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Comments on the Open Licensing Policy Guidelines of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology

Posted by Nehaa Chaudhari at May 29, 2014 04:10 PM |
The Centre for Internet and Society submitted its comments on the Open Licensing Policy Guidelines to the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, on May 28, 2014. The comments were prepared by Sunil Abraham and Nehaa Chaudhari.


1.1 This submission presents comments from the Centre for Internet and Society (“CIS”)[1] on the Open Licensing Policy Guidelines (“Guidelines”) of the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (“NMEICT”).

1.2.The Guidelines provide a set of recommendations and procedures to ensure that content produced under the NMEICT is openly licensed.

1.3 CIS commends the NMEICT for this initiative, and appreciates the opportunity to provide feedback on the Guidelines. CIS’ comments are as stated hereafter.


2.1 Preamble

2.1.1 Recognizing the role of intergovernmental agencies in promoting the use of open licenses, the Preamble makes a reference to the 2012 Paris OER Declaration.[2] CIS appreciates this inclusion and suggests that reference may also be made to another important declaration, i.e., the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, released in 2008,[3] which encourages the publishers and governments to make available, at no charge, via the internet, publicly funded educational materials.

2.2 Principles of Openness

2.2.1 The first principle[4] requires the treatment of information products as “national resources.” The phrase “national resource” most often used in connection with rivers, forests, mines and minerals or spectrum would imply specific legal connotations and might therefore prove to be a misnomer for information products. It is suggested that “national resources” be replaced with “commons” or, alternatively, the sentence be restructured to state that content, software and technology would be treated as “information commons”.

2.2.2 The third principle[5] states that “information and knowledge resources” shall be available “freely”. “Freely” has a wide array of connotations including the absence of restrictions and the absence of payment/costs. It is suggested that “freely” be further clarified and perhaps be replaced with “on a gratis basis”.

2.2.3. The fifth principle deals with the transfer of “all intellectual property rights” to the Government of India and the retention of “moral rights” with the contributor. Intellectual property rights is a wider term including among others copyright and related rights, patents, trademarks and industrial designs. There are two types of right under copyright- moral rights (of attribution for the work) and economic rights (which allow the owner to derive financial benefit and reward from the use of her/his work).[6] It is submitted that the intention behind the fifth principle is seemingly to transfer all economic rights to the Government of India while ensuring due credit to the author/contributor for her/his work. “Intellectual property rights” being a wider term would be a misnomer in this sense, as would the use of “copyright”, since this does not appreciate the distinction between economic and moral rights. Therefore, it is suggested that “intellectual property rights” be replaced with “economic rights” for the applicable branch of copyright law.

2.2.4. The sixth principle deals with the release of information and knowledge resources in a “suitable open licence”. “Suitable open licence” could include both indigenously developed as well as existing licences. It is submitted that in the interests of interoperability, one of the fundamental principles of open access, it would be appropriate to adopt an existing system of licensing. It is recommended therefore, that the Creative Commons approach could be adopted for content and the GNU or BSD licenses could be considered for software. It is strongly suggested that “suitable open licence” be replaced with a specific license framework to ensure interoperability, particularly between information and knowledge resources produced by other nations also funding and adopting OER.

2.3 Guidelines

2.3.1 The second guideline mandates a single portal/gateway for all knowledge resources under this project. It is suggested that this be replaced with the adoption of the principle ‘lots of copies keep stuff safe’, the basis for the LOCKSS Program of Stanford University.[7] The LOCKSS Program allows participating libraries to take custody of and preserve access to the content to which they have subscribed. It is suggested that a similar approach be adopted towards the content being developed under the NMEICT OER project.

2.3.2. The fourth guideline makes a reference to the possible adoption of a CC-BY-SA licence to make content available. The rationale behind a Share-Alike clause could be to prevent the appropriation of the education market by ‘rent seekers’. However, it is necessary to examine this further. The danger of appropriation and subsequent monopolization of content is one that needs to be addressed provided that the process of content creation itself is dependent on contributions from subsequent utilizers of content. Content under the NMEICT model is developed as a result of government contributions and is not dependent on subsequent utilizers feeding back into the system, thus invalidating the need for a Share -Alike clause. Additionally the absence of a Share-Alike clause is likely to incentivise private participation. Private players would have the freedom to utilize the content generated under this scheme, modify and develop it further and make it available in the market for sale. This would be extremely useful in meeting the last mile connectivity and ensuring the wider availability of content. It is therefore submitted that that the licence to be adopted should be CC-BY.

2.3.3. The fifth guideline places a requirement on the grantee/creator to intimate the NMEICT about the use of other open license materials. It is submitted that this could be excessive regulation. It is suggested that this guideline be modified and a two- fold requirement be placed on the content creator/grantee- one, to specify clearly and explicitly the licence being used and the licensing conditions in her/his work, and two, to attribute any and all content used to the rightful creator and holder of copyright.

2.3.4. The eighth guideline mandates the use of “open formats” for delivery of outputs. It is suggested that “open formats” be replaced with the mandatory adherence to “open standards” and a reference be made to the National Policy for Open Standards notified in 2010. The eighth guideline also discourages the use of proprietary software. It is submitted that the requirements of sharing the source file along with the relevant APIs need a more detailed explanation. It is suggested that the difference between a development platform/environment and the software written subsequently over this platform be clarified. Notwithstanding that the former may be proprietary if no other alternative is available, developers/creators/licensees would be obligated to openly license any code/software they create using the platform. It is suggested that it ought to be made explicit that there shall be no choice for the latter and that the choice was limited to the type of platform being employed.

2.3.5. It is suggested that a ninth guideline be included. This guideline would deal with accessibility for persons with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0[8] may be referenced and invoked.


3.1. CIS welcomes the initiative of the NMEICT towards the adoption of an OER Policy. These Guidelines, while indeed addressing the important issues associated towards the end of adoption of an OER Policy, would be further strengthened by addressing the concerns enumerated above.

3.2. CIS is thankful to the NMEICT for the opportunity to provide feedback on this Policy. As a non-governmental research organization working in the areas of Openness and[9] and Access to Knowledge,[10] CIS appreciates this effort by the NMEICT, and would be privileged to work with the Government on this and other matters in these areas.

[1].See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[2].See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[3].See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[4].See 2(a), Principles of Openness of the Guidelines.

[5].See 2(c), Principles of Openness of the Guidelines.

[6]. See illustratively (last accessed 26 May, 2014); (last accessed 26 May, 2014); (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[7]. See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[8].See (last accessed 28 May, 2014).

[9].See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).

[10].See (last accessed 26 May, 2014).