[cc-licenses] Alex Bosworth: "Creative Commons Is Broken"

Greg London email at greglondon.com
Mon Mar 6 18:14:32 EST 2006

> I raised an earlier question, which I think is a good one. If people
> aren't reusing content, why not? What rights would they like that they
> either aren't getting or which they may have but aren't clear?

I think part of hte cause is that this
shows that three big slices of licenses are


Together, these three constitute a full 72% of the distribution.
Which means only 25% of CC licensed works allow commercial use.

Given that, 75% of works are limited in their reuse to noncommercial
uses. As soon as you have a non-commercial restriction, the only
reuse you'll commonly see are individuals doing onesy-twosey's of
a work, fan fiction, stuff like that. You don't neccesarily see a
large group of people advocating to contribute to a gift economy
that is restricted to noncommercial uses. Gift economies spring
up where people can see their contribution will make the biggest
difference the biggest impact, the biggest effect. And contributing
to something that has a major, non-commercial-only, restriction
on it, isn't quite nearly as inspiring as contributing to something
that could, say, get picked up someone like RedHat who puts your
contribution and advertises/distributes it so even more people
can get your cnotribution.

Gift economies require inspiration, and contributing to something
that may become commercially successful can inspire a lot of people
to contribute their time and energy for free.

If you have a non-commercial limitation, you can still find
inspiration, but you'll need to look for it.

THere is also a problem with getting people to contribute
their time and energy for free when someone else is holding
the rights to make money off of it. It's a weird sort of
thing that makes people not want to give to a thing that
could benefit the original author who is holding back
comercial rights. Why donate when it will benefit John,
the guy who did the original work?

Which also brings up the concern of commercial competion.
A work licensed NonCommercialOnly could get a gift economy
around it, but if it becomes successful and gets picked up
commercially, the original holder can use their commercial
rights to outrun anything the gift economy did. And then
all the contributers will think their contribution did nothing
but make someone else famous and rich and no one read their
free contribution.

Of the remaining 25% of the licenses, only 11% is CC-SA.
CC-SA is the only license that enables a true gift economy.
(well, CC-BY-SA can do it too, with the latest revision
to how attribution works as an optional thing.)

THat's the license that people need to be inspired to
rally around a work, to know their contribution will
continue to live on, to know their work won't get
eclipsed by some commercial version, to know that
any derivative of their work is automatically ShareAlike
and accesible to them.

So with CC-SA, you have a license that *allows*
gift economies to thrive and survive.

ALl that's missing is the project. But that is the
other part of the problem. The big, successful
gift economy projects allow many people to make
small contributions and to have that aggregate
into something huge. There aren't actually many
projects that work that way. Wikipedia is the
classic example of gift economy. someone could come
in and fix one sentence in a single entry, and
never make another contribution again, but know
that they were part of the project.

As far as I can see, a lot of copyright-related
projects actually require a substantial amount
of time and energy from a number of individuals,
which makes contributing to such projects a bit
more difficult than to contribute to, say,
wikipedia by clicking "edit" and fixing a spelling

The license needed to enable reuse exists.
It is CC-SA. THe problem is finding projects
that inspire, and that many people can make small
free constributions to.


Bounty Hunters: Metaphors for Fair IP laws

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