Thursday, February 21, 2008

Creative Commons announces "Approved for Free Cultural Works" seal.

Via GNUosphere.

Seal: APPROVED FOR Free Cultural Works

Interestingly, I was just having this very discussion on a mailing list.

A license of CC-BY-NC-SA was proposed for a work that the whole community was going to participate in.

I proposed CC-BY-SA as being more in line with our principles (we're a community based on Free Software), and posited that since we enjoy the freedoms granted by the GPL, we should pay it forward by granting the same freedoms in our works.

"It'll protect the work", they said, "from being used in an inappropriate context. We want to make sure no one has to pay money for the fruits of our labor, and anyways it's a CC license; it's free!"

I argued along the definition of freedom, based on the GPL, proposed by Benjamin Mako Hill, that free (libre) does not include works that are restricted from being used non-commercially.

I pointed out that, as a commercial clause, NC is only benefits to a copyright holder would be in the commercial sphere. Like, say a company puts out some training material as CC-BY-NC-SA. This allows them to get some of the benefits of CC licensing (publicity, mostly) while still maintaining a monopoly on the commercial use of the materials.

(Canonical recently did this, announcing an experiment to license their commercial work CC-BY-NC-SA and that they intend to use the NC clause to make sure that anyone who uses their materials commercially (seriously huge amounts of material) has to "pay" for that privilege by giving back to the community.)

I can understand the use of a NC clause for a commercial company licensing a commercial product they would otherwise be copyrighted, I said, but a community that doesn't plan on maintaining a commercial monopoly receives no benefit from an NC clause. They're merely restricting freedom to no real purpose.

I believe the Attribution and ShareAlike clauses are protection enough to keep people from using a work inappropriately. GNU, Linux and Ubuntu are excellent examples.

Interestingly, I managed to sway the original proponents and supporters of the NC clause to my way of thinking, but by then they'd already convinced enough other people, who didn't really understand my points, that a vote came to a tie and the matter was left unresolved.

I think it's really cool, and absolutely appropriate, that the CC foundation is taking this step. Hopefully, it will help educate people about what freedom means.

P.S. If you've gotten this far in my post, YOU WILL CARE ABOUT THIS: Lawrence Lessig is considering running for Congress under his new Change Congress campaign. Do yourself a favor and see what he has to say.

P.S. Lessig started the whole Creative Commons movement, for those who don't know.

More worthwhile video at his site, including his final lecture on "Free Culture" given at Stanford. Like I said, do yourself the favor of watching it.

P.P.S. I hope to start posting more frequently. We'll see.