Copyright and OER in the same debate is not a good mix

Thijs ter Haar - CC BY 2.0

Yesterday I attended a «policy breakfast» on OER at the EU parlament in Brussels. The event was be held in the European Parlament, with introductory speeches from OECD experts and with the presence of EP members.

The event focused on the European level of policymaking, with the goal of discussing possibilities of strengthening European policies and programs that support open education. These kinds of events provide an excellent opportunity to compare experiences and discuss recommendations about policies, and at the same time try to influence parlament members. The event is part of the important work of the Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt:Polska, their mission is to work towards social change and enhancing citizens’ participation through the use of digital technologies and open, cooperative models based on sharing knowledge and other resources.

When trying to bring the issues on Open education to the attention of policymakers it is hard to keep the message simple as there is a rather complex forrest of different problems and issues to be solved.

Copyright and OER in the same debate

The «policy breakfast» tried to combine two discussions, the first is on OER and the second one is copyright reform. These to issues are closely linked as they both affect what kind of content the teacher can use in the classroom and to me this seemed like a good idea when I read it in the invitation. After the meeting my conclusion is that it might have been a bit confusing for those not well wandered in this mace of legal matters and open licenses. While copyright is all about harmonizing the laws across european countries and all the legal and technical issues that comes with it, on the the discussion around Copyright the «devil is most definitely in the details».

The discussion around OER on the other hand is is much more focused on how to promote a policy that increases the development of freely licensed content and all the benefits that comes with sharing and reusing digital learning resources. For those focused on solving issues of copyright and faire use in different European countries the OER movement is only part of the solution.

My advice is to avoid mixing these to issues like we did yesterday. It would have been hard nought to get EU parlament members in the room to understand one of these issues over the course of 90 minutes. So I think it is a lesson to be learned for us OER advocates.

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This work by Christer Gundersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.