If Jimmy Wales says I'm wrong, then I probably am.
On a recent blog post, Jimmy Wales (or someone posing as Jimmy Wales, because I always assumed Jimmy Wales had better things to do than spend time out here in the EdTech hinterlands. Besides, if I had known Jimmy was coming over, I would have cleaned up the joint :) ) commented on a post where I advocated for using the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 (NC-SA) license for open educational resources.
What you really are after is copyleft, not noncommercial licenses. Noncommercial licenses block all business models, even those which are not based on taking things out of the commons.
If someone can find a way to make a living out of improving (and selling) freely licensed materials, and they contribute their improvements back to the commons, we are all made better off.
And I get that, and agree with that. The point isn't to block business/commerce, but to take steps to ensure that Open Educational Resources remain open, and freely available. I like two main things about the NC-SA license: 1, by default it prohibits use in a for-profit enterprise, and 2, it contains a clause saying that "(a)ny of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder."
So, as I see it, the NC-SA license means that a resource can be made freely available. If a company wants to use the material as part of a profit-making product, they can seek the permission of the person/organization who holds the license, thus allowing businesses based on open content to thrive. This would not restrict, in any form, the ability of businesses to use the material as part of internal training, a knowledgebase, etc. As Jimmy says, and I agree with, when companies "find a way to make a living out of improving (and selling) freely licensed materials, and they contribute their improvements back to the commons, we are all made better off."
The key here is whether or not the company contributes back to the community. My concern with Open Educational Resources (OER) centers around the attitude of the publishing industry toward content and curriculum -- within the States, the major textbook companies have a long track record of viewing both as commodities, and, as described in this paper (pdf download), they have an effective loop consisting of lobbying to supprt specific educational policy while building curriculum that meets the newly legislated need. Given this backdrop, it is not farfetched to imagine a situation where a textbook publishing company used an OER to produce a text and a curriculum, and then used the threat of legal action to slow down/intimidate the competition. The merit of the lawsuit isn't the issue; rather, it is the time and money needed to defend against a suit. And we don't need to look very far to see an example of legal manipulations and lawsuits designed as part of an overall business strategy. Microsoft provides another example of this behavior.
Does copyleft provide adequate protection against this type of behavior? Is there another license that does this more effectively? What is the best method of ensuring that OERs remain freely available?