Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, October 22, 2007

Update on the evolving Cape Town Declaration

Here's an update from Heather Ford on the drafting of the Cape Town Declaration, iCommons, October 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

On recommendation from the participants of the Open Education Track at the Dubrovnik iSummit (don’t forget to read the great report on the results by Philipp Schmidt and Mark Surman.) the Open Society Institute, the Shuttleworth Foundation and Hewlett Foundation organised a meeting of around 30 of some of the world’s pioneering figures in open education in Cape Town. The goal was clear: to develop a shared map of the global open education space and to discuss strategies that would lead to a ‘Declaration on Open Education’ for others in the world of education to follow.
It was a really exciting meeting – attended by education commoners from Australia to Chile, the United States to Uganda, and of course, the inimitable South Africans.

The group agreed on most ‘long term’ vision statements and goals, but an exercise to understand where people stood in the licence debate showed how divergent at least these opinions are. We were asked to line up along an imaginary ‘opinion line’ from 100% “yes” on the one side and 100% “no” on the other, and respond to the statement: ‘It’s not and open education resource unless anyone can use it for any purpose, including commercial purposes’. The views, as you can imagine, were split almost 50/50 between 100% yes and 100% no.
This used to bother me. Surely the fact that people within the same movement had such divergent views on such an important issue was a problem?

Now this seems academic. The fact that the first, great draft of the ‘Cape Town Open Education Declaration’ has already been circulated, the fact that its impact was not ‘watered down’ by this “dispute”, and the fact that this group has recognised that standing together in our shared vision of what education should look like in the future is more important than the (important but less important) differences of opinion about copyright licences. This is a conclusion that I had long ago but didn’t know how to express: this movement has very little to do with copyright and everything to do with people; it has very little to do with being free to share content and everything to do with sharing perspectives and fellowship....