Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lawsuit against FedEx, Fascinating Challenge to CC-NC clause.

According to an article at edweek, "Fedex Targeted in Open Educational Resources Lawsuit" by Sean Cavanagh, a lawsuit brought against FedEx photocopying service by OER creator Great Minds raises some interesting challenges to the "print on demand" model so often employed by many of us here.  Great Minds produces OER under a Creative Commons license with a non-commercial clause (CC-NC).  While it is perfectly legal for educators to download and reproduce the materials for their students on their own, Great Minds asserts that downloading OERs and taking them to FedEx (a for-profit commercial enterprise) for printing is prohibited by the CC-NC clause.

A few wrinkles to consider, also from the article: 
  • Great Minds offers print on demand services for their materials, but, presumably because they are a non-profit corporation, they may do so at slightly above cost and keep the revenue to support their own operations.
  • Officials at Creative Commons have taken FedEx's position and, according to this blog, are against the lawsuit.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the authors here offer their texts at print on demand sites like Lulu or Amazon.  These sites are also for-profit.  A win for Great Minds would force some alterations in the use of these services.  Does this lawsuit require a re-write of the NC clause?  Should we just not use the NC clause?


  1. I certainly hope the ruling goes against Great Minds, though I can't see it having an impact on me.

    More interesting to me is that the licensing terms used by Great Minds appear to be contradictory. On one screen they say:

    "You may not sell or otherwise distribute the Curriculum and associated textual, audio, and video materials to anyone in any manner."

    But then they say on the next screen:

    "License for Eureka Basic Curriculum Files

    Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial - share Alike 4.0 International Public License"

    The CC license page says, among other things, that

    "You are free to:

    Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format"

    -- David Guichard

  2. PS. If the first license is the governing one, it seems to me that the Great Minds material is not open, merely free.

    -- David

  3. I certainly agree that I hope the ruling goes against Great Minds.

    A couple comments:

    1) Even if the ruling did go in favor of Great Minds, that wouldn't prevent authors from posting their own works on Lulu or Amazon, since they are the copyright holder and can give additional permissions. But it would be a big issue for remixers.

    2) I personally avoid the NC clause, and encourage other open authors to do the same. In our context, I don't think it adds much additional protection over just using ShareAlike, while it adds complications like this printing lawsuit. No commercial entity is going to take your work, remix it, and try to sell it if they have to release that remix under the same open license that allows anyone to share copies for free.

  4. We had a discussion about the NC clause on this blog, with some interesting links, a couple years ago.

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