Frequently Asked Questions

About the project

What is OpenSpires?

OpenSpires is a project based in Oxford University Computing Services which, along with other similar projects worldwide, aims to share educational resources for the benefit of humanity globally.

Why does it matter?

OpenSpires was funded under JISC and the Higher Educational Academy's Open Educational Resources Pilot Programme, a funding initiative designed to support institutions, consortia and individuals in releasing open educational resources for use, reuse and repurposing worldwide. A key inspiration in this endeavour is the report written by Professor Sir Ron Cooke, chair of JISC, in 2008 entitled "On-line Innovation in Higher Education"(pdf link). Commissioned by the UK government, the report provides expert advice and recommendations on how the country can be one of the leading centres of online higher education learning in the world. One of the findings of that report was that:

"...the UK must have a core of open access learning resources organised in a coherent way to support on-line and blended learning by all higher education institutions and to make it more widely available in non- HE environments."

Another important text in this area is the Capetown Declaration which includes a general plea for

"educators, authors, publishers and institutions to release their resources openly".

in order to bring about

"a global revolution in teaching and learning."

How does this differ from the iTunes U project?

The materials released via iTunes U cannot be distributed by anyone except Apple and the University and are exclusively for personal use by individual downloaders. To facilitate the creation of reusable learning and teaching resources that can be used in the classroom we need to give more rights to end users than the current iTunes U distribution model does.

Why can't educators just direct their students to iTunes U if they want them to hear my material?

That is one way of approaching the problem, but it is a limited one. For example, it prevents the use of especially relevant excerpts from the material within new learning and teaching resources, and it prevents the playing of the material to groups of students. We want to free users create new learning and teaching resources that suit their needs using our material as a starting point. The iTunes U model does not allow this.

How is this done / What is Creative Commons?

We rely on two key innovations: global internet connectivity and open content licensing. While most people are familiar with the explosive growth of the internet, understanding of open content licensing is less common. Briefly, an open content licence is an agreement between the owner of some educational material and anyone who cares to make use of it. In exchange for being credited with creation of the original material, the owner allows anyone to distribute it. The owner can also allow other actions to be taken, like adaptation and translation. They can specify whether they will allow commercial use of their material, and if they require that all adapted versions use the same licence.

Are any other institutions doing this kind of thing?

Here are a selection of links to other OER projects:

Making and publishing podcasts

How can I easily make a podcast?

The OpenSpires project has staff and resources available to help you get recorded and released. Please email stating that you wish to contribute to the OpenSpires project for more details. If you wish to be recorded but do not wish to be part of the OpenSpires project, your local IT support staff may be able to help. OUCS also provides a course on podcasting for education that you may find useful.

How can podcasts be removed?

The podcasting and OpenSpires teams will gladly remove your podcast from our distribution site upon request. Please email if you need to do this. It should be noted, however, that the licence under which OpenSpires material is made available permits those who have already downloaded the material to distribute it onwards, meaning that removal from distribution by us does not guarantee that the material ceases to be available elsewhere.

Licensing and rights

Can I license multiple podcasts on a single form?

Yes. Simply describe the set of material in the space provided. An example might be 'Talks delivered on 'My Subject' between 1/1/2010 and 31/7/2010'.

Do external speakers have to sign the forms?

Yes. It should also be noted that external speakers may have employment contracts that make their lectures the property of their employer. In these circumstances they will need the permission of their employer to sign the form.

Could someone take my lecture and edit it in such a way as it distorts the meaning?

The Creative Commons licence we use (Attribution - Non-Commercial - Share-Alike 2.0 England and Wales) stipulates that users cannot "subject the Work to any derogatory treatment as defined in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988". The Act in question defines derogatory treatment in this way: "The treatment of a work is derogatory if it amounts to distortion or mutilation of the work or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director." So any adaptation of the material which is likely to damage the honour or reputation of the creator is not allowed.

If I find someone is distributing the material without abiding by the licence, what can I do?

While the OpenSpires project and legal services within the University will be happy to advise you on this kind of issue (and indeed we would advise you to contact us in the first event), we cannot take action ourselves, as the material is not ours. However since the adoption of laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US and the E-Commerce Directive in the EU, most providers of hosting on the web have a systematic and documented 'takedown' process which a copyright owner can use to complain about misuse of their material. Generally these processes will involve immediate removal of the material from distribution by the hosting provider, followed by a possibility of appeal by the person who uploaded the material.

Can other people use my material to make money?

No. The licence we use to distribute your material forbids commercial reuse (see next question).

What licence will OpenSpires use on their content?

We specify that the material cannot be used commercially, that it can be adapted and translated, but that all versions of the work must also be open content when redistributed. In short form, this is called a "Creative Commons UK: England & Wales Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 licence".

What am I giving to the University by signing this form?

You are giving a licence to use and distribute your copyright material.

Does this mean that the University will own the ideas in the material?

No, you are not giving away the ideas embodied in the material.

Can I still publish this material myself?

Contributors often ask if – having contributed a recording of a talk or lecture – they are still able to use and publish that material themselves or via a third party publisher. The answer is generally ‘yes’. The Podcast Contribution Form grants the University rights to distribute your material to others, but does not grant those rights exclusively. It is still your material and you can do with it nearly everything you could before. The only slight restriction to this is that – having given the University the right to distribute – you can no longer exclusively grant that right to someone else.

Do I lose all my rights over this material by licensing it to the University?

No. You only lose the ability to exclusively license the material to someone else, as you will have already granted the University a licence. Non-exclusive licensing to third parties is still possible.

Why do these agreements talk about warranties and liability? Am I at risk?

There are various legal problems that might arise from the release of material. If your material contains substantial portions of someone else's material (for example video clips or images in slides) then that person might rightfully try to claim recompense from the University for copyright infringement. There are also potential problems relating to defamation, incitement to racial hatred, pornographic content etc As the person who knows your material the best, the University seeks assurances from you that the material is your own and not defamatory etc in order to minimise the risk associated with publishing the material. By providing these assurances you are potentially at legal risk if the information you give is inaccurate. The OpenSpires project takes the view that we would far rather avoid any legal risk for the University or the contributor by avoiding any potentially infringing or illegal material. OpenSpires staff will try to help identify any potential problems. If you have any doubts about the content of your material, then it is best that you do not contribute it.

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