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Look Pinocchio – No Strings

06/05/2010

I like to think I’m extremely defiant, but usually I just do what I’m told without questioning.

So when I was told to go the Creative Commons site and click on licences, I did. As instructed, I went to the application that would allow me to create my own licence and voila; it looked like this:

image

According to the Creative Commons site, I have created an

Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
cc by-nc-sa

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

I patted myself on the back for a job well done; I had created my very first Creative Commons licence. But I was still baffled by the concept of it all.

Look Pinocchio - no strings!

My poor little brain failed to wrap itself around the logic of something that was “free”. After all, if there’s anything we’ve come to learn is that nothing comes for free. Downloading movies, music, TV shows off the Internet is free, but illegal.

Could it be that Creative Commons let me create a legally binding licence for Lavender, no strings attached?

To explain what I have now come to understand about Creative Commons, allow me to introduce you to Lawrence Lessig.

Mr Lessig was frustrated by a big ‘C’ in a little circle, a “species of something called intellectual property”. [1] Intellectual property law, as Lessig sees it, facilitates media companies’ ambitions to monopolise creative works. Artists, authors, auteurs and the likes signed their works over to media companies to be distributed, and in doing so, signed away their rights to their own creations.[2]

Mr Lessig is not happy

In establishing Creative Commons, Lessig allowed authors to reclaim control over their creative works and determine what can and cannot be done with them. Tediously, though a tad effectively, Lessig draws analogy between creative works and public places.

Adopting a CC licence to Lavender is hence like a street being closed. Streets are usually free to walk on, and when restrictions occur, these restrictions are “neutral and general”.[3]

A somewhat Woodstock approach to creative works, Lessig quotes Thomas Jefferson’s analogy of ideas to fire and conclusion that, “Inventions cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”[4] Acknowledging that “what Jefferson thought could not be captures, can in cyberspace”[5], Lessig and his fellow Creative Commons advocates see CC as an appropriation and amalgamation of copyright law and Jefferson’s hippie-esque outlook.

It all seems good and well, CC has kept up with modern times and shot a little control out in the black-hole that is cyberspace.

But therein lies the rough. Marc Garcelon points out that Creative Commons “remains obscure… due to its limitation to the internet… the legal complexities of the position it advocates and the major media companies’ refusal to present such positions to the public.”[6]

After all, it took me a shamefully long time and ample research to even get to this point.

What the eutopic idea of Creative Commons also seems to neglect is the concept of the producer. Despite its intentions, CC ultimately fails to take into account the profession of cultural production, disregarding an “economic model for supporting cultural production.”[7]

This line of reasoning can be elaborated by questioning Lessig’s take on ‘rivalrous’ and ‘nonrivarous’ resources. Rivalrous resources are those which are “limited in relation to potential users” while “by definition, a nonrivalrous resource cannot be overused.”[8] Where an ‘unlimited’ resource implies ‘can be copied’, CC fails to consider the almost inevitability of owner exploitation of the cultural producer.

In adhering to Creative Commons, the producer waives exclusive rights for the media to collect and distribute a reproduction of their works and statutory rights in the producer’s name.

Can something really be given away, completely free without retaliation or strings?

The main reason I made a CC licence has been made clear: I had to.
But aside from it making my page look pretty, why did I decide to keep it?

I guess it’s better to have something than nothing at all. I’m happy for any epiphanies which may have been voiced on Lavender to be publicly circulated and shared, as long as I don’t get gypped by some big-shot monopoly.

I’m all for throwing my ideas out to the commons. Its really an issue of whether they care enough to catch them.


[1] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). ‘Open Code and Open Societies,’ in Joseph Feller et al (eds.) Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software. MIT Press: Cambridge. Pg. 351
[2] Anna Nimus (2006). Copyright, Copyleft & the Creative Anti-Commons. (Online). Available: subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/nimustext.html
[3] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 352
[4] Jefferson, Thomas. (1813), in Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 353
[5] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 354
[6] Marc Garcelon. (2009). ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’ in New Media & Society. 11.8:1322
[7] Armin Medosch. (2008). Paid In Full: Copyright, piracy and the real currency of cultural production. (Online). Available: http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/428
[8] Lessig, Lawrence. (2002). Pg. 95

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