Open Source Movies

I thought it was about time that we made a little post about the difference between an open source film and a creative commons one. The difference is only a subtle one, but we believe it is an important one as well.

Creative Commons and Open source

Without getting too much into the history of it all, in the olden days there really weren't many laws governing things like intellectual property and such. They slowly started coming into place, but they were largely concerned with stopping people using copyrighted materials or ideas. This is largely still the case.

Software development (perhaps due to its more abstract and non-commercial nature in the early days) was at first ignored by these laws. However, once people started adapting the laws to include software, some people didn't like this individualistic point of view, preferring instead the more communal ethos that had existed in computing up until that time. This led to the creation of the General Public License (also known as the GPL or Copyleft). The GPL was a clever use of existing laws which encouraged the sharing of ideas and materials, but prevented any single person from controlling them. In essence this meant that everyone owned those things, but also that no one did. While anyone could modify or sell those things, they could not claim sole rights to do so. Also, any changes they made had to also be released under the GPL or they would not be allowed to use the original materials. This is the essence of Open Source. The underlying contents of something, the original raw material used to make it, must be available to people for no cost for them to be able to use and change it to suit their needs. However, changes must also be released as open source and although a product can be sold, the original raw material must always be free. Although there are now several Open Source Licenses that you can choose when starting a new project, they generally follow a similar ethos.

Creative Commons is a more controlled version of Open Source. It has a similar ethos, but gives original creators of material much more control over what happens to that material. Due to the 'viral' nature of many open source licenses, once a creator has released something as open source that creator effectively loses control of it. It now belongs to the world. Creative Commons also allows people to use materials for their own needs without the author's permission, but there are different conditions than with open source. Firstly, it is generally the output, not the raw materials used to make it, that are being released. Access to the raw materials is neither implied nor necessary. Also, if you do change the music, you must give the original creator credit for being the original creator. This is a condition that is not often necessary for open source which means that other people might take more credit than they are due. Creative Commons materials usually allow the original author to prevent anyone making money from the materials. However, perhaps the most important point about Creative Commons is that the original author can waive any of the conditions for specific people at any time.

Our personal point of view is that no film can really call itself open source unless the raw footage is available to people. The first film we are aware of that made the raw materials available was Elephants Dream. The people who made that are now working on a second open source film. However, everything after that we would have to consider a form of creative commons.

In any case, because we will be releasing all our raw materials (the ones used in the final edit at any rate) as creative commons, we are in a limbo between the two. We are open source in that the raw materials will be available, but we will be creative commons in the way that we will prevent others from making money unless we say so. And also that we will always want original author credit.

We fell that this is a good compromise for us. We get credit for what we have made, but allow other people to use what we've made in their own projects. We're also not saying that people wouldn't be allowed to use it and make money, just that they would have to get our permission… which might involve giving us a cut.

Anyway, we hope people are satisfied with that reasoning. In any case, from what we can tell, no one has released an open source live action film (under the conditions we have specified above). So it will be nice if we are the first.

Either way, here are some other sources of film footage that you might be able to use in your own projects:

Toodles everyone.


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