Open and Shut?: Developing a unified rule for openness: Interview with Alek Tarkowski
"Twenty years ago the European Organisation for Nuclear Research — better known as CERN — published a statement that made the technology that underpins the Web available on a royalty-free basis. By making the software required to run a web server, along with a basic browser and a library of code, free for all CERN paved the way for a revolution in innovation and creativity. As a result, the Web has impacted the world in many varied ways — not least by generating a stream of new products and services, and by allowing the creation of a multitude of novel new ways for sharing information and knowledge, and on a global basis. It has also seen the emergence of an accompanying flood of free and open movements committed to promoting greater sharing of ideas and content, and for increased transparency and civic participation in organisations, in communities, and in government. We have seen, for instance, the emergence of the open access, free and open-source software, open data, open science, open politics, and open government movements. And to facilitate the free flow of information and creativity enabled by the Web, Creative Commons was founded, and tasked with developing new-style licences to make sharing as frictionless as possible. Initially these movements were bottom-up, citizen-led developments. More recently, governments have become interested in greater openness and sharing too, and begun to encourage and even require it, particularly where resources are created from public funds. Thus we have seen the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) introduce its Public Access Policy, the EU introduce its OA Policy, and we have seen the proposed FASTR Act and the recently announced US Open Data Policy. To date, these top-down initiatives have tended to be piecemeal, and invariably focused on one type of public resource — e.g. publicly funded research or government data. At the end of last year, however, a new bill was proposed in Poland that would aim to adopt a more joined-up approach to the openness of public resources. If enacted, the Open Public Resources Act would provide 'a unified rule for as large a part of Poland’s public resources as possible', says Alek Tarkowski an activist for greater openness in Poland. Given its radical approach, the proposed bill has attracted a good deal of criticism, and it remains unclear how — or even whether — it will become law. If it does pass, says Tarkowski, it will doubtless be watered down in the process. Whatever its fate, the proposed bill raises some interesting and complex issues. As such, it is worth reviewing its aspirations and objectives, and the nature of the criticism it attracted. In order to do this I conducted an email interview with Tarkowski recently, which I publish below. Tarkowski was a member of the Board of Strategic Advisors to the Prime Minister of Poland that drafted the initial concept of the proposed bill. He is also the director of Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska and co-founder and Public Lead of Creative Commons Poland."