Open Content ioe12

Again, these are my notes from the course topic video


All this content is attributed to David Wiley.

David starts with the 10 year anniversary of Open Content.

It all started with Free Software (which was covered in the previous topic). It started out with Richard Stallman and the GPL that allowed free (liberty, freedom) reuse of software. Freedom was very important to Richard. In winter 1998 Eric Raymond became involved. He said that ‘free’ was confusing to business, and so developed the concept of Open Source. This focused on why openness and peer review was good.

At the same time David was working and thinking that digital content was really magic because it’s non-rivalrous, because it can be used simultaneously by multiple people without detriment to any. This, he thought, had implications for education. Library books are rivalrous (only one person can use a particular copy at one time), electronic versions of text are not. Digital content could drive down costs and improve access to education. So David went on to work on this concept of making educational content in a way that it could be shared and accessed with others who needed to use and change it for their requirements. That’s when David made the connection between Open Source and doing the same for content. There should be a comparable licence for materials doing the same as the GPL does for software.

David emailed Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond and they asked questions of him about what it would be called (‘free’ or ‘open’) and what it would cover (education, culture, content, stuff ?). So in June 1998 David decided on Open Content. It would cover a whole bunch of stuff. The preliminary licence was called The OpenContent Principles / License (OP/L). There was some success in the uptake of the licence, but very little uptake in education. This required talking to publishers. David was talking to Eric, who was talking to the publisher Tim O’Reilly and the question was asked, “Will you publish something that is openly licensed?”, which lead to a discussion about what publishers might want. Publishers would have to have protection from undercutting, due to costs and work involved. What did authors want? ‘Open Content isn’t really like Open Software.’ Some authors wanted recognition and some wanted to protect the integrity of their work; they were willing to share as long as no changes were made to it.

So in summer 1999, the Open Publication License was published; allowing download, sharing and redistribution. It required attribution to be given to the original author. It came with two options:

Option A) To prevent distribution of substantively modified versions without the explicit permission of the author(s)

[Effectively a derivative works clause]

Option B) To prohibit any publication of this work or derivative works in whole or in part in standard (book) form for commercial purposes unless prior permission is obtained from the copyright holder.

[Effectively the undercutting (no commercial) clause]

This saw much more uptake of this licence.

There were a number of problem. Both licences were abbreviated to OPL. They were both referred to as ‘that open content licence’, so again there was confusion. Also the naming of the Options A) & B) didn’t tell you anything about the content of the option. Additionally a link at the bottom of a page of content that took you off to the Open Content License page didn’t tell you if either of the Options had been implemented for the work or not.

This was a “good idea, but poorly executed”.

Then along came Larry Lessig (and the group that he worked with) and in December 2002 Creative Commons License 1.0 was born. The options were specifically names, e.g. non commercial, no derivatives, etc. and there wasn’t just one licence but each combination of options created a separate licence, with descriptive names, e.g. CC By, CC By-NC-ND.

There was still a button problem, because it didn’t make clear which licence it was. This was fixed later in time.

In the CC 2.0 version, attribution (By) became mandatory.

At the end of the video, David asks “So where are we now, 10 years on?”, and goes on to give a run down of examples from major sites and online services where there are hundreds of thousands of individual content elements made available under Open Content Licences.

In Education, UNESCO convenes a meeting and discusses Open Educational Resources. There’s the Open Courseware Consortium. There are hundreds of university level textbooks openly available. And the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

And looking forward, “Where are we going?”

There are still problems. Licence compatibility; ‘which material from one licence can be mixed with material from which other licences’. Without the Public Domain there is 28% compatibility of CC Licences. (Refer to the card game from the Open Licensing course topic). David states that whichever Copy Left licence you pick, you can’t mix it with the majority of other available Copy Left licences.

Also there is some confusion/concern over the noncommercial clause. At the time 76% of Flickr content licenced as CC contained a noncommercial (NC) clause.

CC+ and CC0 will become more important.

David then goes on to outline a couple of areas of personal involvement for him.

  • Flatworld Knowledge textbooks is a new publishing models.
  • Open High School of Utah, which is a new free online schooling model. Interestingly the model allows for an iterative cyclic correction of the curriculum.

Drawing on the other course topic reading(s):

“Open content” … is content that is licensed in a manner that provides users with the right to make more kinds of uses than those normally permitted under the law – at no cost to the user.

The primary permissions or usage rights open content is concerned with are expressed in the “4Rs Framework:”

  1. Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form (e.g., make a backup copy of the content)
  2. Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  3. Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  4. Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

Open Source ioe12 Part 1

I watched the Revolution OS documentary and found it very interesting. Obviously, it had a particular perspective on events and this has to be taken into account when viewing, but there was a lot of useful material that I personally found useful and would to take away with me after watching. I did get a much better idea of events and the main players involved in the Free Software and Open Source movements. It was also interesting to see the different take on things that people from the two sectors have (or had) and a certain level of potentially underlying animosity.

I now have more of an understanding of ‘Copyleft‘ as being a term used for the distribution of software that allows the copying and redistribution under a specific licence. [And the point is made in the video that answered a quandary I had personally about whether to distribute my work under a CC licence other than CC0 or Public Domain.] If something is made Public Domain then anyone can make a small change and can then copyright it; precisely what the Free Software Foundation didn’t want to happen.

The points that I did find very useful from this video were:

  • The significance of Richard Stallman developing the GNU General Public Licence (GPL)
  • The discussion that brought about the term Open Source
  • The authoring by Bruce Perens of the Open Source Definition

Bruce Perens derived a definition for the Debian free software (a Linux distribution). He then relabelled this to become the Open Source Definition. In the video he explains the nine rights in the Definition as:

  1. Free (as in Liberty) Redistribution
  2. Source Code Available
  3. Derived Works Permitted (for redistribution)
  4. Integrity of the Author’s Source Code – Author can sort of maintain their honour – if you make a change you might have to change the name of the programme or mark out the change very clearly
  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups – can’t present someone or a group that has ideologically differing opinions to your own from using the software
  6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor – usable in a business as well as in a school
  7. Distribution of License – give license to someone else who gives it to someone else
  8. License Must Not be Specific to a Product – if distribute on a RedHat system then the license can’t say ‘don’t distribute on a SUSE or Debian system’
  9. License Must Not Contaminate Other Software – distribute on CD with other software and you can’t stipulate that ‘other software must be free or you can’t distribute my software in there’

Refer to this section of the video.

The full Definition is provided in one of the other readings from the course.

The GPL did allow business and profit to be made by providing a service or support to the ‘Free’ or ‘Open Source’ software. With proprietary software the support is a monopoly which arguably can lead to a poorer service. Cygnus under Michael Tiemann became the first company to support free software.

Linux took off at the same time as the Web because of Apache, the killer Linux app. It was more reliable and more flexible than alternative products, and usefully for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) it allowed multiple sites to be run from once Apache installation.

As a bit of an aside:

I personally remember starting using Netscape during the infancy of the Web on a Unix box in about ‘93-’94. I also remember the problems Netscape began to have with market share as Internet Explorer began being bundled free with the Windows operating system. So it was interesting to see what the influences where on the Netscape executives, including Eric Raymond’s ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’, which prompted them to go down the Open Source project route.

I also remember the SUN Spark Stations that were bought in Electronic and Electrical Engineering when I was researching back in about 1992, and how expensive they were compared to the PC 486s of the time, so what Larry Augustin of VA Linux had to say on that matter certainly had resonance.

I mention ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’ written by Eric Raymond. As it too makes up a part of the course readings, I have subsequently read it, and it was an interesting read. It deals with Eric’s development of an Open Source email programme called ‘Fetchmail’, and he uses this experience to explain the parallels with Linux Open Source development. One point in this explanation I found particularly interesting was that it seems important to know when to use the ideas and work of others. Also, be extremely reverential in your praise of these other parties and people with believe you actually did much more of the work yourself, if not all the work. You also have to have a kind of charisma that will encourage other people to follow your lead.

The basic breakdown of the Cathedral and Bazaar concept is as follows. The general approach to software production is the use of a set number of programmers who develop the code and debug using a ‘closed (source)’ approach before releasing a version. The debugging takes a long time and bugs are seen as deep level problems. However, because of this process, the software is relatively bug free on release. This is the ‘Cathedral’ approach as Raymond terms it. The opposite of this is the ‘Bazaar’ approach. Here, the source code is made public and anyone can contribute to the development. This enables a very intense peer-review process to take place. The iteration process is very rapid, in the case of Linux multiple version point updates were made in a day. By using this process debugging solutions are announced quickly, thus alleviating duplication of tasks and enabling those involved in debugging to rapidly stop having to work on that task once a solution is found.

It was previously hypothesized by Brooks’ Law that the more programmers that are thrown at a late software programming task the later the project becomes. The ‘Law’ suggests that the bugs interfacing code developed by multiple programmers increases as the square of the number of programmers. If this were the case, however, Linux would never have been produced.