[cc-community] More discussion on NC
alan at lxorguk.ukuu.org.uk
Mon Oct 11 14:20:37 EDT 2010
> While I've found myself agreeing with a lot of what Alan has been saying on
> this thread, I think I disagree on this point. I do think software is
> different, even categorically so.
> I think the reason *why* software is different (mainly explained by its
> fungibility) is why its easier to make an argument for it to be freely
> licensed. CC intends their licenses to be used for cultural works, where the
> requirements and demands of works are distinct.
> I've actually written a paper on this exact topic, submitted it as a manuscript
> submitted for publication in The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, Michael
> Mandiberg (ed.).
> Please find it attached.
Interesting - I'd roughly entirely with the main logic of the paper, but
not that it means software is different.
My reasoning is this:
There is a lot of software which is deeply personal (not always
rationally so either) and/or which isn't replacable. New computer games
and toys are good examples. They are a creative 'opus' tightly
controlled and visioned and not really replacable. Often the folks who
wrote the games have a similar deep attachment to their characters as
book authors - down to getting frustrated if the artist captures them
"wrongly" or someone tries to change the game so they do things the
creator thinks are not what they would do.
If you look at lots of software then yes its replacable, its value is in
But I think I could draw the same analogy in other media. A map for
example is many things. There are maps that are functional utilitarian
items. It tells you how to get from A to B, you could buy another map or
download a different one and they all do the same. Maybe the colours
differ but who cares. There are also maps that are deeply creative items,
maps you own not just so you know how to get from A to B but because they
are a joy to look at and interact with. In fact many people own such maps
of places they will never travel, or places that don't even really exist.
And for books how about bus timetables ?
Windows and Linux kernels get you from A to B, they are not usually a joy
to interact with. Many games are most definitely the other cultural
My gut feeling, having worked in that industry and still knowing
people who do, is that if you waved your paper at a lot of games people
they would agree with the arguments. They would also identify themselves
as cultural works and in the tighter CC licensing camps and be quite
offended if you claimed their games were replacable like software tools.
That is - it is not that software is different, but that the software
often thought of immediately is utilitarian. I'd also note there is a long
tradition of "NC" type licensing in the software world going back to the
1970s. It might be an interesting experiment to classify the licenses of
the interactive-fiction archive or of mod.sources. Quite a lot of old
classic game stuff was NC licensed - things like rogue for example.
Similarly many authors who re-released old games have chosen NC type
There are some other interesting examples: Ask Andy Tanenbaum why Minix
was released under an NC licence for many years for example. Is it a
utility too - just another OS, or is it a teaching tool put together as
part of a whole package with a specific creative vision ?
So I posit that software isn't different if you look at the broad field
of all software. Maybe there is more visible utilitarian replacable
software ? Linux is a very bright light hiding a lot of other candles.
 Games and toys: Most entertainment software is usually something with
a fixed or roughly defined goal. You play it, you enjoy it, you reach the
goal, you finish it. Toys are those which don't really have that defined
goal path but continue to be explored and interesting after you "win" (if
you can). Civilisation is a classic "toy".
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