If you or someone you know contributed a document to ERIC (the “Education Resources Information Center” sponsored by the US Department of Education) which is “currently available only in microfiche,” please complete or have that individual complete the contact form available on the “ERIC Microfiche Digitization Project” webpage. According to the site:

ERIC has electronically archived the complete microfiche collection, 1966 – 2004. The full text of many of these documents – approximately 65% – is now available on the ERIC Web site in PDF format. ERIC will provide additional online access if granted permission by the copyright owner. ERIC cannot assume permission due to the specific language of the original permission forms and the technology available at the time of indexing.

If you have contributed a document that is currently available only in microfiche, and would like to grant ERIC the right to electronically disseminate your work, please complete the contact form below. A representative will contact you about the document(s) you submitted and request approval for each document. If you know others who may have contributed documents, please pass the word. ERIC can also provide guidance to heirs of ERIC-related intellectual property. ERIC appreciates your interest in, and support of, this effort to more broadly disseminate the historical materials in the ERIC Collection.

As I noted in my post on October 25, “The Joys of Microfische Scanning,” the process of digitizing microfische documents can be time consuming and laborious. It’s good to know the majority of ERIC microfische documents are now available on the ERIC website. It’s unfortunate that the “specific language of the original permission forms and the technology available at the time of indexing” do not permit automatic digitization of these documents. This is example of how current copyright laws are out of date with modern methods of disseminating information digitally. This can not only make academic research harder than it should be, it also can stifle creativity, as Larry Lessig argued in this excellent TED Talk from March 2007: “Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity.”

Thankfully, open licensing of content with Creative Commons is changing the dynamics of legal sharing in some contexts. There are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about organizations and individuals who seek to “lock up” content behind pay walls and logins, however, especially when it comes to academic publishing. AERA, the “American Educational Research Association,” apparently requires article authors to give up rights of re-publication and grant exclusivity to AERA for the right to redistribute articles behind their paywall. If you have specific details and links on this, please share them. I’ve learned about this recently based on some conversations with other academics at UNT this fall, but I don’t have all the facts at hand.

Creative Commons is definitely advocating strongly for Open Educational Resources, and sites like the OER Commons are aggregating openly licensed materials for learners around the world to utilize. Last April I shared a presentation on OER in Iowa at the 1:1 conference, inspired to a large degree by Karen Fasimpaur and her NCCE 2008 presentation “Free Content + Open Tools + Massive Collaboration = Learning for All.

I believe there are important ethics regarding open content publishing and sharing which we should not only understand as educators, but also advocate for in our respective educational roles. The work Alec Couros and others continue to do working on open access journals strikes me as vital, and certainly relevant in the context of ERIC, journal publications, AERA article gatekeepers, and microfische.

Perhaps next year for the K-12 Online Conference we could have a strand which focuses on open educational resources (OER) and open access publishing? I’ve found most higher education faculty seem less attuned to digital publication options than traditional print-based journals, and particularly this perceived ethic of open content licensing. Organizations like the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) have embraced digital publications, like their CITE Journal. AACE’s Education and Information Technology Digital Library (EdITLib) has thousands of online, referred articles available, but access is only provided for those who pay the price of admission. I’m concerned about this. Tools like Google Scholar provide indexing for many articles published behind paywalls as well as those shared on the open web, but the mission of organizations like AACE is very different from that of nonprofits like The WikiMedia Foundation:

… to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

I’m thinking our professional, academic organizations should formally embrace licensing terms which support OER, rather than revenue streams derived from paywall subscriptions. I’m not sure what the most effective means of advocacy for this agenda would be, but I definitely sense the ethic here is critical.

Microfische scanning brings a lot of ideas to mind about information access and intellectual property.

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