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

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Tue Mar 7 15:02:18 EST 2006

On Monday 06 March 2006 04:25 pm, Mia Garlick wrote:
> i am sorry you were not able to find the guidelines linked to the  
> text in that blog post which said: "these guidelines have been posted  
> here." i am also sorry that these guidelines escaped your attention  
> when i sent an email to this same list entitled "Discussion Draft -  
> NonCommercial Guidelines."

Hmm. Sounds like you two have previous axes to grind, but I think
Greg's comments are relevant.

> here (again) are the guidelines.
> NonCommercialGuidelines(clean).pdf

Mind you, I found those, referenced them in an article, and then
you *moved them*. I haven't checked to see if you moved them back

> because they are a discussion draft, it is not appropriate to post  
> them more prominently on the CC website.

Ah, but the real problem is not the use case document, but rather
the fact that people don't use it when making the decision on how
to license their work.

My opinion of "NC" is generally fairly hostile. I'm working
on a free software project that has a lot of free content in it, 
which has to be under a By-SA + GPL license (actually there's some
debate about that due to the "interpreter/data distinction", but
it's less trouble to just dual-license).

Not long ago, I thought I had found a new contributor to the project.
But after a bit of working with me on this, he starting asking if
it'd be okay to use a "By-NC-SA" license and started talking about
how he wanted to avoid being taken advantage of by someone redistributing
his work, etc.  Basically, you were selling him on this bad idea.
I find that annoying.

I know his fears are basically unfounded, because the ShareAlike
principle, combined with market forces, tends to drive the cost of
copies of a work down to the provision cost, so there's no reason to
feel like you're getting "taken advantage of" (provided you were okay
with the work being distributed in the first place). 

But now I have to sell the contributor on that idea (all over again).
And sometimes, they just walk away. Did they really walk away because
they *don't want to contribute to the commons* or because they *don't
understand that NC breaks the commons*?

This point is lost on a lot of people -- they don't get the
subtler advantage of a Sharealike clause, and think that
Non-Commercial does what they want.

But it almost never does!

IMHO, there is EXACTLY ONE application of an "NC" license: "you want to
distribute copies of a work freely for preview, but you want to be the
sole-source for selling it commercially". If you have no plans to do the
latter, then ShareAlike is your friend, not Non-Commercial.

If you want to stick to the strict NC, then I think that what appears on
the NC deed and on the license selection page, should be something short and
sweet like what I just wrote in the previous paragraph.

As it stands, "NC" is fundamentally destructive to the "Commons".  But
the artist using it, doesn't usually realize that, and is just doing
what seems like the obvious thing. NC is "CC's most popular clause"
precisely and solely because you are doing an inadequate job of
communicating how bad it is.  NC plays on the artists fear of "being
taken advantage of" or "looking foolish", because it purports to
protect them from such abuses. But heck, so does not publishing! And
the NC achieves almost the same block on re-use as not-publishing.

And that's why I won't take NC work!  It would make *my* work NC,
incompatible with GPL, incompatible with the Open Source Definition,
non-free by the Free Software Definition, non-distributable by
Debian's "Debian Free Software Guidelines". No one would be allowed
to sell a CD with the material on it, or put it up for download on
a website with advertisements. In short, it just wouldn't be published!

Perhaps what you really need to do is jettison the existing NC concept,
and get a grip on the myriad variations that people actually MEAN when
they say they want to distribute "non-commercially".  I could imagine a
set of licenses that allow a range of specific uses, for specific types
of work. But without some very clever wording, this will just fragment
the community further.

OTOH, NC already shatters it, so why not let NC show its true
anti-commons colors by further shattering itself? People will eventually
get wise, and stop using the NC variants.

Or how about this -- provide a lengthy list of specific use cases, and
make the licensor agree to each one in order to use the NC clause.  That
would make it abundantly clear what they are giving up in order to
preserve this false pride of "not being taken advantage of".


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

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