Dr. Chuck Says that the edX License Can Be Changed into a "Non-Open License"

dr.chuck
Prof. Charles Severance –the legendary Dr. Chuck, creator of Sakai, LTI and successful MOOC creator– states in an interview by Prof. Lorena Barba that “edX is legally set up in a position to change the license of their software to a ‘non-open’ license”.

  • “In Sakai, we built structures from the very beginning that made it impossible for any contributor—no matter how big—to control the future direction of Sakai. The kind of (hypothetical) scenario that worries me the most when edX retains the option to relicense their software, is that they use up their initial investment from Harvard and MIT and revenues are not covering expenses and they need to search for new sources of funding to survive. Their (hypothetical) potential funders could want the software to be an “asset” that is exclusive to edX. While I would hope that edX would say ‘no’ to funds with such drastic strings attached, they may find themselves in a position where they feel they have no other choice.”
  • Dr. Chuck considers that edX functions like Canvas Corporation. “The edX project uses the AGPL license and a very corporate-style contribution agreement that makes sure that the edX software remains under strict control of the edX corporation. In that way, edX functions far more like the Canvas corporation, which has an “open source” license but maintains strict control over the contributors and code base, to the extent that its “open source” asset is so well protected that Canvas is about to go public.”
  • “The edX project uses the AGPL license and a very corporate-style contribution agreement that makes sure that the edX software remains under strict control of the edX corporation.”
  • “The edX strategy maintains a bright boundary between the “core” and the “rest of the community” and edX is using its licensing and contribution agreement to create that boundary. Sakai works hard to make our edges as porous as possible and be a genuinely open community built around openly licensed software.”
  • “In the edX community the “commons” are owned by “edX” and while organizations can download and use the edX software they can never be true equal partners in the community because edX holds the copyright for all the code. Copyright owners can change a product from an open license to some other license because they are the owners. While they cannot revoke the licenses of the previously distributed versions of the software, they can change the copyright on all future versions of the software.”

Read the interview: Q&A with Dr. Chuck.

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