An OpenConcept social contract, as I wrote about here, doesn’t exist yet but perhaps it is possible to bootstrap a process in which we imagine it exists and allow practice to define it. So here is the germ of an Open Concept social contract. It would be roughly based on the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Adapting this, we would get something like:

The OpenConcept 1.0 social contract allows you:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit this concept
  • to Tinker — to adapt, tinker with, and otherwise riff on this concept

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must attribute the concept in the manner specified by the inventor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the concept).
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this concept, you may propagate the resulting concept only under the same or similar social contract.

Feel free to use this page as an interim license page to license your concepts until something more robust evolves.

Why a Social Contract and Not a License?

In broad strokes, this IS an attempt to apply a CC-BY-SA license to concepts/ideas. However, copyright only applies to “works”, not to “methods” which falls under the domain of patents. So this is a kind of Open Patent idea but attempting to do it without appeal to legal framework because I am pretty sure there is no framework short of an actual patent that would protect you. So rather than say “license”, I say “social contract”, an implied agreement, quid pro quo on attributing inventors/innovators who dare to share. What makes me think it could work is the fact that most Open Source initiatives operate in practice by social contract, not legal contract.

What Happens If Someone Steals Your OpenConcept?

The same thing that happens when someone leaves a restaurant without tipping. It is not very nice but nobody dies and the system continues to work because in general there is still an implied social contract. Overall value perceived on both sides continues the practice.

The OpenConcept idea only works for people who are happy just to get credit for their ideas, not money. If someone uses their idea without crediting them. Well, not very nice but not the end of the world.

Hopefully, if someone tried to patent an idea that someone had declared an OpenContent, having some sort of online repository for OpenContent might establish “prior art” which would slow or block the patent application.

Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data