Some readers may have noticed that the ‘Creative Commons’ icon that used to appear on the bottom left corner of this blog has been replaced by legal boilerplate about copyright. I am, in principle, very strongly opposed to restrictions on the sharing of information, so this was not a decision that was easy for me. In this post, I want to explain why I felt that this change was necessary.
A long time ago…
What I first started this website, most of the content was meant to be distributed as widely as possible. For instance, I used the website as a depository from which my students at the Epirus Institute of Technology could download materials for my lectures and workshops. I saw no reason why these materials should not be made available, as Open Educational Resources, to anyone who might find them useful. Indeed, I am still happy for my teaching materials to be used in such a way.
Another category of content that I intended for wide dissemination were the calls for papers. These posts usually draw information from email messages that find their way to my inbox, and these messages are sent with a view to generating publicity for conferences and book projects. I felt that making such information publicly available would be more effective than forwarding them to a closed network of email contacts. In this case too, I felt that a Creative Commons licence, which encourages sharing, would be consistent with the wishes of the people who email me, and that such publicity benefits our discipline as a whole.
There were other types of posts as well, such as various announcements, abstracts of papers I published, comments and the occasional rant, but these were sparse (I tended to blog about once a month). For these types of posts, the Creative Commons license was just a formality, I thought, since I didn’t really believe that many people would bother reading them – let alone want to copy them.
So, what changed?
On the past few months, I have began to populate the blog with lots of original content, such as advice on research methods and academic writing, comments on language policy and higher education, and critical reactions to the academic literature. Because some of the material posted in these categories can be controversial, I would like to have a degree of control of the contexts in which my writings appear. To use a not-so-hypothetical example, I am not comfortable to have my remarks on Greek higher education be reproduced alongside potentially libellous content about the people responsible for designing said policy.
In addition, I am concerned that, despite their elegant simplicity, or maybe because of it, Creative Commons licences can be difficult to work with. For instance, it seemed to me that the ‘No Commercial uses’ stipulation unambiguously communicated my expectation that materials could only be copied for academic and personal use. What I had not taken into account was that some for-profit entities, such as predatory publishers and pseudo-scientific conference organisers, operate behind academic façades. I am now finding that I have less time and inclination to explain to the people behind such enterprises that their websites are not ‘non-commercial’ in the sense that I understand the term.
Thirdly, while most of the content in this blog is my own intellectual property, there are numerous exceptions that complicate re-use. My journal articles and book chapters, for instance, are published here under ‘Green’ Open Access arrangements. This means that I am allowed to post copies on my personal website, but copyright remains with my publishers. For better or for worse, re-publishing such content on a different website is illegal. Moreover, some materials (most notably the images embedded in some posts) are not my intellectual property, and are used here with their creators’ permission. The Creative Commons licence that I was using did not extend to such exceptions, but this was perhaps not intuitive, and it was also becoming increasingly difficult to clearly communicate what restrictions applied to every type of content.
To sum up, while in most cases I am still happy to share my content, I am conscious that a Creative Commons licence is not the best instrument to control where it will appear and how it will be used. While I could, in theory, license different parts of the blog under different terms, I believe that this would only create confusion. As a result, I have chosen to implement a ‘blanket’ copyright policy, and extend permission to re-use on a case-by-case basis. Besides, the requests I receive are not so numerous as to make this arrangement unmanageable.
The bottom line
- I have no objection to the use of the material in this blog for teaching and learning purposes. If you find something interesting which you’d like to use in class, feel free to make as many print copies as you need without asking. You may use the materials in their original form, in which case I expect you to credit me as their creator; or you might want to modify them, in which case you should indicate that they are “based on materials created by Achilleas Kostoulas (www.achilleaskostoulas.com)”.
- It is also fine to copy parts of individual posts (a couple of paragraphs or about 200 words) onto your website or blog, provided that I am credited as the author, and there is a link back to the original post. Here’s an example of how to do it. Though not required, a note or pingback to let me know where my content appears would be much appreciated.
- If you’d like to copy a larger section or an entire post, please contact me first, providing a link to the website where you want the content to appear. In most cases, I will be happy to let you re-use the content, but please do not assume permission before you hear from me.