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Subject: Development of Creative Commons licenses

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  • From: Terry Hancock <hancock AT>
  • To: Discussion on the Creative Commons license drafts <cc-licenses AT>
  • Subject: Re: [cc-licenses] Founders as a module? was Re: Getting to Version 3.0
  • Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 06:55:32 +0000

Greg London wrote:
CC-NonCommercial is a market economy license. It is a license that a
creator can use to trade non-commercial rights in exchange for the
possible benefit of generating word-of-mouth about the work, getting
the fans involved, and eventually making more commercial sales.

And as such, a more valuable work will sell better, and hence make
more money for the artist. A work which will become free is more
valuable, hence it makes more money, hence it represents greater
value to the creator.

The NC allows the advantages you describe, but walls off the biggest
advantages of free licenses -- collaborative leverage and community
goodwill. They don't cooperate well. They are also impeded in
distribution because they starve the distributors (there are ways
around this -- but a free license makes it easier).

If CC-NC sunsets to either CC-BY or CC-FC, then any artist who is
using CC-NC strictly for the personal benefit it gives them has no
incentive to adopt CC-sunset. They are using CC-NC to try to get more
sales. So they have little incentive to commit to a sunset license.

See above (and below). Also, nobody ever does anything strictly
for one single reason. ;-)

There are plenty of artists who would like to contribute to a commons,
but want to be able to make money along the way. They choose NC
not because it's exactly what they want, but because it's the best
thing they've been offered.

If the creator is not strictly in it for personal benefit, but may
want to give something to the community, they would be open to using
CC-Sunset, but they might just as likely switch from CC-NC to CC-BY
on their own.
> I also think it indicates that the
> artists are not prepared to take the risk on unproven and largely
> untried business models proposed for fully free-licensed aesthetic
> works.

A sunset license doesn't change this fear. And if they're in it for
personal gain, then they'll never want to give their rights up. And
if they're in it to make some money and contribute to a greater
project, then they'll likely do it on their own timeline, when
they've felt they've made enough money.

No, because there is always a marginal gain to be had by continuing
the closed terms. Since the purchaser knows this, he is unlikely to
believe any promise by the creator that lacks legal force.

If the artist believes they will release the work in time, they should
be willing to promise that -- if not, then they shouldn't get the benefit
of the community goodwill created by a free-license. Nor should they
get the benefit of collaborative leverage.

The sunset license, as a legally-binding arrangement, is a positive
signal of this intent to the consumer. Actually, if he's a pure
"consumer" he won't care -- and that's the assumption built into
the NC license. But if he's Mia Garlick's "conducer", then he does
care, and the ability to produce based on what is consumed is
value. With a sunset-NC, the artist can monetize *that* value,
which is not available to him otherwise.

And creators interested in contributing to gift economies would be
more like to use CC-BY or CC-SA straight out of the box.

The use of "gift economy" is misleading. Copyleft communities are
"economies of the exchange of information" and thus are still
exchange economies. One can argue that non-copyleft free is a
gift economy, but that's not strictly true in practice, even if the
license is based on that fiction.

People don't contribute to Wikipedia because they want to give
away labor. They do it, because it's easy, and the contribution of
labor provides a compensation -- I write a little article about mitochondria
or machine shops, and I get the largest encyclopedia in the world
back for my effort. Even considering my one article -- I put it into
a copyleft form so that I get back an improved version. This is
once-again tied to the utilitarian value of the work.

I don't see how offereing the sunset license will enable people to
change their behaviours any more than the existing licenses already

Because it creates added value *now* by promising an action in
the future. An CC-NC-By-SA work, to me, as a potential consumer in
the market for the artist's copyright monopoly has less value (possibly
nil) to me, because I feel it is shut away permanently from reuse. I'm
a reprocessor, so the lack of ability to reprocess a work reduces its

A CC-By-SA work gives me what I want, but little incentive to pay for
it (I could do so as a matter of principle, but I don't see that as a sound
basis for an economy -- I'm in a conflict of interest: in a game-theoretic
sense, I always want to pay the minimum price I can for the maximum
value). So, with the CC-By-SA work, I get what I want, but the artist
doesn't get paid. Hence, my source is starved, and I don't get what I
want either -- it's not very sustainable. In the case of software the
creator gets a monetizable result back due to the information exchange --
the software is improved, and its *use* is monetizable. Hence the
potential income is monetizable. This doesn't work too well for
most aesthetic works.

If I were extraordinarily wealthy, I could commission the work, but that
means the economy serves only those wealthy enough to be patrons. OR,
I could join some kind of collective funding mechanism -- but that's basically
re-inventing socialism. There are other games you can play. I've tried
funding a contest before, with mixed results. Maybe this is workable, but
there are historical precedents for it having problems -- I wouldn't want
it to be the only mechanism.

However, in a delayed release, I get most of what I want, but there remains
an incentive to pay for the work so I can appreciate it now. The knowledge
that the work will pass into the free commons so that it can be a future
source of reprocessing is a future-value that affects my valuation of the
work *now*.

But that won't work if all I have is a vague idea that the artist might one day
change his mind about the licensing. I certainly will continue to avoid works
that I will never be able to use (or that I think I most likely will not be
able to use -- which is all I really know about any work).

> counter-examples that have been raised (e.g. "Wikipedia") are
> "successes" at creating content, but they are not "successes" in
> the sense of paying the contributors.

That is the point of a gift economy. Poeple contribute freely.
[uncontroversial explanation of why community-based peer production
(CBPP) works]

Yeah. That's a wonderful thing, and what I'm talking about doesn't
affect it. I think CBPP is a cool thing, and I see a lot of projects where
it can be used to great effect.

> empowerment of amateur creative work is desirable, but do we really
> want to destroy the niche of the "professional artist"?

hm, that's an interestingly ambiguous question.

If there is a form of expression that *could* be handled completely
by gift economy projects that are FLOSS from the get-go, why,
exactly, would there be a need to pay someone to do the exact same

There isn't, but neither is there such a thing as "the exact same thing"
when it comes to artistic expression (as opposed to utilitarian things).
Many people think the Mona Lisa is the "best" painting -- but that
doesn't devalue other paintings. Personally, I find it over-exposed,
and I'd rather look at another painting.

i.e. the only way a gift economy can "destroy" a professional niche
is if profesional work has been eclipsed by the gift economy.

Ah. You're misinterpreting my question. Let me rephrase it:

"Do we really want to lack provision for the existence of professional
artists who contribute meaningfully to the commons?"

That is to say, do we want to relegate the niche of the professional
artist to the old regime of strong copyright monopolies, and omit
it from a commons-based future?

It would appear from your argument that you feel the concept of
the professional artist should vanish -- that "CBPP", a "commons-economy",
and "gift economy" must all necessarily apply. Community production
will eliminate the value of individual artists.

I disagree with that assessment. I think there's room for more
diversity than that, and while the creativity of the many will
hopefully get a much better shake, I'd like to leave room in
my world for the brilliance of a few. And I don't want them to
be locked away in the fully-proprietary world-view, simply because
that's the only system that recognizes their value.

At which point, this is basically asking whether or not we want the
printing press to put the monastic scribes out of work, only with
different players.

I'm not talking about "destroy" in the sense of "out-compete in the
marketplace" -- I'm talking about "destroy" in the sense of "remove
from one's model".


Terry Hancock (hancock AT
Anansi Spaceworks

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