CoverI. Intellectual Property1. James Boyle, “The Why of Intellectual Property”2. James Boyle, “Thomas Jefferson Writes a Letter”II. Free Software3. Richard Stallman, “What is Free Software?”4. Richard Stallman, “The GNU Project”III. Open Source5. Eric Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”6. Eric Raymond, “Homesteading the Noosphere”IV. Open Content7. David Wiley, “About the Open Publication License”8. David Wiley, “Open Content: The First Decade”V. Defining Free9. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms Speech”10. Richard Stallman, “Four Freedoms”11. Erik Moller, “Freedom Defined”12. Bruce Perens, “Debian Free Software Guidelines”VI. Defining Open13. Bruce Perens, “The Open Source Definition”14. David Wiley, “Open Content”15. OKFN, “Open Definition”16. David Wiley, “The Access Compromise and the 5th R”17. David Wiley, “Open Definitions, Specificity, and Avoiding Bright Lines”VII. Open Source Software Licenses18. GNU General Public License19. BSD License20. MIT License21. Apache License22. Comparison of Open Source LicensesVIII. Open Content Licenses23. Creative Commons Licenses24. GNU Free Documentation License25. Open Publication LicenseIX. Open CourseWare26. Charles Vest, “Disturbing the Educational Universe: Universities in the Digital Age — Dinosaurs or Prometheans?”27. History of MIT OCW28. MIT OCW Evaluation Report (2005)29. MIT Reaches OCW Milestone30. David Wiley, “OpenCourseWars”X. Open Educational Resources31. UNESCO Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing32. Cape Town Open Education Declaration33. UNESCO, “2012 Paris OER Declaration”34. Wiley, Bliss, and McEwen, “Open Educational Resources: OER Literature Review”35. Boston Consulting Group, “Open Educational Resources: The OER Ecosystem”XI. Open Textbooks36. Nicole Allen, “Open Textbooks: A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks are the Path to Affordability”37. Frydenberg and Matkin, “Open Textbooks: Why? What? How? When?”XII. Research in Open Education38. OER Research Hub39. Open Education Group40. Marshall Smith, “Ruminations on Research on OER”XIII. The Economics of Open41. Yochai Benkler, “Coases Penguin, or Linux and The Nature of the Firm”42. Yochai Benkler, “Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials”43. Yochai Benkler, “‘Sharing Nicely’: On shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production”XIV. Open Business Models44. Eric Raymond, “The Magic Cauldron”45. OSI, “Open Source Case for Business”46. Various, “A Summer 2014 Conversation on Business Models in Open Education”

James Boyle, “The Why of Intellectual Property”

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Understanding why the idea of “intellectual property” exists is a critical first step on the way to understanding the open education movement.  James Boyle’s book, The Public Domain, provides an excellent starting point for developing this understanding.

James Boyle is one of the founding board members and former board chairman of Creative Commons, the most commonly accepted and popular form of open licenses used in the world, which are discussed later in this book.  As one of the key members of the modern movement to change the way intellectual property is protected and distributed, Boyle’s views on the subject are fundamental to understanding the societal context of other historically significant developments like the introduction of the free/libre copyright by Richard Stallman, which will also be included in later readings.  By understanding these articles, the stage is set for understanding the movements of open education for the past 50 years. The incredible progress of technology has dramatically changed choices society can make regarding intellectual property, but it is important to understand the theory, the history, and the reality of intellectual property if society hopes to make changes that actually lead to progress and truly impactful education.

Key Points

This first chapter provides an introduction to the history of intellectual property concepts. It also explores what property is, what it is not, and why that matters.

In this chapter, Boyle focuses on the economic theory that created intellectual property.  He starts by explaining that since the early days of western civilization, clearly defined and protected property rights have been critical to societal progress. Citizens with property rights could spend time in education, scientific pursuits, and money-generating activities without having to spend a majority of their time sharpening their swords to ward off thieves who came to plunder the profits from those educational, scientific, or money-generating pursuits. With good property rights and good government, societies could focus on productive activities instead of spiraling into anarchy.  Key points about property:

While the theory of “intellectual property rights” is very useful to society, Boyle shows how the application of these protections has become warped and questions their application in the online space.  Boyle delves into the following key points about the detrimental effect of misapplied intellectual property regimes:

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it appropriate to use the language of tangible property when referring to ideas and other non-rival goods (like property, theft, or piracy)? What are the similarities?  What are the differences?  How should they affect intellectual property law?
  2. In what ways is an idea rivalrous? In what ways is it not?
  3. What are other systems or IP systems that can incentivize creation that avoid the former problems?
  4. What is the optimal length of a copyright?
  5. How can we balance the personal benefit of the creator of the work with the benefit of the public good?
  6. What measures are currently being taken legislatively to reduce copyright restrictions?
  7. Who are the stakeholders lobbying for longer copyrights?
  8. What are competing incentives to create? Volunteer? Compulsion to create?

Additional Resources

Wikipedia articles for “Public Goods,” “Private Goods,” “Berne Convention,”  “WIPO”