Open Source Requirements of the Knight News Challenge

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The Knight News Challenge has required open-source software from its inception. All projects developed through Knight News Challenge grants have either already released open-source software or will release open-source software by the end of the grant period.

The Open Source Initiative explains this type of software. In contrast to proprietary software, anyone who follows the licensing rules can download, use, modify, transform, improve or share this free, open source software.

Since the Knight News Challenge is a giant research and development project, hoping to accelerate media innovation, using open source made sense, because once the base code is released, any organization, business or individual can use it.

If you are a winner of this contest, you'll still own the copyright on your intellectual property, including your software. But you will need to share the software you develop under a GPL license and any documents, manuals or instructions under Creative Commons licensing.

(We will consider requests in writing for licenses other than GPL, but the applicant must be able to demonstrate that the project simply can't be done using GPL, and also that it has charitable impacts at least equal to those from releasing the code free under GPL.)

For-profit companies have always been able to participate in the Knight News Challenge, so long as they observe the open source requirement. There are two types of awards for businesses, grants and Program Related Investments. If a grant is made to a business, both the initial and future releases of the code need to be open source.' If a PRI is made, only the initial release must be open source, and future versions can be licensed in different ways -- but Knight's investment is not a grant but a no-interest loan.

For-profit winners in 2010 include companies building a product from scratch (such as NowSpots real-time ads), creating or rebuilding an open-source version of existing software (Front Porch Forum's local community platform), funding continued product development (Stroome's collaborative video editing software) and continuing existing open-source work (Stamen Design and'DevelopmentSeed).

Though the software developed with Knight grant funds is open source, applicants can still develop ways of linking up with third-party platforms such as Twitter. Knight Foundation grantee NewsCloud, for example, uses Facebook.

We do understand that using proprietary software can get tricky. Feel free to send specific questions about this via twitter using #KNC, @knightfdn @jczamora and @jsb or send us an e-mail at: newschallenge[at]knightfoundation[dot]org. Knight Foundation continually reviews and improves its contest process.

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