Mariah Noelle Villarreal


  • Published: Dec 19th, 2014
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Starting off my day at the Open Education Conference, I listened to Lawrence Lessig talk about copyright law, the need to fundraise and Aaron Swartz. Given the amount of campaigning Lessig has been up to in the past couple of years, I knew to expect these topics. I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier in the year with people at the hackerspace in San Antonio, 10BitWorks, who suggested I invited him to speak at Open Ed Jam. I thought it would be a difficult task given the short time frame and limited budget of the conference. It seemed fitting though to listen to him at the conference in D.C., where just a couple of years ago I met with people who saw potential in my research interests.

Lessig spoke about the powers of the economic elite, organized interest and individual voters. True to his message, he urged the audience to consider fundraising for the cause to shift power through decentralized campaign funding structures. He said the Open Education movement “is an inspiration to me, against all odds, you’re fighting for something that makes sense, that is important, that makes sense.”

So how does the Open Education movement fit with Lessig’s call and fight to decentralize campaign funding?

It starts with copyright law. Within the past 50 years, copyright law has become enacted and enforced in extreme and unprecedented ways. During his talk, Lessig noted how the term “copy” had never been regulated until 1979, 70 years after it was put into legislation. The argument made by Lessig is that the word “copy” itself was most likely a mistake when the legislation in the first place. However, since “copies” have been regulated by copyright law in 1979, the law has been used as a tool to stifle the birth and rise of the internet.

The Open Education movement aims to increase access to educational resources through various measures, including using free licenses (a hack on copyright law), creating culturally relevant instructional design, and increasing use of digital tools as a means to spread information quickly and (relatively) cheaply. As of late, there are people that consider themselves part of the movement who are political in nature, educators, designers, hackers, librarians, academics, legislators, and high-level administrators. Of course, this doesn’t encompasses the entire Open Education movement, but these are particular pieces of the movement that seem to be prominent.

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