Open to temptation

Open to temptation

It is tempting to think that references to "open content" have a meaning similar to those for "open source". It is equally tempting to want to make use of 'open content' in an open source project. Do not yield to temptation!

Open content is a term devoid of any useful meaning. It is used to refer to a broad range of licensing schemes, including Creative Commons (CC) and AESharenet, which are overwhelmingly open source incompatible. Using "open content" in an open source project is, in most cases, likely to result in the project ceasing to be open source because of licence restrictions on the content. The most popular of these restrictions is the so called "noncommercial" restriction of the CC licences - a discriminatory provision which is anathema to the open source definition. Unfortunately there are other more subtle problems which may render even apparently unobjectionable CC licences - such as BY (Attribution) and BY-SA (Share Alike) - open source incompatible.

These incompatibilities point to underlying problems with the fundamental design of these licensing schemes. The common characteristic of "open content" licences is a fixation on exclusionary (or discriminatory) peer distribution, in preference to that of inclusionary (or non discriminatory) peer production. It is for this reason that open content's proponents can permit freedom-toxic licence variants including the non commercial and no derivatives elements. This blindness to, or ignorance of, the importance of a broader ecosystem for the production of works may well be its nemesis in the long run.

The problem for open source is not that freedom-toxic licences are inherently bad or evil, but that they are bundled together with pro-freedom licences in a manner which doesn't highlight their stark and important differences. Knowing that something is "open content", or even "Creative Commons" does not assist in determining whether the content can be used in an open source project.

There is no easy fix to this problem. A lot of work needs to be done to identify, or, if necessary, create open source compliant licences for content - the CC-GNU GPL is an obvious starting point! Open source developers should not go within a bull's roar of "open content" until they are sure that the particular licence terms for that content are open source compatible.

Brendan Scott Director Open Source Industry Australia Newtown NSW

Harmful practice

I'd be interested to know if anyone else experienced a marketing strategy which we've recently encountered.

A vendor known to us has targetted a key [non IT] employee with unsolicited e-mails. The employee forwarded the e-mail to the IT department asking if it was something that should have come to us. We dealt with the strategy by making it crystal clear to the vendor that this wasn't to happen again.

I can see that it would interfere with workflow. On this occasion for us it wasn't a problem; however, I can see it as a move to get business units and key employees on side with the vendor to put pressure on the IT department. I think the vendors are doing themselves more harm than good.

David Rees Sys Admin HGR Melbourne 3000

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