The Meaning of Open Content #ioe12

I have to admit to breathing a sigh of relief at the smaller number of resources given for the Open Content module on the Introduction to Openness in Education course. An opportunity to make up some time?

The Wikipedia article gave a good overview (open content is a creative work that others can copy or modify). The term initially referred to works licensed under the open content licence but now covers a “broader class of content without conventional copyright restrictions.“. Basically any items that can be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed (the 4Rs Framework) by members of the public.

It’s important to note that the concept is a different one from free content, which is content that “has no significant legal restriction on people’s freedom“. I would interpret the difference as being around the area of commercial use, and free content being in the public domain, but then the wikipedia entry goes on to say that:

Although different definitions are used, free content is legally similar if not identical to open content. An analogy is the use of the rival terms free software and open source which describe ideological differences rather than legal ones.

It’s a very hazy area…and I’m getting a little confused!

It seems that the terms are changing in meaning and “openness is a ‘continuous
construct’
“. Nevertheless the basic idea is that open content is out there to be used by anyone, though not necessarily in any way they chose.

The Wiley article explores this further:

What does “open” mean? The word has different meanings in different contexts. Our commonsense, every day experience teaches us that “open” is a continuous (not binary) construct. A door can be wide open, mostly open, cracked slightly open, or completely closed. So can your eyes, so can a window, etc.

The video resource was interesting as back ground knowledge – David Wiley talking about 10 years of open content at the iSummit conference in 2008. Open content’s roots are in the open source movement and spring from a moment when David Wiley realised, while working on an online calculator, that “Digital content is magic because it is non-rivalrous“. He then decided that he wanted to make an open licence for materials and discussed it with open source gurus who insisted that he decided between ‘free’ and ‘open’ – he opted for ‘open’ and created the open content licence, which he later developed into the open publication licence. He admits the licences were a good idea but poorly executed, however they did allow Lessig and co to learn from his mistakes and create the Creative Commons movement. Wiley concludes with some of the current issues with CC licences, such as remixing licences, compatibility issues, and future work.

It appears that it is incredibly difficult to understand the terms used in the open movement without understanding some history and background. In the post on open source (Open Sourcing for #ioe12) I asked some rhetorical questions at the end (areas I’d like to explore more). I said “Do the people who (now) use open source software and openly licensed materials care about the ideology behind their resources?” Unless they look back at the history behind these ideas they’d struggle to understand the concepts anyway, Hmmm, it all requires a lot of effort, is there no such thing as a free lunch?