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Copyright, open source, creative commons and the web

7th January 2011

Interoperability “to inter-operate”. Interoperability is said to be a property of a product or system to work with other products or systems without any restricted access or implementation.

The World Wide Web, or Web for short, is a system of interlinked products freely accessed via the Internet. These products work with other products and can be used by all. QED, the web is ‘interoperable’

Copyright?

“Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator by law on an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt that work”

The World Wide Web, or Web for short, is a system of interlinked products, often original works, freely accessed via the Internet so as they can be easily distributed. These products work with other products and can be used by all – can’t they?

Surely ‘copyright’ isn’t applied to the web? But to ‘reproduce’ could mean:

  • Printing out a Web page
  • Copying the HTML, JavaScript or other code of a page
  • Downloading an image to your hard drive
  • Printing out that image

But surely most website owners (or ‘copyright owners’ – you must be a copyright owner then if you have a website with original works I guess) won’t object to personal uses of their Web pages; such as printing out an image etc. After-all, the World Wide Web, or Web for short, is a system of interlinked products or original works available for us all and freely accessible via the Internet so as they can be easily distributed.. These products work with other products and can be used freely by all – can’t they?

When is it an Infringement?

The most common types of copyright infringement on the Web are images being used on websites other than that of their owners. It doesn’t matter if you copy the image to your Web server or point to it on their Web server, you must get permission from the owner first. It is also common for the text, HTML, and script elements of a page to be taken and reused – who hasn’t done that!

Oh dear! I thought the World Wide Web, or Web for short, was a system of interlinked products or original works available for us all and freely accessible via the Internet so as they can be easily distributed. These products work with other products and can be used by us all – so where is the offence?

Open source

The term open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials. But Open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code. According to the ‘Open Source initiative’, it involves (amongst other things) the distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

  • The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software
  • The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form.
  • The license must allow modifications and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
  • The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files”
  • The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
  • The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavour.
  • The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
  • The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular software distribution.
  • The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software.

Ah! Open source! That’s what the World Wide Web, or Web for short, is all about; a system of interlinked products or original works available for us all and freely accessible via the Internet so as they can be easily distributed. These products work with other products and can be used by us all – but what about copyright?

Creative commons (CC)

CC is an organisation devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and share. A Creative Commons license is based on copyright. So they apply to all works that are protected by copyright law.

The Creative Commons copyright licenses strike a balance inside the traditional “Copyright – all Rights Reserved” environment that copyright law creates. CC tools seek to give everyone from an individual to a large company a simple, standard way to grant traditional ‘copyright’ permissions to their work and with the free access provided by the web this then has created a huge pool of freely available, licensed content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.

CC state their vision as being nothing less than realising the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research, education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.

CC provides tools that allow work to be placed as squarely as possible in the public domain.

“Shouldn’t the whole net be under CC because the World Wide Web, or Web for short, is all about; a system of interlinked products or original works available for us all and freely accessible via the Internet so as they can be easily distributed. These products work with other products and can be used by us all – isn’t it?”

Andy