What does reuse mean?

David Wiley (2007) has been one of the key thinkers and drivers in open content, and he proposes the 4Rs of ReuseExternal link :

  • Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered/verbatim form (e.g. make a backup copy of the content)
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify or alter the content itself (e.g. translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g. incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions or your remixes with others (e.g. give a copy of the content to a friend).

Wiley makes the argument that the ‘open’ in ‘open content’ relates to licensing. It is about what the provider permits others to do with the content. It isn’t necessary for all 4Rs to be permitted, but the degree to which they are restricted makes a resource less open.

Many resources you encounter online have no rights information associated with them (think of most YouTube clips for example). This can place the educator in an awkward position – did the uploader have permission to use that video? If I use it in an educational context am I breaking copyright?

Creative Commons Licence

Most OER projects and repositories deliberately want to encourage reuse so they adopt specific licences to promote this. The most common licence is the Creative Commons licence, although other licences exist.

The Creative Commons licence has a number of ‘flavours’, so the rights owner can choose whether or not to place a set of restrictions on the reuse of their material and what those restrictions should be. These are explained on the Creative Commons websiteExternal link . The following Slideshare presentation also explains the different rights and the logic behind them:

Alternatively, this video, Copyright and Creative CommonsExternal link , also explains Creative Commons and has a transcript available.

For its OpenLearn project the OU selected a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence. There are three elements to this licence:

  • Attribution – anyone reusing this content needs to attribute the OU as the original creators. They can’t pass it off as their own content, for example.
  • Non-commercial – people are free to reuse the content, as long as it is not for commercial purposes. So they can’t take OpenLearn material, repackage it and sell it, for example.
  • Share Alike – anyone taking your material and adapting it must share it under a similar licence.

These are actually fairly easy conditions to meet for most cases, and the key to the Creative Commons licence is that it assumes reuse as the default. So the user (or reuser) needn’t ask for permission to reuse the content if they meet these conditions. This doesn’t mean, however, that other forms of reuse are prohibited, just that they do need explicit permission.

The Non-Commercial licence is one in particular that causes some anxiety because what constitutes commercial use can be a grey area. For example, if you use some Creative Commons – Non-commercial (CC-NC) material in a course and then charge students a fee to study that course, does that constitute commercial use?

In The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons – NC LicenseExternal link  (2005), Erik Moller argues that the NC licence is ‘harmful’, while Alma Hales and Andy Lane set out the reasons why the OU adopted the Creative Commons licence in Creative Commons and The Open University.

Last modified: Tuesday, 12 March 2013, 6:17 PM