Open content is a neologism coined by David Wiley in 1998 which describes a creative work that others can copy or modify freely, without asking for permission. The term evokes the related concept of open-source software. Such content is said to be under an open licence.
The concept of applying free software licenses to content was introduced by Michael Stutz, who in 1994 wrote the paper "Applying Copyleft to Non-Software Information" for the GNU Project. The term "open content" was coined by David A. Wiley in 1998 and evangelized via the Open Content Project, describing works licensed under the Open Content License (a non-free share-alike license, see 'Free content' below) and other works licensed under similar terms.
It has since come to describe a broader class of content without conventional copyright restrictions. The openness of content can be assessed under the '5Rs Framework' based on the extent to which it can be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed by members of the public without violating copyright law. Unlike free content and content under open-source licenses, there is no clear threshold that a work must reach to qualify as 'open content'.
Although open content has been described as a counterbalance to copyright, open content licenses rely on a copyright holder's power to license their work, similarly as copyleft which also utilizes copyright for such a purpose.
In 2006 the Creative Commons' successor project was the Definition of Free Cultural Works for free content, put forth by Erik Möller, Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig, Benjamin Mako Hill, Angela Beesley, and others. The Definition of Free Cultural Works is used by the Wikimedia Foundation. In 2008, the Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons licenses were marked as "Approved for Free Cultural Works" among other licenses.
Another successor project is the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF), founded by Rufus Pollock in Cambridge, UK in 2004 as a global non-profit network to promote and share open content and data. In 2007 the Open Knowledge Foundation gave an Open Knowledge Definition for "Content such as music, films, books; Data be it scientific, historical, geographic or otherwise; Government and other administrative information". In October 2014 with version 2.0 Open Works and Open Licenses were defined and "open" is described as synonymous to the definitions of open/free in the Open Source Definition, the Free Software Definition and the Definition of Free Cultural Works. A distinct difference is the focus given to the public domain and that it focuses also on the accessibility ("open access") and the readability ("open formats"). Among several conformant licenses, six are recommended, three own (Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence (PDDL), Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC-BY), Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL)) and the CC BY, CC BY-SA, and CC0 creative commons licenses.
The OpenContent website once defined OpenContent as 'freely available for modification, use and redistribution under a license similar to those used by the open-source / free software community'. However, such a definition would exclude the Open Content License (OPL) because that license forbade charging 'a fee for the [OpenContent] itself', a right required by free and open-source software licenses.
The term since shifted in meaning. OpenContent "is licensed in a manner that provides users with free and perpetual permission to engage in the 5R activities."
The 5Rs are put forward on the OpenContent website as a framework for assessing the extent to which content is open:
- Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage)
- Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
- Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
- Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
- 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)
This broader definition distinguishes open content from open-source software, since the latter must be available for commercial use by the public. However, it is similar to several definitions for open educational resources, which include resources under noncommercial and verbatim licenses.
The later Open Definition by the Open Knowledge Foundation (now known as Open Knowledge International) define open knowledge with open content and open data as sub-elements and draws heavily on the Open Source Definition; it preserves the limited sense of open content as free content, unifying both.
"Open access" refers to toll-free or gratis access to content, mainly published originally peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Some open access works are also licensed for reuse and redistribution ("libre open access"), which would qualify them as open content.
Over the past decade, open content has been used to develop alternative routes towards higher education. Traditional universities are expensive, and their tuition rates are increasing. Open content allows a free way of obtaining higher education that is "focused on collective knowledge and the sharing and reuse of learning and scholarly content." There are multiple projects and organizations that promote learning through open content, including OpenCourseWare Initiative, The Saylor Foundation and Khan Academy. Some universities, like MIT, Yale, and Tufts are making their courses freely available on the internet.
The textbook industry is one of the educational industries in which open content can make the biggest impact. Traditional textbooks, aside from being expensive, can also be inconvenient and out of date, because of publishers' tendency to constantly print new editions. Open textbooks help to eliminate this problem, because they are online and thus easily updatable. Being openly licensed and online can be helpful to teachers, because it allows the textbook to be modified according to the teacher's unique curriculum. There are multiple organizations promoting the creation of openly licensed textbooks. Some of these organizations and projects include The University of Minnesota's Open Textbook Library, Connexions, OpenStax College, The Saylor Foundation Open Textbook Challenge and Wikibooks
According to the current definition of open content on the OpenContent website, any general, royalty-free copyright license would qualify as an open license because it 'provides users with the right to make more kinds of uses than those normally permitted under the law. These permissions are granted to users free of charge.'
However, the narrower definition used in the Open Definition effectively limits open content to libre content, any free content license, defined by the Definition of Free Cultural Works, would qualify as an open content license. According to this narrower criteria, the following still-maintained licenses qualify:
Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses, known as Creative Commons licenses, free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy-to-understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright but are based upon it. They replace individual negotiations for specific rights between copyright owner (licensor) and licensee, which are necessary under an "all rights reserved" copyright management, with a "some rights reserved" management employing standardized licenses for re-use cases where no commercial compensation is sought by the copyright owner. The result is an agile, low-overhead and low-cost copyright-management regime, benefiting both copyright owners and licensees.
The organization was founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with the support of Center for the Public Domain. The first article in a general interest publication about Creative Commons, written by Hal Plotkin, was published in February 2002. The first set of copyright licenses was released in December 2002. The founding management team that developed the licenses and built the Creative Commons infrastructure as we know it today included Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Glenn Otis Brown, Neeru Paharia, and Ben Adida.In 2002 the Open Content Project, a 1998 precursor project by David A. Wiley, announced the Creative Commons as successor project and Wiley joined as CC director. Aaron Swartz played a role in the early stages of Creative Commons, as did Matthew Haughey.As of May 2018 there were an estimated 1.4 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses. Wikipedia uses one of these licenses. As of May 2018, Flickr alone hosts over 415 million Creative Commons licensed photos.Creative Commons is governed by a board of directors. Their licenses have been embraced by many as a way for creators to take control of how they choose to share their copyrighted works.DMOZ
DMOZ (from directory.mozilla.org, an earlier domain name) was a multilingual open-content directory of World Wide Web links. The site and community who maintained it were also known as the Open Directory Project (ODP). It was owned by AOL (now a part of Verizon's Oath Inc.) but constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.
DMOZ used a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings. Listings on a similar topic were grouped into categories which then included smaller categories.
DMOZ closed on March 17, 2017 because AOL no longer wished to support the project. The website became a single landing page on that day, with links to a static archive of DMOZ, and to the DMOZ discussion forum, where plans to rebrand and relaunch the directory are being discussed.As of September 2017, a non-editable mirror remained available at dmoztools.net, and it was announced that while the DMOZ URL would not return, a successor version of the directory named Curlie would be provided.Free-culture movement
The free-culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify the creative works of others in the form of free content or open content without compensation to, or the consent of, the work's original creators, by using the Internet and other forms of media.
The movement objects to what they consider over-restrictive copyright laws. Many members of the movement argue that such laws hinder creativity. They call this system "permission culture."Creative Commons is an organization started by Lawrence Lessig which provides licenses that permit sharing and remixing under various conditions, and also offers an online search of various Creative Commons-licensed works.
The free-culture movement, with its ethos of free exchange of ideas, is aligned with the free and open-source-software movement.
Today, the term stands for many other movements, including open access (OA), the remix culture, the hacker culture, the access to knowledge movement, the Open Source Learning, the copyleft movement and the public domain movement.Free content
Free content, libre content, or free information, is any kind of functional work, work of art, or other creative content that meets the definition of a free cultural work.Knowledge commons
The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible; that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.LibriVox
LibriVox is a group of worldwide volunteers who read and record public domain texts creating free public domain audiobooks for download from their website and other digital library hosting sites on the internet. It was founded in 2005 by Hugh McGuire to provide "Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain" and the LibriVox objective is "To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet".On 6 August 2016, the project completed project number 10,000. and from 2009–2017 was producing about 1,000 items per year. Most releases are in the English language, but many non-English works are also available. There are multiple affiliated projects that are providing additional content. LibriVox is closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg from where the project gets some of its texts, and the Internet Archive that hosts their offerings.Netlabel
A netlabel (also online label, web label, digi label, MP3 label or download label) is a record label that distributes its music through digital audio formats (such as MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, or WAV) over the Internet. While similar to traditional record labels in many respects, netlabels typically emphasize free distribution online, often under licenses that encourage works to be shared (e.g., Creative Commons licenses), and artists often retain copyright.Netlabels may have a considerably lower staff count than traditional record labels, in some instances being only a single individual in control of his/her music, maintaining sole ownership. Physical LPs, for example, are rarely produced by a netlabel, relying entirely on digital distribution and means of the Internet to provide the product. Having no physical product makes the running costs of a netlabel considerably less than a traditional record label and some netlabels have abandoned any financial model altogether and instead, running the netlabel as a hobby. Some employ guerrilla marketing to promote their work.Nupedia
Nupedia was an English-language web-based encyclopedia whose articles were written by volunteer contributors with appropriate subject matter expertise, reviewed by expert editors before publication, and licensed as free content. It was founded by Jimmy Wales and underwritten by Bomis, with Larry Sanger as editor-in-chief. Nupedia lasted from October 1999 until September 2003. It is mostly known now as the predecessor of Wikipedia, but Nupedia had a seven-step approval process to control content of articles before being posted, rather than live wiki-based updating. Nupedia was designed by committee, with experts to predefine the rules, and it approved only 21 articles in its first year, compared to Wikipedia posting 200 articles in the first month, and 18,000 in the first year.
Unlike Wikipedia, Nupedia was not a wiki; it was instead characterized by an extensive peer-review process, designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to that of professional encyclopedias. Nupedia wanted scholars (ideally with PhDs) to volunteer content. Before it ceased operating, Nupedia produced 25 approved articles that had completed its review process (three articles also existed in two versions of different lengths), and 150 more articles were in progress. Jimmy Wales preferred Wikipedia's easier posting of articles, while Larry Sanger preferred the peer-reviewed approach used by Nupedia and later founded Citizendium in 2006 as an expert reviewed alternative to Wikipedia.In June 2008, CNET UK listed Nupedia as one of the greatest defunct Web sites in the still young history of the Internet, noting how the strict control had limited the posting of articles.Open Architecture Network
Open Architecture Network was a free online, open source community dedicated to improving global living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. It was developed by Architecture for Humanity.Open Knowledge International
Open Knowledge International (OKI), known as the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) until April 2014 and then Open Knowledge until May 2016, is a global, non-profit network that promotes and shares information at no charge, including both content and data. It was founded by Rufus Pollock on 24 May 2004 in Cambridge, UK.Its slogan is, "Sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata ..."Open knowledge
Open knowledge is knowledge that one is free to use, reuse, and redistribute without legal, social or technological restriction. Open knowledge is a set of principles and methodologies related to the production and distribution of how knowledge works in an open manner. Knowledge is interpreted broadly to include data, content and general information.
The concept is related to open source and the Open Knowledge Definition is directly derived from the Open Source Definition. Open knowledge can be seen as being a superset of open data, open content and libre open access with the aim of highlighting the commonalities between these different groups.Open music model
The open music model is an economic and technological framework for the recording industry based on research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It predicts that the playback of prerecorded music will be regarded as a service rather than as individually sold products, and that the only system for the digital distribution of music that will be viable against piracy is a subscription-based system supporting file sharing and free of digital rights management. The research also indicated that US$9 per month for unlimited use would be the market clearing price at that time, but recommended $5 per month as the long-term optimal price.Since its creation in 2002, a number of its principles have been adopted throughout the recording industry, and it has been cited as the basis for the business model of many music subscription services.Open source
Open source is a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content. It most commonly refers to the open-source model, in which open-source software or other products are released under an open-source license as part of the open-source-software movement. Use of the term originated with software, but has expanded beyond the software sector to cover other open content and forms of open collaboration.Openness
Openness is an overarching concept or philosophy that is characterized by an emphasis on transparency and free, unrestricted access to knowledge and information, as well as collaborative or cooperative management and decision-making rather than a central authority. Openness can be said to be the opposite of secrecy.Pashto Wikipedia
Pashto Wikipedia is the Pashto language edition of Wikipedia, a free, open-content encyclopedia. As of 26 March 2019, it had 9,707 articles.Robert J. Chassell
Robert "Bob" Chassell was one of the founding directors of Free Software Foundation (FSF) in 1985. While on the Board of Directors, Chassell was also the treasurer for FSF. He left the FSF to become a full-time speaker on free software topics. Bob was born on 22 August 1946, in Bennington, VT. He was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) in 2010, and died as a result on 30 June 2017.
Chassell has authored several books including:
Chassell, Robert J. (2003). Software Freedom: An Introduction. Boston: GNUpress. ISBN 1-882114-95-7.
Chassell, Robert J. (2004). An introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp. Boston: GNUpress. ISBN 1-882114-56-6.The Open Definition
The Open Definition is a document published by Open Knowledge International (OKI) (previously the Open Knowledge Foundation) to define openness in relation to data and content. It specifies what licences for such material may and may not stipulate, in order to be considered open licences. The definition itself was derived from the Open Source Definition for software.OKI summarise the document as:
Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).
The latest form of the document, published in November 2015, is version 2.1. The use of language in the document is conformant with RFC 2119.The document is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which itself meets the Open Definition.Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons (or simply Commons) is an online repository of free-use images, sounds, and other media files. It is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Files from Wikimedia Commons can be used across all Wikimedia projects in all languages, including Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikivoyage, Wikispecies, Wikisource, and Wikinews, or downloaded for offsite use. As of 2018, the repository contains over 50 million free media files, managed and editable by registered volunteers. In July 2013, the number of edits on Commons reached 100,000,000.
Intellectual property activism