How open is it?

“Open” means that anyone can publish or invent online without asking for permission, and that the technologies used to run the Web are transparent and understandable.

So much of the goodness that flows from the Internet is thanks to the fact that it is an open system: free for anyone anywhere to learn and build on.

The technical building blocks that help make this possible – core Web standards like HTML or JavaScript – are like Legos for humanity – anyone can pick them up and make something. It’s easy to forget that in previous communication eras you would have needed a costly printing press or an official broadcast license. Platforms like Wikipedia, Facebook or WordPress would never have gotten off the ground.

The big question now is: will the openness of the Internet last or wither? Policy threats in areas like copyright are multiplying. And new technologies, like machine learning or the Internet of Things, are not based on the same model of open standards as the World Wide Web.

So many great inventions keep coming out of garages, basements and dorm rooms — new social media platforms, music, memes, and political movements that make history – but there is a risk that the openness we have grown accustomed to could diminish over time.

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It’s healthy that anyone can create a website, and that all sites are treated equally by the Internet. Over 1.1 billion websites now exist and more appear by the second.

Creative practices of sharing, remixing and forwarding content online are growing. The open copyright licensing organization Creative Commons estimates there are now 1 billion CC-licensed works online that encourage reuse including texts, photos, and music.

Open ideals of the Internet are making inroads in new places: from managing organizations to creating movements and running governments. More and more public information about budgets and statistics is being shared online in open formats, even in countries where free speech is limited. And many local and national governments – including in India, the United Kingdom and United States – now have open source software policies to cut costs and make reuse of software between departments easier.

Open source software forms a major part of the building blocks of the Web (software like Linux and Apache runs on most of the world’s Internet servers) as well as a core part of the technology strategies of major corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon.


Policywise, the Internet is constantly dodging bullets, both in individual countries and internationally. In Europe this year, the Web is at mercy of lawmakers who will consider whether linking to news articles without permission should be a copyright infringement.

Some copyright laws are merely outdated for today’s digital life. Others are created in direct contrast to open ideals. Intellectual property frameworks negotiated behind closed doors as part of international trade agreements, like The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) may have detrimental effects on openness, privacy and data standards worldwide.

In their battle against online piracy, major publishers and rightsholders of movies, books and music in Europe and the United States use Digital Rights Management (DRM) software to limit people’s abilities to copy or alter copyrighted material in Web browsers. Regrettably, DRM is a closed system that could have security vulnerabilities, and it can restrict your freedom to make lawful use of the content you purchase, for instance by viewing on the device of your choice.

Are you an innovator? Beware of “patent trolls”. These are companies that sue legitimate businesses for outrageous sums based on dubious patents. Especially in the US, Europe and Russia they strike fear in technology and software makers. By ending patent wars, and seeking reform, we could help more innovations prosper rather than hinder their development.


Open innovation on the Internet is threatened by bad policies, the devaluation of common standards, and the fragmentation of the global Internet.

Billions of new devices are connecting to the Internet in homes, cities, public and private spaces, but proprietary software is usually prioritized over open standards and interoperability, leading to fragmentation, higher development costs and security risks for the Internet of Things.

We need to push for open source practices, transparency and standards for all new Internet technologies, including virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning (including training data) – not least to ensure that they also function properly on the Web.

We need more people, governments and companies to build openness into their thinking and practice, or we will gradually see it erode. And we need more people to acknowledge, that: ‘Yes, openness is to thank for all the major achievements we ascribe to the Internet today.’

Data visuals

Sharing for good cause

Two-thirds of the world have no “fair use” or “fair dealing” copyright provisions.

Intellectual property laws stifle creativity and innovation if they are too restrictive about sharing and remixing – particularly for educational and non-profit use, which would be permitted under “fair use”. We need to reform laws that are outdated, and support the growth of licensing alternatives like the Creative Commons.

Open data

Transparency through freedom of information

More governments are making data publicly available on the Internet every year.

Budgets, election results and census data can offer valuable insights to citizens, policy-makers and journalists. How data is released, can be just as important as what data is released. Once people have the right to know, more good innovations follow.

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R. A. Daza Jiménez
We need to discuss profoundly about fair use and many related things _in Spanish_. Most of its consequences are hidden to the main public and are related to FTA enforced by the U. S. In Colombia the Ley Lleras was an attempt to go into even more restricted areas. Dispositions about seed copyrights are madly restrictive for Campesinos, Natives and Afrodescendants. If we try to do the opposite, we found lists of victims and leaders in the most dangerous hands in something like an “eradication” campaign; many of its symptoms can be seen reproduced throughout the region. Locally many considered… Read more »
A Valisalo

I think it is great that Donald Trump is getting rid of the TPP and TTIP


Possibly good or not so good. Has anyone considered the future ramifications this will have on the average U.S. citizen? The cost of buying export goods, etc. [and a lot of other amenities] ? If the U.S. can match this, great.


Have you even read the TTIP ? All Hail globalisation !


From my experience in dealing with people, the US appears to have very poor education in what fair use means, or even that it exists at all. Many times I’ve tried to explain the concept to my friends “across the pond” and many times have I been met with a response to the effect of “fair what?”

Granted, I have a somewhat negative bias, but I’ve always tried my best to approach the topic with understanding.


Many of us, particularly in the tech sector, know what fair use is. “Across the pond”…always makes me laugh; big pond!

Levi O\'Callaghan
Levi O\'Callaghan

Fair what?