IMathAS Question Relicensing


For eight years, WAMAP/MyOpenMath/MathAS (hereafter collectively referred to as IMathAS) has had terms of use on question content that simply say "if you make it public, you’re agreeing to share it". Exactly what uses those terms allow has been a bit ambiguous, aside from a casual “non commercial” reference.

Recently there has been more interest in the collective question libraries from outside entities, and to honor the community who developed those questions, I think it is time to make the terms of use more clear. Additionally, there is an impending risk of resources that could be directed towards our community going elsewhere due to our ambiguous licensing. I propose that we go through an official community relicensing effort, similar to the one Wikipedia made in 2009.


To make this decision, we will use a weighted approval voting approach. Every question writer with public questions will be able to cast a vote indicating which license options they approve of. You are encouraged to vote for all that you fine acceptable. Each persons' vote will be weighted by the number of public questions they have written. The most open option with majority support will win.

To be clear, if you have original questions you have created from scratch, you will have the ability to select any license you want for those questions.  However, a huge number of questions on IMathAS were created as derivatives (templates) of other people’s questions. It would not be fair for one person to decide on their own that they are going to make their questions super open if they are based on another person’s question who wants a more restrictive policy. Because we cannot easily track back where questions came from originally during the first several years of IMathAS’s existence, the only option is to have a community decision on the existing questions. That, and it benefits us all to have as much consistency in our licensing as possible.

Three different license options are presented below with a short explanation and possible rationale. Below the descriptions is the area in which to vote.


Creative Commons Attribution

This would allow almost any use of the content, so long as some kind of attribution is given, probably on the question code view page (in cases where the author is unclear, probably it would say something like “This open question was created by the WAMAP/IMathAS community”). This is the closest to how things are done now, which are practically public domain license, not even requiring attribution.

Rationale: This license enables innovative uses of the content, and has the distinct advantage of simplicity and clarity. This is the preferred license of the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), and is the license required on any work-for-hire they sponsor. Since the SBCTC has supported the development of IMathAS and some of the early content work, and since some of our question writing was likely done within work hours, following the SBCTC recommendation for licensing would be reasonable.

This license allows commercial use of the content. Commercial companies have contributed a lot to WAMAP (xyzTextbooks has funded many system improvements, including the MathQuill editor. Lumen Learning has funded system improvement work, course building around open textbooks, question cleanup, and user interface improvements). There is no way we would ever make a lot of money from our questions if we tried to license them, and allowing commercial companies to use them may lead to offerings that provide free or lower-cost options for more students around the country, providing a wider societal benefit from our questions.

Affero GNU Public License

This license would require that anyone using the content attribute us and offer to provide a copy of the question code on request from an instructor. We could require that instructors see a notification when viewing a question, like “This open question was created by the IMathAS community, and can be used with the free open-source IMathAS system. For a copy of this question, contact ____”

Rationale: This license enables innovative uses of the content while providing some protections. The license requires that anyone using our questions share back their improvements, allowing us to benefit from others’ investments in the questions. While this license does allow commercial uses, since the license requires that instructors be told that the questions can be used on a free system, most companies would not want to use them. The only companies that would are companies that are providing some added value in their platform or service offerings that would justify an instructor or students having to pay for use of that system. This way, users aren’t really paying for access to our content, but for those added-value services.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

This license allows reuse for noncommercial purposes only. If the questions are shared, they must be kept under the same open license.

Rationale: This license prohibits commercial use, preventing others from profiting from our questions. However, the definition of “commercial” is not well defined in the license, so we may need to clarify what we allow and don’t. This would have to be done carefully so we don’t accidentally prohibit things that are OK (like the company hosting WAMAP being able charge for providing hosting). It may require having a group of people to review clarification requests. If we make the restriction too tight, we risk killing off existing uses that have provided benefit to the IMathAS community (like MyOpenMath, a free-to-use install of IMathAS, which is kept running by Lumen Learning who provides commercial support services for the platform).

In theory, we could charge for licensing the questions for commercial uses, but how that would work, and what legal entity would handle that would be complicated to figure out, and it probably would not bring in much money.


Your name:
Primary site you write on:

If you'd prefer not to decide yourself, you can vote by proxy:

Otherise, cast your votes below. Remember, select all options you are OK with.
None of these - keep it the way it is
Creative Commons Attribution
Affero GNU Public License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike