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The tragedy of the Creative Commons

Bogus tags sour the cybernetic dream

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You and your rights

Perhaps it's lousy education. The Creative Commons gang are more interested in evangelising a fixed view of the world, rather than giving users a rich, nuanced and disinterested view of creative digital rights. Perhaps, as dogmatists, they're predisposed to see copyright as a problem, rather than a set of tools.

For example, you'd never know from the all the CC white papers, cartoons and promotional movie clips that, as the copyright holder of a cool photograph you've taken, you can waive your rights selectively: allowing bloggers you like to use it, but reserving the right to haul in a payday if a big publisher takes it, and exploits it. To enjoy this you don't need a funky Creative Commons licence: established copyright law already gives you this amazing flexibility.

Creative Commons

It's a cybernetic army! How Creative Commons pictures humans

Or perhaps the Commons gang can't explain what they're about because it's so confusing, they don't understand it themselves. Four years ago, I pointed out that licences can't be revoked. This brought a spluttering, outraged response from a former sports hack called JD Lasica, who angrily spewed forth that this was nonsense, and I'd got it all wrong.

A couple of days later, he was corrected by Professor Lawrence Lessig - who designed the wheeze - and said that irrevocability was actually part of the plan. Irrevocability, he said, was really cool.

The point to remember here is that Lasica is on the Board of Creative Commons. If he doesn't know what he's talking about - then who does? Fortunately there is some extremely good literature on the web that explains creative digital rights without Creative Commons' dogmatic wonkery. There's an excellent up-to-date guide by Professor Jane Ginsberg of Columbia University Law School, called Public Licenses: The Gift That Keeps On Giving (the title is a reference to irrevocability). It explains lots of things the Commons propaganda material doesn't.

The moral? Ignore the Commons licences - they may be bogus, and misuse is costly. Do your own due diligence - and know your rights. ®

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