Case Studies/Mike Seyfang

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education, mashup, blogging


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Mike Seyfang is an Australian education consultant, ICT strategist, amateur musician and father of teenage children who emphasises the importance of instilling read/write culture through his blog ‘Learning with the Fang.’

I decide to “give away” most of my rights to my digital content in the hope that someone will find it useful and re-use it to tell their story. No need to ask, just be polite and give me attribution. Mike Seyfang


Mike Seyfang is an Australian education consultant and advocate of open systems, emphasising opportunities for innovation and creative thinking enabled by Creative Commons Attribution licences. Drawing on over 25 years of ICT experience, the last nine spent with Microsoft, Mike has been strongly influenced by Lawrence Lessig’s lectures on Read/Write Culture (as transcribed here). So impressed was Mike by Lessig’s talk of ‘free culture’ that he made a mashup ‘Downes vs. Lessig’ as a demo to the net2blazers group, incorporating podcasts, Flickr images, and web 2.0 artefacts with the aim of showing ‘how remixing many elements is both powerful and tricky to license appropriately’ (hosted on

Mike’s edublog ‘Learning with the Fang’ regularly engages with issues of content distribution and re-use. The most recent post ‘Soccer with Stephen’s CONTENT Cat’ on 4 June 2008 deals with the question of the most effective license scheme for ensuring open access to free content, with Stephen Downes arguing for CC BY-NC-SA and Mike advocating CC BY as ‘more open.’

Objecting to the removal of NC conditions, Stephen comments:

‘My objection to commercial use is that it is a business model supported by denying access to resources. If a resource must be purchased before it may be used, then it is not free in either sense. A person does not have the freedom to use, modify, etc., something he or she must buy.’

In conversation with Leigh Blackall from Otago Polytechnic, it has been suggested that the NC term be migrated to a ‘NRC: No Restrictions through Commercialisation’ to clarify educators’ concerns with enclosure.

Calling upon Clay Shirky’s acknowledgment of the need for certain prominent projects to avoid commercially-driven harm, Mike characterises these as belonging to the ‘short head’ of the power curve distribution, as below.

In response, Mike positions himself within the ‘long tail’ of this curve:

‘Like most open source projects and most blogs the most frequent response to my work is none. …This is not a problem - it is something I enjoy because I can have real conversations with like minded people. This is the power (or jewel) of the long tail - I am frequently amazed by the rich and surprising connections that develop when I put my stuff “out there” (serendipity).’

This builds on a post from 7 May 2008 in which Mike discussed why he licenses under CC Attribution. In response to Richard McManus’s reuse of Mike’s image ‘ReadWriteCulture-FangMix1’ on Read/Write Blog, Mike observes: ‘This is why only work that is freely licensed with continue to be relevant in future culture.’

As parent to teenage children who will most likely make their living from creating digital content, Mike is ‘keen to influence law reforms that will help them along the way.’ Mike’s children are responsible for the Wholesale Meat Media Blog.

‘My hope is that this work will help promote positive conversation about effective use of Creative Commons licensing. It contains material from my kids who I hope will grow up in a society that values and rewards their creative efforts.’ mashup: ‘CreativeCommonsDRM-ReadWriteCulture-DownesVsLessig’

License Usage

As discussed above, Mike is a strong supporter of the Creative Commons Attribution licence, making his blog posts available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence. His Flickr photographs are licensed under CC BY 2.0. Mike notes derivative uses of his images here:


Adopting the Creative Commons Attribution licence as the representation of ‘free culture,’ Mike discusses his decision at several points across his blog. Most recently, he expresses the following opinion:

‘What I do crave is recognition (not fame). The most profound recognition I have experienced is when someone mashes up or remixes my work. Like this, this, this, this or this. The biggest risk to me is that nobody will ever find my remixable digital work - or if they do that they might not have confidence to use it (ie that they might feel they need to ask permission first).’

In commenting on the reuse of his work even for commercial purposes, Mike observes:

‘Either way I gain more than I lose by having my work re-mixed into a new context. Had I licensed my work in a more restrictive way (say cc:by-nc-sa which means reuse must be non commercial and licensed in exactly the same way) it is unlikely that anyone would have found it, let alone re-used it.’


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