Felix Stalder on Wed, 2 Jul 2003 16:24:53 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> opencontent.org dissolves and stalls its licenses

On Tuesday 01 July 2003 17:06, Florian Cramer wrote:
> 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.

On Wednesday 02 July 2003 08:17, auskadi wrote:
> When I first read this series of postings the lawyer (Heiko read "common
> law lawyer") in me asked himself why does someone have to maintain a
> licence?. All that is needed is that you use it. For this it just needs to
> be available. Simply because someone shuts down a web site (or stops
> updating it) doesn't seem to invalidate a form of licence if you choose to
> use it.

If this move from OpenContent to CreativeCommons would have been done a bit 
smoother, stressing it to be an upgrade of the concept, rather than the "end 
of opencontent", much of Florian's concerns, at least vis-a-vis the people he 
convinced, would have been alleviated. From a legal point of view, it's no 
problem at all, since, as auskadi writes, a license does not need to be 
maintained to be valid. If you published something under the OpenContent 
license, it fact that someone announces that he will not issue future 
versions of it, doesn't matter. The license keeps its legal validity.

The problem is more one of PR than of substance. It makes the OC movement 
'look bad', rather exposing some inherent weakness. But, of course, 
appearances do matter. OpenContent was a great term and to abandon it is a 
bad move.

On Tuesday 01 July 2003 17:06, Florian Cramer wrote:
> 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.

On Tuesday 01 July 2003 22:36, Francis Hwang wrote:
> Florian, is there anything to prevent you or somebody else from taking
> up the OPL and maintaining it without David Wiley's involvement? So
> David Wiley doesn't think it's worth his time. Maybe there's somebody
> out there who does.

The reference to the Free Software Foundation is important because it 
indicates that if you want to maintain a long-term project, you need some 
institutional setting in which it can survive even is the initiator(s) have 
left. This is also why Francis' call for someone else to take it over -- 
implicitely stating that Florian should do it if he cares so much -- is so 
wrong. What is needed are not heroic individuals who maintain projects for 
the good of it, but reliable long-term settings that can support ideas and 
concepts in the long run.

This is also why I think the move to CreativeCommons is a good one and not as 
confusing as Florian states. Unless, of course, your idea of "openness" is 
the GPL and nothing else, then CC offers plenty of occasion to deviate from 
the right path.

On Wednesday 02 July 2003 08:17, auskadi wrote:
> My initial feeling is that (excuse this for those friends
> in the States) is that CC is too hung up on North American ideas of
> liberty and the "founding fathers". It is one thing I have trouble with
> when I read Lessig, Boyle et al...this preoccupation with the values of
> the US or their version of what they are.

I agree that US constitutionalism doesn't hold very much appeal outside of the 
US and works only to a limited degree in the US (see the Eldrige case). While 
this is a serious problem with the overall political strategy of Lessig and 
others, it doesn't invalidate the CC licenses in any way. They are still 
useful and it seems better to me to have one place that offers a few 
easy-to-customize licenses than having to read through the 2O plus licenses 
listed on opensource.org, or trying to figure out the difference between the 
OpenContent license and the GNU Free Documentation license. 



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