[cc-community] Intellectual Highway Department

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Wed May 31 05:38:11 EDT 2006

Greg London wrote:
> > I am seriously disturbed by your continued (intentional?)
> > conflation of 'free license techniques' and 'gift economy'. Right
> > here you rightly point out that Linux succeeded over BSD Unix
> > because of the nature of copyleft licenses: proof that copyleft
> > communities are not mere 'gift economies'. If that's not proof
> > that copyleft != gift economy, I don't know what is.
>  linux and wikipedia worked because of the terrain it was built on,
>  not because of some magic powers of the gift economy, not because of
>  some magic in its licensing scheme. The terrain was chunkable. So
>  many people could contribute their free time to the project without
>  getting monetary compensation for it.

This is totally wrong: GNU/Linux is a huge success, but BSD Unix is only
a marginal one.  HURD is pretty much still a failure, though some
people are trying to pull out a success in the end.


Linux is a monolithic kernel, HURD is "chunkable" (it's a micro-kernel).

BSD Unix had a huge head-start over Linux  (e.g. it already *existed*
as a usable, complete OS in 1990).  I know this for a fact, because I
was writing software for it in 1988.

So why did Linux succeed where "chunkable" and "gift economy"
didn't?  Simple -- Linux used copyleft to ensure traction: everything
that goes into the commons stays in the commons.

It's hard to see what 'terrain', other than the licensing is relevant.

> > A 'commons' is material that can be meaningfully shared and
> > "remixed", to use the CC expression. Regrettably, there is more
> > than one of these now. Hence the complaint of "commons
> > fragmentation".
>  CC-NC is not a commons. Nor is CC-ND. They are market economy
>  licenses where the creator can give up some rights in exchange for
>  something that might benefit him more. Free samples in exchange for
>  possibly more sales.

ND is not a commons -- this is explicit.

NC *is* a commons, or so CC would have us think. There is no point in
it otherwise (ND would serve the same purpose).

NC-SA in particular expresses a definite intent to create a commons
(why SA at all, otherwise?).

>  No one should be doing anything "commons" like with anything licensed
>  CC-NC or CC-ND or any other market economy license.

Nevertheless, people do exactly that.

What do I tell them?  "Naughty, naughty"?
"What you're doing can't be done!"?

>  I mean charging a direct toll to pay for the road versus building the
>  road, allowing people to travel on it for free, and then building a
>  gas station and trying to make back your road construction costs by
>  selling gas.
>  If you have a small group of contributers to a copyleft project and
>  they're working full time on the project, they need to get paid for
>  their time or go hungry.
>  Using a copyleft license doesn't change the fact that they need to
>  get paid for their time. but they have to figure out indirect ways to
>  make money while still using copyleft.

Oh? Why "must they" use "indirect" methods?

This is a totally artificial limit, IMHO.

> > But the real point is that you are kidding yourself if you continue
> > to believe that a system which encourages toll roads has no impact
> > on the creation of free roads. I grant you that it is not a true
> > zero-sum game -- but there is a definite question of mindshare
> > among artists. More artists using one license or another means a
> > preference for the commons they select.
>  This is complete fallacy. You're saying that All Rights Reserved
>  creations somehow prevent the creation of new works. By that
>  argument, I should be able to look at the new works being distributed
>  on the net and on the TV and radio and see a noticable decline as
>  time goes on, since the terms keep getting extended.

Okay, say we stop saying that "NC fragments the commons". Let's
instead say "NC spams the commons".  It's not unlike the problem
with my email box -- I now have to filter out something like 90% of my
incoming email because people keep sending me junk.

Yet that junk doesn't "take away" my real email, so I'd be wrong to
say that my email is "fragmented" between real and spam email,
but that certainly is my perception.

Does that make the problem clearer?

>  Again, CC-NC is not a "commons" license.

>  Artists use CC-NC as a market economy license. They trade some of the
>  rights to their work, using it as free samples and free advertising,
>  in exchange for teh potential for more sales. It's a loss leader.
>  It isn't "commons" leverage. It is a loss leader. It is giving up
>  some rights in exchange for an individual benefit. Free samples in
>  exchage for potential for new sales.

This is one model. ONE. And probably not the best.

What's more, the "loss leader" strategy actually works better if
the work is By-SA (it will get distributed further).  NC is more
of a "try before you buy" license, if anything.

>  CC-NC isn't a gift economy.
>  CC-NC isn't for sharing and cooperation. It isn't a commons.
>  But CC-NC doesn't "mess with" copyleft or the community, because it
>  isn't even in that category. It is a cathedral license. A market
>  economy license. It's operating on completely different terrain with
>  a completely different economic model.
>  What's the problem is that you're relating to CC-NC as if it should
>  be a commons or it should put works into a commons area. It doesn't.
>  But then, it was never meant to do that.
>  What's the problem is that you're relating to CC-NC as if it should
>  be a commons or it should put works into a commons area. It doesn't.
>  But then, it was never meant to do that.

Repetitive, but simply wrong:

It certainly /was/ meant to be a commons license, or there never
would have been a CC-By-NC-SA license option. It's completely
illogical from the perspective you describe -- yet, there it is:

Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (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.
(From CC's current "meet the licenses" page).

Sure sounds like a promise of commons-like viability to me.

As you describe this business model, NC should be abolished, because
it offers nothing you can't get with ND. NC is fairy gold entirely.

Fine. Let's do that. NO MORE NC!

I could live with that.

>  I also think that were CC to create a sunset license that started out
>  as CC-NC and switched to CC-SA, then the people who would adopt it
>  would be fence-hangers to CC-SA, not CC-NC. That's a fundamental
>  problem.
>  If people are on the fence and decide to go with CC-SA, Great. The
>  commons gets something contributed to it. If the person sees
>  CC-Sunset, they may be more apt to go with CC-Sunset with a couple
>  year delay, *just in case* they might be able to make some money off
>  of it.

This is perhaps a legitimate criticism, but I think you're wrong.

For example, I have in fact written for publications with copyleft+blackout,
which is effectively the same strategy.  I would not have written those
articles without the pay, and the pay is justified by the magazine getting
the "scoop" on publication -- which the blackout gives them.

Certainly I don't mind that those article won't make the absolute most
possible money. I'm happy to enrich the commons. But I also need
money to live -- I can't do pro bono work *all* the time.

>  If you take someone who uses CC-NC, I don't see CC-Sunset offering
>  them anything new. CC-NC is a market economy license that benefits
>  the author. They give up some right to the community and the
>  community gives them some free advertising. CC-Sunset doesn't offer
>  them anything additional.

Those people should be using ND, then.  That would make their
no-commons intent clear.

But you're wrong -- artists are in fact using NC in a false hope that the
collaborative magic will help them. Creative Commons is contributing
to this fallacy.

Artists using CC-By-NC-SA, in particular, are the ones I'm interested in,
and they do exist.  They are indeed fence-hangers on the NC/SA line,
and I hate to say this, but I have both theoretical and empirical reasons
to believe that as things stand, they mostly don't shift to the SA side,
but to the NC side.  So SA loses content it might otherwise get.

Because they feel they need something that NC offers them that SA
can't at present.

>  If CC-NC were a restrictive "commons" then peole using CC-NC might
>  change to CC-Sunset. But I don't think people who use CC-NC think
>  they're contributing to a commons, I think they know on some level
>  that they're keeping some rights so they are at an advantage over the
>  community.

I think you're wrong about that, and that about sums it up.

>  It's an exchange of free-advertising. If anyone was interested in
>  contrubting to a commons they would use a commons license like CC-SA.
If that were true, they'd choose NC-ND only.

In fact, that might be one solution: fuse the NC and ND modules into one,
so they can't be separated. That removes the delusion that NC is a
commons. You say it isn't one at all, even when it uses SA, I say it
is merely a poor version of one.  Either way NC-SA is just deceptive,
and should be eliminated entirely.

>  So while I can see people who used to contribute stuff under CC-SA
>  changing to using a CC-Sunset license, I don't see people going from
>  CC-NC to sunset. which means that any CC-SA commons will get worse,
>  not better.

I disagree.  I think a sunset NC to SA licensing system would encourage
contributions that won't currently be made at all.  There may indeed
be a price of a few "fence hangers" going the other way.  I think the net
effect would be very positive for the SA commons, however.

Frankly, I don't like taking SA contributions from "fence hangers" 'forced'
to release more rights than they really wanted, anyway --  they tend to
be the kind of people who come back later and complain that they were
mislead into contributing or some such thing (it's different when they
have used SA material in the work -- that's quid pro quo, and they have
no basis to complain).

You yourself point out that SA-only communities will find it hard to
create certain works.  I agree with you, and I think charging license
fees for limited times may solve problems in those areas. I also think
artists will appreciate both the ability to capitalize on their time
investment, and the contribution to the commons (otherwise, they
wouldn't be thinking about CC licenses at all).

You say these folks don't use NC at all, but I think that's bunk, based
on my conversations with people who do use it, based on CC's presentation
of the concept, and based on the material they provide for artists to
read.  The CC framing of the issues definitely makes NC out to be a
"commons" license.

That means two things:

1) CC really needs to change the marketing on its present "perpetual NC"
    license module, to reflect the reality: either it's a "poor commons" or
    "no commons at all". Take your pick.

2) Artists actually do want something that does balance commercial marketing
    and commons-friendliness.  I'd like to find a way to provide that so 
    both sides get more of what they want. That's what *I* call "win-win".


Terry Hancock (hancock at AnansiSpaceworks.com)
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.AnansiSpaceworks.com

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