The Open Content Web Site defines 'open' as a continuous construct. Open refers to granting of copyright permissions above and beyond the ones offered by normal copyright laws. The fewer restrictions, the more open the content is. The degree of openness can be evaluated using the 4Rs framework which refers to the rights to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the content.
In a registration of David Wiley's keynote address at iSummit '08 (Saporo, Japan) David Wiley looks back at 10 years of Open Content. Can this free software and open source stuff work for content as well?
In 1998 there was a first attempt to a license with the Open Content Principles and License (OP/L) which was used by for example nupedia.com a predecessor of wikipedia.
Observation: Wikipedia refers to the license used in nupedia.com as Free Content.
In discussions with publishers and authors it became clear there were some needs. Publishers need some protection from competitors undercutting them. Authors want recognition and some want to protect the integrity of their work.
So in 1999 there was the Open Publication License (OPL). This license required attribution to the original author and had two options: 1. prohibits distribution of derivatives works; 2. prohibits distribution in paper for for commercial purpose.
There were some significant problems. In general vagueness. The two licenses were similar, and not everything was clear.
To the rescue: Creative Commons (by among others Lawrence 'Larry' Lessig). The designed a system where the options were very clear and visible. Basically not one license with options anymore, but a different license for each of the options.
David lists a few high-level examples of services that use some form of Creative Commons license, such as Flickr, Wikipedia, Jamendo, Soundclick, Magnatune and Internet Archives. In 2012 this list is probably much longer. Here is for example a list from 2009; sitepoint lists 30+ places where to find open content. And Open Culture seems to link to a lot A LOT of open content.
David Wiley id specifically interested in education. He gives some examples of initiatives:
- UNESCO's Open Educational Resources
- Open Courseware Consortium
- Textbook Revolution
- Cape Town Open Education Declaration
Where is this all going?
David Wiley sees some problems ahead, for example license compatibility. What can be remixed with what? This is currently very limited. CC0 will be critically important for remixing in an easier way. Further there is the term noncommercial. What does it really mean? It is used a lot, but is it valid?
Of course he also sees opportunities. Examples of positive developments at the time (in 2008) were:
- Refinements of licenses, such as CC+ and CC0
- Flatworld knowledge - A commercial textbook publisher, offering free online versions and a variety of off-line versions for sale.
- Open High School of Utah - Free, public, online, using only open access curriculum materials.
It is obvious to me that work on open content has created as much of a movement as the free and open source software initiatives. The amount of available resource will have grown significantly in the past 4 years.
An interesting observation maybe is that where Google used to be praised for adding a 'usage rights' option in the advanced search, this advanced search is now quite well hidden and in there the usage rights option hidden even deeper.
Does Google not want us to find open content any more?