How do we talk to companies about open private policies?

I’ve recently started a new job, and I hold a lot of sway over certain kinds of decisions the company takes, primarily “technical” in nature. It would probably be best described as I am IT for a non-tech startup.

We create educational materials for young humans, and so of course part of my job is ensuring that our security practices protect our assets, which is our IP.

While I personally find it hard to license works as anything besides CC0, I do not particularly care about advocating for anything besides our default assumption of full copyright for everything our company produces. I am super busy, and I want to keep my social capital for battles that make my life and my coworkers’ easier.

But it kinda bugs me that we are so early in production, and I didn’t even bring it up, and now it will have a momentum working against this idea later. I realize that when it comes to this, I don’t have any tools on how to discuss this.

Compare that to our stance on FOSS, which is much, much easier. Some decisions were made before I got there, and I personally don’t think it is practical to do business using only free software (I don’t know of a company that does, that isn’t also a producer of free software), and I support and deal with them as they come. But now nearly all my decisions are made for free software, largely in part that no one else knows what I am doing, and wouldn’t care if they did.

Hey, look, software freedom has an advantage over content!

I know there are some talking point documents for promoting free software, but what do we have for copyright policy? Is that something worth creating? What available resources are there for employees to advocate for policy changes in their companies/projects/teams?

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I don’t know that there are really good materials on why a business should use or produce free/open source software and matching ready to adopt policies, nevermind using and producing free/open other stuff. Policies exist in some savvy companies, would be interesting to see if any are published. A small part of the problem is that many entities that might provide such policies implicitly want free/open to be a cost center – they want to be paid to consult on implementing or certifying compliance.

Free/open source software has lucked out in that a lot of it can be adopted bottom up in IT like you are doing, and on the production side that it’s really obvious now (but probably still not in most of the world) that you really don’t want to be sole maintainer of software that isn’t your business’ competitive advantage (lots of people criticized that open source everything but your secret sauce article, but I think it represents a step forward, with plenty more to go). There doesn’t seem to be as much of an opportunity for bottom up adoption of non-software (discounting freely licensed photos in presentations as ultra-low-value) or widely acknowledged cost structure strikingly aligned with producing free non-software stuff.

I feel that ‘freedom as a feature’ case needs to be developed, both for adoption (your company should see freedom as a feature it wants) and production (your company’s customers should see freedom as a feature they want).

There’s also an almost toally undeveloped angle taking free/open as a [corporate] social responsibility.

I have a fantasy that there could be a free/open prviate policy that could scale from individual to world government (that is any of those entities could adopt) and be practicable for entities that do not take intellectual freedom (or, in all existing cases, some field specific application) as their top and non-negotiable priority, that is doesn’t totally exclude any possibility of using or producing non-free stuff.

But I don’t have tips for your situation beyond those implied above – do customers/users of company products care about free/open at all? Is company mission somehow aligned with free/open such that they could consider it even if customers don’t demand, like they might some other social responsibility issue?

Somewhat related, FAQ on businesses and commons-based production last paragraph:

None of these dimensions are absolute, nor do they exclude anyone, including purely profit-maximizing businesses. At the same time each dimension is important, and other things being equal, it is good if more production is explicitly contributed to the commons, does not depend on freedom infringing regimes, does depend on freedom, and is organized in a way and has building commons as a top goal. The more commons-oriented production is, the stronger the interest group for promoting and protecting freedom respecting regimes. Although distributed and decentralized production is great, there is a high probability that huge organizations, many of them businesses, will continue to dominate many kinds of knowledge production. As such it it crucial that such organizations are included in commons-based production. Additional commons commitment mechanisms for such organizations will be an important area of research and experimentation.

Stumbled upon this, quick reaction…
Contributing to the commons can be seen as:

  1. social responsibility (apply freedom to particular works needed by some disadvantaged group)
  2. a marketing strategy (free core, proprietary premium)
  3. exploring alternative markets (experiment with freedom based business models in niche markets more adapted to them)
  4. a goal in itself (charge for innovation and support, i.e. customers pay for crafting new material or customizing what exists, not for having access)
    With a little more time maybe one can think of other ways to “sell” freedom…

That’s a good list, though your parentheticals make #1 and #2 too narrow – social responsibility can be motivated by something other than disadvantaged group, and marketing strategy not limited to only supporting “open core”. I’d add a #5, responding to pro-commons/freedom demand from customers or constituents or public policy.

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Totally agree! My parenthesis were meant as examples, not definitions. =)