Labelling recyclable information

My proposal

As you’d guess from reading the site copyright policy, I am a staunch supporter of the Free Software, Open Source and OpenContent ideas. I think bits should free, period. The trouble is, currently they’re anything but. One cannot freely utilize what finds online unless it’s marked as being freely recyclable. Worse still, the majority of freely available online material isn’t marked as such.

Sure, the OpenContent initiative does have its own logos and principles. The trouble is, people do not acknowledge them, and the marking isn’t applicable to plaintext. This is a real tragedy, since one cannot be sure about whether a given piece of text/content can be used for further endeavors, even if that is indeed the case.

I’d think this has a lot to do with aesthetic, space and convenience considerations. First, marking a website as OpenContent is a lot of work, considering you have to retrieve the proper logo, link it to your site, type alternative text for the image, and so on. Secondly, not everybody likes images or can use them—if one is using a format other than HTML, it’s not at all sure one can incorporate external imagery, and even if HTML is being used, few sites fit well with bulk logos like the OpenContent ones. What we need is an easy, lightweight, elegant and low‐key way of labelling Open Content.

I suggest an approach similar to the ones employed with other common symbols/logos: let’s just label the content with a single, widely understood character, encoded/available in Unicode. This has the benefit of fitting well with whatever the typeface used on a given page, being compatible with (Unicode) plaintext, being unobtrusive, and yet unambiguously designating the site as being Open Content. AFAICS, the only problem with this approach is the precise symbol chosen.

To this end, I think the best solution is to use Unicode character U+2672 UNIVERSAL RECYCLING SYMBOL (), perhaps linked to Why? Well, isn’t recyclable precisely the designation for OpenContent? Something less harmful to our information environment, a means of individual involvement, designating reusability for the common good… Plus, it’s succinct, unobtrusive, easy, standardized, unambiguous, fit for textual encoding and, above all, aesthetic. It’s all one could hope of a logo.

Finally, one could use U+267C RECYCLED PAPER SYMBOL () as a marker for actually recycled (all quote) data, and perhaps extend the analogy to deal with other kinds of sorta‐copyleft content, as well…

So, my complete proposal is:

Unicode characters for copyright critical content
Sign Sign described Unicode Description HTML
Three thick, interlocking curved outline arrows, forming an upward pointing triangle with the arrows circling clockwise, folding in the edges U+2672 UNIVERSAL RECYCLING SYMBOL When the content is OpenContent, subject to the OpenContent licence. ♲
The interior of the universal recycling symbol printed in white on a slightly larger round black background U+267C RECYCLED PAPER SYMBOL When the content is all quote, that is, entirely from other sources, putting the responsibility for such content on the original quoter. ♼
The interior of the universal recycling symbol printed in black inside a slightly larger round black circle U+267D PARTIALLY‐RECYCLED PAPER SYMBOL When the content is only partially quote, that is, utilizes material written by others but also mixes in unique content. ♽
The interior of the universal recycling symbol printed in black U+267B BLACK UNIVERSAL RECYCLING SYMBOL When all intellectual property restrictions on the content have been waived. ♻

My €.02 ℮, maybe, but but I can scarcely think of anything better to mark OpenContent.

The Creative Commons model

Shortly after I wrote the above chapter, the Creative Commons initiative introduced a number of new symbols which can be used to mark content copyright policy in a more fine‐grained manner. I’ll try to describe these symbols, below, and give approximate Unicode equivalents. But the fact is, at the current time these symbols cannot be encoded in running text in a robust manner. Your mileage with the below Unicode will vary.

Creative Commons markers for copyright critical content
Sign Sign described Unicode Description HTML
B͏Y͏:⃠ The string BY: inside a circle U+0042 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER B, U+034F COMBINING GRAPHEME JOINER, U+0059 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Y, U+034F COMBINING GRAPHEME JOINER, U+003A COLON, U+20E0 COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE BACKSLASH Attribution. Permit others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and derivative works based upon it only if they give you credit. B​͏​Y​͏​:​⃠
$⃠ The dollar sign inside a circle with a backward slash drawn over it U+0024 DOLLAR SIGN, U+20E0 COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE BACKSLASH Noncommercial. Permit others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and derivative works based upon it only for noncommercial purposes. $​⃠
=⃝ The equals sign inside a circle U+003D EQUALS SIGN, U+20DD COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE No Derivative Works. Permit others to copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based upon it. =​⃝
⌂⃝ A small black house symbol inside circle U+2302 HOUSE, U+20DD COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE Non‐Public. Permit others to make private copies of the work and derivative works, but not to distribute or publicly to display or perform them. ⌂​⃝
ɔ⃝ An inverted capital letter C inside a circle U+0254 LATIN SMALL LETTER OPEN O, U+20DD COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE Copyleft. Permit others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work. Ↄ​⃝, Ɔ​⃝ or ɔ​⃝