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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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