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Free content

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There is a lot of talk about the potential of open content and → open source software, and DC and IC in particular can benefit from the sustainable nature of these open models. This is not to say, however, that open options are always the right way to go. ‘Open and freely available’ does not equate to ‘no rules’.

The following section sets out the advantages and disadvantages of making content available to the general public. Based on the decision-making aid in section 2, you can review whether and to what extent content should be made freely accessible. To this end, approaches are presented with the specific aim of supporting informed and sound decision-making.

Development and use of open content

Collecting, creating and sharing actionable knowledge is central to much of German DC’s work. But what needs to be considered when creating, disseminating and using this knowledge? Why is making information freely available worthwhile? This section offers an insight into the main advantages of the open approach, sets out guidelines for making content open and highlights potential risks.

1. WHY OPEN CONTENT?

Making jointly or individually developed content available to the general public has many advantages. Not only can it increase the effectiveness and sustainability of the work, creators can also benefit directly when knowledge flows back to them. There are, however, certain risks that need to be considered.

THE ADVANTAGES OF MAKING YOUR WORK FREELY AVAILABLE INCLUDE:

  • Greater reach and ownership through better usability of content by partners, stakeholders and third parties.
  • The raised profile that results from the crediting project partners in all future publications
  • Contribution to major third-party sources of freely available resources (for example, Wikipedia usually requires open licences).
  • Free third-party input on your own material, which also supports the further development of open material.
  • Less risk of distorting competition, because all parties have equal access to the information.
  • Sustainable use of the material that results from project partners and stakeholders continuing to develop and use the material for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

RISKS OF OPEN ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN NETWORKS INCLUDE:

  • Reduced ownership of material and its use. This can be problematic if future versions of the project material were to be utilized in a deviant manner than originally intended. Including a disclaimer can prove useful in addressing this issue.
  • Copyright for all used material must be owned by the individual providing the content or such material must be freely usable.
  • The quality standards for open content may be significantly higher, which requires additional time and effort.

2. ISSUES TO CONSIDER BEFORE MAKING CONTENT FREELY AVAILABLE

In order to make the right decision, you will need to ask a number of different questions. The following checklist will prove helpful here.

Checklist

As a general rule of thumb: All information products or standards created on behalf of DC should be the shared property of all cooperation partners and freely accessible to all stakeholders. The goal should be to enable open access to information and open and collaborative knowledge creation. The new information and knowledge products that result from this process are known as ‘knowledge commons’ (such as Wikipedia, Energypedia, etc.).

3. OPTIONS FOR DETERMINING AN APPROPRIATE LICENCE

Depending on the specific requirements, there are different licensing models for disclosing and protecting content. The next section describes the world’s most popular open licensing model, Creative Commons. It is also a good option for DC. Note that, of the various forms of Creative Commons licence explained below, ‘copyleft’ licences such as the ‘Attribution-ShareAlike’ licence have proven effective. They provide the required degree of openness to facilitate the reuse of information but, at the same time, prevent the misuse, misappropriation and reprivatisation of jointly created information.

Related discussion
Further Information

The previous sections are based on a chapter from GIZ’s 2015 manual ‘Work the Net – A management guide for existing and emerging formal networks’.