The Future of Creative Commons: Examining defenses of the NC and ND clauses

This guest editorial by Kira of Students for Free Culture makes a powerful argument that the hoped-for "drag the center in our direction" effect of the non-free-culture licenses offered by Creative Commons isn't working, and that a different approach is needed.  We felt Kira's points were compelling enough to be worth airing -- they're the right questions, at least, and one heartening sign is that (as noted in the editorial's first link) Creative Commons has started helping people distinguish free licenses from non-free ones, with their “Approved for Free Cultural Works“ seal and their freedom-displaying license chooser.  The question Kira raises now is, is continuing to offer the non-free licenses the best way to advance Creative Commons' mission?

Creative Commons licenses arranged all in a row.

A few weeks ago, Students for Free Culture published a detailed and thoroughly cited post calling for the retirement of proprietary license options in Creative Commons 4.0. Already the story has been picked up by Techdirt and Slashdot and it has spurred lots of heated debate around the value of the NonCommercial (NC) and NoDerivatives (ND) licenses to Creative Commons and to rightsholders, but not a lot of discussion has been framed around the official mission and vision of Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has responded to the post stating that adopters of NC and ND licenses "may eventually migrate to more open licenses once exposed to the benefits that accompany sharing," maintaining that these licenses have been a strategic measure to approach that goal. The name Creative Commons itself highlights the aim of enabling a network of ideas and expressions that are commonly shared and owned or, as we usually call it, the commons. To be very explicit, one need not look any further than Creative Commons' mission statement (added emphasis) to see that this is what they work for:

Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

 

Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.

The NC and ND clauses are non-free/proprietary because they retain a commercial and/or creative monopoly on the work. Legally protected monopolies by any other name are still incompatible with the commons and undermine commonality. There is no question as to the purpose of Creative Commons or the definition of free cultural works. What Students for Free Culture has offered is not primarily a critique of proprietary licenses, but a critique of Creative Commons' tactics in providing them. The idea that the non-free licenses "may eventually migrate to more open licenses once exposed to the benefits that accompany sharing" is a reasonable one, but one that deserves careful reflection after a decade of taking that approach.

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"Lunatics" Free-Culture Series -- Pilot Episode Kickstarter

Terry Hancock is an editor at QuestionCopyright.org, a prolific writer about free software and free culture, and a driving force behind Lunatics, the crowd-funded and freely-licensed science fiction web TV series — about which he brings us an update:

We had a successful Kickstarter back in December to fund pre-production for Lunatics (mainly the character design), and now we're running another much larger Kickstarter to fund the production of a pilot. This is probably the hardest step for the Lunatics Project: in order to get a sustainable cycle of support for a free-culture series (Lunatics will be released under the Creative Commons By-SA license), we first have to find people willing to risk a little on producing our very first episode. Fortunately, we've got a great team together already, and it's clear that the pilot will be really good -- but only we can get funded to pay the artists for the time they need to work on it.

 

UPDATE: Although this was canceled we are near the end of a replacement campaign to pay for just the next step, which is Voice and Audio Production with an Animatic

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"In Defense of Free Music" -- Smashing Article by Zac Shaw

Mediapocalypse.com Zac Shaw of Mediapocalypse has just written one of the best explanations -- and justifications -- of the Free Culture movement we've yet seen: In Defense of Free Music: A Generational, Ethical High Road Over the Industry's Corruption and Exploitation.

To understand what he's responding to, you'll need a bit of background...

Last week, a 20-year-old intern at NPR named Emily White wrote a post for NPR's "All Songs Considered" blog, entitled "I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With".  She described, quite eloquently, how her relationship to recorded music was the same as the rest of her generation's, namely that they don't see the point of owning physical media like CDs.  She gets her music on iTunes and other online services, and stores it in the cloud and on her playback devices.  She doesn't see anything wrong with this.

From the point of view of someone steeped in the Free Culture movement, nothing Emily White said is controversial.  Indeed, it was if anything surprisingly tame: she took care to say that she rarely downloads songs illegally, but rather uses state-approved distribution channels, in part because she wants artists to get more money than they do under the old album-based model:

...I honestly don't think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience.

 

What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices. With this new universal database, everyone would have convenient access to everything that has ever been recorded, and performance royalties would be distributed based on play counts (hopefully with more money going back to the artist than the present model). All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?

Then David Lowery at The Trichordist ("Artists for an Ethical Internet") wrote an impassioned response, "Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered", that was really aimed at the Free Culture movement, using White as a proxy.  Lowery's letter is worth reading: he's clearly sincere, and is willing to pull out every rhetorical trick in his bag to make his case (including, unfortunately, some unfair ones).  I don't think he makes a very good case, but he certainly put his heart into it.  His response got a huge amount of circulation, and the coverage appears to be still expanding.

Zac Shaw didn't think Lowery made a good case either, but instead of just picking apart Lowery's argument, Shaw constructed a convincing positive argument for the ethical solidity of the Free Culture movement's position (which Emily White herself did not articulate, but it was Lowery's real target, and Shaw was right to focus on it).

Enough introduction.  Read Zac Shaw's article -- it's really, really good:

In Defense of Free Music: A Generational, Ethical High Road Over the Industry’s Corruption and Exploitation

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Google to report on who prevents sharing, and how often.

Google's name.Big news from Google -- their regular Transparency Reports will now include information about content takedown requests!

This means that it's about to get a lot easier to see and talk about the costs of copyright restrictions.  Some background: under U.S. law, Google can protect itself from infringement claims by promptly handling so-called "takedown requests".  A takedown request is when a copyright owner or their agent asks Google to remove content from its servers (or, in the case of the search engine, from being included in search results) because continuing to offer the content would violate the owner's copyright, and continuing to link to it in search results could be considered contributory infringement.

But how often are such requests made?  Who makes them?  Unless you worked at Google or a similarly large information-gathering organization, you'd have no way of knowing.

Now Google's going to tell us.  From their announcement:

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