[cc-licenses] Parallel Distribution Statement

James Grimmelmann james at grimmelmann.net
Wed Nov 29 12:20:30 EST 2006

Rob Myers wrote:
> James Grimmelmann wrote:
>> It's unfortunate every time that 
>> unpalatable license choices cause dissatisfied authors who want to 
>> encourage free redistribution to opt out of the Creative Commons 
>> ecosystem entirely.
> Absolutely. Think how many will opt out if CC support DRM.

 From the discussion here so far, I would guess that not many people 
will opt out either way that the parallel distribution question is 

(And, by the way, I disagree with your characterization of parallel 
distribution as "support[ing] DRM" -- neither version of the anti-DRM 
clause supports DRM.  But I recognize that my belief that this is the 
case is just a restatement of my belief that adding a parallel 
distribution clause does not have significant dangerous consequences for 
the spread of DRM, and that you think otherwise, so that arguing over 
what counts as "support" is just an unhelpful diversion from our 
important and genuine disagreements.)

> Freedom is about use, not the distribution of broken versions of your 
> work by third parties for your misperceived benefit as an author.

I much don't care about whether a distributed version of my work is 
"broken" so long as anyone who wants can readily obtain a non-broken 
version.  Are you saying that I should care about the brokenness of the 
work in itself because my interests as an author are tied up with it not 
being broken?  Or that I should care about it because as an author I 
have an ethical duty not to let readers be tricked into using broken 
versions?  (I say "tricked" rather than "forced" because with parallel 
distribution, readers are not forced to use any particular version.)

> DRM allows pockets of "redistribution" under the control of third 
> parties to be sure, but it removes freedom within those pockets and 
> prevents the very downstream redistribution that you are claiming it 
> encourages. 

I would like for all of my readers to have the full practical resources 
they need to engage in any of the reworkings and redistributions they 
would like to.  But I don't see it as my duty as an author to make sure 
that they have equal access to high-speed broadband connections, to 
printing presses, and to wireless broadcast technologies.  These things 
are good, and there are human rights interests in making sure that 
everyone has fair access to them, and it is an important goal for 
technology and copyright policy to encourage their equitable 
distribution.  But I don't think that using Creative Commons license 
terms to forbid the use of technologies that not everyone has access to 
is a good idea.

This will probably draw an objection that DRM is different because it 
artificially restricts access.  This is true.  It is a reason to be even 
more urgently concerned about DRM-created inequalities than about simple 
network-access or unequal-wealth inequalities.  But I don't think it 
makes a difference for my stance towards CC licensing.  I want everyone 
who encounters the work to have the essential freedoms they need in 
relation to the work.  Parallel distribution gives them that.  Fixing 
the underlying inequality of differential access to one platform is an 
important issue, but it is not really a problem of access to the work.

You talk about "the very downstream redistribution."  By that, I take it 
you mean that the platform monopolist has the freedom to redistribute 
the work on the platform, but that later downstream users do not have a 
similar freedom.  I agree.  I merely disagree that this freedom, **by 
itself** is the right object of concern.  These downstream users enjoy 
the freedom to use the work in an unencumbered form, thanks to parallel 
distribution.  That gives them the full range of freedoms they would 
enjoy if the DRM platform had never existed in the first place.  Adding 
the distribution through the DRMed channels has not hurt them or 
subtracted from their freedom.

>Unless the DRM achieves a monopoly, in which case we are no 
> longer talking about freedom.
> If people have the freedom to use dual distribution *as an author* they 
> do not need it. If people do not have the freedom to use dual 
> distribution *as a consumer (sic)* they are not free anyway.

I am not sure quite what you mean here.  How does a consumer "use dual 
distribution?"  Do you mean that, having received the work, they are not 
free to become a redistributor on both platforms?  Or is there some 
larger freedom at stake?


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