What is Alternative Licensing?

As new forms of publication and scholarship begin to take hold, the academic world is examining standard forms of licensing and rights management and finding them lacking. While current copyright and intellectual property laws focus on restricting use of materials, authors are beginning to explore new models that center on enabling use while still protecting the academic value of a publication. Some rights are still reserved, but some are proactively licensed at publication time to encourage re-use. These approaches make it clear which rights are licensed for various uses, removing the barrier of copyright and smoothing the way for others to access and use one’s work.
One such approach is that taken by Creative Commons, an organization that supplies easy-to-understand, “some rights reserved” licenses for creative work. Authors simply review the list of rights they can grant or restrict, make their choices, and receive a link to a written license that spells out how their work may be used. The licenses work within current copyright laws but clearly state how a work may be used. Copyleft is another alternative approach; often used in open source software development, copyleft describes how work can be used and also governs how derivative works are to be licensed as well. Models like these are beginning to gain acceptance among artists, photographers, and musicians; scholarly papers and reports are increasingly released under alternative licenses. Some organizations, such as the New Media Consortium, have made it a policy to release all their work under licenses that facilitate sharing and reuse.
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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • As mentioned above, the practical aspect of alternative licensing will be in establishing policies for their implementation within institutions, or in re-assessing the existing copyright policies that are preventing content from being freely reused. - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 14, 2012
  • Another perspective here.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Despite the clear conceptual distinction between Alternative Licensing and Open Content in a static-snapshot sense, I wonder whether in the contexts of evolving museum policy, practice, and forward-looking thought it may make sense to locate the two together--thinking here, for example, of how closely related the roles of CC-BY and CC0 may prove to be in their actual application over time to collections metadata, and to some degree in their effects on the information ecosystems into which that metadata flows. A given museum's current use of CC-BY for publicly released metadata would locate its case here under Alternative Licensing, while another museum's current use of CC0 with basically the same aims would locate it in Open Content, but also here. I'd bet many museum folk see certain current uses of CC-BY and other partially restrictive, alternative licenses as the best achievable interim steps towards eventually placing more digital content (metadata, images) into the public domain as soon as that next, more open step gains sufficient traction to move internal policy forward. Viewed over time--in part, anticipated future time--in this way, a more static differentiation between Alternative Licensing and Open Content in a museum context seems largely to dissolve, or at least to become less useful as a means of sub-categorizing this wide domain of efforts to make content more accessible and usable in less constrained ways. Both may be aspects of one conceptual aim, the widest possible sharing of content, and one broad process of moving local institutional policy and practice towards that sharing. - rob.lancefield rob.lancefield Oct 10, 2012
  • I completely agree with Rob. It would serve the sections on Alternative Licensing and Open Content well to have the arguments & information combined. - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 14, 2012
  • - nhoneysett nhoneysett Oct 14, 2012 Totally agree, this is a continuum. I think its optimistic to think that the museum field will adopt Open Content wholesale, some will, many won't. But looking at it as degrees of the same thing would allows museums to dip their toe in the open content water. The danger is that licensing variations emerge.
  • Another perspective here.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • See points on Open Content. - LoriByrdPhillips LoriByrdPhillips Oct 14, 2012
  • Another perspective here.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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