[cc-licenses] Creative Commons & Copyleft question?

Greg London email at greglondon.com
Mon Aug 28 23:10:36 EDT 2006

> On 8/28/06, Greg London <email at greglondon.com> wrote:
>> > For my particular usage, I could see a business model
>> > (a way of making a living) established on copylefting
>> > works under a Creative Commons license like the GNU GPL,
>> > ... where one would take advantage of other's reluctance
>> > to license their own works under the same license.
>> That might be an advantage for you, but such a license
>> would be harmful to the gift economy that created the
>> work in the first place.
> Depends on the gift economy. While I would likely not
> contribute on such terms, MySQL, Sleepycat, and some
> others have built both successful businesses and
> successful communities on this very premise.

They have built a successful business on the premise
of not allowing the work to be aggregated
with anything that isn't under the same license?
That is what we were talking about, right?
I guess I'm a little rusty on the Sleepycat license.
I didn't realize collective works were such a

> I'm sure some excellent literature remains to be
> written on what conditions are necessary for such
> a plan to succeed as both business and
> self-sustaining community.

You speak as if there is some yet-undiscovered magical
license that once revealed people will be able to tap
into limitless riches creating FLOSS works.

Licenses really aren't that complicated. But folks
keep coming up with ideas of tweaking some license
or another, certain that it will allow people to
create Free works and become rich beyond compare.
It seems to be the primary cause of Yet-Another-License

All Rights Reserved lets folks use exclusive rights
as a way to make money directly off of their creations.

Public Domain lets anyone take PD works private and
create new proprietary works they can sell.

You've got PD on the left and ARR on the right.
And your Y axis is a function of private-ability.
Down means the works are private or can be taken private.
Up means the works must remain in the community.

And the Y axis looks like a bell curve.
Somewhere around the peak flat spot is a bunch
of copyleft licenses.

Which gives you three interesting spots on the
graph, PD, ARR, and somewhere in between is copyleft.

CC-BY is slightly up the curve from PD,
but is pretty much PD for taking the work private.

CC-NC and CC-ND are just up the curve from ARR,
and for all intents and purposes are retained
as individually private.

CC-SA and GPL and LGPL are all somewhere at the
plateau. ALL of which do fairly good jobs at
keeping the work within the community.

There are no other interesting inflections in the
curve. PD, ARR, and Copyleft are the big it.

There is no mystery point that provides:

> a plan to succeed as both business and
> self-sustaining community.

ARR allows a complete monopolization for an
individual or corporation. It defines "success"
in dollars, and Disney, the MPAA, and RIAA,
and Microsoft, show what business success looks

Copyleft can never make that sort of money.
The whole point of copyleft is that everyone
have equal access to teh work, meaning no
one can maintain any massive advantage over
another. This equality of community
is the POINT of copyleft. You could sell the
work for a lot of money, but as soon as you
made some sales, others would jump in, competition
would kick in, and the price would be driven down.
Meaning copyleft and PD will never be as successful,
businesswise, as ARR.

Copyleft and PD works are a "commodity" product.

:an undifferentiated product whose value arises from
:the owner's right to sell rather than the right to use.

:things of value, of uniform quality, that were
:produced in large quantities by many different
:producers; the items from each different producer
:are considered equivalent.

An example of a commodity is wheat.
It is grown by countless farmers.
There are so many growers that it is
a buyers market, and the only thing that
sets your price is how much it costs you
to grow it. If you charge above and beyond
the cost of manufacturing, competition will
underbid you.

Copyleft and PD works are like this.
Anyone can print-on-demand a copyleft or PD
novel. And they can set whatever price they
wish, but if your price is far above manufacturing
costs, then someone else will manufacture
the same copyleft work for less, underprice
you, and still make a profit.

There is no secret, money-making formula here.
If there is any formula, it is to make money
on something -related- to the copyleft/PD work
but that is NOT a commodity. Service contracts,
specialized and customized modifications,
speaking tours, stuff like that.

Copyleft is designed to turn the work into a
commodity owned by everyone. It is designed to
prevent the work from being removed from the
commodity market and turned into a restricted
good that can only be manufactured by one
person, who then can set whatever price he wants.
That is the -POINT- of copyleft. Which means
it must by its nature maintain the work as
a commodity that anyone can copy, distribute,
or create derivative works from, meaning the
economics of commodities apply.

But then copyleft wasn't about making money.
It was about taking advantage of
zero-cost-to-contribute situations,
that widespread computers and internet has
made available, so that a million people
can each contribute one hours work, and
the result is a million man-hour creation.
The only way for this to work is for the
first person who contributes to know that
the work, when finished, will still be something
that he can copy, distribute, derive.

But because its spare time, without any
cost to contribute, it is feasible.
Copyleft simply creates the agreement up
front that allows the progress of contributions.

All Rights Reserved creates an incentive for
a few people to work together, all contributing
large numbers of hours, to create a million manhour
work, and recoup their time directly off the work.

There is no magic plan that has the money making
ability that the Charted Monopoly of ARR grants
but combines the community/commodity spirit of


Wikipedia and the Great Sneetches War

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