A few days ago, the MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide OA mandate, which establishes as a default rule the obligation for MIT researchers to hand over a pre-print version of their scientific works for publishing it in an open access repository (see Open Access News). In a note on this decision, the chairman of the drafting committee Hal Abelson explains the context of this decision:

“Our resolution was closely modeled on similar ones passed last February by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and by the Harvard Law School, also passed by unanimous vote. Stanford’s School of Education did the same, as did Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government just last Monday.”

So, MIT’s step towards open access is an illustration of  both an example of elite universities’ regulatory power and of the power of their example. When MIT announced its Open Courseware program it was soon followed by hundreds of unversities all over the world, many of which joined the Open Courseware Consortium. But most of these universities followed the MIT example not only generally in making course materials openly availble but they also adopted MIT’s relatively restrictive Creative Commons license policy, namely an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license.

Today, people at Creative Commons’ subdivision “CCLearn” struggle with MIT’s historical license decision and try to convince educational institutions to adopt more open licenses such as Attribution-Share alike or mere Attribution to foster exchange and remix of open course materials. As I see it, there is a good deal of regulatory path dependence emerging in the domain of Open Access as well…