EDUCAUSE offers to buy the New Media Consortium’s assets

An update on the New Media Consortium bankruptcy story: EDUCAUSE is offering to buy up the NMC’s assets.  This is a major development in that story, with great potential to influence the field of educational technology.

In this post I’ll share what information I’ve found, then offer some quick reflections.

Once again, I’m not a lawyer.  I’m a researcher, and have been tracking this story closely, as best I can, in part by asking many lawyers for their thoughts, and also by wading through publicly available legal documents.  If there are any errors in this post, they are my own. Also, as I’ve said before, I am not an NMC staff or board member, not am I claiming to speak for them or the defunct organization.

The EDUCAUSE purchase offer was communicated to the court by the bankruptcy trustee on Friday, February 2nd, according to court documents (via PACER; case number 17-28245; case name “New Media Centers”).  The trustee moved that the court accept the offer.

What is in the offer?

EDUCAUSE would pay $55,000 for a range of NMC assets.

Those assets include:

  • the Horizon Report project
  • any software “developed to facilitate the NMC Horizon Project and the production of the Horizon Reports, including related coding and tools”
  • NMC trademarks
  • related to that, “[a]ny interest in the names NMC Horizon Project, The New Media Consortium, NMC Horizon Report>Higher Education Report, and NMC/CoSN Horizon Report>K-12 Edition, and all associated goodwill”
  • membership and subscriber lists,
  • the website
  • physical items (“Non-leasehold furniture, fixtures, and equipment”)
  • NMC’s official phone number

Additionally, EDUCAUSE would be safe from any “actual, pending, threatened or potential litigation or cause of action to which NMC is, or may in the future be, a party”.

How this is likely to proceed: from what I understand, the court has to approve this measure.  Also, someone else could enter a competing bid, although I think they have to put down $10,000 to be taken seriously.  There’s going to be a court hearing on February 14th, at 10 am, local time.

A few thoughts about this major development:

First, this doesn’t come out of the blue.  NMC partnered with the ELI unit of EDUCAUSE for more than a decade (since 2002, according to this NMC page).  As the world’s biggest ed tech organization, EDUCAUSE has long been a collaborative venue for NMC, as well as a likely player in this bankruptcy case.

Second, note the way the court document describes things: “NMC is primarily known for its Horizon Report”.  Horizon is really central to this offer, as opposed to other NMC products and services (annual conference, other research, webinars, non-Horizon technology development, workshops, and the NMC community, to name a few).

Third, this is a bold and generous move by EDUCAUSE.  They are playing the white knight, stepping up to rescue assets that many in the ed tech world value.

Fourth, about what happens next: I don’t know of any other player that’s ready to plunk down more than $55,000 to grab NMC materials for themselves.  If the sale goes through, I don’t know what EDUCAUSE plans to do with the intellectual property.  Will EDUCAUSE relaunch a new Horizon Report, either under that name or some other?  I hereby invite comments from that organization.

Fifth, this has no immediate impact on project FOECast.  After all, FOECast is not an attempt to repurpose Horizon, but to start something new.  Down the road, I’m not sure how FOECast development will intersect with whatever EDUCAUSE will do with Horizon.  Much depends on what that organization does with the intellectual property.

Sixth, what happens to the NMC community?  Note that EDUCAUSE is purchasing membership and subscriber lists, which certainly gives them a chance to call those people to… join EDUCAUSE? form a new organization? discuss together what they would like to do next? Note, too, the phrase about obtaining “all associated goodwill”.

Seventh, the court documents don’t really address the Creative Commons aspect to Horizon and other NMC publications.   NMC published these documents under CC licenses, as opposed to traditional copyright, which leads to some fascinating questions about intellectual property.  However, apart from one quick note (“NMC would then produce and publish the reports with an open license, generally available to the public”), I can’t find the trustee or any other person represented in court records saying anything more.

That’s my hot take for now.  More importantly, what do you think about this development?

For my previous posts on the NMC bankruptcy and liquidation, see here.

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13 Responses to EDUCAUSE offers to buy the New Media Consortium’s assets

  1. Alan Levine says:

    For some reason I am thinking of the “used car for sale, driven by a little old lady to church, has all its maintenance records.”

    Seems like a logical thing to happen, given the overlapping missions of the orgs and the previous relationship.

    It’s a bit weird knowing that things I built there are part of the $55k package.

  2. Malcolm Brown says:

    Historical notes. I believe the first HED HR was issued in 2004. The partnership with EDUCAUSE began with the 2005 edition, and the division of EDUCAUSE was then called the “National Learning Infrastructure Initiative” or NLII. About the same time, Diana Oblinger reworked the NLII to become the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). The 2006 edition of the HED HR was the first to be partnered by the NMC and ELI, and that partnership carried through to the 2017 HED HR.

  3. Vanessa Vaile says:

    “No immediate impact” not withstanding, how do you see this (not really unexpected) turn affecting FOEcast?

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      I can imagine several options.
      One: we see two reports within a year, an EDUCAUSE-hosted Horizon 2.0, and whatever FOECast becomes.
      Two: we combine those into a single project.
      Three: timing issues lead to a syncopated pair of offerings.

  4. Pingback: Educause plans to buy assets of bankrupt New Media Consortium - Grants For College

  5. Michael Flood says:

    How is this possible:

    Additionally, EDUCAUSE would be safe from any “actual, pending, threatened or potential litigation or cause of action to which NMC is, or may in the future be, a party”.

    How would a bankrupt entity indemnify EDUCAUSE? If there were disputes over these assets and EDUCAUSE owned them, they certainly wouldn’t be safe, IMHO.

    (opinions are my own)

  6. Barbara Truman says:

    Thank you for the update Bryan! This news gives me optimism as I recall when CAUSE and EDUCOM merged. NMC to me has been a purveyor of glorious boutique innovations across learning landscapes. EDUCAUSE to me has been a purveyor of enterprise projects within institutions including advanced, networked research. All are needed. Several folks worked across both orgs over time and I am still thinking about the leadership principles needed to bridge ideas and communities. Hopes for private-public partnerships that redefine participatory collaboration still resonate despite positions, location, even funding. Looking forward to new forms of participation even as we co-create them.

  7. Pingback: Educause Could Pick Up NMC Horizon Report Assets for $55k – PortfolioGen Blog

  8. MR KIM S FLINTOFF says:

    Just heard from John O’Brien that the offer has been accepted.

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