Thursday, May 30, 2013

Developing a unified rule for openness: Interview with Alek Tarkowski

Twenty years ago the European Organisation for Nuclear Research — better known as CERNpublished a statement that made the technology that underpins the Web available on a royalty-free basis. By making the software required to run a web server, along with a basic browser and a library of code, free for all CERN paved the way for a revolution in innovation and creativity.
Alek Tarkowski

As a result, the Web has impacted the world in many varied ways  not least by generating a stream of new products and services, and by allowing the creation of a multitude of novel new ways for sharing information and knowledge, and on a global basis.

It has also seen the emergence of an accompanying flood of free and open movements committed to promoting greater sharing of ideas and content, and for increased transparency and civic participation in organisations, in communities, and in government. We have seen, for instance, the emergence of the open access, free and open-source software, open data, open science, open politics, and open government movements.

And to facilitate the free flow of information and creativity enabled by the Web, Creative Commons was founded, and tasked with developing new-style licences to make sharing as frictionless as possible.

Initially these movements were bottom-up, citizen-led developments. More recently, governments have become interested in greater openness and sharing too, and begun to encourage and even require it, particularly where resources are created from public funds. Thus we have seen the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) introduce its Public Access Policy, the EU introduce its OA Policy, and we have seen the proposed FASTR Act and the recently announced US Open Data Policy.

To date, these top-down initiatives have tended to be piecemeal, and invariably focused on one type of public resource — e.g. publicly funded research or government data.

At the end of last year, however, a new bill was proposed in Poland that would aim to adopt a more joined-up approach to the openness of public resources. If enacted, the Open Public Resources Act would provide “a unified rule for as large a part of Poland’s public resources as possible”, says Alek Tarkowski an activist for greater openness in Poland.

Given its radical approach, the proposed bill has attracted a good deal of criticism, and it remains unclear how — or even whether — it will become law. If it does pass, says Tarkowski, it will doubtless be watered down in the process.

Whatever its fate, the proposed bill raises some interesting and complex issues. As such, it is worth reviewing its aspirations and objectives, and the nature of the criticism it attracted. In order to do this I conducted an email interview with Tarkowski recently, which I publish below.

Tarkowski was a member of the Board of Strategic Advisors to the Prime Minister of Poland that drafted the initial concept of the proposed bill. He is also the director of Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska and co-founder and Public Lead of Creative Commons Poland.

If you wish to read the interview with Alek Tarkowski, please click on the link below.
I am publishing the interview under the CC BY-NC-ND licence. As such, you are free to copy and distribute it as you wish, so long as you credit me as the author, do not alter or transform the text, and do not use it for any commercial purpose.
To read the interview (as a PDF file) click HERE.


Marcin Wojnarski said...

Thanks for this interview. Interesting things happening here in Poland.

Yep, it's a brave step indeed to propose OA for cultural works in addition to research outcomes. Can you, Alek, give more specific examples of what types of art works you wish to become open under proposed law?

You mentioned movies. Can you say how many of them are fully (not only partially) funded by public money? To my understanding as a layman, rarely the state is the only funder. There's rather a partial subsidy, while still significant part of funds must be raised from commercial sponsors (investors) who hope to capitalize afterwards on movie sale to cinemas or TV stations - this is an important difference compared to academic projects. With OA obligations, there would be no chance for artists to raise the remaining part of funds, which means either abandoning many cultural projects, or increasing their price for the state who now would be forced to cover 100% of costs. Isn't it the case?

Marcin Wojnarski said...

...sorry for anonymous posting. The previous comment is mine, just mistakenly logged in with empty Blogger accnt. I very much dislike anonymous comments myself, so here's a fix. ;) -Marcin

Richard Poynder said...

Dear Marcin,

Thanks for this. I guess it is a question for Alek.

I will just note that in the interview Alek says:

"With regard to culture, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage funds (directly or through its agencies) quite a lot of cultural content. This includes movie production, literature, musical works, and scripts of theatre plays, for example."

And in relation to partially-funded cultural works, Alek says,

"Some believe these should not fall under the regulation; others have proposed there should be a designated minimal funding level (for example 50%) above which the rule would apply for a given work."

Perhaps Alek could say more about this?

Marcin Wojnarski said...

Thanks Richard. This makes sense. I guess that with partially-funded works an embargo period would also be inevitable.

Anyway, good to hear that OA ideas are spreading outside academia, too. Keeping fingers crossed for the success of this initiative in Poland.