Open Up Your Content – a piece written for Hyperlocal West Midlands

My friends Kate Sahota, Dan Slee and Simon Whitehouse, and Liz O’nions from our sponsors Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and I ran the ‘Hyperlocal West Midlands‘ (‘HyperWM’) unconference today; the third of these annual events, for local government and other public sector workers, and hyperlocal bloggers interested in working with them. As usual, I got to be compère, a role which I greatly enjoy.

It was great to see many old friends, even though the opportunity to chat to them was of necessity limited.

For the event, we produced a newspaper. Yes, a real newspaper, made from dead trees. The idea was to give some information to the many attendees who are not yet fully engaged with the digital world.

Two of my articles were included, a shortened version of my blog post “Tips for Unconference newbies“, and the following, written specially, and reproduced here in its original form, before Dan got his sub-editing mitts on it, and with added links:

Open Up Your Content

No doubt you’ve heard a lot about open data (and if you haven’t, you soon will do). But what about “open content”? And what is open content?

The commonly accepted definition refers to content (text, images, audio or video) which may be used by anyone, freely (free as in speech, and as in beer), under what is known as an open licence. The “four Rs” apply: people should be able to Reuse, Revise, Remix (combine with other content) and Redistribute (give away or sell) the content. There may be a requirement to give attribution (in other words, you have to say who the author or owner of the content is) and an open licence does not negate moral rights (so you shouldn’t misrepresent the author or owner).

Open content sources include all of Wikipedia (except a few images, such as DVD covers), everything on Wikimedia Commons, many images on Flickr (check the individual licences, or use the “Creative Commons” option in their advanced search) and much, much more, and you can use any of that, on your website and in your paper publications and reports. For free!

So how does open licensing work, in the public sector?

Suppose you’ve written an FAQ about food hygiene. If a blogger, or a neighbouring council or health authority, or suchlike, ask for permission to use some or all of it, you’d probably say “sure, just give us a mention”. If you receive a request for a photograph of your new chief executive from the same people, you’d probably provide them with one. You’d do that, even for a local newspaper which makes money by selling adverts, and by being sold in newsagents.

An open licence, such as one of those provided by Creative Commons as a set of boilerplate terms which you can use without paying a lawyer to write them, simply formalises such sensible responses.

Better still, you can apply an open licence in advance of receiving a request, or many such requests, thereby relieving you of a tiresome administrative burden.

If you have useful content (of course you do!), and you’re not going to sell it (of course you’re not!), make it available (on your website, or a third party one like Flickr or Wikimedia Commons), and let the community you serve and the world at large benefit from it. You might be surprised at the uses they put it to, and how you and your customers can benefit from them.

More from HyperWM

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-qV.

About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues; often as a Wikimedian (or Wikipedian) in Residence.
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One Response to Open Up Your Content – a piece written for Hyperlocal West Midlands

  1. Pingback: Taking some #hyperlocal bloggers round the Library Of Birmingham #lob2013 « Podnosh

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