[cc-community] Benjamin Mako Hill on Creative Commons

drew Roberts zotz at 100jamz.com
Mon Aug 1 11:45:51 EDT 2005

On Monday 01 August 2005 10:57 am, Greg London wrote:
> > Basically your seem to think, that most of people creative work is done
> > in commercial, for-profit projects. I don't know is that true in US, but
> > it's obviously not true in my country (Poland). Most of movies, music,
> > theaters, literature, even tv programs are products of governemnt or
> > third sector funding. There is no economical reason why those works
> > can't be published under free license.
> What I think is this:
> without any copyright law, and without any government influence,
> and without any third party funding, and without anything else,
> the circumstances around creating a new work is similar to a
> hostage scenario (see Prisoner's Dillema).
> 12 people are taken hostage by a lone gunman in a bank.
> If one hostage stands up and attempts to fight
> the gunman, his chances of winning a hand-to-gun
> fight are slim, he'll take all the risk, possibly
> lose everything, and if he succeeds in tackling
> the gunman, everyone immediately benefits from his
> work, and he has no way of getting paid for his
> efforts.
> 12 people are sitting around, without any creative
> works to read, watch, or listen to. If one person
> takes the time and energy to create a new work,
> without any legal protections, that work is
> immediately public domain, and anyone can benefit
> from it, enjoy it, listen to it, and the person
> who created the work has no way of requiring
> renumeration for his time and energy.
> Hostage taking works because no individual will
> likely rise up and fight the hostage taker
> if they feel like they'll survive if they keep
> their head down.
> The hostage scenario is a version of the
> "prisoner's dillema" game. The result of
> the prisoner's dillema is for each prisoner
> to rat on the other and get a short sentence,
> or trust they can cooperate, remain silent,
> and go free.
> There are two solutions to the hostage scenario.
> (1) pay one individual enough money so that they
> will take the individual risk
> (2) all the hostages work together and share a
> reduced risk and overtake the gunman.
> Solution (1) has a couple of different ways it
> can look. For example, the government could
> offer a reward to any individual who takes out
> the gunman. Bounties. Another approach is to
> have people on full time salary whose job it is
> take down gunmen. Police. If teh hostages
> can talk amongst themselves, they might offer
> to collect a bunch of money and give it to whichever
> one of them can take down the gunman.
> Solution (2) can look a couple of different ways
> but basically all teh hostages rise up, share the
> risk, and can take down the gunman.
> creative works follow the hostage scenario to a tee.

No, I humbly submit that they will not. One reason is that unlike risking ones 
life to overcome the gunman (perhaps) creative expression contains its own 
reward for many. These will go on creating even if all works go automatically 
into the public domain. If all works went into the public domain, I would be 
happy for mine to as well. I am a copyleft fan these days because that is not 
how things work today.

> the 12 people are held "hostage" by the fact that
> without any legal enforcement, any new creative work
> become public domain immediately after it is created.
> Therefore the time/energy risked by one individual
> to create a new work cannot be recouped by that one
> individual. Therefore, the result is no one does anything.
> THe hostages comply with the gunman.
> there are two basic solutions
> (1) pay one individual enough money to comensate them
> for their time and money.
> (2) many individuals work together, sharing the risk,
> sharing the time and energy amongst themselves so that
> it is small enough to donate while workign a full time
> job, and create a new work that is copyleft or something.
> That's it. Whether solution (1) is accomplished with
> "All RIghts Reserved" copyright law so they have time
> to sell their work exclusively and make their money back
> or whether the creator is on government salary is irrelevant
> to the fact that it is the same solution: Pay an individual
> enough to compensate them for their time/energy.

Nope, that is not it. There are other alternatives. Also, not everyone is 
driven primarily by economics. Some have other values. Some have other needs.
> Now, in america, when the government uses tax money
> to pay an artist to create some art, it often results
> in a lot of taxpayer complaints from people who don't
> want their money to go to some guy who welded a bunch
> of rusted car parts together and called it art. The problem
> with subsidized art is the fact that there is no way
> to measure quality and reward it.  You pay the artist
> up front to create new art, and whatever he creates,
> he keeps the money.
> You could switch it around and say the government pays
> the artist after it sees the art. but either way, you
> have a bureaucrat deciding how to spend taxpayer money,
> and if my tax dollars ended up subsidizing some boy-band
> music, then I'd be quite upset. Some people like
> Britany Spears. Some people like Jimi Hendrix.
> Do you subsidize them all? It seems like it might
> work on small cases, but won't solve the entire problem.

We don't need to solve the entire problem all at once. We can make things 
better today than they were yesterday and move on from there.
> Copyright spends no tax dollars. 

Oh, but as it currently stands, it does. You think the FBI agents police the 
criminal parts of the present copyright laws on a volunteer basis on their 
own time?

> It gives all creators 
> a number of years to sell their work exclusively, and
> then the work enters the public domain. During the
> copyright term, the creator can attempt to sell his work,
> but it is left to the populace to individually decide
> whether they will spend their money or not.

This is not how things generally work in practice. And the difference is 
> A free market system with no taxdolars being spent.
> It is similar to the way the government offers a
> bounty to the first person who successfully captures
> an outlaw gunman. It doesn't pay anyone until someone
> succeeds.

Except there is not free market when dealing in works protected by copyrights 
and patenst.
> Copyright is a good solution to the hostage scenario
> that is inherent to intellectual works.

Copyright could be a good solution. As it is currently practiced, it is not. 
As some are trying to change the practice, it may become one again.
> The problem currently is that the bounties are set too
> high. Terms are too long and the DMCA is too restrictive.
> But if that were fixed, 

Once again, any ideas on how to get the fix going?

> then it would be a fair and balanced 
> solution to the problem. Offer any individual enough of a
> reward to compensate them for their time.
> Sure, the government can tax me and subsidize some people
> to create works that immediately enter the public domain.
> But that is not a complete solution. It is not enough.

I agree it is not enough. I don't think I care too much for tax supported art. 
I tend to like the workings of the free market. This is actually one reason I 
have some underlying problems with copyrights in general as, at its core, 
copyrights are government meddling in the markets.
> Copyright is a solution that isn't spending tax dollars
> and doesn't require some government bureaucrat to decide
> what is good art and what isn't. It gives the power to
> the artists to make new works and possibly sell it, but
> it leaves it to the people to decide whether they will
> actually spend money on it.

This is a nice theory and if we saw it play out this way in practice more, I 
don't think you would see so much activity aimed a fixing this broken system 
which we have. I see the middle men who get between the artist and the fan 
and amass hugh portfolios of copyrights as a major root of the problem. 
Attempts to control pricing, free movement of goods between regions, control 
distribution channels in general, Sign highly one-sided contracts with 
artists, etc. Buy unneeded extensions to a simple and reasonable copyright 
law. These sorts of things are gumming up the works. No one is putting 
forward any reasonably certain workable solutions to fixing these problems 
directly, so people are seeking ways to do an end run around the issues and 
solve the problems, at least partially, in ways that can be effective now.
> Anytime you talk about government or third party funding
> you have the problem of deciding what is good and what
> isn't. Who gets paid for their art and who doesn't.
> Copyright gives that decision to individual consumers
> who decide on a case by case basis how to spend their money.

In fact, it should, but often doesn't. See the case Sony just settled in New 
York over the new version of Payola. The game is often played in such a way 
that the "consumer" does not get to choose amoung a reasonable selection of 
the existing alternatives.

all the best,



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