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How Creative Commons and Open Licensing Resources Might Affect the Publishing of Quality Education Materials for Millions of Children in Africa and Asia

“Global Book Alliance has a vision of a world in which all children are achieving literacy and have access to quality books in a language that they understand, with which they can learn to read and read to learn, and develop a love of reading.”  -- Brooke Estes, GBA


A key barrier to improving children's reading skills is limited or no access to textbooks and reading materials. An Open Education Resource (OER) policy could help forward Early Grade Reading (EGR) efforts and is now a policy requirement for all United States Government-funded projects. Indeed, an increasing number of governments and donors funding education programs are requiring open licenses for material being created for public use.


The Global Book Alliance (GBA) and Global Reading Network (GRN) sponsored webinars in the Spring and Summer of 2019 to discuss with stakeholders in the book production chain basics of Creative Commons and details of Open Licensing business models. Attending the Creative Commons sessions in April were 56 ministry of education officials from the African and Asian regions of the globe. The Open Licensing sessions in June and July drew 40 content creators and publishers of children's literature who are exploring the benefits, possibilities, challenges, and limitations of an Open Licensing business model.


South African education policy and technology expert, Neil Butcher, shared research evidence presented for the Early Literacy Resource Network.  He explained that Open Licensing substitutes “all rights reserved” under traditional copyright law with “some rights reserved” whereby copyright is modified and users are granted “certain rights.” For instance, users have the right to make copies or to adapt the work to the users’ local language and cultural imagery without first asking permission or paying a fee.


Butcher warned though that quality books and materials cost money to make. “Publishers who embrace content creation as ‘a service’ where the business model is based around content development and getting paid properly for doing good content development, can be successful while accepting that the license will be open.” The copyright holder still owns the work, but under Open Licensing users are granted the right to share, remix, and commercialize the material.


Kenya’s David Waweru, WordAlive Publishers, pointed out that the world’s creative and cultural industries contribute more than $ 2,250 billion a year to the global GDP while employing 3.65 million people. However, the publishing industry has been affected by the growing intrusion of digital technology. 


Not everyone is motivated by making a lot of money. “Some choose the freedom of doing meaningful work,” or share work and build on the creative ideas of others, Waweru says. He also notes that the high cost of text books is driving some people to rent them instead of buying, while others have limited access to such expensive work.


The third presenter was South Africa’s Siphephelo Zuma who explained he established Abantwana Publishing to take on a leadership role in promoting open licensing publishing in his industry and country. He added that he is glad other publishers are able to use his titles to create their own material. Abantwana’s list of open licensing titles has grown from two to 148. 


Zuma has also gotten profitably creative by aligning his production of new titles to the country’s Department of Basic Education curriculum and by creating ancillary materials such as lesson plans and classroom resources for new teachers and student activity books and educational toys.


Click here to review materials from each of these presenters and view a recording of the June 27th Open Licensing webinar  .


The third webinar on Open Licensing is planned for the fourth week of August and will focus on Approaches for Open Licensing EGR Materials. This webinar is dedicated to reading program implementers working towards an Open Education Resource (OER) policy in collaboration with government and publishers. The webinar will introduce forthcoming guidance on Open Licensing developed by the Global Reading Network. Furthermore, it will tap the expertise of USAID-funded programs that have executed Open Licensing of EGR materials in different contexts in Africa and Asia in collaboration with local Ministries of Education and publishers. Look for registration links for this third session of the Creative Commons/Opening Licensing webinar series in the near future.



Lynette Alexander