Open and Free Licenses

Creative CommonsThis article focuses on open content licensing along with tenets governing it and questions we know it evokes, before weighing it against free licensing.

At the outset, let’s presume you intend to pass on part of your workload to others, for whatever reason. You could wish to introduce an element of fun in your work and observe the unpredictable outcome, perhaps following unanticipated twists and turns of events as matters progress. You could be part of a band who wishes to allow followers download songs you have sung, or a published scholar keen to follow the circulation of your works in various educational institutions. People have a plethora of reasons to create a work of art or cultural artifacts; such variety is proved by the manner in which they interact mutually.

Permission is required from me to ensure that unknown people, or others I don’t really care for, may freely replicate, alter and restructure my work. If I decline such permission, stringent copyright laws are invoked, which may severely constrict progress towards our proposed goal. I select and affix an open license to my output like Creative Commons; Free Art License where media content needs to be published, or a GPL General Public License when software needs to be published.

Unlike copyright viewed in totality, Free Licenses are no guarantee of my exclusive privileges in making the most of the object. They officially permit one and all, including me, to make full, free and maximal use thereof. Moreover, the license aids in guarding me against my innate desires: the risk filled untested application of constituents of personal bonds like faith, camaraderie, openheartedness and more, blindly taking them to be reliable indicators of sincere relationships.

Most European nations as well as the USA regard your output as copyrighted, unless specifically stipulated otherwise. Should you want to rework or distribute it, you will have to explain what your aim is. Others may wish to take your past work as their baseline and build upon or re-circulate it and cannot, therefore, afford your reworking it. In order to reassure them that you have no such intention, the best option is to select a license. Such a license will specify how, when and for how long you, its creator, will permit others to distribute, replicate or alter your work. It will also stipulate all conditions whereby you, as the new author to be, may utilize that output to create something afresh and list the effects of the manner of your release of the new creation.

Since open licenses aid in making most issues clear, they are best utilized if selected early when on the creative path. If you are considering a collaborative venture, or planning to build your effort on another person’s creation, it would be ideal to consider extant circumstances at the time of release of your work. In the former case, the right license puts each collaborator’s role in the task in the right perspective, clarifying individual expectations while describing how this project could be related to other works.

It is not unusual to find people who first think: “What do I stand to gain here and how do I maximize it?” Such people exploit all free material, yet keep results close to their chests. These predatory instincts can be forestalled by a license. Today’s open licenses are so worded that people have no choice but to share all consequent work produced under the given conditions and materials used.

An Open License

  • Provides the public enhanced rights compared to those the author could traditionally offer. For instance, the writer may allow access to his output gratis; legally permit redistribution to set the base for derivative work.
  • Clarifies and stipulates how a work can be used and prevailing conditions required.

In effect, an author may permit his work to be re-circulated gratis, limited to applications that are not commercial. Such permission automatically authorizes the applications stipulated. The open license takes the author out of the permission loop.

Free License

We have discussed only open licenses so far. You may have come across the term Free Licenses. Understanding the significant difference between the two is important. When the term ‘free’ is used, it has a dedicated meaning. Free software (some call it copyleft) must mandatorily provide the user:

  • Freedom to analyze and employ the work.
  • Freedom to replicate and pass the work around to others.
  • Freedom to adapt or / and revise the work as required.
  • Freedom to allocate adapted works, effectively pushing forward derivatives.

Free and open are thus independent terms, with political overtones and significant practical consequences.

Note: It is incumbent upon the license to make certain that authors of works that are derivatives may only share out these types of works under that very license or its equivalent.

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