[cc-community] Articulating the commons: a leaderful approach

Heather Morrison hgmorris at sfu.ca
Tue Dec 20 23:42:27 EST 2011

Apologies for duplication - I think this belongs on both cc-licenses  
and the cc-community list. I expect that I will only write a very few  
messages where this makes sense.

Rather than having a few of us decide on what the commons is or should  
be, why not invite everyone to participate in the discussion (open  
source it), over at least the next few years? This would be a  
leaderful approach (acknowledging the inspiration of Occupy).

 From a technical standpoint, what I mean is that the box that says  
"more permissions URL" should be expanded and renamed to something  
like "more detail". Actively invite anyone who licenses material to  
tell more about what this act means to them - kind of like a will.  
Ideally, there needs to be a way to bring these comments together,  
perhaps through data mining, and occasionally sharing some of what  
people have come up with.

Some reasons to consider this approach:

1.	Opening the conversation in this way may open up new understandings  
about what sharing means, or could mean.  Some examples of things that  
people might want to say:
-	free for the 99%
-	free for anyone aiming for social and environmental justice
-	free to anyone not lobbying for restrictive copyright laws
-	free to anyone who has never sued a customer
-	free to use with respect

These kinds of things may or may not fit specific legal requirements,  
but I would suggest that building a commons is much more a cultural  
shift than a legal one.

My vision here is that Creative Commons is a great start towards a  
commons, but we all still have a great deal to learn. One reason is  
that before we settle on what the commons is, I think we (meaning all  
of humans around the world) need to consider other types of knowledge,  
such as traditional knowledges. The purpose this is  not just to  
respect the traditions (important though that is). We need to learn  
about these knowledges not just to respect traditional peoples, but to  
address a gap in our own knowledge. That there is a gap is our wisdom,  
I would submit, is substantiated by the fact that all of our science  
and technology has brought us to global financial crisis and impending  
environmental disaster through climate change. To address this, we  
need to consider different ways of thinking. One example is a  
traditional concept that knowledge / wisdom belongs to its  
environment, not to us. . In Western science, we may like to take  
things out of their environment and study them separately, but without  
the ecosystem, the lifeforms we study would not exist.

2.	It seems reasonable to assume that a commons that is collectively  
built and protected by the largest possible number of people will be  
much stronger than a smaller commons designed by a few experts. I  
think the best way to do this is a welcoming, inclusive approach. When  
we can commit things straight away to the public domain, that's great!  
But let's not forget that free reading onscreen with absolutely no  
either rights or privileges is still a lot better than no access at  
all, or no access with paying a lot of money.

3.	There are many different types of materials that can be shared  
through the Internet, and communities who interact with these  
materials in different ways. Even within scholarly communication,  
there are the scholarly journal articles that scholars have  
traditionally given away, books which cost much more to produce and  
generally earn royalties for the writer, creative works which for some  
academics generate real income, and research data. Data would be close  
to useful if shared but not for re-use, while derivatives of the  
writers of a top scholar would almost certainly be less valuable than  
the original. In other words, the best and most useful openness in  
scholarship might well be a strong imperative to allow derivatives in  
some cases, and ND in other cases.

To take a non-scholarly example, I understand that some of the CC  
legal cases have involved music in bars. Right now the options are to  
allow commercial uses, or not. I wonder if it might make sense to  
musicians and bar-owners to have another option, noncommercial -  
except in bars, under the condition that the bar-owner provides  
patrons with a way of purchasing the musician's CDs - perhaps by  
distributing a flyer highlighting the night's music with websites for  
the musicians featured? To figure out how to do things like this, we  
need to facilitate conversations. This is what I mean to propose, a  
leaderful approach to articulating the commons.


Heather Morrison, MLIS
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

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