[Koalicja-l] Fwd: [eIFLoa] Battle of the Opens
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Data: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 11:54:46 +0200
Od: Iryna Kuchma <iryna.kuchma w eifl.net>
Temat: [eIFLoa] Battle of the Opens
Do: eifloa <eifloa w lists.eifl.net>
Dorothea Salo provided a simplistic guide to several flavors of open - Open
source, Open standards, Open access, Open educational resources, Open data,
Open notebook science - organized around the following questions: What is
the target of this movement? What is being made open? As compared to what?
What legal regimes are implicated? How does openness happen? What are the
major variants of open works of this type?
Battle of the Opens
Category: Jargon • Open Access
Posted on: March 15, 2010
I'm committed to a lot of different kinds of "open." This means that I can
and do engage in tremendous acts of hair-splitting and pilpul with regard to
them. "Gratis" versus "libre" open access? Free-speech versus free-beer
software code? I'm your librarian; let's sit down and have that discussion.
Unfortunately, out there in the wild I find a tremendous amount of
misunderstanding about various flavors of open, sometimes coming from
otherwise perfectly respectable communications outlets. (Pro tip: If you're
not completely sure you understand, please find someone to ask. A librarian
is a good start!)
Make no mistake, getting these things wrong sometimes does *serious harm*.
The open-access movement exhausts itself contending with the same old
misunderstandings over and over again, and I'm sure we're not alone in that.
So here—free, gratis, libre, and open—is a brief, simplistic guide to
several flavors of open, organized around the following questions:
- *What* is the target of this movement? What is being made open? As
compared to what?
- What *legal regimes* are implicated?
- *How* does openness happen? What are the major variants of open works
of this type?
Onward. We'll start with:
*What is being made open?* Software, specifically its human-readable "source
code." Software that is not open-source is distributed solely in
non-human-readable "binary" form, and (as expression copyrighted to its
personal or corporate maker and not otherwise licensed) cannot legally be
reverse-engineered or changed without permission.
*What legal regimes are implicated?* Copyright, mostly, though patents
sometimes rear their ugly heads. The legal tools are copyright licenses
specific to source code, such as the
*How does openness happen?* Programmers place the source code they have
written on the web, associating an open-source license with it. Other
programmers are then able to read, use, and change the code. As open-source
projects grow, they may have hundreds or thousands of programmers working on
One of the two major ideological variants in the open-source world is the
"free software" movement, which holds that opening source code is
insufficient without ensuring that those who build upon open source code
also make their code open (except when they are using it only privately).
This movement produced the GPL. The "open-source software" movement holds
that open code can and should be employed in proprietary, closed-source
projects, and so tends to prefer licenses like the BSD license, which does
not require open release of derivative code.
*What is being made open?* Specifications for how to accomplish particular
tasks or build particular (tangible or virtual) objects. Open standards
cover everything from computer cables to metadata to the building blocks of
*What legal regimes are implicated?* Our old friends copyright and patent.
Open standards generally want to be implementable without treading on
royalty-requiring copyrighted or patented intellectual property.
*How does openness happen?* Generally a "standards body" does the design and
outreach work. This may be an ad-hoc collection of engineers
a group of interested commercial and/or nonprofit entities surrounding a
particular trade or technical phenomenon (IDPF <http://idpf.org/> or
or a national or international organization whose specific remit is
standards (ISO <http://www.iso.org/>, despite quibbles about having to buy
their specifications' text).
*What is being made open?* The academic literature: specifically, the
peer-reviewed journal literature which is not written for royalties or any
other direct monetary reward to its authors. While open-access advocates
happily cheer for open access to books and other research media, the
different money-flows in these areas mean they are not a focus of the
movement. This is in opposition to literature which is not available to be
read unless a subscription, per-article, or other fee is paid by the reader
or the reader's proxy (e.g. a library).
*What legal regimes are implicated?* Copyright, again, with a notable
diminution of the (United States) doctrine of first sale for articles in
digital form. Typical practice for the academic article is that its
author(s) transfer their copyright in its entirety to the journal publisher,
allowing the publisher to control reuse. The doctrine of first sale allows
certain uses of print journals in libraries (including lending out and
interlibrary loan) that must be specifically negotiated for in e-journal
licenses, sometimes unsuccessfully.
*How does openness happen?* In two basic ways. Yes, *two*! One is the
soi-disant "gold road," in which authors publish in journals that make their
contents available on the Web immediately upon publication without charging
reader-side fees. The other is the "green road," in which authors reserve or
are granted by the publisher sufficient rights in their article to make some
version of it (usually *not* the final typeset, copy-edited publisher's
version) available openly online.
Another division can be drawn between "gratis" open access, in which
articles are available freely to be read but require explicit permission for
most reuse, and "libre" open access, in which articles are clearly licensed
up-front for reuse, often with a Creative Commons license.
Open educational resources
*What is being made open?* Many sorts of classroom materials, including
syllabi, lecture audio/video, assignments, and instructional material such
as self-contained web-based "learning objects."
*What legal regimes are implicated?* Copyright and work-for-hire, that last
because some educational institutions claim rights in instructional
materials created by instructors in the course of their regular job duties.
*How does openness happen?* Typically, through institution-based
"courseware" programs or learning-object repositories.
The open-textbook movement is worth mentioning here. Though it is logically
affiliated with the OER movement, in practice it bears more resemblance to
the open-access movement.
*What is being made open?* Data resulting from the research process, in a
form less "cooked" than the graphs, tables, and charts in journal articles.
("Data" is a vague word, granted.) Ideally, sufficient description of the
data and how they were obtained is included for the data to be verifiable
*What legal regimes are implicated?* In some countries, copyright. For data
from industry, trade-secret law.
*How does openness happen?* Researchers, with or without help from
librarians and IT professionals, make their data open. Some journals and
science funders are beginning to demand open data; others demand
data-sustainability plans that align well with the open-data movement.
Open notebook science
*What is being made open?* The process and progress of a particular research
project, analogous to placing a lab notebook on the Web for public view.
*What legal regimes are implicated?* Copyright, insofar as making original
expression available in tangible form (yes, the Internet counts as
"tangible" for copyright purposes) immediately creates copyright in it.
Patent, insofar as making a patentable invention available removes
patentability (in the US), but also creates prior art such that subsequent
patents can be challenged.
*How does openness happen?* At present, researchers employ whatever tools
come to hand, from wikis to Google Docs to FriendFeed to github, to document
their research process on the Web as the research is happening. Some
institutions are trying out "electronic lab notebooks" which could
facilitate open notebook science if they are not kept behind firewalls, or
if researchers have the option to move their workspaces into the open.
Any effort such as this will be nitpicked endlessly. That's what the
comments are for, so go to it—but be warned, religious wars and diatribes
will be ruthlessly deleted. Emacs and vi are both awful, I don't like
Windows *or* Linux as a desktop environment, and progress in both the green
and gold roads to OA makes me happy.
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