eBusiness Models for Content
The Closed v. The Open Approaches

Roger Clarke

Principal, Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra

Visiting Professor, E-Commerce Programme, University of Hong Kong

Visiting Professor, Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre, University of N.S.W.

Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University

Version of 1 September 2004

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2004

Available under an AEShareNet Free
for Education licence

This document is at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/EC/eBusContent.html

Expert Address to the ECOM-ICOM Programme of the University of Hong Kong, 9 September 2004

In September 2003, my Expert Address was on 'Open Source and Open Content as Models for e-Business'. I developed that into a refereed paper, and presented it at the 17th International eCommerce Conference in Bled, Slovenia in June 2004.

This year's address is a further development of that paper. It focusses specifically on content rather than software, and contrasts the business models that are associated with the 'old' closed content approach with those evident in the 'new' open content era.

This document is a work-in-progress. In the meantime, the slide-set for the presentation is available.


The debate about 'free' and 'open' versus 'proprietary' and 'closed' was first engaged in the context of software. But the digital era has also highlighted the need for an appreciation of competing interests in many other kinds of works.Conventional, proprietary approaches are well-established, and large publishers are intent on defending them against the depradations wrought by the digital era. Despite some early successes, it seems unlikely that the copyright supremacists will hold sway for much longer. On the other hand, it is unlikely (and undesirable) that copyright will simply collapse. Publishers need to adapt their thinking and their business models forward into the twenty-first century.

The open content approach can be easily depicted as a communitarian movement, whose values are antithetical to the closed approach and to for-profit business and even economics. But open models are demonstrably not as naive and anti-business as the proponents of greatly strengthened copyright laws and patent practice would like to believe.

The primary examples of open content copyright licences are in the areas of legislation and court judgements, education and training materials, software documentation, creative and literary works, and research papers. By identifying and examining those licences, it is possible to appreciate the kinds of business models that they can support, and to delineate the decisions that need to be made by the originator of a work when structuring the terms of an open copyright licence.

Speaker Profile

Roger Clarke is a consultant with particular expertise in electronic business, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy. His work encompasses corporate strategy, government policy and public advocacy.

He has spent over 30 years in the I.T. industry, in Sydney, London, Zürich and Canberra, as professional, manager, academic, consultant and company Director and Chair. He holds degrees in Information Systems (MIS) from U.N.S.W., and a doctorate from the A.N.U.

He spent a decade as a senior academic at the Australian National University. Since returning to full-time consultancy in 1995, he has retained his association with that university's Department of Computer Science. He is also currently a Visiting Professor in the ECOM-ICOM Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and in the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W. in Sydney. He also sustains connections in Europe.

He has published scores of papers. All of them since 1995 are available at his community service site, which attracts over 2 million hits per annum. In addition to departments on eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy, the site also provides the world's most authoritative pages on 'Waltzing Matilda'.


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Created: 30 August 2004

Last Amended: 1 September 2004

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