[live blog] #DHOxSS Rowan Wilson (OSS Watch), Varieties of Openness

[live blog, so excuse the errors, omissions and personal perspective]

OSS Watch a JISC funded project. Advisory service on free and open source software. Talk about the openness component of why JISC are no longer funding OSS. Not critical of JISC. Rather undercurrent of discussion of openness led to, and the problem Rowan sees within that.

What OSS Watch does:

  • Briefing notes, training, events on open source software.
  • Also help people acquire open source software: to ensure good value in public funded IT services.
  • And community development.
  • Non-advocacy. Provide information, let people make their mind up.

Wilson: licencing framework for OpenSpires and lead on licencing issues for OSS Watch.

Wilson Review of JISC 2010 found JISC stance on the ‘open agenda’ to be ‘problematic’, so it seemed an anti-publisher bias. But in doing so open access, resources, source and standards somewhat lumped together. Is this fair? Perhaps not, but first go back to IP.

IP protects a timed monopoly on an intellectual as opposed to physical property. Of most interest to us here is copyright. Copyright relies on fixation of IP. In the UK, the work of just lighting something and photographing it contains enough skill, labour and judgement to accrue copyright. Licences sit on top of copyright as an agreement between the licensor and licensee.

Free and open source software. Right to adapt and distribute with access to source code. Not freeware, which is free to obtain as opposed to free to reuse. FOSS mandates copyleft, value you add must to reshared the same. Freedom here then is being forced to used software in a certain way which is freer for all (if less so for every individual). ‘Free software’ movement Based on ethical and political rationale for free software. Odd, powerful and unpredicted effects. Later ‘open source movement’ more pragmatic and business focused, disliked by the former. ‘Free and open source software’ therefore used by OSS Watch to avoid choosing a side.

Open content. Originally focused on GNU Free Documentation Licence, but CC came along and was better! Open content led to Open Educational Resources, based on Capetown Declaration 2007 (at Shuttleworth Foundation moot). Some creator scepticism. Sense of doing people out of work, solved problem of course materials already having been written. Conspiracy! So, yet to see collaborative development divident that FOSS seems to have produced. Not taken off in the same way. Disappointing and puzzling. Open standards. Licences that do no discriminate against specific market actors. Against background of this are numerous enormous British IT procurement failures. Why? Our public servants are non-technical and hand out big contracts, when they need to so break up contracts into interoperable chunks. So we’ve ended up at a very different type of open: open as interoperable. Open access. Get at documents and adapt it. Though text mining seemingly being left by the wayside, in spite of Hargreaves Review. Conventional academic practice vs evolving etiquette of CC reuse? Is there a case for making out the middle man? Elsevier argument interesting not so much for what it says, but for what it argues against: that it has no value. Open data. Public money need to produce reusable data and verifiable data. EU has database rights the US doesn’t have. This right unfortunate as it often makes CC unusable (though we still use them). Open innovation, helps collaboration by not adding more layers to basic functions. Open hardware, going to be more important as 3d printing takes off. But what are we controlling? Trying to make IP that doesn’t currently exist in order to make them free. Zero Option. ‘No licence’ movement. Do not assert IP and ethically refuse to respect others’ IP. Back to free vs open.

So what is the problem? I stopped being funded… By why did JISC get out? Because openness is:

  • Incorrectly percieved as a single thing.
  • Seen as a thret by the mediation industries.
  • Seen as a threat by the IP supported industries.
  • Unworkable in areas where quality is not objectively testable (eg OERs)?
  • Incompatible with academic openness?
  • Open to the extent to which (particularly with FOSS Openness) it contains the seeds of its own destruction?
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