This morning an instructor who’s just starting to teach online contacted me. He had been told I was the campus online guru, and wanted to meet with me to discuss ideas and course management systems (our college is currently supporting Blackboard fully, but paying vendors for access to Moodle and ETUDES-NG). Among the many resources I’ve built into our Program for Online Teaching, I thought he might be interested in my EDUCAUSE article on CMSs (it’s not in the big journal, just the little practitioners’ Quarterly). I don’t keep it bookmarked, so I typed the title into Google.
I noticed others had written things about my article, so I started following a few links. I found it on Downes’ column for last May, with some comments I wasn’t aware of. Then I saw a link from British Library Direct. When I followed it I discovered that I’d have to pay a service charge, plus VAT if applicable, for the full text of the article. For me in the US, that’s £8.75 for immediate download.
I had been paid nothing for writing the article, and here this outfit is making money providing it to others. It is available free in both html and pdf forms from the EDUCAUSE website itself, so it’s not like it’s a restricted item of some kind. When I wrote it, I knew I was doing it for free, but wanted to share. It never occurred to me that anyone outside the organization asking me to write it would get paid for my work.
During our UStream discussion yesterday (thanks to Kristina for posting it), it was mentioned that Bradley Shoebottom had said something about making money off of open source. I misunderstood that, having not yet read Bradley’s post, and when I hit British Library Direct, I thought: “This is how people make money off of opennness!” They dupe people into believing that the article is accessible only through them, and charge for it. I wrote the article intending it to be free and open, and someone else has stolen it, in a sense, by trapping it.
If they’re doing it with my little article, then right now, people must be taking all kinds of free and open work, and charging for access to it. What kind of walls will our content be behind, without us even knowing it?