Licensing and Source Materials
The mission of FCC is to support free curricula — open educational resources (OER). The two definitions for the word free that apply are "unencumbered" and "costless".
Unencumbered, or free in the sense of academic freedom, means that anyone is welcome to take an FCC curriculum and modify it to suit his or her needs. Our goal is to work together to light a fire of knowledge that spreads as quickly as possible throughout the world.
Costless, or free in the sense of not having to pay money, means that there is no charge to download curricula from the FCC web site. Text documents, like textbooks and instructor guides, are available in RTF and PDF format to any who wish to obtain them. Audio/visual presentations are similarly released in accessible formats.
The most free that a work can be is if it is released into the public domain or with a waiver through which authors completely disclaim copyright. In this case, the work is completely free of copyright, and no rights have been reserved. The work may be used, copied, downloaded, modified and sold as its readers see fit. It is irrevocable to place a work into the public domain or to release it under a comparable waiver, so those who do so may be comforted that it may not be copyrighted by anyone else. It is FCC's preference to release works in this fashion.
Sometimes it is better to adapt existing material that carries a license that does not allow adaptations to be released into the public domain, however. There are a number of licenses that can be applied to a curriculum or other document to provide wide ranging freedoms to its readers and other users. When a committee is organized to start a new project, its Chair selects the least restrictive license under which the project's output may be released. Options include:
- The CC0 Waiver
- The Creative Commons Attribution License
- The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
- The GNU Free Document License
However licensed, a project will include textbook chapters and related instructor guide materials. It may also include a series of audio-video lectures or other multimedia materials.
Suggestions for Source Materials
Although the task of drafting a set of textbook chapters sufficient for an entire course, much less an entire undergraduate program, may seem daunting, it is not necessarily required to do so starting from an entirely blank slate. There are a number of sources for material which may be incorporated into the curriculum with varying degrees of revision:
- Documents the author of which is the United States Government are by default in the public domain. The volume of output of the American government is truly staggering and thus can include a great deal of potentially useful material.
- Similarly, documents produced by most Commonwealth countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, and others, are under Crown Copyright, which allows use without payment, requiring only attribution.
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made a serious commitment to copylefted curricula with their Open Courseware project. While they do not produce textbooks, they do release lecture notes from many courses, and in many cases these notes are quite extensive. MIT releases its material under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, which requires attribution, prohibits commercial use, and allows derivative works if the same license is applies to them.
- The Connexions project of Rice University is a large set of educational bits and pieces that are designed to be put together as best fits the education situation. Its material is released under a license that requires only attribution.
- Textbooks written and published before January 1, 1923, and in some cases those written as recently as the mid-1970's, are in the public domain in the United States by virtue of their copyright having expired. For some subjects a textbook several decades old would be nothing more than a curious throwback, but for others, such as literature or undergraduate level mathematics, the material has seen few or no changes.