Report on Educause West/Southwest Regional Conference, February 2012

The West/Southwest Regional Conference took place this February 22nd through 24th in Portland Oregon and highlighted the importance to higher education of engaging everyone effectively through IT. The keynote speaker was Mr. Cable Green of Creative Commons, who spoke of the need to move toward greater levels of openness within higher education and publishing. As Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons, Mr. Green advocates for the more specific copyright options offered through Creative Commons licensing to protect the intentions of authors, artists and musicians.

You can see the terms of these licensing options here: http://creativecommons.org/choose/

Mr. Green mentioned the importance of Open Courseware, Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources as education fees continue to rise and push out those on the edges of access to higher education. Mr. Green also discussed the dichotomy that exists between academics who conduct dissertation research as well research studies sponsored through government funding, versus the publishers who rake in big bucks by charging exorbitant fees for access to the published research via library database and journal subscriptions. Individual document download fees can run into the hundreds of dollars, making it cost prohibitive for even the scholars who’ve labored intensely (for free) in developing the research, to afford accessing the published result. The high fees charged by publishers seem completely out of order given the publishers lack of involvement or financial backing in the creation of the research, and the minimal cost of hosting digital files, but powerful lobbyists in the publishing industry are continuously working to make it even more difficult for individuals and libraries to avoid such fees. Creative Common’s is attempting to change this.

The recent denial of the proposed  PIPA and SOPA bills were a direct result of such efforts. If passed, the U.S. Department of Justice could seek court orders requiring Internet providers such as Comcast to prevent its customers from accessing sites accused of hosting pirated materials.  Both SOPA and PIPA have been dropped due to the ensuing public outrage and censorship protests from sites such as, Wikipedia, Google and Mozilla Firefox; One of the most significantly overt political efforts ever made by the tech industry with regards to copyright law. Generation Y and the tech stars born of this generation’s labor are growing increasingly disaffected in 2012, not to mention those freshly pressed millennial’s, with graduate degrees in tow, facing record unemployment. Where is the tipping point? Perhaps the 99% can teach corporate lobbyists to say, “Mīdān at-Taḥrīr” in English…? Perhaps corporations should be more invested in securing their own financial future by donating a small percentage of their proceeds to benefit education and scholarly research rather than exploiting the fruit of it’s labor for instant gratification.

Green says that if government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities are paying to support scholarly research, academics and taxpayers should have access to the results for free.

Ya think….?

Click here to listen to the full Educause presentation: “The Obviousness of Open Policy”

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