Open for business

How open design can help you generate visibilty and revenue

Gwen Franck (EIFL / LIBER / ...)


"Open for business" by Gwen Franck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except otherwise noted.


  • 'Commons' ?
  • What does it mean to make your work open?
  • Issues and misunderstandings
  • Advantages
  • Examples
  • How to

What is the "Commons"?

  • a shared resource
  • accessible to everybody
  • natural/cultural/intellectual
  • physical or digital (or both)
  • can be collectively managed for individual or communal benefit
  • state/market/commons

Commons as a fact

  • public space
  • anything that is not copyrightable
  • anything that is out of copyright
  • 'public domain'

Commons through act

  • dedication to public domain
  • use an open license and make your work open source - openly and freely accessible

Physical resources

  • depletable
  • exclusive
  • rivalrous
  • scarcity

Digital resources

  • non-depletable
  • non-exclusive
  • non-rivalrous
  • abundance (when placed in the commons)

The digital public domain/commons

The tragedy of the commons in the digital age

It has become very easy to make your work openly available online and to get access to other people's works - but it has also become much easier for third parties to block access

It's not because something is only 'one click away' that it is (legally) accessible or re-usable

Closing off the digital commons

What does it mean to put work in the commons?

Use the full potential of the internet by making your work as accessible as possible

Find, access and re-use openly available works

In the digital commons!

Ownership/authorship in the digital commons

  • work is no longer protected by intellectual property rights (IPR)
  • work has never been protected by IPR  and is in the public domain
  • work has an open license and (conditional) re-use is allowed
  • work has been dedicated to the public domain (the 'digital commons'





  • make your work (and its metadata) online available
  • use open formats and standards
  • use an open license
  • be clear and unambiguous about re-use conditions
  • cite and acknowledge your own sources
  • make use of the augmented versions of your work



  • cite and acknowledge the creator
  • respect license conditions
  • make any augmentations or adaptations openly available
  • look for open source alternatives
  • support designers and makers financially if possible



  • unconditional when in the public domain
  • conditional when the work is openly licensed
  • grey zone for works that have no known ownership but are 'available'

Open Source? Not for me!

aka common misunderstandings about the digital commons

I am not giving away my work for free!

Somebody else will steal my idea!

I want to control re-use of my work

It is not safe, I'm the only one who knows how my design works

Advantages of going open



make your work known globally


see what happens with your work


open = easy and quick access for the brightest minds around the world

first mover advantage


benefit from worldwide creativity

support local makers


transaction fees


production costs

market research



going open makes it easier for like-minded communities accross the globe to connect and share their resources


providing quick and free access can boost research into societal issues

level the playing field

'corporate social responsibility'


first mover advantage

new forms of revenue

boost research and development


take advantage of global input and re-use of your work

connect with likeminded people worldwide



  • 3D creation suite
  • openly licensed, all types of reuse allowed for free
  • community of users and developers improve the product
  • accept donations


  • microcontrollers
  • open source hardware and software
  • readymades are available commercially
Image: By Matt Biddulph (Flickr: A hand-soldered Arduino) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  • locally made furniture based on digitally available open designs
  • platform, maker and designer get fee when a product gets made

The Noun Project

  • Icons and logo's
  • Free reuse: attribution required
  • Freemium model - unlimited royalty free access
  • Creator of icon retains copyright


  • an open source platform for made-to-measure sewing patterns
  • all patterns, docs, API are openly available and adaptable


  • openly licensed and public domain content only
  • re-use: free but conditional: attribution and open licensing (when original is (c) ) 


  • largest mobile operating system in the world
  • source code is open, even for competitors


  • (a.o.) tool library for open source house designs


  • bike designs
  • can be adapted to your own needs
  • available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license
  • adaptations must be shared under the same license


  • (a.o.) tool library for open source farming tools


  • TESLA puts its car designs as open source and files as little patents as possible (although some say this is not true)
  • Elon Musk cites environmental concerns - Tesla can't keep up production in order to ensure

Open Licensing

Take action and make sure your work is as openly available as possible, on your own terms


(I am not a lawyer ...)

A license is a document that specifies what can and cannot be done with a work (whether sound, text, image or multimedia). It grants permissions and states restrictions.

Broadly speaking, an open license is one which grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions

A patent for an invention is granted by government to the inventor, giving the inventor the right to stop others, for a limited period, from making, using or selling the invention without their permission.

"Traditional" copyright

  • automatically
  • "protects" for x amount of time
  • conditions (variable)
  • exceptions possible
  • current laws: not adapted to digital age

Open Licensing

  • rights holder determines beforehand what can and cannot happen with the work
  • aim: facilitating re-use
  • conditions may apply
  • no need to ask permission for re-use (when conditions are respected)

If you make it clear from the start what can be done with your work ...

  • access
  • attribution
  • re-use
  • modification
  • commercial use
  • ...

... others can build upon your work without fear of violating your author rights.

How to apply

"Open for business" by Gwen Franck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except otherwise noted.



Open Licenses build on existing author rights

Copyright rules and have only juridical value when these rules are applicable

You cannot license (i.e. claim author rights) on stuff that is not copyrightable

You cannot license something if you are not the rights owner or do not have their permission



Some reuses are allowed without license

there are plenty of exceptions on existing copyright laws for research and development and educational purposes

a license then only provides the benefit of clarity


A license is not a toy (even if it has a nicely designed logo!)

It has juridical value, and cannot be revoked at random. If you decide to change or remove the license you applied, it is possible that the version with the original license remains available

If you don't respect the conditions of the license, you are breaching copyright law and you can be sued



The easier you make it for somebody to figure out their rights, the more likely it is that they will respect them!

Be clear and unambiguous when creating and displaying your work's metadata (i.e. the information about your work)

If you re-use openly licensed or public domain works, be clear about your source and its original licenses (if applicable)

Where do I find openly licensed materials?


search engines

Image credits & interesting links



skype: gwen.franck1

"Open for business" by Gwen Franck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except otherwise noted

Open for business

By gwen

Open for business

Presentation delivered as a guest lecture for students Industrial Design, Ghent University (Campus Kortrijk) on 5 December 2017

  • 2,477