Rights and Repositories

Today I’m speaking at the JISC Rights and Repositories event – I’m here as part of the EThOSNet project – which is setting up a e-thesis service based at the BL (called EThOS) – see http://www.ethos.ac.uk for more details.

Starting with an introduction from John Casey from EDINA including a brief overview of OpenJorum, and then followed by Prof. Charles Oppenheim giving an overview of the legal landscape. After this, it’s me – I’m a bit worried as some of the work on which we’ve based the approach that EThOS is taking towards rights was done by Charles Oppenheim, who is on hand to contradict me if I get anything wrong!


OK – starting with John (slightly frustratingly, I’m sat at the front as a speaker, and so I can’t see the slides that are being shown)

John is talking from the ‘teaching and learning’ point of view, but sees the issues very much overlapping with research repositories.

John says we need to see IPR as an essential part of academic integrity and Institutional quality control. Noting that the media industry have very well established approach to IPR – even if not everyone agrees with them. We are in a the midst of change in academia in our approach to IPR. It isn’t necessarily the legal stuff that is difficult but what John calls the ‘underlying’ issues – by which I think he means the cultural issues – norms of what is acceptable practice within a community.

John saying IPR is only a problem if you let it be a problem. John often sees people either putting their heads in the sand, or feeling that IPR is detail they can’t be bothered with. John believes currently attitudes are related to the pre-digital era, and contain greatly exaggerated ideas of the value of content – John think that teaching content is often of little value cash wise, but of high utility.

By putting stuff online, ‘we’ (institutions etc.) are publishers – and this comes with rights and responsibilities. We are joining the ‘publishing’ world, which is already trying to come to terms with the challenges presented by digital production and distribution of material.

JORUM is a JISC sponsored national online repository, intended to hold learning resources for UK HE and FE. When JORUM was setup licenses for ‘open’ sharing (e.g. creative commons) were in their infancy. In the early days there was a high degree of risk aversion with regards to IPR in the sector, which resulted in a complicated license regime.

Now JORUM is moving in the direction of ‘open access’, and wants to foster the creation and re-use of learning material and ensure long term access. At the same time they want to reduce transaction costs, become a user-centred service to support sharing and reuse. JORUM wants to see more explicit acceptance and management of risks – there is a lot of nervousness around IPR, even though financially other issues in the sector cause a lot more problems (e.g. building project overruns, software project overruns etc.) – but perhaps nervousness is because the academic ‘industry’ is essentially and industry base around Intellectual Property.

JORUM will have three licenseing regimes going forward – all user-to-user:

  • JorumOpen – for free sharing under Creative Commons and similar licenses
  • Jorum Education UK – for sharing withing the UK HE and FE sectores
  • JorumPlus – more restricted content

The main obstacles around open content and IPR are philosophical, pedagogical, political and organisational – technical issues are comparatively minor. Legal matters are good for ‘surfacing’ soft cultural issues.

The current concentration on technical issues is a ‘displacement activity’ – we focus on DRM etc. to avoid the real problems – where no or lo-tech solutions are more realistic.

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