Open Content Primer

Lawrence Liang, Free/Open Source Software, Open Content, United Nations Development Programme, 2007. Under a CC-BY license. Excerpt:

…The Open Content model of knowledge creation and dissemination has emerged as a significant way in which we can move beyond the barriers of restrictive licensing. At the same time, it enables us to rethink our relationship to the world of knowledge and cultural production. Inspired by the Free Software movement, Open Content seeks to move away from the traditional user/producer binary in favour of a more participative process of knowledge creation and usage.

This e-Primer introduces the idea of Open Content by locating it within the larger historical context of copyright’s relation to the public domain. It examines the foundational premises of copyright and argues that a number of these premises have to be tested on the basis of the public interest that they purport to serve. It then looks at the ways in which content owners are increasingly using copyright as a tool to create monopolies, and how an alternative paradigm like Open Content can facilitate a democratization of knowledge and culture….

The argument of this e-Primer will be that policy makers across the world, and particularly in developing countries, should take note of the advantages of the Open Content paradigm as a way of overcoming barriers which restrict access to information, knowledge and culture. There are also significant economic advantages for developing countries which shall be detailed, for instance in relation to the cost of learning materials….

We…use the phrase ‘Open Content’ to primarily refer to content that provides the greatest freedom (the right to modify), since other kinds of content which do not provide the right to modify may actually be covered by the Open Access movement….

Some of the key areas for policy makers to consider include:

* Open Content policy to enable access to publicly funded research;
* Access to primary material such as research data;
* Financial, technological and other support for Open Access and Content repositories; and
* Support for publications based on Open Content resources….

It is also important to note that the problem does not merely lie with government policies but also with educational institutions, which are supported – either in full or in part – by public funding….In other words, there is a serious and urgent need for all public institutions to examine the public availability of the knowledge that they produce, and the most effective strategies for further dissemination. For the reasons already outlined in this e-Primer, it would make immense sense for them to start moving towards an Open Content/Open Access paradigm….