Software with free licenses still has copyright

I’m highlighting this story because it might help to answer institutional issues with the use of open source and Creative Commons licenses. The emphasis below is mine, and it’s an American case so local relevance will vary, but the understanding of the importance of recognition or attribution is a milestone.

BBC, Legal milestone for open source:

Advocates of open source software have hailed a court ruling protecting its use even though it is given away free.

The court has now said conditions of an agreement called the Artistic Licence were enforceable under copyright law.

“For non-lawgeeks, this won’t seem important but this is huge,” said Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig.

“In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licences set conditions on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the licence disappears, meaning you’re simply a copyright infringer.

Open source licensing has become a widely used method of creative collaboration that serves to advance the arts and sciences in a manner and at a pace few could have imagined just a few decades ago,” Judge White said.

The ruling has implications for the Creative Commons licence which offers ways for work to go into the public domain and still be protected.

“This opinion demonstrates a strong understanding of a basic economic principle of the internet; that even though money doesn’t change hands, attribution is a valuable economic right in the information economy.”

The Age also has an article that might help you make sense of it, Even free software has copyrights: judge

Portable mapping applications make managers happy

This webmonkey article, Multi-map with Mapstraction, about an ‘open source abstracted JavaScript mapping library’ called Mapstraction is perfectly on target for organisations that worry about relying on one mapping provider.

How many of these have you heard as possible concerns about using a particular mapping service?

  • Current provider might change the terms of service
  • Your map could become too popular and use up too many map views
  • Current provider quality might get worse, or they might put ads on your map
  • New provider might have prettier maps
  • You might get bored of current provider, or come up with a reason that makes sense to you

They’re all reasonable concerns. But look what the lovely geeks have made:

The promise of Mapstraction is to only have to change two lines of code. Imagine if you had a large map with many markers and other features. It could take a lot of work to manually convert the map code from one provider to another.

And functionality is being expanded. I liked this:

One of my favorite Mapstraction features is automatic centering and zooming. When called on a map with multiple markers, Mapstraction calculates the center point of all markers and the smallest zoom level that will contain all the markers.

Open source rocks! Not only can you grab the code and have someone maintain it for you if you ever need to, but it sounds like a labour of geek love:

Mapstraction is maintained by a group of geocode lovers who want to give developers options when creating maps.

Thumbs up to Migratr (and free and open goodness)

[Update: Migratr downloads all your files to the desktop, with your metadata in an XML file, so it’s a great way to backup your content if you’re feeling a bit nervous about the sustainability of the online services you use. If it’s saved your bacon, consider making a donation.]

This is just a quick post to recommend a nice piece of software: “Migratr is a desktop application which moves photos between popular photo sharing services. Migratr will also migrate your metadata, including the titles, tags, descriptions and album organization.”

I was using it to migrate stuff from random Flickr accounts people had created at work in bursts of enthusiasm to our main Museum of London Flickr account, but it also works for 23HQ, Picasa, SmugMug and several other photo sites.

The only hassles were that it concatenated the tags (e.g. “Museum of London” became “museumoflondon”) and didn’t get the set descriptions, but overall it’s a nifty utility – and it’s free (though you can make a donation). [Update: Alex, the developer, has pointed out that the API sends the tags space delimited, so his app can’t tell the different.]

And as the developer says, the availability of free libraries (and the joys of APIs) cut down development time and made the whole thing much more possible. He quotes Newton’s, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” and I think that’s beautifully apt.

What Does Openness Mean to The Musum Community?

There’s an almost-live report from Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly’s “What Does Openness Mean to The Museum Community?” forum at the Museums and the Web conference yesterday at http://mw2008.wetpaint.com/page/report

It’s a really important discussion and as it’s a wiki I assume you can add comments. I am running late for a session but will sort out my notes later.

I’m still catching up on news and various RSS feeds, here are just a few things that caught my eye.

These slides from a presentation on Open Source applications in archaeology are worth a look. They’ve included lots of screenshots, which is useful because it demonstrates that open source applications are becoming much more user-friendly.

Wired makes a compelling case for Twitter as a ‘Social Sixth Sense’:

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

In theory I just don’t get Twitter but in practice I do read some long-running threads on various forums where people can post a quick rant about work, about their love life, or just add a random disclosure. If I know the people posting then I find those threads interesting. And I also love Facebook status updates for the same reason – they don’t require a response but sometimes it’s nice when they trigger one.