Why we really believe in Open Source

Being a 21st century agency.

Copyright is the bane of innovation, and misunderstood by most

Since our founding in the late 1990’s, we’ve been committed to the open source philosophy, and set firmly against the evils of aggressive copyrighting. Until now we’ve never really articulated why.

The open source movement began as a response to the limitations of proprietary development models. It is widely used in the programming space, encouraging open collaboration, peer production, universal access, decentralised evolution, and free licensing. However, it is increasingly used to cover services, products, ideas and the written word.

Oddly though, open source digital agencies are rare, super-rare in fact.

They (the agencies) are mostly protective about the work they produce – you’ll see trademarks and copyright notices everywhere, on their web-sites, logos, portfolios, and deep inside their terms. It’s almost like they live in a bubble and don’t wanna share their toys and learning.

Hypocritically, the very same digital agencies are quite happy to use open source technology to turn a quick profit and then give nothing back to the community. It may be borne from the very nature of the agency space, a space that is characterised by short lifespans, mentalist growth, and spectacular failures.

It’s hard when an agency is driven by intense competition, egos, and growth – animalistic in nature, it’s natural to act like a dog, and mark your territory. Copyright and trademarking are, then, like pissing on a lamp post. And subsequently getting into fights over copyright.

Simpler thinking

Open source underpins much of the digital world today, so much so that the very notion of copyright seems outdated. There are very few good ideas that don’t get mercilessly cloned by the competition – take a look at Facebook blatantly copying Snap’s user experience model. But this is a good thing, assuming Facebook improves on the original.

In open source parlance, this is called “forking” and is encouraged. It is how WordPress came into existence, it’s how 99% of the Internet’s components are developed and delivered. Forking doesn’t violate copyright because there is no copyright as most open source work utilises a license that permits free copying. Often, the open source license comes with a caveat … whatever is improved on must also be open source, free for the next cycle of innovation and improvement.

As a result, the taking and sharing of ideas, code, and content create better versions (mostly). So rather than worrying about folks copying your stuff, open-source advocates encourage “stealing” as every iteration is an improvement on the last. It really is a virtuous circle. As long as all the players stick to the “share and share” rules. And mostly they do.

Who embraces open source?

How about Google, Tesla, Amazon, Wikipedia, Microsoft, WordPress, Facebook, and Apple for a start? Plus 75% of the FTSE100. Open source is everywhere we look, it’s in your car, computer, TV, phone, the music you listen to, search engine results. But it’s not just the preserve of large companies – lots of smaller companies embrace, contribute, and develop using an open source philosophy.

We embrace open source via Creative Commons, a simple framework to properly license work that can be copied, improved, and adapted. In fact, every word, image and element on this web-site is available under Creative Commons to copy and use as you feel fit. That’s millions of words, images, ideas, features and methodologies that we’re happy to share.

For example, this article, and ALL the content on this site is free to copy, adapt, edit, and share anywhere, subject to the terms of CC BY-SA 3.0.

Is everything we do open source?

No. Some elements of the operational work we do falls under commercial agreements with organisations that require licensing. Also, some content we produce is client-confidential. And quite rightly so, to be an agency we must possess sensitive information about clients and markets that would be wrong to share.

However, we share as much as we can, and that means we’re 100% committed to open source.