What a mature movement like the free software movement, or nascent movements like the free culture movement and the scientists' movement for open publication and open archiving are aimed at is the creation of a legally self-reinforcing domain of open cultural sharing. They...represent a self-conscious choice by their participants to use copyrights, patents, and similar rights to create a domain of resources that are free to all for common use.
|Benkler, 2008, p. 455-456|
The Content Layer consists of the information or utterances communicated and exchanged over the network. It is where knowledge and culture take place, and is most general users only experience of the Internet.
In the industrial era, particularly the second half of the twentieth century, both the production and distribution of information - as wrapped up in books, magazines, films, records or compact discs, television or radio shows - was expensive. Business models evolved around this economic fact and the ability to produce culture was largely constrained by the gatekeeper corporations that were spawned from these business models. These organisations were disparaged as 'culture industries' (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944) or latterly, 'copyright cartels' (Gilmour, 2004), but successfully retained longstanding monopolies on cultural production.
In the nascent digital era, specifically the beginning of the twenty-first century, the cost of the production of information was radically reduced through the growth and spread of personal computing, and the actual cost of the distribution of information (as digitised data sent over the Internet) became almost zero. This has had several significant implications, including a vastly more open capacity for individuals to participate in producing culture without requiring the permission of the former gatekeepers, the growth of the open culture movements that Benkler refers to in the opening quote, and the possible notion of global public domain of cultural materials. It has also led to extensive use of file-sharing software for the sharing of copyrighted materials, and the responses to such disruptive activities colloquially known as the 'copyright wars' (Patry, 2009).
It is no understatement to claim that the openness of the Internet has been highly contentious at the content layer.
Following are ten recommendations for maintaining openness at the Content Layer, including for intellectual property advocates, policymakers, individuals, scientific researchers and others operating at a content level:
What else could be done to keep the Content Layer open?