at The Evergreen State College

Open Source

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Open Source Publishing

"Open Source - Think free speech, not free beer" - Steven Weber


Open source publishing first entered the technological lexicon in the 1950's and 60's when IBM published free releases of its operating systems and encourage the shared use of the software. The idea started out as a way for the few people who owned and operated computers to be able to collaberate and make the technology workable. Open source, as it is understood today didn't truly enter the lexicon until the late 80's. Originally the concept was termed free software when scientists at MIT and Berkeley were simultaneously developing open source operating systems. These systems were not only free, but allowed users to write or edit code provided they did not attempt to make money off of the sale or distrobution of the software.

Today there are many open source softwares, the most famous being Linux, Apache, Blender,, and Mozilla. These softwares offer a variety of functions to the end user and are simple enough to use that even people who don't have any idea how to write code can use them.

Open Source software seems to fit right in with Evergreen's politics and goals, but there are drawbacks to using open source software at academic libraries. First, as hard economic times mean librarians have to do more work with less staff, it can't be expected that librarians will be able to understand how to code all of the software that users might need. Since anyone can edit the software, programs on public computers might be rewritten to the point of being non-functional. Without the knowledge of some pretty serious computer nerds, it would be difficult to get the programs back in working order. Second, technological advances in other areas of computing might leave existing open source programs behind. There is never any guarantee that the original author of a program will continue its upkeep and because of this, the level of upkeep or innovation to existing programs might be low. If a programs becomes unstable or outdated and there isn't anyone who knows how to fix it, a school will have to spend the money and energy to choose a new software. If the school is devoted to open source software, they might be searching for new solutions on a fairly regular basis. These factors helped determine my recommendations for Bibliographic Management Solutions at Evergreen.

Open Source Initiatives' Definition

Open source doesn't just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

2. Source Code The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derived Works The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

4. Integrity of The Author's Source Code The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

Creative Commons and Copyright Issues

" A review of federal litigation trends over the last 10 years reveals an increase of approximately 50 percent in the number of intellectual property lawsuits filed throughout the country." An increase in lawsuits mirror an increase in the pushback and resistance to the stricter laws. Creative commons, simply, provdes a variety of protections to artists, musicians, and writers, allowing the originators of matierial to decide for themselves how they want that material used. It is similar to open source matierial, in that it is not traditionally copywritten and therefore can be used without the legal ramifications of reproducting a work protected by strict copyright law. Creative commons is an organization that fights the idea of "all rights reserved" by offering support and guidance to the creators of the work and the end user.

"Why CC? The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web. The default setting of copyright law requires all of these actions to have explicit permission, granted in advance, whether you’re an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker, or just a regular user. To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons."

Creative commons and open source are different concepts that address similar issues. Open source is even less ties to traditional copyright. While Creative Commons is an organization, open source publishing is a movement.

Works Cited

Open Source Bibliographic Managers

  • Aigaion ·
  • Bebop ·
  • BibDesk ·
  • Bibus ·
  • Connotea ·
  • JabRef ·
  • KBibTeX ·
  • Pybliographer ·
  • refbase ·
  • refdb ·
  • Referencer ·
  • Wikindx ·
  • Zotero

Sources to look at