Beyond Free Software: Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap…

Free Software as a model

Building together, sharing, is as natural in the field of knowledge as it is in IT. Nowadays, there are free licenses for art, public data, free hardware, etc. Wikipedia, the collaborative encyclopedia, is no doubt the most spectacular project derived from the Free Software principles. Also worth mentioning is OpenStreetMap, which is flourishing in the field of cartography. There is a host of such projects, including digitization of public domain works, databases for audio, images, educational resources, etc.

Licenses and sources

In 2000, some French artists and lawyers wrote the Free Art License for this very purpose. In 2002, it’s the Creative Commons licenses that were published. Creative Commons provide variable-geometry licenses, some of which are indeed free in the usual Free Software sense, while others, which prohibit derivative works or commercial use, are said to be free-distribution licenses, although they do not follow the Free Software principles. The Free Software logic is sometimes misunderstood, or even scorned.

A novel paradigm

Whether in IT or elsewhere, the principles of Free Software have created a grassroots movement that has been spreading for thirty years. These principles make it possible to combine individual and collective efforts in innovative and efficient ways. They give everyone, whether individuals, communities, nonprofits or businesses, the opportunity to act and to do. They greatly simplify the deal, as compared with the traditional property-and-restrictions model. In short, they are a powerful lever for adapting our world to the challenges ahead.