Creative Commons


OPINION: Why open source is not always the best tool for the job

6:06AM | Thursday, 19 June

Earlier this year, I reviewed the latest version of an open source computer operating system called Kubuntu. For the uninitiated, like Windows, Mac OS-X or Android, Kubuntu manages a computer’s hardware, provides a user interface and allows users to run apps. It includes a desktop environment called KDE along with a set of apps covering everything from graphics and multimedia to internet, office and games.   While I was critical of the installation process (and deservedly so), I had many complimentary things about Kubuntu to say in the review, including the following:   “The good news is, assuming you get through the installation process, is that Kubuntu and KDE 4.13 does have a lot going for it.” “Firstly, there are preinstalled apps covering most of what you’d need to do, from word processing, to playing CDs, to watching videos and surfing the web.” “There are big improvements in how multiple screens are handled. It’s now literally a matter of dragging and dropping to have two connected screens mirroring each other, or having one to the side of the other.” “With a little tinkering, you can set it up to look like a Mac (including each app’s menu bar across the top of the screen), or like Windows (with the menu bar across the top of each window). You can also set up multiple ‘activities’ each with their own desktop layout.”   Yet, literally for months after the review was published, there were (at times incredibly detailed) comments from open source advocates arguing against the conclusion that this was not a product for everyone.   The open source basics   Kubuntu is an example of what is known as “open source software”. The basic idea behind the open source model is that the developer gives away a computer program for free, including the source code used to create that program. Users are free to make any changes they require in the future and share their modifications with others.   In terms of copyright, open source software is often made available under a licensing agreement such as the GPL, or under a Creative Commons licence.   Can you really have a free lunch?   Of course, this raises a question: How do software developers survive if they give their product away from free?   In many cases, open source projects are the work of hobbyists or not-for-profit groups, with Wikipedia probably the best example.   Some companies (such as Red Hat and IBM) give away software on an open source basis, but charge businesses for services such as setup and support.   An example I’ve discussed in this column previously is Firefox. Mozilla supports giving its popular web browser away for free based on the commission it receives from Google each time someone searches from the search bar. As incredible as it might sound, that little search field is worth around $US280 million per year in revenue.   One of the best known examples of open source software is the Android smartphone and tablet operating system. Here, Google makes its money by selling downloads, as well as the mobile services (Gmail, YouTube, etc.) it bundles with the platform.   Another well-known example is WordPress, which is offered by its developers (Automattic) on an open source basis, with a commercial cloud-hosted version at supported by ads and premium upgrades.   Open source software stands in opposition to proprietary or closed-source software, where the developer retains all intellectual property rights to the software, along with the source code. Windows, Microsoft Office, Photoshop and most other commercial apps are examples.   The best tool for the job   Advocates for open source software are certainly a passionate lot when it comes to their software licensing model of choice.   In many areas of the tech industry, there are open source products that are either market leaders, or are at least competitive in terms with features with their proprietary counterparts.   And certainly for many cash-strapped businesses, if finances are tight, choosing an open source option can be quite appealing.   However, there are many hidden costs in business that stem from using the wrong tech tool for the job, including lost productivity, the cost of IT staff for the initial setup and installation, maintenance costs, IT support costs and lost business opportunities.   When these additional costs are factored into account, the product with the lowest upfront costs might not have the lowest total cost of operation.   And the harsh truth for advocates is the open source option is not always the best option in the market, or the best choice for every business.   As the example of Kubuntu shows, an open source product that works well in one situation might not be the best choice for everybody.   So, when it comes to choosing a tech solution for your business, it pays to evaluate a range of options, both proprietary and open source – because being an ideologue with technology can be costly in the long run.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

Are you giving away your copyright for free?

2:40AM | Friday, 7 February

George Costanza: Who buys an umbrella anyway? You can get them for free at the coffee shop in those metal cans. Jerry Seinfeld: Those belong to people. Hmmm… Just like the umbrellas belong to people, so does copyright. And just because it is there, does not mean it is free to take and use as you like. And as it belongs to you as creator, why would you give it away?   If you add a Creative Commons (CC) licence to your work, you do just that: you give general rights to the public to use the work in the manner specified, for free. And you cannot change your mind and revoke this licence.   So what is a Creative Commons licence?   Every creative work has automatic copyright protection from the moment it is actually ‘created’. Nobody can use that work without the creator’s express permission (through a licence) except where ‘fair use’ is involved.   A CC licence is one way that a creator of copyrighted works can give extra rights to other people, such as permission to use, share or modify a piece of work subject to certain conditions imposed by the creator. There are other specific licences that creators of work can grant but a CC licence is one that is given to the general public without the need to check with the creator.   The intention behind the CC licences was originally to allow certain works to be free and open to the industry to help development, research and to improve certain works for the public interest.   What is the problem?   In recent years, there has been a rise in the use of CC licences, particularly with the growth of the internet. There is also a lot of confusion and lack of understanding about whether and how they work, as well as why you would give your copyright away for free.   One of the more common problems is that designers, photographers, writers, jewellery makers and other creative people have been adding them to their website businesses without understanding what they mean. Then they find others have copied their work.   How much protection can a CC licence offer you? Does it affect the copyright in your work? Are you really giving your work away for free? You really need to know what the effect is and what they do, before you use them.   And despite the increase in popularity of CC licences, they have also attracted criticisms about their use and effect.   Why would I use a Creative Commons licence? Some people don’t understand why you would give away your work; especially if you cannot ever take away the licence or change your mind about it.   It may seem as though a CC licence is actually more about protecting the people who have been granted the licence rather than protecting the creator and the work. The creator still retains their rights that they have decided to reserve under the CC licence, but they are giving some of these rights up intentionally.   Confused? Yes, it is not a clear concept to many yet either. Some argue that if you provide a CC licence, you cannot revoke it so why do it in the first place? Once you give the CC licence to use your work, you cannot take it back.   So what happens if you have given a right to share and copy your work and someone develops and transforms the work, acquiring their own copyright of the newly developed work? The second creator could argue that their "updated" work is substantially different, such that the initial CC licence no longer applies and they own the new work. This can lead to a lot of problems with the copyright ownership of the work.   The main point to all this is that if you own valuable copyright and if you don’t know what, why or how you may be using a CC licence, do not do so without checking with a lawyer. So do not just pop it on your website without fully understanding what it means. You may think it’s a nice idea to allow others to ‘share’ your images – until you find someone has used it to make similar designs.

Don’t get copyright wrong: “I could have been a fragrance millionaire, Jerry!”

11:20AM | Friday, 1 November

The Seinfeld episode where Kramer “invents” a fragrance is a good example of copyright gone wrong:   Kramer: THE BEACH!!! You smell like the beach. What’s the name of that perfume you’re wearing? Tia: It’s Ocean by Calvin Klein. Kramer: CALVIN KLEIN!? No, no. That’s my idea. They, they stole my idea. Y’ see I had the idea of a cologne that makes you smell like you just came from the beach ... What is going on here?! He laughs at me then he steals my idea. I could have been a millionaire. I could have been a fragrance millionaire, Jerry!    Kramer was on the right track – he just didn’t take it quite far enough. Although you can’t copyright an idea, you can copyright an idea that has been developed.   So if Kramer had worked on the cologne’s formula and maybe had a trial batch made, that would constitute a ‘work’. You have automatic copyright protection when you first develop a ‘work’. Then if you go one step further and register your copyright, you’re in an even better position.   What is copyright?   Copyright is an automatic protection in Australia for the owner of a ‘work’. A ‘work’ may be in the form of text, an image, music composition or recording, software code, a film, etc.   Copyright is an immediate right granted to the owner upon creation and you don’t have to register your right or ‘work’, in order to have the protection. The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to control how and where their ‘work’ is used and may also sell these rights.   Will registering my copyright protect me?   Copyright ownership and rights are free. But for further protection, you can register things such as designs, innovations, artwork, music, pictures, etc., with IP Australia (   By registering copyrighted ‘work’ you protect yourself from someone else claiming it was their ‘work’ first. Registration, in most circumstances, provides priority to the registrant and unless the other person had objected during the application process, they will have a difficult time asserting that it was their ‘work’. So it’s a good idea to register your valuable ‘work’, to protect it.   Does copyright apply to the internet?   Absolutely, it does. If you copy someone’s ‘work’ and post it on the internet, you’re breaching their copyright. And they have a right to sue you!   This infographic explains the most common myths about copyright and the internet.   The biggest myth is that if something has been posted on the internet, it’s in the “public domain” and copyright protection no longer applies and it can be used freely. This is incorrect and a myth that needs to be corrected.   Most of the time, if you breach copyright by posting something that belongs to another person on the internet, that person will ask you to remove it. But if you have reproduced it on a garment, on stationery or on something that you are selling or using to make money, the owner can ask you for all revenue received and ensure you don’t use it again.   So when can you use someone’s copyrighted material?   There are a few exceptions where the use of copyrighted material is allowed:   Fair dealing: This means you are able to use it without asking permission from the owner where the work is being used for research or when you are writing a critique or review. But you must always acknowledge the owner. Statutory licence: The government and educational institutions can use copyrighted work without the owner’s permission; however, the owner can claim ‘fair’ payment for the work. Express permission: This is where you have been granted specific permission to re-use the ‘work’ from the copyright owner, for an agreed purpose. In this case, get permission in writing or by email. Creative Commons License: Copyright owners can offer a global license to give people permission to use their material at no cost.   What can you do if someone infringes your copyright?   What if you see your image, photo, article, design, etc. being used by someone else, a company or a website? First, contact them and ask them to remove the offending material. Sometimes they don’t realise it belongs to another person or they thought they wouldn’t get caught!   If it’s a website and they ignore your request, you can go to the domain host and make a formal request to have the material removed, or even request the site be closed down! You should provide evidence that you have already contacted the website owner directly. In general, domain hosting companies do not want to be seen permitting any illegal activity, so they normally have a process to follow to have your copyrighted work removed.   If, after your request for removal, the individual, company or website still does nothing, you should issue them with a formal Copyright Infringement Notice. In some instances, you can also request payment for fees and any revenue received by the person infringing your copyright.   ... And be proactive   Unfortunately you cannot avoid people ignoring copyright rules and using your work for their own benefit. The internet and connected world is growing so fast the regulations can keep up!   So you need to keep track of your work and register it where you can to ensure the maximum protection. Posting clear copyright notices and terms on your work and website may also deter infringers from ‘stealing’ your material. If you sell your work, ensure that all copyright notices and ownership of the work is clearly marked and noted.   And make sure you know the rules, so you don’t breach anyone else’s copyright!

Don't hire interns, partner with them

6:49AM | Thursday, 16 June

In the US and Europe internships at high profile companies are highly competitive, with only a few places available and huge list of applicants keen to get into the program. And it's not easy to get in – for many you will need a post-graduate qualification and a quality portfolio just to get in the door.