Florian Cramer on Tue, 1 Jul 2003 22:34:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> opencontent.org dissolves and stalls its licenses

As can be read on Slashdot
<http://slashdot.org/articles/03/07/01/1247224.shtml?tid=99> and
opencontent.org <http://www.opencontent.org> itself, 
www.opencontent.org, the site which in 1998 coined the concept of "Open
Content" is about to dissolve. Its two popular licenses, the Open
Content License and, even more importantly, the Open Publication License
(used among others by O'Reilly and Prentice Hall publishers) will no
longer be maintained and supported. 

Instead, opencontent.org creator David Wiley
<http://wiley.ed.usu.edu/> will join the "Creative Commons" project
<http://www.creativecommons.org> as a "Director of Educational
Licenses" and therefore advocate to use the Creative Commons license
toolkit instead of the original opencontent.org licenses.

Below is a copy of my Slashdot posting on the matter.


As a lecturer in the humanities and net activist who has been
evangelizing open content internationally in lectures, papers and as the
moderator of congress panels since 1999, I feel like being slapped into
my face. It is terrible if you educate people about open content and the
necessity of copylefting public information resources, pointing them
again and again to opencontent.org and their licenses, and now see that
reference dissolve. 

Especially, it is not funny to see the Open Publication License go away.
It had a considerable momentum among book publishers - being used, among
others, by O'Reilly and the Bruce Perens book series of Prentice Hall. I
put all my own papers under the OPL, encouraged other people to do so
as well, and now feel severly f*cked and betrayed by this move. The
instability and unreliability now associated with open content copylefts
could severely damage the whole movement. As someone who managed to convince 
a large German public library to release its online content under the
Open Publication License, I am pissed and awaiting to take the beating for 
opencontent.org's irresponsibility.

The Creative Commons licenses, in my view, are not an alternative
because they are too many and incompatible to each other, thus creating
confusion and preventing exchange between work copylefted under their
terms. What's still worse is that most Creative Commons licenses are not
free in the sense of the Free Software definition of the FSF, the Debian
Free Software Guidelines or the Open Source Definition.

I urge the initiator of opencontent.org to keep the website alive, 
if only as a central link repository to other sites, and provide a
smooth and sensible upgrade path from the Open Content License and the Open
Publication License to particular Creative Common Licenses, for example
by crafting a license which would simultaneously be "Open Publication
License v2.0" and "Creative Commons License foo". Given the amount of
work that already circulates under either the Open Content License or
the Open Publication License, anything else would be utterly

Imagine the FSF suddenly abandoning/stalling the GPL in favor of some
yet-unwritten different license, leaving ten thousands of Free Software
developers in the legal lurch and betraying their trust. What is an
unlikely horror scenario for free software now has become the reality of
open content.

Bravo, opencontent.org, Microsoft, the RIAA, the MPA, SCO and all
other old copyright regimes now have another reason to cheer and point
at copyleft culture as immature, unreliable, not viable for serious
publishing, etc..  Please wake up and realize that you have taken up a
responsibility which you cannot throw away so easily!

GnuPG/PGP public key ID 3200C7BA, finger cantsin@mail.zedat.fu-berlin.de

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