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Appropedia:Make your content free

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This is a draft. We'll be having this conversation with many organizations in future. Input is welcomed!

When talking with partner organizations to encourage them to use an open license for their website (sometimes called a "free license"), the issues are:

What's the big deal with free and open content?[edit]

When you share your content, the community (in this case the Appropedia community) can help to develop it and share it with those who can benefit.

"Free" is better for humanity:

"I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By `free' I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one's own uses... When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving." Richard Stallman, quoted here. (Emphasis added.)

You and your organization can be a consumer of the content if sites like Appropedia are successful. Do you find Appropedia and Wikipedia useful? Then please support the concept.

When serving people and communities lacking in resources, the gratis aspect of free becomes especially important - and serving such people is a major aspect of our work. When serving communities of students, academics, designers and inventors, the libre aspect of free becomes crucial - and again, this is major part of our work. in fact without such people, it's hard to imagine an Appropedia.

For these reasons, we consider it of great importance that information be both gratis ("free as in beer") and libre ("free as in speech") whenever possible.

Is there a risk?[edit]

  • Does this increase risk to our intellectual property, brand and image?

Ported articles tagged with links to your site for attribution will raise your brand, not lower it. These can even end up being translated (e.g. Tropfenbewässerung hilft den Bauern, Geld zu sparen, translated from the ported document Drip Irrigation Helps Farmers Save Money).

In terms of risk, it's worth thinking through what the potential risks and benefits are.

Being participatory is about giving up control - just as with the development worker who gives up control to the community they work in. This is how the potential for good is best realized. It's a more difficult and challenging process, but a much more powerful one.

But perhaps if there are more specific threats in mind, we could talk about those.

Why can't Appropedia just ask for what it wants?[edit]

  • The "terms of use" on our website already say that with permission granted by our organization, people can use our content, even for commercial purposes? Why can't Appropedia just ask us for permission to reproduce the content before putting it on to their site?

The answer is: legal restrictions.

We are not able to do that under our license, if your intent is to maintain control. We (like Wikipedia and an increasing number of sites) use a free license. That means that it is impossible to pass on any additional restrictions in the use of content placed on Appropedia, including content from your organization. When permission is given for Appropedia (or Wikipedia or other such sites) to use the content, it must be given for anyone to use it, under the same terms - in the form of an explicit release under a compatible license.

Small steps[edit]

We love it when a partner organization moves all their content to a free license. But if this seems like too much, consider these approaches:

A case-by-case approach[edit]

There is the possibility of doing things on a case-by-case basis - give certain people from your organization authority to release content into Appropedia, so that the specific content gets released under the free license, but your site as a whole does not. That's every organization's prerogative, and we'd welcome any contributions on that basis, but I don't recommend it.

This approach slows down the information exchange, and knowledge-sharing will only happen as long as it's pushed from your side. Other Appropedians won't go to your site looking for information to use on the site. There is an enormous amount of content that they could potentially use, that has to be sifted through and selected from, so they will start with the content that they can use freely and easily; whereas if you use an open license, I'm confident it would be a preferred source of information, based on quality and relevance.

New content only[edit]

Post new content under CC-BY. It may be more complicated to make that decision for older content, which may have old agreements connected to it.

You can think about your other content later, after you've seen how things go with the content you've released.

"How can I earn a living?" - options for authors[edit]

You may be thinking that you can't use a free license because some of your content is proprietary, valuable, or sensitive. It's true that free licenses are not an obligation, and you have the right to retain more rights when you want. This may mean a license with a non-commercial clause, perhaps a no-derivatives clause as well, keeping all rights while granting open access, or, where material is sensitive, keeping it secure and offline.

However, there are facts and options to consider:

  • Using licenses requiring attribution and share alike means that anyone reusing your work will have to give credit and share their work under the same license.
  • Those exploiting your work for commercial gain are unlikely to be happy with these clauses, and will probably choose not to use your work.
  • If they do use your work, you get credit and a link.[verification needed]
  • If they do not add much of substance to your work, it's most likely that they will get less exposure than your original version. (Think of sites that mirror Wikipedia - they tend to rank much lower than Wikipedia itself in search engine results.)
  • You can release under a more open license on a delayed basis. E.g. Use CC-BY-NC or CC-BY-NC-ND, with an additional notice such as "One year after publication, this work is automatically released under CC-BY-SA."

Another case is where you aren't the creator of the work - e.g. the PDF documents on AIDG. The CC-BY license does not appear on these pages, as they are, it seems, copyrighted materials reprinted with permission. It must be the creator/owner who releases it under an open license (though you can prompt them to do so).

Could it work in your favor?[edit]

Pirated TV shows have actually helped profitability, by creating a buzz (notably with Battlestar Galactica).[verification needed]

In the same way, it has been claimed that releasing books under a free license actually increases demand for hard copies of the books.[verification needed] Yau may want to experiment with releasing some of your own content. You don't have to release all of it - (but if you found a way to do that later, that would be very cool!)

Give us a teaser...[edit]

Release something that gives an idea of what your content is about. This can increase exposure and create interest in your work, while also adding value to free content resources such as Appropedia.

Which license should we use?[edit]

CC-BY-SA, the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license, is the license used for content developed on Appropedia. It requires reusers to give you credit but also requires reusers to release any additions or changes they make to the content under the same conditions so you and other users can reuse their improved version. This is what is known as a sharealike or copyleft license. This license is used by Wikipedia and by many other wikis and free culture projects so publishing your content under this license means that any of these projects can incorporate all or part of your content. See our CC-BY-SA page for more information.

CC-BY, the Creative Commons Attribution license, gives more flexibility for the content users as they can reuse the content anyway they like, including incorporating your contributions in their copyright works provided they give you credit as the original author. This license allows Appropedia to republish your content under the CC-BY-SA license. However, it does not allow you to incorporate content from more restrictive licenses (e.g. CC-BY-SA content cannot be used, as CC-BY lacks the ShareAlike clause.

GNU FDL is the license which was used for Appropedia content (and for Wikipedia) until 2009. It is similar to CC-BY-SA however the current version was designed for books and has some paperwork requirements for reusers which can make it a hassle for smaller works. The content migration to the CC-BY-SA license was done by agreement between the Free Software Foundation (publishers of the GNU FDL), Creative Commons (publishers of the CC-BY-SA), the WikiMedia Foundation (publishers of the worlds largest Wikis including Wikipedia) and the contributors to Appropedia.