[cc-community] Intellectual Highway Department

Greg London email at greglondon.com
Tue May 30 09:53:03 EDT 2006

> Commons are not wildernesses waiting to be (over-)exploited.

Well, given that in the Intellectual Highway Department,
that the commons is the roads with no tolls on it,
that it is the exact opposite of a wilderness,
I think there is a complete hijacking of terminology
going on somewhere. ANd mostly, I blame RMS for that.

It is called a "discovery" because people explore areas
that haven't been exploredy by humans before. It is called
a "creative expression" because it creates something that
didn't exist before.

Any metaphor that portrays all intellectual
works as an already existing commons, and that
authors and inventors simply put a fence around it,
are kidding themselves and casting all hard working
proprietary people as evil opportunists.

The thing with the pasture metaphor is that if you look
at the "commons" as all the land that exists, whether
it has been discovered by people or not, then anyone who
does the work to tame undiscovered land then tries to
fence it in as a way to recoup their time and energy,
is a thief. And if Creative Commons sets itself up as
viewing proprietary creators as thiefs and proprietary
creators view CC people as communists, then it's lose
lose, and only one side is going to win, and right now
proprietary folks are a shoe in. Sorry, Disney alone
makes 20 billion dollars a year in revenue, you can't
beat that in a only-one-side-can-win fight.

So, some people think that charging tolls is fundamentally
evil. That anyone who does the work to create a new piece
of highway should allow anyone to travel on that road freely.
Some of these folks claim that gift economy approaches can
build any road, that all you got to do is get everyone to
adopt copyleft and highways will spool out beneath your

Then they point to Linux and Wikipedia as proof that
*anything* can be built by floss construction techniques.
But what they fail to admit is that linux and wikipedia
worked because of the terrain it was built on, not because
of some magic powers of the gift economy. If gift economies
can do *anything* given enough time, then Linux should have
been able to succeed even if it had used the BSD license
from the very beginning.

So, when these same people see that the construction
techniques aren't working in new terrain, when they
try to build a floss road into the music world, they
don't see the that they've just pushed into a mountain
range and the same construction techniques may not work here.

So, any road built before 1928 is part of teh commons.

Any road built by a gift-economy project is either
part of the commons or part of the gift economy,
depending on which license they use.

And any newly built road that charges a toll does not
affect the existing roads that can be traveled for free.

So, there is a meme that is pretty common in the gift
economies that to charge tolls is wrong. But when the
gift highway department ventures into the mountains and
finds their construction techniques aren't working as
well as they did in flat terrain, they stick to the
idea that "tolls are evil" but realize they need money
to continue. So they try Street Performer Protocols.
They build a road and then request donations rather
than demand tolls. And they ignore that their
Pasture metaphor no longer works. It isn't simply
a matter of setting up a new fence and charging admission.
It takes *work* to build a new road and you either figure
out a way to do it for free or you have to figure out a
way to pay for working on it full time.

Some on the intellectual highway department decided that
the way to go is to build the road, not charge tolls,
but to also build a gas station and restarurant and
make money that way. Then they'll argue that everyone
should do it that way, because, well, tolls are evil.

At some point, this descends into complete stupidity,
a refusal to look at reality.

Tolls aren't evil. Tolls that last too long are evil.
But the idea that it's evil to make a living building
roads and charging tolls but it's OK to make a living
building roads and making money selling gas, is silly.

Once gift economy project gets to the point of having
to make money indirectly, they've ventured into the
territory where simple freely given contributions no
longer work. And at that point, arguing that making
money by tolls is evil while making money at the gas
station is good is ignoring the simple fact that
both approaches are making money to pay for building
a new road.

Britannica can build a road for an encyclopedia and
charge a toll for anyoen who travels on it.
Wikipedia can build a road for an encyclopedia,
let anyone travel it for free, and then ask
for donations to pay for it.

Britannica's road does not stop wikipedia.

And someone who builds a road and licenses
it CC-NC allowing people to travel it freely
but charging tolls for vehicles with commercial
plates is NOT fragmenting anything.

the gift economy poeple can build their roads
and they can pay for the cost of construction
by either getting a lot of people to donate a
little of their time for free, or they can
try to get some money by setting up a gast station
or asking for donations. But at that point,
it becomes clear that the difference between
projects is simply a matter of how they get
their funding and that both approaches can exist
side by side.

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