Occasionally Krypton Radio makes a fast ninety degree turn and covers something important to everyone, not just science fiction and comic book fans. In a way this affects the fans too, because it changes the way intellectual property is viewed and used, and that in turn will have an effect on the future of creative work on the Internet. But here’s the amazing, important thing that just happened, as reported on creativecommons.org:
In California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills (SB 1052 and SB 1053) that will provide for the creation of free, openly licensed digital textbooks for the 50 most popular lower-division college courses offered by California colleges. The legislation was introduced by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and passed by the California Senate and Assembly in late August.
A crucial component of the California legislation is that the textbooks developed will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY):
The textbooks and other materials are placed under a creative commons attribution license that allows others to use, distribute, and create derivative works based upon the digital material while still allowing the authors or creators to receive credit for their efforts.
The CC BY license allows teachers to tailor textbook content to students’ needs, permits commercial companies to take the resources and build new products with it (such as video tutorials), and opens the doors for collaboration and improvement of the materials.
Access to affordable textbooks is extremely important for students, as textbook costs continue to rise at four times the rate of inflation, sometimes surpassing the cost of tuition at some community colleges. So, in addition to making the digital textbooks available to students free of cost, the legislation requires that print copies of textbooks will cost about $20.
This is a massive win for California, and a most welcome example of open policy that aims to leverage open licensing to save money for California families and support the needs of teachers and students. You can follow additional news on this initiative and other Open Education Policies at the OER registry at CreativeCommons.org.
The ramifications of this are huge – we’ve been stumbling through copyright issues as a society, and the man-handling of copyright law by large corporations has left the small producers and users of intellectual property at a distinct disadvantage. Copyright used to protect the rights of the original creator long enough for him to be able to sell it in a timely manner, giving him or her enough time to develop the next thing and sell that. Now copyrights span generations and are bought and sold like commodities, and have a chilling effect on the creation of new ideas, since that new content may violate the copyright of somebody who died fifty years ago. Instead of stifling creativity, the window of opportunity is now open – the tiniest crack. But there’s a sliver of daylight coming through that crack, and perhaps new legislation that opens up the locked down intellectual property industry will eventually result, putting copyrights back where they belong – in the hands of the creators. We can hope.
Congratulations to the California legislature for participating in this ground-breaking new law, and well done, Governor Brown.
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