Historically, original work of any kind is owned exclusively by its creator. Open licensing changes this – it helps the owner of a photo or a dataset to release it to the public for people to reuse and combine in different ways.
A great example that has bloomed in recent years is the availability of creative commons licensed images – enabling people to put their photos to good use and help others find great content for free by searching repositories such as Wikimedia commons or flickr cc.
What other uses are there for this? It goes far beyond images – there are now huge projects to map useful public knowledge and share it for free. Whether it’s scientific, literary or practical know-how, it is being made available online through open licensing.
Creative commons is a particular group of licenses that are probably the best known. They allow people to give a degree of openness to their work, whilst retaining rights like being credited for the work or to restrict commercial uses for the work if they wish to do so.
An exciting development in licensing at the moment is how permissions for 3D printing will change in future – enabling those with access to that technology to create ‘creative commons ‘ products without the need to have all the technical expertise to design it safely in the first place.
The potential is enormous – imagine water testing kits, medical equipment, and other valuable tools being created in situ through openly available designs.