Corporate open source

Christopher Newfield, Sept 23, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Rory McGreal sent me this item, which gets to the heart of the concept of 'open' when it is used by corporations like Coursera. It's worthy of a long slow read. The professors' content is open, and they retain the rights, granting Coursera only a non-exclusive right to publish. Coursera, meanwhile, retains exclusive rights over any enhancements that it provides. The result? "To share IP with the platform owner is to operate in practical subordination to the owners of the platform. This is how Microsoft set up its version of open or at least shared IP – as a way to entangle all potential competitors in alliances that create a Microsoft ecosystem. And such is increasingly the fate of open source in knowledge economies – to be blended with a proprietary platform over which the great majority of the players have no control." This is the sort of thing pre-GPL licenses sought to avoid; as I describe here, "people make a few trivial changes and then decide that it has changed so much that it is effectively something completely new." This phenomenon is called "enclosure." People forget. They shouldn't.

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