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OpenContent Closes Its Doors 101

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lotta-good-done dept.
meta4 writes "After five years of pioneering the application of open source principles to stuff other than software, OpenContent is closing down. Project Lead David Wiley provides a rationale for the closing on the website, as well as a brief overview of the projects' successes. Wiley has joined Creative Commons as Project Lead for Educational Licensing."
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OpenContent Closes Its Doors

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  • Shame... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by byolinux (535260) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:52AM (#6338734) Journal
    ...but Creative Commons is a useful license, and it's integration with tools like Movable Type [movabletype.org] meant that this was pretty inevitable, sadly.
  • Is there a copy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris_Stankowitz (612232) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:52AM (#6338738)
    Will any of the content still be available anywhere on the web?
    • Re:Is there a copy? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, on the Wayback Machine. ;) The licenses will also stay where they are for archival purposes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:52AM (#6338739)
    Freshmeat doesn't closes his doors because Google inserts an "OpenSource" category, everything will be fine.
    • Re:As long as... (Score:3, Informative)

      by autechre (121980)
      Funny, yes, but please do consider that freshmeat provides features other than a search engine. We edit the descriptions to ensure that they're sensible and (relatively) easy to read, and a human processes each new application or a change to an existing application. We also do have Category Reviews to highlight applications we list for a specific purpose/niche, and other original articles. And projects can announce new releases on the front page in order to get attention (and let existing users know a ne
  • Just as he says. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Surak (18578) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:55AM (#6338752) Homepage Journal
    Wiley's closing down Open Content, because he thinks Creative Commons is doing a better job and making his group somewhat obsolete. He's joining Creative Commons, so its not like he's changed his mind or has stopped working on the goals Open Content provided.

    It's kind of sad to see it go, but I have to agree with Wiley -- and I know I'm going to piss off a WHOLE bunch of people when I say this -- I think Creative Commons is a better approach, and I think it's even a better approach than GPL/LGPL. The licenses are worded in a very common sense fashion, written by a team of IP experts, and give *you* the flexibility in determining what features you do and do not want in a license. It makes licensing a no-brainer for the software developer (or content developer) that doesn't spend so much time worrying about the license.
    • yeh, but if licensing become easy, will we see lawyers as the next endangered occupation ?
      I think they'll rather sue.

    • by jkrise (535370)
      I think there's more to this than meets the eye. Creative Commons seems designed with vultures like MS in mind. Somewhat like BSD style licensing. Miight scae less people, but they don't appear to have enuff chutzpah to stand up for their beliefs.
      • Re:Just as he says. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Surak (18578) * <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:20AM (#6338915) Homepage Journal
        Really? Have you seen the board of director's list [creativecommons.org] for Creative Commons? It reads like a who's-who list of Open Source-supporting IP lawyers, including Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, and Eric Saltzman. And Creative Commons licenses aren't just BSD-licenses. They have licenses with features VERY much like GPL [creativecommons.org]. They also have BSD-like licenses. It's your choice. You decide.

        • "Open Source-supporting IP lawyers, including Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle, and Eric Saltzman."

          I only recall Lessig in that list...and he's the one who lost out against RIAA, despite all the publicity and his blog. I'm not being harsh or anything - I also remember references to him in an article in TheRegister - Googlewashing, Jimmy Moore, Googlewash article. Lessig didn't come across very highly over there.

          "And Creative Commons licenses aren't just BSD-licenses. They have licenses with features VERY much
        • Re:Just as he says. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ahfoo (223186)
          Well, if anybody is familiar with Creative Commons licenses and how they're similar and dissimilar from the GPL, could you help me out with a question about their licenses?
          I like the copy-left part of the GPL and I can see how the Share Alike license would be similar to the GPL if the Non-Commercial clause was added, but what about in the case where you have a share-alike license and permit commercial use? That would just be commercial license right? Where's the part about and there must also be an op
          • I like the copy-left part of the GPL and I can see how the Share Alike license would be similar to the GPL if the Non-Commercial clause was added, but what about in the case where you have a share-alike license and permit commercial use? That would just be commercial license right?

            No, that would be more like the GPL. The GPL doesn't block any commercial use -- it just requires people/companies to open-source the code if they distribute the product. I can take Red Hat's GPL'd code, and create a derivati

            • Okay, I think the best thing is for me to be a bit more specific. I don't think I implied that the GPL did block commercial use because I don't believe that it does. Let's get down to the nitty gritty to keep things as clear as possible.
              The issue we're dealing with is students creating content and then having researchers comes along and use the student's content as samples in curricula that the researchers then charge schools thousands of dollars to license. We feel that if the basis of the curricula
    • Re:Just as he says. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jetifi (188285) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:22AM (#6338928) Homepage
      I think Creative Commons is a better approach, and I think it's even a better approach than GPL/LGPL. The licenses are worded in a very common sense fashion, written by a team of IP experts, and give *you* the flexibility in determining what features you do and do not want in a license.

      What you've got to remember is that software developers already have a plethora of licenses to choose from, based on what freedoms and flexibilities they want to keep/grant/whatever. A good summary of the "licensing ecosystem" is this table [opensource.org], although I'm sure there are better onces out there.

      The "open content" licensing scene never had the choice between a good number of licenses all worked on by professional IP lawyers. CC provides the creative equivalent of the BSD, Apache, LGPL and GPL licenses, and maybe one or two more.

      • I agree. Creative Commons is more geared at the content scene than the software scene. But I think you could apply a CC license to a software project just as easily as you could to other creative content. The only thing I think is missing is the explicit statement that source code must be provided.
        • Makes you think, what constitutes source code for different types of content?

          It might be interesting to have music tracks that come with (for example) the samples and vocal tracks that make up the thing, under a GPL/sharealike license i.e. tracks using those samples must give away all their samples in turn.

          Just food for thought.

  • WHAT?!?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperDuG (134989) <(be) (at) (eclec.tk)> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56AM (#6338756) Homepage Journal
    Okay this guy must be new to the opensource world. This mindset doesn't make sense what-so-ever. If it did, we wouldn't have KDE and Gnome. We wouldn't have OpenOffice and KOffice. We wouldn't have Mozilla and Konqueror. We wouldn't have RPM and Deb. We wouldn't have Linux and BSD (okay I know it's stretching)

    I'm not trying to troll here, it just seems to me that there are numerous other examples of redundant projects that both have their merits. Yet none of these projects is willing to admit the other might be headed in a stonger supported area.

    I say Kudos to you and way to take the focus to a project that will more than benifit. You've shown that it's not a matter of pride, but more of common sense.

    Good show ...

  • unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boromir son of Faram (645464) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56AM (#6338760) Homepage
    It's too bad to see such a good project come to an end. It's heartening that some of the people involved will be absorbed into the CreativeCommons project, but I think we all prefer to see variety and choice in the Open Source community (Linux and FreeBSD, KDE and GNOME, Ray Stallman and Ed Richards).

    Some people will doubtlessly conclude from OpenContent's demise that the Free Stuff (including non-software here) movement is collapsing in complete disarray. I'm more hopeful. Only by trimming the wheat from the shaft can we crystalize our impact on the world. CreativeCommons will pick up where OpenContent left off, and the way is unimpeded for the eventual dismantling of today's outdated IP laws.

    Now is not the time to lose hope. Our vision will keep us strong.
  • Change like this is inevitable, and indeed to be encouraged, in the internet. If this project is really worth something, it will be continued by someone else. More probably, it's good points will be incorporated into another project. This is what drives innovation. COBOL and Fortran were great at the time, but do we regret their demise? No. We still have their benefits.

    See the bigger picture.

    • COBOL is still kicking. There are alot of mainframe shops that swear by it and even a few UNIX programs that are written in it. COBOL is like lpd. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done....usually! ;)
    • FORTRAN is still kicking in the engineering market. A large fraction of numerical code is still being written in fortran.
  • I always thought that there were too many OS licenses out there anyway. Sure, there were websites that tracked which ones were and weren't compatible, but a) those websites are not legal authorities and b) who wants to read a bunch of legal E's every time they install some software? While I'm of course saddened that any project with "Open" in the name has ended, I feel that the resulting simplification of license space might provide a much-needed boost to Linux on the workplace desktop. Because so much o
  • Ahh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by srichter (120728) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:07AM (#6338834) Homepage
    I just started writing a book under the Open Publication License. I just hope the publisher will let me change that. I think the worst problem with the shutdown is that I am not offered a migration path, like "The OPL is compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution License." or something like that.

    I gave the license a quick scan and it seems very nice and Creative Commons makes a point of not being an involved party, something I find annoying in some other licenses.
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:10AM (#6338864) Homepage
    I understand Wiley's actions.

    I used to publish my free web books as Open Content, but I switched over to a CC license also (BTW, I was CC's 'featured commoner' last week - a real honor, because CC is a great group.)

    By nature, people want to share, and the CC licenses and agenda helps a lot.

    -Mark

    • By nature, people want to share
      My god, the smell of bullshit is overpowering.
      • I think that you don't understand human nature.

        If people are not living in crowded, overpopulated environments, then yes, by nature people are generous by nature.

        I will try to make it simple for you: try comparing how people interact in a small town versus in a very large city: in a small town, people talk to strangers, generally friendly, etc. It seems that in large cities, in crowded environments, people are still friendly, but there is definitely a barrior.

        If you have ever travelled to non-industrial

        • I grew up in a non-industrialized small town. You obviously didn't if you think that people there are inherently nice. They are backstabbers. When they're not being friendly to you, they are talking shit behind your back and plotting ways to ruin your life. They have no other options for entertainment other than fucking with other people so they throw themselves into that full-bore.

          I offer you a guided tour of the place I'm talking about. You will see what it's like, unless you're on so much goddamn c
        • People are good in smaller communities because their neighbor's opinion is more powerful. If they're greedy and not good, their neighbors will ostracize them and they won't get what they want. By contrast, in a crowded city, you can be piss-all mean and there's not too many negative consequences. People only do good things because it gets them what they want. Plato's fable of the Ring of Gyges is a good illustration of this. I'll not repeat it here, as it's long and rather complicated, but basically if you
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:14AM (#6338888) Homepage
    I publish a number of arcade documents under the Open Content license. Some people have used the license fairly. One person blatently stole a bunch of stuff for a commercial site. Worse, they were in England.

    I'm pleased to say that he went to bat for me and, as a third party, convinced the other person to take down the material, where I as an individual was unsuccessful.

    I'll look into the Creative Commons, but I'm sorry to see this go.

    The web pages that I had published are gone, but I'm working on something new. An Arcade Gameroom Design Information website. I need to change my OC license links... they're bad. But take a look [cox.net]! And, yes, "cox.net" is COX cable. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    is actually in web design and the code of web pages and NOT in the source code of things that need to be compiled! Basically where anything is "open" in it's very nature the GPL etc is good for licensing. anything "closed" in it's very nature (aka -> proprietory software) makes it good as useless. "closed" as in the "compiled" software schematic and GPL are about as similar as brick is to water, both require solid foundations to shine through and both can cause havock if left to bleed too long! the GPL i
  • As a lecturer in the humanities and net activist who has been evangelizing open content internationally in lectures, papers and as the moderator of congress panels since 1999, I feel like being slapped into my face. It is terrible if you educate people about open content and the necessity of copylefting public information resources, pointing them again and again to opencontent.org and their licenses and now see that reference dissolve.

    It is especially not funny to see the Open Publication License go away. It had a considerable momentum among book publishers - being used, among others, by O'Reilly and the Bruce Perens book series of Prentice Hall. I myself put all my papers under the OPL, encouraged other people to do so as well, and now feel severly f*cked and betrayed by this move. The instability and unreliability now associated with open content copylefts could severely damage the whole movement. As someone who managed to convince a large German public library to release its online content under the Open Content License, I am severely pissed & awaiting to take the beating for opencontent.org's irresponsibility.

    The Creative Commons licenses, in my view, are not an alternative because they are too many and incompatible to each other, thus creating confusion and preventing exchange between work copylefted under its terms. What's still worse is that most Creative Commons licenses are not free in the sense of the Free Software definition of the FSF, the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the Open Source Definition.

    I urge the initiator of opencontent.org to keep the website alive, and if only as a central link repository to other sites, and provide a smooth/sensible upgrade path from the Open Content License and the Open Publication License to particular Creative Common Licenses, for example by developing a license which would simultaneously be "Open Publication License v2.0" and "Creative Commons License foo". Given the amount of work that already circulates under either the Open Content License or the Open Publication License, anything else would be utterly irresponsible.

    Imagine the FSF suddenly abandoning/stalling the GPL in favor for someyet-unwritten different license, leaving ten thousands of Free Software developers in the legal lurch & betraying their trust. What is an unlikely horror scenario for free software is now the reality of open content.

    Bravo, opencontent.org, Microsoft, the RIAA, the MPA, SCO and all other old copyright regimes now have another reason to cheer and point at copyleft culture as immature, unreliable, not viable for serious publishing, etc.. Please wake up and release that you have taken up a responsibility which you cannot so easily throw away!

    • by Jester99 (23135) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:46AM (#6339086) Homepage
      If a bomb was dropped on Boston and the FSF headquarters was vaporized and fsf.org went down today, nothing would change tomorrow. Linux would still be free for download, under the same license it's always been under.

      The wording of the GPL is still valid. The GPL wouldn't "dissapear".

      Similarly, if you like the OPL, keep using it. It's still a perfectly valid, legal license.
      • > The wording of the GPL is still valid. The GPL wouldn't "dissapear".
        > Similarly, if you like the OPL, keep using it. It's still a perfectly valid, legal license.

        Yes, but unmaintained legal code is as problematic as unmaintained program code. No organization will enforce these licenses or, if necessary, defend them in court; nobody will update them if new legal or technical conditions make it necessary (as in GPL v2.0 vs. GPL v1.0 vs. the upcoming GPL v3.0). Which renders opencontent.org's license

        • This move points out extremely short sighted thinking on the part of these lawyers, this license system will stagnate, and its users will be left in dire straits -- continue using an unsupported system, or spend lots of time (aka money), to convert to another license scheme.

          Hello Microsoft "thinking".

          IP lawyers, Corporate lawyers, OSS lawyers, there is no difference.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong (I may very well be) but even though he's closing the site, can't you still use the license? Also note he is keeping the site up, he mentioned it on the page.
    • Imagine the FSF suddenly abandoning/stalling the GPL in favor for someyet-unwritten different license, leaving ten thousands of Free Software developers in the legal lurch & betraying their trust.

      Okay... so I start imagining this... and then one microsecond later I start wondering why the licence.gpl file I distribute with my software has supposedly just gone up in smoke.

      Oh, wait, it hasn't...

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:55AM (#6339703) Homepage
      Am I the only one who's shocked and disappointed?
      Yes, quite possibly. I have [lightandmatter.com] six books licensed under OPL and two under GFDL, and I think what Dave Wiley has done is probably a good decision. The proliferation of licenses is bad, and he's helping to simplify things by making more of a focus on CC licenses. I might want to change the licenses on my own books to CC now, as a matter of fact. The GFDL is kind of goofy, too, and probably deserves to die as well -- it tries to define what it means for a copy to be "transparent," i.e., editable with free software, which is a completely ill-defined concept.

      leaving ten thousands of Free Software developers in the legal lurch
      The license is still valid. What were you expecting Dave Wiley to do for you that he won't be doing for you now? He's not a lawyer, and he never promised you any legal services.

      for example by developing a license which would simultaneously be "Open Publication License v2.0" and "Creative Commons License foo"
      You can do this yourself. It's called dual licensing. Lots of software projects are dual licensed, e.g., with the GPL and a BSD-style license. You don't need Dave Wiley's permission to do this. Your readers just have to decide which license they're agreeing to when they download your stuff.

    • I agree: this announcement of the "closing of Opencontent" seems to signal that a concept has been disproved or given up on, and might tend to undermine the work people have done in association with the term and with the OPL license.

      While there are no doubt good reasons for joining efforts with the well-organized and -funded Creative Commons, I think that the practical side shouldn't be confused with the conceptual project of settling on and evangelizing the *terms*, whether Open Content, Copyleft, or what
  • think positively (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:35AM (#6338998)
    we've all heard it before but some of us didn't hear it: there is power in thinking positively.

    the front page of the opencontent.org [opencontent.org] website should say something like, "we're making things even better by joining Creative Commons. come join us".

    it's just that simple. what he wrote instead is depressing and inspires feelings of FUD. Spin is important, and not all spin is bad. Put your best foot forward, and don't air dirty laundry. All projects and movements have dirt: people don't need to hear about it.

    • the front page of the opencontent.org website should say something like, "we're making things even better by joining Creative Commons. come join us".

      Strange. I thought that's exactly what he was doing.

      it's just that simple. what he wrote instead is depressing and inspires feelings of FUD. Spin is important, and not all spin is bad. Put your best foot forward, and don't air dirty laundry.

      Wow. I didn't get this impression at all. Did you read the same thing I did? [opencontent.org] I thought it was a very positive st

  • Router guy (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe the linux router project guy http://www.linuxrouter.org/ could step in and keep it going. He seems all fired up about open sores.
  • How does the current state of OpenContent and Creative Content licenses affect site like popnt.com [popnt.com] which do not clearly fall into either "program" nor "ebook" categories? Should POPNT look to (somehow) qualify as both? Was there something that OpenContent did not offer that Creative Content now can due to OpenContent having closed its doors?

Their idea of an offer you can't refuse is an offer... and you'd better not refuse.

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