[cc-community] The tragedy of the creative commons (was Re:public domain question)

Rob Myers robmyers at mac.com
Wed Feb 2 10:31:45 EST 2005

On Wednesday, February 02, 2005, at 02:45PM, Greg London <email at greglondon.com> wrote:

>Anything public domain always remains public domain.

Not the works that were public domain until the Sonny Bono act. Not the works published as part of a collection under Dover's "derivative work" theory and available nowhere else. Not the works licensed to you on a CD and available nowhere else. And not for material held only in an institution that licenses access to that material (paintings are my area of concern there).

The record companies in Europe are trying to get public domain recordings from fifty years ago under copyright again, and there's that WIPO treaty that would allow broadcasts of public domain material to be copyrighted.

Whilst a work may be public domain in principle, the lesson of the last few years is that this can easily be revoked by law or rendered meaningless through licensing for any actual use of the work.

Now, it might be argued that as with copyright the proprietary value created from this management of the commons may ultimately create greater downstream cultural value than leaving the commons unmanaged. Somebody has to stop those manuscripts from rotting, someone has to keep those paintings out of direct sunlight. And I don't envy anyone storing early film.

>So, it is impossible to have a tragedy of the commons
>occur for a commons that is a non-zero-sum game.

Isn't what the RIAA/MPAA are arguing against in the shape of "piracy": a tragedy of the cultural commons (presumably a non-zero-sum commons), in which value is asset-stripped leaving no future value replenishment/creation?

- Rob.

More information about the cc-community mailing list