User:JWSchmidt/Blog/11 February 2007
Open content and free content
User:CQ drew my attention to this page at the One Laptop per Child wiki. There is seemingly never ending discussion of licensing content for use at education-oriented wiki websites. Much of the discussion centers on two different domains of copyleft resources, those that allow commercial re-use and those that do not. The Education networks page had an emphasis on non-commercially licensed learning resources and that got me thinking again about these two domains.
It is possible to frame Wikiversity within the context of a Free Culture movement. The "Free Culture movement" is concerned with promoting the licensing of creative works in ways that allow them to be freely copied and modified for the creation of new derivative works. The term "free" is a problem in this context. It does not mean "free of cost", it means "free of legal restrictions on copying and use". A related idea is "free content". We say that Wikiversity has "free content" in that the text and files at Wikiversity can be freely copied and used without restrictions such as a non-commercial use restriction. The only serious limitation is that Wikiversity asks that this free content be correctly attributed to those who created it.
Another related idea is "open content". An important distinction between "free content" and "open content" is that open content resources are sometimes licensed in a way that does not allow commercial redistribution. Such non-commercial restrictions are commonly used by universities that make their learning resources available on the internet (see OpenCourseWare). Bricks and Mortar institutions often do not want "their" learning resources to be used by others for profit. When a non-commercial license is use, the learning resources are not as freely available as they would be under a license like the GFDL that is used at Wikiversity.
A problem arising from these two domains of learning resources (truly free content vs non-commercial use only) is that Wikiversity participants can be tempted to call for use of a less free license that would be compatible with educational resources like OpenCourseWare (for example, see OpenCourseWare University Collaboration, 5 February 2007). Wikiversity probably needs to do a better job with the Free content page and make sure that Wikiversity participants can easily find that page.