What is openness?
I’m writing this as part of the ‘Why Open?’ P2PU course. https://p2pu.org/en/courses/588/content/1143/
It seems to me that the term ‘open’ is used online to refer to several separate concepts. However, they are frequently blurred and confused – even in communities that are disciplined about how they define and use terms.
Open #1 – Legally open to use and reuse (‘open as in unrestricted’): This is the sense that ‘open’ is used in ‘open source’. The work is free from most copyright and patent restrictions. Following David Wiley’s definition of ‘open’ (http://www.opencontent.org/definition/), you could split this category into at least four:
#1A – Legally open to reuse in unaltered form. Making a backup is a good example.
#1B – Legally open to adapt. Wiley’s example is translating a work into a different language.
#1C – Legally open to combine the content with other content. For example, music mashups.
#1D – Legally open to share with others (whether in original, adapted or combined form).
Open #2 – Functionally open to use and reuse (‘open as in unrestricted’): This is also the sense that ‘open’ is used in ‘open source’. The work is practically able to be used and reused, because the source code is available and not in a proprietary file format.
Open #3 – Open to scrutiny (‘open as in frank’): This is the sense that ‘open’ is used in ‘open government’ and ‘open marketing’. The work and the process of its creation are available for people to examine and study.
Open #4 – Open processes (‘open as in welcoming’): The work is the product of collaboration to which many people could contribute, and the structure of the organization is one that every contributor has a say in.
Open #5 – Open to access (‘open as in public’): This is the sense that ‘open’ is used in ‘open access’. The work is openly available for all to observe and interact with, such as being available to download for no cost online.
The Free Software Foundation’s four freedoms require openness in a number of forms (https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html):
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0): This is Open #1
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this: This is Open #1 and Open #2. It is not Open #5 because there’s no requirement that everyone be able to study the program, just that whomever possesses the program be able to study it.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2): Open #1.
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this: Open #1.
The Open Definition requires openness in a number of forms.
Clause 1 requires Opens #2 and #5.
Clauses 2 and 3 require Open #1.
Clause 4 requires Open #2.
Clauses 7 and 8 are related to Open #4, but mainly preserve Open #1.
Clause 9 requires Open #2.