Get da lingo

Buzzwords and their definitions

There are definitions all over the internet.  We’ve taken these definitions from Wikipedia (unless where otherwise noted), because they carefully and succinctly define the meanings.


These are licences that are free to be used by the public. They are licences that allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy to understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons License. This simplicity distinguishes Creative Commons from an all rights reserved copyright. Creative Commons was invented to create a more flexible copyright model, replacing “all rights reserved” with “some rights reserved.” Wikipedia is one of the notable web-based projects using one of its licenses.


This refers to situations in which the exclusive rights granted to authors, or their assignees under copyright law do not apply. Thus these are the ‘exceptions to the rule’ or where these rules will ‘limit the rights of the creator.’

The two important examples of limitations and exceptions to copyright are the fair use doctrine found in the United States, and the fair dealing doctrine found in South Africa, and many other countries around the world.


This is a specific set of possible defenses against an action for infringement of an exclusive right of copyright. Unlike the related United States doctrine of fair use, fair dealing cannot apply to any act which does not fall within one of these categories.  In other words, the meaning fair dealing is not as flexible a concept as the American concept of fair use.  In South African law we do not have a fair use law; our law is fair dealing.


This stands for Free and Open Source software and is software that is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code.

It should be noted that in the context of free and open source software, the word “free” is intended to refer to the freedom to copy and re-use the software, rather than to the price of the software. The Free Software Foundation, an organization that advocates for free software, suggests that to understand the concept, one should “think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer”


These are the rights to ownership coupled with the right to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of the work where this would be prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the creator.

This definition taken from ACA2K Country Report, South Africa, August 2009, page 14.  Licensed under a CC BY SA 2.5


This is a new expression that describes any kind of creative work, or content, published under a licence that explicitly allows copying and modifying of its information by anyone.  Open content is an alternative paradigm to the use of copyright to create monopolies; rather than leading to monopoly, open content facilitates the democratization of knowledge.


This is a copyright work where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder. This situation can arise for many reasons. The author could have never been publicly known because the work was published anonymously or the work may have never been traditionally published at all. The identity of the author could have been once known but the information lost over time. Even if the author is known, it may not be possible to determine who inherited the copyright and presently owns it.


Also referred to as The Commons, the public domain is an intellectual property designation for the range of content that is not owned or controlled by anyone.  These materials are public property, and available for anyone to use freely for any purpose.

When the copyright term (in South African law this is from the death of the author plus 50 years) has expired, a work automatically falls into the public domain.


This refers to adaptations or alterations of media such as music or song film, visual art and literature.  It is not an ‘edit’ but rather a new media that has been created using existing parts from an original piece.

Important resources

Creative Commons

An important resource that helps digital citizens to allow certain rights to be automatic.  There are millions of objects all over the internet that have been licensed under Creative Commons licences and you can search via Google (go to Advanced Search usage rights.)  Go to for more information about Creative Commons licences in South Africa.  To learn how to licence your work check out the easy-to-follow directions here.

The African Copyright & Access to Knowledge Project (ACA2K)

This research project investigates the relationship between national copyright environments and access to knowledge in African countries. This project, supported by Canada’s IDRC and South Africa’s Shuttleworth Foundation, and managed by the LINK Centre at the Wits University Graduate School of Public & Development Management (P&DM) in Johannesburg, currrently has research nodes in eight African countries: Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

There South African node has some extremely valuable learnings that can be accessed via pdf such as the Country Review and the Executive Policy Brief.  We have used the research findings extensively in putting together the Access to Knowledge pages.  All the information and resources on the ACA2K website are licensed under a Creative Commons licence.

National Consumer Forum

Thousands of consumers in South Africa are victims of harmful or unfair business practices. These are either bad service or poor quality products and can cost consumers millions of rands every year.  As consumers, we have the rights and responsibilities to put an end to the activities of unscrupulous business people that threaten our limited resources and harm the quality of our lives.


Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia that uses an openly-editable model.  It is the world’s largest reference site and has been created in a vast number of languages from around the world.  Recent reportage has shown that Afrikaans Wikipedia has over 12,000 articles, Zulu has just under 200 articles and Xhosa just over 100.

As a first step when researching something on the web, this is a highly useful resource. In contradiction to the criticism that Wikipedia must be a flawed resource given the collaborative nature of the website, comparative research undertaken has found that in comparison to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia rates equally in terms of accuracy, at times showing substantially more complete entries.