• Mike's Musings #12: Open Component FS Addons

    Mike's Musings #12: Openware -- Open Component FS Addons

    By Mike McCarthy
    11 November 2007

    With the kind permission of webmaster Nels Anderson, at some point in the future portions of this article will be republished in modified form on my pending writing web site, thewritingblog.com. There you will find articles and photography from, I hope, several different authors, on a broad range of subjects.

    "Bass needs... a little waterin' down.
    Guitar could use... a little cooler sound."

    James Brown, "It's Too Funky In Here"

    Open Component Addons

    In a hypothetical open component world of music, when you did a zero-cost download of the producer's final public stereo mix of "Too Funky" (the binaries), you would also receive the multi-track master recording (the sources), i.e. the step of music development that sits just upstream of the final mixdown step. And you might even be willing to pay for a distribution of this material on DVD in order to avoid extremely long download times. I will use the term "openware" to describe this kind of combination of sources and binaries, whether as a zero-cost download or as a payware DVD or CD.

    The companion distribution license would say that the song was copyright James Brown and Fred Wesley, but it would also say that you were free to modify the song anyway you saw fit and then to redistribute your version as you saw fit, as long as you did an openware redistribution under the same license terms, and as long as you somehow made the original version available, and as long as you documented the changes that you made, and as long as you gave credit to JB and the world-famous Fred as the copyright holders. ("Fred! ... Fred! ... Take me to the bridge!") In other words, the "restrictions" would effectively say "there aren't any important restrictions, and you're not allowed to impose any".

    So ... With the openware "Too Funky" package in hand you would then be able to reduce the dynamic range and relative volume of the bass track. You would also be able to run the guitar track through an effects box, completely replacing the original guitar sound with one of your own choosing while retaining the rhythm guitarist's playing style. In addition, you might replace the original live drum track with a specially programmed drum machine track, a track that you had a friend program for you to your creative specifications. Finally, through repeated "bouncing" of your near-final mix to a separate multi-track recorder, you would be able to loop selected parts of your new version so as to produce a 45-minute club mix. In other words, you would be able to modify the openware music package in any way you saw fit, assuming that you possessed the requisite tools and skills.

    You would hold the copyright to the changes you had made, but you would still not be the owner of the song, though you would enjoy all the benefits of ownership except the right to profit at the expense of the song owners. (If you sell a distribution DVD or CD, they deserve a cut of your revenues.) JB and Fred would remain the song owners, but they would have no say in your interpretation of their song.

    The benefits to the listening and dancing end user communities are obvious, and you would not have had to become a pirate to make these benefits available in DVD form. Your creative efforts would give the world a fresh new interpretation of the original music, in versions ranging from a three-minute FM radio mix to the extended club mix. You would be credited as the creator of this new version. And if it proved to be as popular as "I Feel Good", your name would go up in lights and down in history even though you would not be the song owner of record.

    The world of music end users would be better off because now we would have both the original version and your version. Armed with your version, other "closet record producers" might be inspired to produce additional versions of "Too Funky", taking the music in directions you never considered, further enriching the end user community.

    In fact, you might even decide to form a developer group, FSTooFunky, whose entire mission in life was to produce a never-ending stream of fresh new interpretations of the original Brown/Wesley song...

    Note that none of this would be possible unless the Brown/Wesley team songwriting team had been willing to release the original song in open component form under a license that imposed no important distribution restrictions, including no forbidding of payware distribution.

    In other words, no openware would mean no FSTooFunky derivative works. So if the flightsim world is to truly benefit from your work in the largest possible way, and if you are truly an altruist as opposed to simply being a publicity hound, then you should be willing to publish your original work as openware. Without your agreement on this approach, the FS community will not be maximally benefited, and you will not receive the maximum possible exposure in a publicity sense.

    But why should you reveal to the world your techniques? Won't this cause competition that might swamp your recognition as the original creator?

    No, it won't. If you are truly creative, your original works will stand on their own merits, and the world will continue to recognize you as the author of your original works. Furthermore, you will gain a new dimension to your reputation, one of being a teacher, a leader in the community of up-and-coming add-on developers, just as, for one example, Alejandro Hurtado did with his "how to" series on How To Be A Repainter.

    In the second article in this series I'll trace the history and benefits of the open source movement, a history that I experienced first hand during my career as a computer business professional.

    The third article in the series will get very specific about what "open component" means in the context of the various aircraft development disciplines -- airframes, flight dynamics, liveries, panels and gauges. Since I myself am not an expert in these matters I will probably solicit contributions from other people. (But for the fsOC 727 project I am playing a panel/gauge developer on TV.

    Mike McCarthy
    [email protected]

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