Glyn Moody directed me to an article taking aim at non-commercial Creative Commons licenses, miscellaneous factZ: Creative Commons and the Commons.
Rufus Pollock makes some interesting arguments, and points out a possible problem in the Creative Commons organization: that it is an independent hierarchical organization, and unaccountable to anyone, really. Still, what was most ironic to me was his interest in removing data(base) material from the public domain (which impacts on his work) while advocating elimination of the noncommercial option from CC licenses (which impacts on mine).
As a writer about to self publish my first novel, I have considered carefully, and chosen to license it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada, or CC by-nc-sa.
This license allows any type of remix desired save commercial. I think all cultural material should be absolutely free for personal use. Personal use must be sacrosanct for culture to grow.
Since I’ve been mulling over and learning about copyright over the past few years, I’ve become an advocate of free culture. I’ve learned a lot, beginning with the copyright consultation submissions made by thousands of Canadians (who were led to believe that the government was interested in what citizens felt to be important in any new copyright law*), and from reading, and having online discussions with many people.
Drew Roberts is a multi-disciplinary creator who passionately champions free culture, going so far as to publish his NaNoWriMo novels as he writes. His credo is “Free the Art and Free the Artists.” Although I admire his bravery, for myself, no one reads a word I write until I am satisfied with it. In his inimitable way, the eminently reasonable Drew has gently encouraged me to release Inconstant Moon without the non-commercial restriction.
I’ve also had discussions with copyright abolitionist Crosbie Fitch, who naturally looks askance at the very idea of self publishing, as he feels that all art and creativity rightfully belongs to everyone, and should be firmly in the public domain. Not that he thinks artists should be denied the opportunity to make a living, just he thinks that they should be paid properly first, but once art is released into our culture, it should be free to copy.
Both Drew and Crosbie are highly intelligent, informed, committed and passionate about the issue, and I’ve learned a great deal from them both. But still, these are radical ideas. Change is difficult. It takes time for new ideas to be understood, and take root. So like many other independent creators today, I am feeling my way in an attempt to decide what combination works for me.
Yet I believe very strongly in the importance of the public domain and the commons.
I may at some point decide to venture the release of a novel without the noncommercial restriction, but not this time. The law of my land (Canada) places all IP under full copyright by default, and contrary to what our American neighbors contend with their absurd USTR propaganda, existing Canadian copyright law is both “stronger” and more restrictive than is good for our culture. Canadian culture is fighting its way to freedom from all the restrictions imposed by both corporate special interests and copyright collectives wanting to lock down our culture even further through the imposition of bad laws and DRM.
If creative commons licensing did not exist, the only choice available to me as a creator would be to publish my novel under full copyright restrictions. I don’t want that. But again, I am trying it on, seeing what’s what, whistling in the dark.
Lately there has been talk floating around that Creative Commons licensing is too confusing. It is certainly more confusing than outright copyright abolition would be. Some people feel more strongly about various elements of Creative Commons licenses. Like Rufus Pollock, many people think that the Noncommercial restriction should be dropped altogether. Others, like @openuniverse, believe there is no place in the Creative Commons for a “no derivatives” restriction. Others feel share-alike is too restrictive.
Rufus suggests that since most Creative Commons licenses are designated noncommercial, we should be dropping it altogether. He thinks people are dazzled by the Creative Commons “brand” and thinks that it should all be perfectly interoperable. But what Rufus doesn’t look at is the only way for all IP to be perfectly interoperable is Crosbie’s way: through the abolition of all forms of copyright. Crosbie is perfectly correct: the only perfect cultural interoperability is to be found in the Public Domain. Because for some, even a compulsion to provide attribution is too onerous.
[I confess I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into Crosbie’s “The 18th Century Overture · A Crescendo of Copyright, Natural Finale and Reprise” as soon as this novel distraction is in hand.]
The point is, it shouldn’t be up to Rufus or anyone else to tell me how I can or cannot release my own creative work.
Existing copyright has long since ceased to be beneficial to creators (if it ever really was). And it is because existing copyright law is both dictatorial and stifling that creators have begun to reject it. Creative Commons licensing offers a work-around that allows creators to get free of the yoke of copyright.
The reason Creative Commons is so successful is precisely because it offers all these choices. It is the variations in licensing that gives creators the confidence to release our work in this fashion, in the way in which we feel most comfortable, rather than allow the status quo of full copyright.
Something to remember is that once work is licensed, the license can only be altered to make the work more free. So in many ways, it seems more natural to begin with a more restrictive license. After all, it can always be lightened later.
As beneficial as I believe Creative Commons licensing to be, my concern is that restrictive license provisions will remain in place as long as the current copyright terms. Which can only be a disaster for the Public Domain.
And one of the most harmful aspects of existing copyright law is the ridiculous terms. It shouldn’t outlive the creator, nor should it be transferable, particularly to inhuman corporations. That’s a large part of why copyright has become such a problem today; corporate interests do not coincide with creator interests.
So I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is. I really don’t know what will happen.
Although I believe it to be good, “Inconstant Moon” may or may not generate income.
Either way, it is my test case. Regardless of how well it does,
“Inconstant Moon” goes into the public domain 5 years after publication.
I want to do this for two reasons.
First: because I truly believe that a strong and healthy public domain is essential for all of our shared culture as human beings.
But my second reason for emancipating my work is far less altruistic: I want to give my creative works a fighting chance of surviving me.
* The later unveiling of Bill C-32 indicated a total disregard for the feedback provided by Canadians in the Copyright Consultation.
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