for years, wanting to give the maximum flexibility to those who would come into possession of my materials. I don’t want to add the SA, NC, or ND to my licenses because that limits the freedom of those using/adapting my materials.

It turns out that the only thing that I don’t want people to do is simply clone my materials with no value add at all and put up cloned copies of my materials on competitive sites as link and search bait. It is like my material is trapped in a content slum. You might think that search engines can tell the difference between me publishing my content and some scumbag replicating it in a content slum – but they can’t – when enough slums exist the original is lost in the noise.

These unethical spammers are not making derivative works (they merely clone my materials) and they are not trying to limit redistribution – so they are *technically* perfectly legal w.r.t. CC-BY.

If they did something like translated my work into multiple languages or even auto-tuned my lectures it would be awesome and great.

So for now, I am going to start converting my materials away from any CC license unless I am willing to have 1000 useless spammers duplicate the materials I am creating. Some materials I will still release as CC-BY – but my richest and most well-developed materials will be All Rights Reserved with some kind of asterisk.

Perhaps I will write up my own Copyright License that tries to give flexibility and options to those who would use my materials responsible manner while prohibiting evil spammers from using my work as link bait.

I doubt that there is any legal way to capture what I really want. Sadly, “All Rights Reserved”, while reprehensible at least gives me recourse when spammers decide my stuff is worth ripping off.

Sad sad sad. My heart is breaking. It almost brings me to tears to think about it.

It would be great if I were wrong – but I don’t think I am.

Note: I would add in passing that software can use a trademark to protect this brand while allowing flexible copyright licensing. But since books videos and other similar materials cannot take advantage of trademark protection for a brand I have to fall back to All Rights Reserved.

Note: My son Brent (the musician) is sitting here doing his Algebra homework and watching as I write this. He looked closely at CC for his work a few years back and felt that it made no sense at all. He would almost certainly let anyone who asked use his work – all they have to do is ask. He sits here wondering why it took me so long to figure it out and why I am feeling so bad about switching to All Rights Reserved and just saying ‘yes’ to requests for reasonable reuse.

Update: Commenters pointed out that spammers will ignore copyright – that is of course true. But if those spammers are using a well-known site like YouTube or Amazon Createspace as the outlet for their competitive clones of CC-BY materials – those sites will correctly say “too bad” when you ask them to take it down. Google’s web search is better at catching and punishing “content slums” – but other sites search engines like YouTube and Amazon that are merely looking at their internal content can’t tell the difference between the original CC-BY content and a useless duplicate.

Reusing Parts of Sakai’s LTI Java Implementation

I have been recently talking to several folks about LTI implementations in Java environments and whether there is reusable code in the Sakai course tree.

The answer is ‘yes’ – and I have structured the Sakai source tree to make this as easy as possible by isolating the generic code form the Sakai code. The “generic” code in the Sakai course tree is based on the IMS code and is copyright IMS (and others) under the Apache License. The Sakai-specific code is copyright by the Sakai (Apereo) Foundation under the ECL 2.0 license. The Sakai-specific code is useful as an example but not particularly useful as direct reuse.

The reusable (non-Sakai) code is here:

The Sakai code that makes use of these utilities is scattered throughout, but here are the high points:

Code that calls all the Sakai APIS and fills up the data structures and exercises the above utility code.

The servlet that contains the web services to handle this incoming web services – this of course is Sakai specific, but the outline is useful and it makes good use of the utility code above:

A php test harness that pretends to be a simple tool to launch and does some very simple exercising of the XML web service APIs:

Abstract: Massively Open Online Courses: Beyond the Hype

I will be giving a Keynote speech at the Moodle Moot Australia 2013 in Melbourne, Australia June 23-26, 2013.

This is my draft abstract for that keynote. Comments welcome.

This keynote will look deeply into what MOOCs are; how they are affecting the future of the software we build to enhance teaching and learning; and how the current trends will ultimately affect real teachers or real universities. We will get beyond the hype, contrast these new systems with more traditional Learning Management Systems, then anticipate how MOOCs will progress as they move through the Gartner Hype Cycle; become more prevalent; and potentially lose sight of re-mixable Open Educational Resources.

We will examine and debunk the fallacy of the one “gold standard course” taught by some premier university that effectively converts the professors in the “rest” of the universities into local graders / mentors. For those of use in educational technology for the past 20 years, we have seen extreme and unwarranted hype around numerous products which eventually modulates into a reasonably practical approach that strives to make all teachers better, rather than obsolete.

Dr. Severance has a long history of of being involved in disruptive trends in technology for teaching and learning. As the Chief Architect for the Sakai Project and first Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation, he helped form the worldwide open source community around the Sakai LMS. After he resigned as the Executive Director in 2007 (right before he was about to be fired because his passion for genuine open source conflicted with the grand top-down plans of his board of directors) he spent the next few years working with the IMS Global Learning Consortium building software and data interoperability standards to change the nature of the LMS marketplace. This work resulted in the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) and IMS Common Cartridge (CC) support across then entire marketplace. He has also contributed to the LTI support in Moodle. In 2012, he became the Sakai Chief Strategist for Blackboard, Inc. and is paid by Blackboard to work on and support the Sakai open source project. Also in 2012, he taught the online course “Internet History, Technology, and Security” during 2012 using the Coursera MOOC platform. The course had over 56,000 registered students from all over the world and 5,000 received a certificate. In 2013, in order to teach a MOOC that would augment his on-campus class he developed his own open source MOOC framework ( that used Moodle as its teaching engine and taught Python to nearly 2000 students around the world in addition to his on-campus students.