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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: Sat, 27 May 2006 19:45:27 +0000

drew Roberts wrote:
I am fairly certain that the GPL was not created for the reason you
give and in fact, IIRC, the early development style for much of the
GNU software was what ESR would term a cathedral style. (May or may
not be what you would call a cathedral style.)

One license may fit one development style better than another or vice
versa, but they do not necessarily go together in all cases.

For the most part, it seems that the Gnu project still works in this
"cathedral" mode, and it's intriguing that they do so. But it seems
likely that there will always be projects that need at least a cathedral
"kick start", and I suppose the Gnu project, as the more fanatical
core of the ideologically-based software freedom movement has
nominated itself to fill that role.

Consider recent Gnu decisions to back free replacements for Java
and Flash (actually these are nearly complete projects now).

> But neither license changes the game, changes the projects, they
> just enable solutions weren't possible before.

Perhaps one of the problems inherent from the beginning in putting a
gift economy idea beside a bazaar image is that a bazaar is a big
time market?

As in: "A bazaar is a market, often covered, typically found in areas
of Muslim culture."

Well guys, it's clear to me that a *copyleft*-based "bazaar" (in the ESR
sense) is an exchange economy -- but what is being exchanged is ideas,
work, and investment in future development. To some degree it's a
speculation game, just like the stock market.

People invest money in companies, hoping to see a monetary reward
when the companies succeed. People invest time in copyleft projects
hoping to see a utilitarian reward when the projects succeed.

Federal laws protect the stock market investor (SEC, for example, and
the enforceability of the value of stocks), while the copyleft licenses
protect the investments of copyleft contributors. Neither wants to
see their investment hijacked by some passing opportunist.

The difference lies in what is being exchanged, not the exchange
principle. Stock markets exchange money now for money later. The
company invested in supplies the monetization as well as the
amplification of effort. This works best when conversion of money to
effort and result to money is efficient.

Information economies, however, are full of examples of inefficiencies
in both processes. Sharing data products destroys the conversion of
result to money, and industry middle-men have long been destroying
the conversion of money to effort (think how much of the money that
you pay for an album winds up in the pockets of executives, advertisers,
and other folks -- and how little actually goes to the artist to pay for
the effort in producing the work). Thus the monetary investment
model becomes increasingly inefficient for finding a solution.

Copyleft projects exchange quantities of potentials --
the use-value marginal potential of a contribution. They try to maximize
collaborative leverage by getting the greatest marginal use-value from
the smallest contributory effort in a project. The center of monetization
is removed from the development and publication process to the
application of the tool. But the development and publication has
near-infinite amplification potential, so it continues to be a very smart
place to invest, even though it's not the main profit center.

A non-copyleft economy represents more of a gift economy: you give
something away in order to achieve status, and in the hope that something
will come back from it, but there's no real quid pro quo involved. The
copyleft is the quid pro quo for free collaboration works -- it's what makes
leverage possible.

The question is this, though. Can there be a "utilitarian reward" from
aesthetic works? Can there be monetization? Drew has suggested a
few possible means. I can see how some of them could work, but they
look very marginal to me.

I appreciate his sentiment that it isn't really necessary to "make a killing"
to "make a living" -- but here's the problem: "80% of everything is crap". You
take significant risks in any kind of entrepreneurial setting. You make
sensible bets on projects, hoping that one or two will be big enough
successes to make up for the losses on the others. But if even the greatest
success can only net you a marginal income, then you can't afford to take
any risks. And what kind of art is that going to produce? (And even if
80% of everything is unprofitable, that doesn't necessarily mean it was
an aesthetic failure for everyone -- even if we could achieve the businessman's
goal of producing only the profitable 20% of work, we could well be making
a mistake in artistic terms -- what did we throw away?).

That's why I'm disappointed at not finding more robust solutions. I don't
doubt that a few successes can be picked out of the copyleft game and
make money for the creators, but I don't see that as being a very big
possibility as yet: the methods for monetizing copyleft aesthetic works seem
to me to both be few and return little on investment.

OTOH, Greg is quite right that projects needn't make money to exist. There
will be copyleft "successes" that are not "financial successes". And that may
not matter to those who are involved in creating them (I certainly will lose
no sleep over the fact that my small efforts on Wikipedia will never be paid
in money -- I'm happy enough to see the success: but then again, Wikipedia
is a *tool* which I use, quite often on paying projects -- so I'm clearly able
to monetize that investment after it has been amplified).

I've been clearer in my life, but I hope you can extract some meaning
from this. ;-)


Terry Hancock (hancock AT
Anansi Spaceworks

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