Leo Babauta of zenhabits: an author who gets freedom.

Freedom.Author Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net/uncopyright:

I’ve made more money since releasing copyright, by far, than when I had copyright.

And:

In the 4+ years I’ve done this experiment, releasing copyright has not hurt me, the creator of the content, a single bit.

I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.

This is a writer who totally, completely gets it.  In fact, we'll just reproduce the entire page here -- it's short, clear, and direct.  Leo says that in general he wants others to improve on his words, but we can't improve on this:

Uncopyright

This entire blog, and all my ebooks, are uncopyrighted (since January 2008).

That means I’ve put them in the public domain, and released my copyright on all these works.

There is no need to email me for permission — use my content however you want! Email it, share it, reprint it with or without credit. Change it around, put in a bunch of swear words and attribute them to me. It’s OK.

Attribution is appreciated but not required.

I’d prefer people buy my ebooks, but if they want to share with friends, they have every right to do so.

Why I’m releasing copyright

I’m not a big fan of copyright laws, especially as they’re being applied by corporations, used to crack down on the little guys so they can continue their large profits.

Copyrights are often said to protect the artist, but in most cases the artist gets very little while the corporations make most of the money. In the 4+ years I’ve done this experiment, releasing copyright has not hurt me, the creator of the content, a single bit.

I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.

The lack of copyright, and blatant copying by other artists and even businesses, never hurt Leonardo da Vinci when it comes to images such as the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, or the Vitruvian Man. It’s never hurt Shakespeare. I doubt that it’s ever really hurt any artist (although I might just be ignorant here).

And while I’m certainly not da Vinci or Shakespeare, copyright hasn’t helped me, and uncopyright hasn’t hurt me. If someone feels like sharing my content on their blog, or in any other form for that matter, that’s a good thing for me. If someone wanted to share my ebook with 100 friends, I don’t see how that hurts me. My work is being spread to many more people than I could do myself. That’s something to celebrate, as I see it.

And if someone wants to take my work and improve upon it, as artists have been doing for centuries, I think that’s a wonderful thing. If they can take my favorite posts and make something funny or inspiring or thought-provoking or even sad … I say more power to them. The creative community only benefits from derivations and inspirations.

This isn’t a new concept, of course, and I’m freely ripping ideas off here. Which is kinda the point.

Counter arguments

There are a number of objects that will likely be brought up to this idea, and here are a few of my responses:

1. Google rank will go down. My understanding is that Google penalizes pages that have exact duplicates on other sites, when it comes to PageRank. But in 4+ years of uncopyright, I have had no loss in PageRank. Anyway, SEO isn’t important to me.

2. You’ll lose ebook revenues. If people buy my ebook and then distribute it to 20 people, and each of those distributes it to 20 more, and those to 20 more … I’ve lost $76,000 in ebook revenues. Perhaps. That’s if you agree with the assumption that all those people would have bought the ebook if it hadn’t been freely distributed. I don’t buy that. In this example, thousands of people are reading my work (and learning about Zen Habits) who wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s good for any content creator. Also: I’ve made more money since releasing copyright, by far, than when I had copyright.

3. Who knows what people will do with your work? Someone could take my work, turn it into a piece of crap, and put my name on it. They could translate it with all kinds of errors. They could … well, they could do just about anything. But that kind of thinking stems from a mind that wants to control content … while I am of the opinion that you can’t control it, and even if you can, it’s not a good thing. What if someone takes my work and turns it into something brilliant, and becomes the next James Joyce? Or more likely, what if they take the work and extend the concepts and make it even more useful, to even more people? Release control, and see what happens. People are wonderful, creative creatures. Let’s see what they can do.

4. What if someone publishes a book with all your content and makes a million dollars off it? I hope they at least give me credit. And my deepest desire is that they give some of that money to a good cause.

5. But … they’re stealing from you! You can’t steal what is given freely. I call this sharing, not piracy.

 


 

Okay, I guess there is one small tweak we could suggest:

It's true that you can't steal what's freely given, but you also can't steal what you don't take away.  Even if Leo didn't encourage sharing, making copies of his works (or anyone's) would not be stealing, because copying is not theft.  Copying might be illegal, in some jurisdictions, but many things that are illegal are not stealing.  None of which changes the truth of what Leo says above, of course.

1 Comment

Finally some recongition for Leo Babuta!

I'm absolutely delighted to see a post here at QC about Leo Babuta.

I first discovered Zen Habits by seeking out free content over a year or two ago, just doing as many searches I could think of on Google. It turned out to be one of the most important, influential discoveries I've made by doing such searches.

Zen Habits has provided me with a ton of inspiration, and it has helped me through some very difficult times, both creatively and personally. I actually plan to include a post about it, and Leo, on my own blog in my series on Free Culture artists. I thought I was the only Free Culture-supportor aware of his work; I'm glad to see someone beat me to spreading the word about him!

Leo Babuta delivers very high quality content, and his philosophy, while not specifically oriented at Free Culture as a movement, shares essentially the same goals. Much of the wisdom he shares is ancient stuff; you can find it in sources such as the Tao Te Ching. There is much said about warding off possessiveness and an unhealthy need for control beyond the scope of one's own actions. Yet if you read that advice in any modern translation of the Tao Te Ching, you'll find a copyright notice at the front of the book. At Zen Habits, you find the same kind of wisdom from a writer who practices what he preaches. It's a beautiful thing.