«Principal Editor Professor Brian Fitzgerald Head of School of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia With the assistance of Jessica ...»
The game has to be at the intersection where you have a system that has a continuum, where people can move from one part of transacting business to the other part – sometimes it is commercial, sometimes it is something that you just want to be given away for free, and sometimes you want to give something under certain considerations.
The fact that it is good for society to have multiple ways of these things happening, some commercial, some free, some restricted free, came home to me when I was the Head of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of NSW. I was the Head during the IT boom.
It was a School that attracted some of the most talented students in New South Wales. We were producing more than a hundred first-class honours graduates per year during the boom and I had all these talented students and I needed to do something with them. In turn, I found that mostly they were three types of personality. One particular group was highly academic, motivated by the sheer elegance of ideas and these were the students who no matter what you did with them were going to do a PhD. There was another group, extremely intelligent, highly aggressive, wanting to make money. They really were out there to start a company, get a job, do something and get ahead in life. They were as talented as my best students, who were going to become academic stars. And then there was another group. In terms of intellectual ability they were equal to the first two groups, but they were a bit more laid back. They felt that ideas ought to be free. They looked like hippies; they had long hair. They were equally excited about doing something that was good and I pondered ‘what I am going to do with them?’, and I decided ‘I am going to give some resources to each of the three groups’.
For the students who were talented and wanted to be academics, I gave them summer research scholarships, lots of money; so they did not have to go and flip burgers or work at the supermarket. Any job they wanted, they could just work in the University, work with researchers and be happy.
With the group that really wanted to go places, I partnered with the Australian Graduate School of Management, got a bank to give $30,000 a year, and created the Business Planning Competition, which really excited them. For the open source group, a highly talented group of people, I gave them resources to create, become part of the open source movement, and even funded them to organise an international Linux User Group Conference which attracted 400 researchers from around the world.
The interesting thing was that by giving resources to all these three people, I basically said ‘go out and show each other’. They hated each other. They wanted to prove the point that they were superior and I can tell you all three groups achieved. The thing that came back to me is that the world is not going to be coloured by a single commercial way of doing things or a single way of the intellectual elegance of ideas, nor is it going to be something where everything is going to be free. It will always be a continuum. There is a place for talented groups of people of different personalities and we need to support each of them.
Another experience with this kind of thing is that I was once co-opted into working with a project coming out of Carnegie Mellon University in the US, the Million Book Visual Library Project. It is being driven by computer scientists and librarians and the aim is to digitise as a demonstration case one million books that are out of copyright. From the computer scientist perspective it is to create a demonstration for extremely interesting software search engine techniques. If everything that has been written is digitised and also can be scanned in text form, it provides a testbed for doing a more interesting search, where we can search the history of the development of a certain idea (that the software can do for us). It will provide a significant research tool that can take the web from being a search engine to a discovery engine. That is the motivation from the computer scientist perspective. The librarians have the perspective that if this happens then they will be able to provide higher value added services to the users of the library by helping them become their research assistants.
The project is very interesting; the pilot was funded by the National Science Foundation. Minolta provided scanners at very low cost, some of the US research universities provided the books and the Governments of India and also China provided the labour for scanning. The books are being shipped to India and they are being scanned. There are lots of logistical problems in this but the good thing is that it is close to 100,000 books that have now been scanned.
The challenge is: what you are doing is great; you are creating new content and you are going to put this thing over the Internet and have an open content licensing scheme, but it is about the legacy. What do we do with all these books, which are still in copyright? The author has died, and the relatives own the copyright but no one cares. This team is working on ways where people can surrender their copyrights, or if you cannot find the author or the owner of the copyright, you can at least place the book on the web with the caveat that if the owner of the copyright comes in, you will take it off. Whether that is legally kosher or not is a different question and the lawyers are working on these ideas. And that will provide a very interesting perspective on how these ideas will develop. At the end of the day it will be a combination of open content licensing and also the commercial solution. These are some of the influences that I have had in dealing with these issues.
Computer scientists tend to build systems that are very generic. We say we will build a machine learning system that will learn anything. We will design a software development tool that will design any kind of software tool. Very soon we find out that it does not work. What we then do is find two ways to constrain our problem. One is we look at a specific domain;
we say I am only going to develop software in the area of business or I am going develop software in the area of mining or in the area of educational software, and then the problem becomes manageable. The alternative approach is the very large project, and I am doing it in a very informal way.
Can I do it in a more formal way? We start resorting to the language of mathematical logic to specify the problem, to find the proof checking mechanisms so that the semantics of our intentions can be verified. And that leads to things like Digital Rights Management.
This session is representing both these constraining mechanisms. The first topic about AEShareNet is taking the ideas of open content licensing into the educational content software, in the educational content areas. The second topic is about Open Visual Rights language and applying it to the subject of Creative Commons.
CAROL FRIPP I could not agree more with Tom Cochrane. I never thought I would be ‘Copyright Carol’ in the last vocational aspiration that I have ended up in.
If I look at my own children, who probably reflect society, two of them have absolutely no understanding of what I do, and do not want to. The other two are mortified that I would be involved in copyright control because they download everything. I live in the world that represents society.
The session we are talking about this morning is in summary. We do want to talk about open content and you have already heard that Roger Clarke as Chair of our Board has been writing articles since being involved with this company on open content, and they are worth reading. They are on his website and if anyone wants to follow up some of the research in that, I am sure you would find that debate. There are quite a large number of articles emerging as we go through the journey.
We want to talk about the licence templates and for those who think they know something about us we hope to add some new things to our presentation this morning, because we are changing. We are really about finding other peoples’ resources. That is one of the primary purposes that we exist. We are set up for education. We started in vocational education but we do go across all the areas where there is any form of vocational education occurring. It takes us across the secondary and right through to higher education and into the enterprise and corporation area and we are finding those are expanding as we go on the journey.
The challenge is quick access and even though the technologies are advancing, it is very difficult to get some of these accesses working. This audience is probably familiar with Google, currently working on a new project to catalogue large numbers of university resources which will change the way people start looking at how they want to find material, because we are finding people do like the Google approach. I do not know if it happens in the libraries in your organisation, but are you happy with the control vocabularies and specialist search engines any more? Or do you want to type in one or two words and hey presto it is up in front of you?
Most of our search capacities are really not set up like Google and I am wondering how long before we will be challenged. Users want easy assurance of the copyright clearances. That is still a very difficult one when a lot of educators work the night before they start delivery the next day (or in the world that I work in, that is certainly the case) and sometimes getting clearances the night before is challenging if you have not done your homework. And they are always mortified you cannot download it and use it without going through some long and protracted process that some bureaucrat in their organisation put in there for them.
Inexpensive learning resources – you have heard about that – continue to be an enormous debate. We get everything from zero dollars through to thousands or multi-thousands. People have varying expectations of what those resources are worth and in the marketplace sometimes they are not worth anywhere near what people think. They often have accountants in their organisations that are driving their competitive and commercial agenda. And the methodology to avoid the duplication of effort is one of the biggest challenges I see. We still have a culture in many areas that believes they cannot take someone else’s work and build on it very well because it is something about yourself. It is about your portrayal of your image to the world and sometimes you look at someone else’s work and think, ‘they have not quite got it right; I think I will do it my way’. Trying to get people to re-use is sometimes a challenge and we are finding that certainly is not as easy as we had hoped.
What is ShareNet? Yes you know it is a company set up by Ministers. We would say that we are probably the first working model that we know of that has tried to set up a marketplace for both sharing and trading, and it is online. It was put online before online was even there, and it was a very brave and visionary thing to do in a world that, at that time when this concept was put together, was not working online. We still struggle with systems where people still are not online enough to take advantage of what we have to offer. We are still in front of many of the clients that we work with. Yes, we are a trading marketplace and that does not always mean money, but we operate as a broker and, if you have had experience of brokers in any form you might have views of what brokers should and should not do. That is what our webpage now looks like if you have not seen us for a while, slightly different. The main interest there is the search engine because that is really the core of our business, finding the resource, and connecting you to a player.
What do we provide? We provide, as you can see, material to anyone. We are on the Internet. Anyone can discover us anywhere in the world and anywhere in the world often does. You can acquire a licence online to use and adapt the resources and we have several of those. If you are the owner of a resource you can make that available. We do not hold the resource; we never have and we really do not want to unless people have a particular case and obtain permissions for use, so that people are clear about what they can and cannot do – a bit like Creative Commons – clarifying some of the ownership issues so people know what is going on.
The model: we have six trademarks called protocols and I am not a lawyer either, I am a practitioner, so protocols are often a strange word for people to get their head around. Four of those particular licences can be used within the system, or without the system. What we do offer is probably a little different in that we have standardised or consistent templates that simplify things for people.
It is like going to a real estate agent. You are used to getting a standardised contract. You know where to look for things, so we try to make it easier by getting people familiar with the copyright contract. Most people, in my experience, do not want to read a copyright contract. We have consistent meta-data that is used by the education sector, so the terms are familiar to people. They are used to coming up with certificates, diplomas, certain vocabulary that they work with in their, hopefully, most of their working time, and we have the online brokering system which you can see if you go through the site.
What we do is link to repositories that are evolving. We link to large numbers of collections. They might be a very small number; they might be half a dozen, or they can be very large bureaucracies where there could be something like 11-15,000 available resources. We are starting to see people play around with that repository idea as they try to link things and figure out how to use the trade marks across those repositories, which is quite exciting. If you are trying to look at your own work and make a choice that is the first place to start. One of the differences you will see on ours that may not be in many of the others, is there is capacity to vet any changes made (if you want to action that option), where some of the others do not give you a vetting option. Not all people take that up but it is there if they need it.