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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 21:26:26 +0000

Greg London wrote:
> Greg London wrote:
>> Other projects require massive overhead as you add people. Try
>> writing a novel like Lord Of The Rings with a team of 1000 people
>> while keeping the characters consistent, have a plot that
>> develops over three books, keep a consistent tone and voice, and
>> have the three stages of story development, and pull it all off
>> so readers like it because of its quality, not because it's
>> FLOSS. It's hard because all these things about a novel require
>> massive communication and is HARD to communicate. Authors don't
>> know neccesarily know how to objectively describe their voice or
>> tone so that other writers simple "get" it.
> Of course, just to make your life complicated, the LotR was pretty
> much written in Tolkien's "spare time" -- his day job was teaching
> linguistics at university. The movie version, of course, was done
> by many people (still working full-time at it), and of course, it
> drew extensively on the work of a vast fan-base (some of the more
> important contributors were drawn out of that fan base -- where do
> you think you get "Elvish language scholars").

The *novel*. How many asterisks do I need to get you to see that


Touche. ;-)

But actually, I was talking about the novel: he (like many writers) did
it part-time, more for self-satisfaction than for any real intent to cash
in on the proceeds. In fact, it moldered on shelves via vanity publishing
for a very long time before it was "discovered": Tolkien wrote LotR in
the 1940s, but it didn't really become popular for about 20 years.

The novel was pretty much Tolkien's baby. Yes, once he was finished
I'm sure editors and copyeditors and cover artists swarmed all over
it. But the point is that, for the NOVEL, it was cathedral approach.

But Tolkien did not work at it "full time", either.

This isn't "cathedral" or "bazaar" -- it's "hermit". ;-)

That's how an awful lot of free software projects get started, too.

(Also books, paintings, etc).

Once the NOVEL was finished, one could argue that movies, TV series,
fan fiction, action figures, role playing games, and other derivative
works used the novel as a "specification". This "spec" allowed
derivative projects to be chunked. But within these new subprojects,
some of them, such as the movie version by Peter Jackson, could be
argued to be Cathedral approaches again. Other sub-projects could
probably have split into Bazaar models.

My point in mentioning the movie, is that it's really only at that point
that anyone is employed full-time under a leadership hierarchy to
create (i.e. only then do we find the cathedral). Yet, even here we
find that the cathedral is built on bazaar underpinnings -- much of
the labor that went into the cathedral and much of the "raw material"
was already in existence, as the result of "bazaar" activity of fans of
the novel. Peter Jackson's real intelligence about making the film,
and the fundamental reason for his success, was that he understood
this -- again and again from announcement of intent to polishing off
the film, he drew on the support of the novels' fan base to keep the
project going. You can't get the kind of phenomenal motivation
that people had on this project in any other way. (IMHO)

> Intriguingly, the choice of strategy also changes the product. You
> see this all the time with free software versus proprietary
> software:
> A proprietary solution usually winds up being one huge monolithic
> application, while the free project becomes a myriad of small
> tailored solutions interacting through well-defined (and usually
> very simple) interfaces.

Yes, and that's simply the difference between the means and the end.
The "end" is a product, an application, a book, a movie, an
encyclopedia. The "means" are the cathedral or bazaar approach to
create it. The means don't matter to consumers. It could have been
built as a monolith, or as a sum of millions of pieces, as long as
the ends are met.

This remains true only so long as consumers are *just* consumers.

Even with Tolkien, we see that fan "ownership" of the work is strongly
felt. People attach to it as a mythology that they can rework and
repurpose. To that end, the terms under which it is offered matter
a lot.

Those people are not, however, conceiving themselves as "producers",
so they aren't "working towards a goal". They are, much more accurately,
"playing", and the "goal" is incidental.

> I'm not sure what 'the moral' is at this point, though. ;-)

That the project is the goal, the desired end result. And the project
may have different means to get there, such as Cathedral or Bazaar,
or some combination.

If the project chunks well, if it can be built from a million little
pieces, and all the pieces stitch together without visible seams that
distract the user, then Bazaar is a viable approach.

And if the Bazaar approach is viable for the project, then the
license is simply the last key to open the lock.

The creation of a Bazaar license does NOT make all projects suddenly
meet the requirements for Bazaar-style construction.

Okay. No arguments there.

This is why I get so frustrated when people blame CC by saying
something like "My FLOSS project would be a huge success IF ONLY
creative commons would tweak the license this way". No. You haven't
figured out how to chunk the project yet, so the license is
irrelevant. If the project were chunkable, then CC-SA would be fine.

Has anyone said that recently?

The solution isn't more licenses. That's solving the wrong problem.
The problem is that the project of the moment hasn't been chunked by
people yet, and that's the problem that needs to be solved. Once
people figure out how to take a project idea and have it chunk so
naturally that it shatters into a million pieces that can be
reassembled seamlessly, then pick any standard copyleft license for
legal protection, buy a URL, find a host, send out some notifications
to the people who are potential contributers, and you're done.

That's a solution to a particular problem, but it solves it by redefining
'success': you wind up with a different project than you originally
envisioned. In short, you've allowed legal details to run the show --
they determine your aesthetic decisions. To some degree, that's
unavoidable, but many people would argue that you should do what
aesthetically right, and pick a license that strategically suits that

Arguing in a place like this for improvements to the available range
of licensing options is actually a means of reducing "license
proliferation": because if a fundamental concept can be incorporated
into the CC scheme, it's one less reason to write your own (probably
incompatible) license.

If we are still in any way talking about the "sunset NC" concept, then
let me point out that it's specifically for projects that *don't* chunk
well and therefore are poor options for bazaar development -- the
same projects that people normally choose NC for. It's specifically
meant to address those problems, but be friendlier to the copyleft
commons and the works' potential "fan base", by getting rid of the
rift between commonses that (use of) the existing NC clause creates.


Terry Hancock (hancock AT
Anansi Spaceworks

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