Here I was thinking that Open Access was a relatively simple thing in support of the broad education community. An increasing number of scholarly articles and their data are being published in an Open Access way. Free is good.

However, the term “free” is not a clear enough term. It is the imprecise, multiple-meaning problem of English. There is “free of cost” which has also been expressed as “free-as-in-beer” and more recently the more international term “gratis”. There is also the very different “free-as-in-freedom” which is “free of conditions for use” and the more international term “libre”.

Some good posts to explain the issues of Open Access vocabulary:

and a pair of others.

Know your rights. Learn the vocabulary of Open Access.


Know the facts.

This blog is about open source software in schools, and schools are charged with helping students to gain the skills with which they can access and use knowledge that has been created up to the time of their education. By encouraging creativity, schools can also prepare students to contribute, adding new knowledge on their own.

Copyright is one tool used to “encourage” the development and expression of new and valuable knowledge. If you are interested in open source/open knowledge, you need to know about copyright.

I would recommend you read The Illustrated Story of Copyright by Edward Samuels, a faculty member of New York Law School.

The book is accessible on the Internet.

UPDATE 6-09-09:

If you are even more interested in learning about copyright, you will benefit from looking into the blog of William Patry, a copyright lawyer for 26 years.

He has apparently written a 6000 page book about copyright, too, which he mentions in a blog post.

Galileo wasn’t the inventor of the telescope. That was probably the Dutchman, Hans Lippershey.

Galileo wasn’t the person who first said the sun is the center of the solar system instead of the Earth. The credit for that goes to Coppernicus.

Galileo did build a telescope and did gaze at the planets to learn about their sun-centered orbits and, most importantly, did his best to tell other people about it. He gave public demonstrations. He wrote in Italian instead of the scholarly language of Latin. He did everything he could to make the knowledge available freely, openly and without restrictions, and while he didn’t use the terminology we do today, Gallileo was an “Open Source” kind of guy.

Open Access to information is the equivalent, in academic circles, of  “Open Source” in software. Open Access  isn’t always popular with the entrenched scientific establishment. You might be interested to read more at the Academic Evolution blog.

We have at hand an instrument of vision and inquiry more powerful than any telescope: the socially organized and semantically agile engine of inquiry and insight being erected in the digital domain, propelled forward by broad and rapid participation and an accelerated iterative review process that print publishing cannot approximate with its asynchronous “conversations.” We cannot transcend the prior knowledge system if tethered to its slowness and secrecy.

We should be better stewards of our instruments of knowledge–humble enough to discard systems that shut down epistemological evolution. The restrictions of conventional toll-access and peer-reviewed scholarship keep knowledge in the low orbit of what is familiar and controllable. But there are Galileos out there who have caught sight of higher worlds. They are learning to bypass systems of knowledge in order to achieve the purposes that those systems seem to have forgotten.

That’s what Open Access is, really, and not just a way to more publicly warehouse traditional scholarship. It is an epistemology; it is a worldview; it is a commitment to a new way of understanding, expressing, and improving the world.

Thanks, to Glyn Moody’s Open… blog for calling this post and blog to my attention.

How much like Gallileo do you want to be? Isn’t your role as an educator to open students’ access to knowledge. How open is your process?