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How Open Publishing differs from Free Software

category national | sci-tech | opinion/analysis author Monday December 01, 2003 14:38author by Eoin Dubsky Report this post to the editors

Or... what we still need to learn from the Free Software Movement

The Indymedia newswire works on the principle of OPEN PUBLISHING, and according to an article by Matthew Arnison which is linked-to from the About us pages of Indymedia Ireland, that's like Free Software. It is and it isn't though. I think that if we made it more like free software it would improve the Indymedia project, spreading the good word. Here's what I mean... what do you think?

The Free Software Foundation define what they mean by "free software" on their website (http://www.gnu.org/) as follows:

"Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. "

Matthew Arnison describise "free software" in his article (http://www.cat.org.au/maffew/cat/openpub.html) in a way that would better describe "open source" software. If we try to apply the above definition, from the Free Software Foundation though to Indymedia I think it would look like this:

Freedom 0: No change here. Indymedia info can be used for anything from organizing demos to poking fun at trots! ;-)

Freedom 1: I see the "source code" in this sense is the comments section of each newswire article. It's where facts are checked, context explained, and bitching about trots and anarchists! ;-) In the same way that I can use some Free Software without have a window open showing me constantly the source code of that program, I think that the "freedom" to view comments with articles shouldn't be a necessity. Could you browse indymedia with comments switched off?

Freedoms 2 and 3: Freedom to redistribute, and hack, even for *commercial* purposes. Its fair to require that the commercial publication also provides the same freedoms, of course. That's like the Creative Commons license here http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0/

Related Link: http://www.gnu.org/
author by Daithípublication date Mon Dec 01, 2003 17:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just stick with Creative Commons. The free software concept is something that's specifically related to the role of copyright and patents in software development. I think it's weakened by trying to shoehorn it somewhere it doesn't belong. Even Stallman recognised this in having a GPL Documentation license. A lot of the people involved with the FSF have given support to CC.

However it's not practical for Indymedia at the present time, in my opinion - I've pushed hard for something stopping short of it before and there quite simply isn't consensus, even among the small number of people involved as editors etc. in Ireland. The best alternative, and one that does have broader support, is a selection of options, empowering the contributor to decide and be supported in their decision. I envisage this as a radio-button system based on the draft CC licences with other options (public domain and "full" copyright as examples).

Note, btw, that the category Science is now Sci-Tech. I think this is the first article since the change :-)

author by seedotpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 02:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The call for indymedia to be more like open software or free source or whatever is probably a good idea. I'm not sure that removing the comments as an option will really make that large an impact - don't scroll down Eoin, see does your life change.

But the challenge to the economic and tehnical system that is embodied in Free Software or OSS or whatever, is, I would like to think, part of what indymedia does bring. You can say Linux is great, you can browse slashdot now and again but you're not really part of it till you use it.
Then explore it.
Then realise - I can change this if I want.

See if people got that about Indymedia then that would be something.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 04:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There's a whole mess of confusion in this idea of making "Open Publishing" more like "Free Software".

For a start there's already these divisions:

Open Source vs. Free Software
where OS tries to downplay the "free" nature of the software, the idea being that de-emphasising the scary concept of freedom will lure in a hypothetical stupid businessperson.

Sofware vs. Documentation
it's recognised that the license for documentation to free programs needs to be different to the license to the actual program

If your proposal is to treat all the published content on indymedia ireland as GPL'ed code then theoretically people would be able to take the comments and parts of comments and chop them up and recombine them into nonsensical combinations anyway they liked as long as they passed that right on to other people when they republished those comments somewhere else. Surely not useful or appropriate.

Although I agree that Free Software is wonderful I don't think we can shoehorn every commodity into its model.

Finally I don't agree with Seedot that there's much of a challenge to the existing economic system from Free or Open Source software. It's just as much a playground for rampant libertarian capitalists, ardent communists and canny anarchists as any other facet of our lives. It even provides a base system on which the programs of closed-source monopolists run.

author by Steeliepublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 04:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Take it to the editorial list. Your personal, ill-conceived notions about what you would like to see indymedia become do not belong on the newswire.

The comments section are peer review, not open publishing. Open publishing is allowing anybody to publish their articles here. Open source software is shipped with code. Free software is also GPLed or something similar.

Open-publishing content can generally be shared (republished, emailed, made into a leaflet, any non-commercial use) without infringing copyright, that is one similarity with Free software, but as Ms. Hedd says, no point in trying to squish it into a model designed for something else.

author by blackbirdpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 14:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What’s the point of this article? (It isn’t about the code and technical side of indymedia.) Why bother comparing things which serve different functions? Indymedia and the concept of open publishing is easy to understand and open to improvement without recourse to forced analogies with free software & open source. For us non-techies the analogies only confuse not enlighten.

author by seedotpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 15:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not sure that this article has much value and my comment probably confused things. Here's another attempt.

Free software changes the relationship of both the developer and the user of software to the code. The developer has more control (no nda / non-compete, not tied to employment and owned by company) while the user is not excluded from the mechanics of the software. Also the line between developer and user is blurred since the source code is available.

I think that Indymedia sort of does this with media - you can see where the news comes from and if you want you can read the discussion of what to highlight / edit / delete. So again, control is brought much closer to the journalist / editor / reader / user with the lines between these categories being blurred.

While i agree with the comments regarding the problems of shoehorning a model from software into other areas, I also think that the challenge to ownership of ideas (both as a good thing and as a requirement - who'll invest in free software / open content?) which is common to both Indymedia and Open Source is important.

But it's probably not news ;-).

author by Eoin Dubskypublication date Tue Dec 02, 2003 22:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The article I posted here is an opinion piece; it doesn't need to be an eyewitness report of police brutality to get on the newswire. ;-)

Anyways, I agree that saying "Open Publishing is like Free Software" has problems, that's why I wrote the article above. I also linked to the Creative Commons license which I think would suit Indymedia's stated aims -- and is in some ways linke the Free Software Foundation's GPL "copyleft". At the moment there is no legal way for someone to share almost all of the content on Indymedia Ireland if they charge any money for it. Authors don't leave their real names, and even those that do often don't leave contact details. So there's no way to get their concent to re-publish.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Wed Dec 03, 2003 00:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think we're in broad agreement then.

Eoin, this comment that I'm just submitting was published by me agreeing to the terms below (which includes a link to the idea of Creative Commons and seems explicitly to address your concerns). What do you mean about "sharing?" You can create a mirror of indymedia.ie as much as you like. Isn't that sharing? I'm left completely confused by what it is you see as a problem and what it is that you propose to do to fix that problem.

Here's the text that you agreed to when you submitted your comments:

We think that all content published on this site should be free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the internet and elsewhere, and we think that Copyleft is an idea which should be central to Indymedia. Because of this, all content published on this site is done so under these terms by default. However if you want to publish content under different terms and conditions, you must clearly state these terms and conditions in the text of your published content.

For more information on copyleft and open content concepts check out:

* Open Content
* Creative Commons

After your content has been published, it may be edited, linked or even deleted by the editorial collective running this site. Please read our privacy and disclaimer statements before publishing.

ACCEPT TERMS & CONDITIONS: By ticking this box I accept all the above referenced terms and conditions which means that all content I am about to publish is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the internet and elsewhere, unless I have EXPLICITLY stated otherwise in the text of my content.

author by Eoin Dubskypublication date Thu Dec 04, 2003 21:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

At the moment there is no legal way for someone to share almost all of the content on Indymedia Ireland if they charge any money for it. Authors don't leave their real names, and even those that do often don't leave contact details. So there's no way to get their concent to re-publish.

That means if you want to re-print an Indymedia photo or article or something in your zine, newspaper or TV show you can't.

author by seedotpublication date Fri Dec 05, 2003 00:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you read what you sign, you're free to republish - but only on the same basis as it is published here.

A cool thing about Free software is the virus attempt at social engineering that has been assigned to the GPL. It doesn't just hold it's own space - it's catching.

This is a non-commercial site - I give my time on that basis. I don't want you copying my catchy revolutionary jingles to sell Coca Cola. So I'm happy with legal basis - how would you word your version?

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