Monday, October 13, 2014

What the Copyright Discussion Tells Us About the Common Core Debate

Some Common Core critics are looking at the standards' copyright and public license and seeing things that aren't there.

It isn't unusual that the standards are copyrighted. Every example of standards written by a private group in the US -- NCTE, NCEE, NCTM, etc. -- is copyrighted, and pretty much has to be. State standards, like Massachusetts, explicitly were copyrighted in the past. In other cases, states don't clearly and consistently indicate one way or another, which is probably the worst case scenario since the default in the US is all rights reserved. The CCSSI and NGA copyright of the standards is an utter non-issue.

The standards' public license is almost a standard open content or Creative Commons-style license allowing re-distribution in whole or in part with attribution. This is one issue where it nearly is the case that any Common Core advocate should be able to authoritatively and completely dispel any concerns and show that in fact the Common Core is embracing best practices for handling intellectual property for important educational publications.

So it is notable that in 2014, this does not happen on, say Diane Ravitch's blog. It is almost an area where Common Core advocates could embarrass some prominent critics with a relatively straightforward, factual argument.

The problem is this specific passage in the license (emphasis mine):

The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hereby grant a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to copy, publish, distribute, and display the Common Core State Standards for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

This stipulation makes the license not an open content license as generally defined and leads to two questions that are practically unanswerable:

  1. What is a clear and legally enforceable definition of "purposes that support the CCSSI" that provides specific guidance as to what is and is not permitted?
  2. Why is that there at all? Whose idea was it? What on earth were they thinking?

OK, that's not two questions, but the point is that nobody can step in and argue the side of the Common Core, because ultimately they are going to get cornered by this petty, sloppy, self-indulgent poison pill that someone slipped in the license, ruining the other positive aspects. And since it is the Common Core, there is literally nobody who is authorized to give an authoritative explanation. So the bleeding continues.


garrett said...

Link-o-Rama --"Artists..."

"I'm a longtime culture writer and editor based in Los Angeles; my book CULTURE CRASH: The Killing of the Creative Class comes out this fall. My stories have appeared in The New York Times, Salon and Los Angeles magazine, and I was an LA Times staff writer for six years. I'm also an enthusiastic if middling jazz and indie-rock guitarist."

This is what author says about himself. Why does the article seem so useless and stupid to me? Am I missing anything?

Tom Hoffman said...

Eh... I like him well enough to read him at this point. Don't know any of his bands though.