Following my recent post about the problems of restrictions on commercial usage as found in Creative Commons ‘nc’ licenses there was a spirited debate on the mailing list. Tom Chance made the important point that for many in existing artistic communities the ‘NC’ restriction represents some kind of ‘ideal social contract’. Below I include the relevant portion of the email discussion:
[snip.] Tom Chance wrote [in response to an email by Saul Albert]: > Maybe. Or maybe if you spoke to more people who use NC you'd realise that, for > many of them, CC BY-NC-SA represents an ideal social contract that ensures > they will benefit from the fruits of their labour most fully. They may be > wrong about that, largely because of the practicalities of the license and > actually getting permission, but those could be ironed out as I suggested > above. Saying "I want a slice of the action" is pretty commonsense, if only > it can be guaranteed without making things worse for yourself. While I agree it is commonsense it is exactly the kind of commonsense that sits ill with a 'share and share-alike' philosophy and leads to few positive externalities. It is also pretty close to the reason most people use full copyright: 'if you want to use it you can just come and ask me' -- and we know the problems with that. This doesn't make it wrong in any way at all -- just as I don't think it is any 'wrong' for people to use copyright (it's their right to use whichever license they want). > I think there are really two issues here. First, why the current NC system is > flawed. There can't be much mileage left in that debate, but there's lots of > scope for good proposals to implement a better NC-type system. Second, why > any NC system is flawed, and there I've only come across a handful of erudite > opponents (Rob Myers being one) and lots of simplistic libertarian rebukes :/ I don't think it would make sense to say 'all NC systems are flawed'. It's horses for courses after all. However for me it is important to have some idea of the community norms. After all we are going to need to draw a line about what is 'open' content is at some point especially when it comes to questions of what gets hosted and where. I am happy for people to write proprietary software, copyrighted books etc etc but knowledgeforge.net/archive.org/remixreading won't host it (in this regard it is worth noting that at knowledgeforge the position is to only go with work licensed under terms compatible with the open knowledge definition or open source definition. archive.org and remixreading meanwhile both allow nc restrictions but my understanding is that remixreading wouldn't host Creative Archive material with all its extra restrictions). With a 'copyrighted culture' you've got an overly restrictive (and overly extended) default that creates huge transactional burdens and complexity. So with restrictions on commercial use: we create a bunch of restrictions -- less burdnesome than with traditional copyright to be sure -- but burdensome nevertheless that in /many cases/ are just acting as obstacles while doing little for the producers of the work. Sure, just like full copyright, nc provisisons give the creator more control over the use of their work but it's a control with large attendant costs for the community and often few benefits for the creator.
I should leave the last word to Tom who in responding to my final paragraph above summed up the nub of, what we might term, the ‘advocacy’ problem:
Amen. However, this is quite a hard message to sell to artists who don't consider themselves to be remixers. Until they come up against a copyright holder or free culture advocates it won't seem a big deal. Playing devil's advocate: So what if the community doesn't benefit, there's a chance I might benefit from my exclusive control somewhere down the line. With software, programmers can quickly grasp the advantage of everyone sharing code openly. Why should a poet, band, painter or journalist jump on the bandwagon?