Digital Media and Intellectual Property Rights


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Unit 3 - Open Source

Contents:


Objectives

At the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Define open source software
  2. Identify how open source software relates to digital media
  3. Demonstrate a knowledge of the relationship between intellectual property rights and open source software
  4. Develop an understanding of the role and implications of open source software in an educational setting
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Introduction

The Copyright Act provides the owner of a copyright certain exclusive rights. In general they include five safeguards which protect the originator from modification, redistribution, and commercial use:

  1. Reproduction of the copyrighted work,
  2. Preparation of derivative works (adaptations) based upon the copyrighted material,
  3. Distribution of the work,
  4. Performance of the work publicly and
  5. Displaying of the work publicly

Source code for computer programs was and is still largely copyrighted by the authors and some large companies began to enforce intellectual property rights. Against this background, in 1985, Richard Stallman started the Free Software Foundation and developed a legal framework to license free software (General Public License) to support free software movement in a bid to promote freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software.

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What is Open source?

This refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. Open source code evolves through community cooperation. These communities are composed of individual programmers as well as very large companies.

Open Source Software (OSS) is an alternative version to "traditional" proprietary, closed source, software. It is developed and improved through communal efforts of programmers who freely share the source code, which can then be used, modified and redistributed royalty free to the general public. Most OSS can be downloaded freely via the Internet. Open source software has no restrictions from the copyright holder regarding modification of the software’s internal instructions and its redistribution. It is free in every sense of the word meaning iIt is free to use, free to modify and free to distribute. The source code for open source software is shared under a general public license which allows users to download, redistribute, install and use the application on any number of computers freely.

The open source license is a copyright license for computer software that makes the source code available for everyone to use which gives end users the opportunity to review and modify the source codes royalty free.

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Open Source Projects

Here are some examples of open source projects.

Ubuntu is probably the most popular distro out there. It is designed for ease of use. It has all of the features of a modern operating system and uses the Gnome graphic desktop environment. It was started by South African millionaire Mark Shuttlesworth and is maintained by his company Canonical. The name Ubuntu comes from a South African language and it means 'humanity to others.

Fedora is maintained by Red Hat, a commercial enterprise whose business is in server software and management. The Fedora project functions like a testing ground for them where new features from the more cutting edge Fedora project can later make their way into their commercial product. It comes with a number of graphic desktop environment options but the default one is KDE.

Puppy Linux is very fast and very light. It can run extremely well on older machines. It is under 100MB and can be easily run from a USB stick. It is maintained by a small core of loyal users under the leadership of Barry Kauler.


Android is Google's operating system for smartphones and tablets and various other devices. It is also based on the linux kernel.


MeeGo is the result of a new partnership between Intel and Nokia to make a fast and light operating system that will run on low-power chips. This would be a good candidate to install on a netbook.


EyeOS is a cloud-based operating system. It is installed on a server and people can run it through a browser from any other operating system. IBM is starting to offer it as an option on their latest models of mainframe computers.


Wordpress: Wordpress is web software that allows you to easily build your own blog. It is used to power over 25 million blogs worldwide. You can also build and host your own blog for free on their server.


BigBlueButton: This is a newcomer to the open source LMS scene joining Moodle and Sakai. It comes out of Carleton University in Ontario. Since Blackboard bought Elluminate and Wimba, more and more schools may be looking for open source alternatives.

Openmoko: This project, initiated by First International Computer (FIC) out of Taiwan started as an attempt to build a smartphone operating system that was completely open source. The team later made the designs for the telephone open source as well, allowing any electronics company to make use of their designs. Ultimately, the project was cancelled due to the success of a rival open source project, Android.

MakerBot: This is an open source 3D printer. Anything that you create using 3D modeling software can be reproduced in ABS plastic. The hardware designs are also open source and can be downloaded for free. Users are encouraged to upload their 3D models for others to use, modify and share.

BitTorrent: This free, open source, file sharing applications still dominates the Internet. A 2009 study found that Peer to Peer (P2P) software continues to generate the majority of Internet traffic. Bit Torrent makes up most of that. It was created by Bram Cohen using the open source computer language, Python.

Koha is an Integrated Library System (ILS) to run a school or public lending library. It is intended to compete with familiar commercial products such as Destiny Quest. The project has been running for 10 years and is mature and stable.

Blender: Is a powerful 3D content creation suite. It has an enormous community and plenty of tutorials to help new users get started. They even have an annual movie award for projects made with Blender. The following award-winning movie, ‘Big Buck Bunny’ was made entirely with open source software.

Additional open source projects can be accessed at http://distrowatch.com/"

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Pre-Test

  1. What is Richard Stallman’s views on free software?
  2. What are the essential freedom that software users must have?
  3. What is open source software?
  4. What are the benefits of open source software in education?
  5. Explain the copyleft concept
  6. While software development has been the main arena for open source mechanisms, what are some knowledge-based activities and/or digital media that employ the same general approach?
  7. What past legal troubles did VirtualDub software encounter?
  8. What are the leading reasons for organizations to avoid open source software?
  9. What is Nash’s ‘forecast’ for open source software over the next ten years?
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Interactivities

  1. Watch part 1 of professor Lawrence Lessig full interview:



  2. Watch is video that answers, ‘What is free software?’



  3. Watch professor Lawrence Lessig’s video on Copyright laws at SES Chicago 2008



  4. Read Aydin, C. & Tirkes, G. (2010) Open source learning management systems in e-learning and Moodle.
  5. Read Nash, J. (2009). Directions for open source software over the next decade.
  6. Read Wen, W., Forman, C., & Graham, S. (2010). The Impact of Intellectual Property Enforcement on Open Source Software Adoption.
  7. Watch Nixie Pixel’s video about open source software



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Assignments

Please complete the following assignments:

Assignment #1: There has been a great deal of research to identify the project-level characteristics that influence the success of open source software, such as software type, number of developers, organizational sponsorship, etc. However, a relatively unexplored area of study is how changes in the external environment influences the success of open source software, more specifically intellectual property enforcement.

Please read the Wen article and post a 200-300 word response to the question: How do intellectual property enforcement actions (litigation) influence open source software use and adoption?

Assignment #2: As a MET student, you regularly use a learning management system and have (or will) use Moodle. You have likely formed opinions about the pros and cons of these distance education tools. Keep your view point in mind as you read Aydin article. After reading the Aydin article please respond to the following questions:

  1. Can the use of open source software reduce distant education costs?
  2. Would generalizing the use of open source software in education lead to more development of learning tools, which in turn will increase educational quality?
  3. What did Aydin’s study conclude after comparing different open source learning management systems in distance education?

Assignment #3: In the Go Open Source or Go Home video (embedded below), Nixie Pixel makes comparisons between specific types of software and their open source software alternatives. She argues that certain open source software can offer all the features of closed source software, but for free. As a class, I would like you each think about your experience with open and closed software and share your knowledge on the Software Wiki. Please add reviews, positive and negative, to different types of software, open and closed, you have used. You are also encouraged to build upon your peers’ reviews as well. Ideally, we can build thriving software resource wiki based on the knowledge of our student populace.



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Post-Test

  1. What is Richard Stallman’s views on free software?
  2. What are the essential freedom that software users must have?
  3. What is open source software?
  4. What are the benefits of open source software in education?
  5. Explain the copyleft concept
  6. While software development has been the main arena for open source mechanisms, what are some knowledge-based activities and/or digital media that employ the same general approach?
  7. What past legal troubles did VirtualDub software encounter?
  8. What are the leading reasons for organizations to avoid open source software?
  9. What is Nash’s ‘forecast’ for open source software over the next ten years?
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Resources

Aydin, C. & Tirkes, G. (2010) Open source learning management systems in e-learning and Moodle. Education Engineering (EDUCON).

Englishvoiceover. (2008, July 18). Go Open - Professor Lawrence Lessig Part 1 Full Interview [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsSYaFeSiQw&feature=related

Goyen, A. (2007, February 22). Downtown Marquette dog sled races [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW3CNCGGgTY

Nash, J. (2009). Directions for open source software over the next decade. Futures. Vol. 42(4).

NixiePixel (2009, October 10). Go Open Source or Go Home [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27AGe1b0mnI&feature=fvsr

Robingood. (2006, October 19). Richard Stallman - What is free software? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJi2rkHiNqg

SESConfernceExpo (2008, December 9). Lawrence Lessig on Copyright laws at SES Chicago 2008 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaKD055Tang&feature=related

Wen, W., Forman, C., & Graham, S. (2010). The Impact of Intellectual Property Enforcement on Open Source Software Adoption. ICIS 2010 Proceedings. Paper 187.

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