Open Content License

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Open Content License
AuthorDavid A. Wiley[1]
Latest version1.0
PublisherOpen Content Project
PublishedCurrent version:
July 14, 1998[2]
OSI approvedNo[3]

The Open Content License is a share-alike public copyright license by Open Content Project in 1998.[1] The license can be applied to a work to make it open content. It is one of the earliest non-software free content licenses.

History and reception[edit]

The Open Content License, dated July 14, 1998, predates the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and other non-software public licenses. Though discussions were held between David A. Wiley, creator of the Open Content License, and Richard Stallman, leader of the Free Software Foundation, who created the GNU General Public License for software and would create the GFDL.[4] The license text is titled "OpenContent License (OPL)".[5] "OPL" stood for OpenContent Principles and License.[6]

This license is not compatible with most other licenses (beside permissive licenses) in that it requires derivative works to be licensed under the Open Content License (Viral license). With the exception of media and handling costs, it forbids charging for copies of a licensed work, but does not otherwise forbid commercial use.[7]

Another license released a year later, also by the Open Content Project, is called the Open Publication License. The OpenContent as well as the Open Publication license were succeeded by the Creative Commons licenses in 2003.[8][1]

A project licensed under the OPL is Open Icecat, which was launched in 2005 as a global open catalogue for e-commerce, and is embraced by the tech sector.


  1. ^ a b c Wiley, David (2007-05-06). "About the Open Publication License". iterating toward openness. [The] Open Content License (July 14, 1998), which was replaced by the Open Publication License (June 8, 1999), were the first licenses to bring the ideals of open source software to the world of content. The OCL predates the GFDL (Nov 2002) and Creative Commons (Dec 2002) by over four years, while the improved OPL predates both by over three years. The OCL was developed primarily by me... The improved OPL was written primarily by Eric Raymond after discussions with me, Tim O'Reilly, and others... The OPL was truly innovative in that, in addition to requiring citation of the original author as source, it contained two license options which authors could choose to invoke: one restricts users' abilities to creative derivative works, while the second restricts users' abilities to make certain commercial uses of the material. The student of open content licensing will recognize that these are exactly the options that Creative Commons now employs. What may be forgotten is that in version 1.0 of the Creative Commons licenses, Attribution was actually included in the licenses only as an option. In version 2.0 of the CC licenses (May 24, 2004) attribution was standard on every license, and there were two licenses options: one regarding derivative works, and one regarding commercial use. So in terms of high level structure, the OPL was here about five years before CC. ... Actually, the [OCL and OPL] licenses weren't that great, seeing as I am not a lawyer, and neither was anyone else involved in the creation of the license. The concept was right, and the execution was "good enough," but Creative Commons (with its excellent lawyers and law school students) created a better legal instrument. As I said on the homepage on Monday June 30, 2003: 'My main goal in beginning OpenContent back in the Spring of 1998 was to evangelize a way of thinking about sharing materials, especially those that are useful for supporting education. ... I'm closing OpenContent because I think Creative Commons is doing a better job of providing licensing options which will stand up in court [and I'm joining] Creative Commons as Director of Educational Licenses. Now I can focus in on facilitating the kind of sharing most interesting to me ... with the pro bono support of really good IP lawyers... The OpenContent License and Open Publication License will remain online for archival purposes in their current locations. However, no future development will occur on the licenses themselves.' ... Anyone interested in a license like this is far better off using a Creative Commons license.
  2. ^ "OpenContent License (OPL)". Open Content Project. 1998-07-14. Archived from the original on 1998-12-06. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  3. ^ "Licenses by Name". Open Source Initiative. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  4. ^ Grossman, Lev (1998-07-18). "New Free License to Cover Content Online". Netly News. Archived from the original on 2000-06-19. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  5. ^ "OpenContent License (OPL)". Archived from the original on 1998-12-06.
  6. ^ Updating the OpenContent License and Clarifying a Few Things
  7. ^ OpenContent License (OPL)
  8. ^ OpenContent is officially closed. And that's just fine. on (30 June 2003, archived)