No cc For Dvorak

Holding back no barb, John Dvorak is a self proclaimed Creative Commons Humbug:

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous “fair use” provisos of existing copyright law. This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.

His first primary beef (besides not getting a personal email response back) is that he somehow sees Creative Commons licenses as being exclusively not allowing commercial re-use. I’m wondering if he looked closely, as adding a non-commercial exclusion is an option to CC licenses, not a built in factor.

Moreso, CC licenses are put out there (I believe) not as means for commercial entities to have access to free stuff, but for everyone else to have access to free, and clearly re-usable with no hassles stuff? It is there to promote a culture of free exchange, mix and re-use, not as a stomping ground for fair use (which has always been as clear and distinct as Texas mud).

So yes, there may not be much reason for Big Corp or Medium Sized Widgets to be noodling for free content (since they have resources to buy and develop??), its for the rest of us, the unwashed general public. For all of my presentations this year, I have been dipping into the Creative Commons collection at flickr where I can search til I find an image, download it, and use it in my web site or presentation. I do not have to guess that it is legal to do so, I don;t have to annoy the creator, I just use it, provide an attribution, and share it in a like fashion.

SO if John had bothered to scrape a bit deeper, he’d find over 300,000 flickr photos that are cc-licensed for attribution only, this does not preclude commercial re-use. Is that insignificant? There is another 95,000 that can be used just for providing attribution and not making a derivative. That is almost 400,000 photos of variable topic and quality that have zero restrictions for commercial use.

It has never been that clear with Dvorak’s so called tried and true “fair use”. What content is stamped with an icon that marks it as “fair use”.

Dvorak then spends the rest of his column pouncing all over the likely more obscure Public Domain license:

This means that the item is not covered by copyright but is in the public domain. So what’s Creative Commons got to do with it? Public domain is public domain. It’s not something granted by Creative Commons. Yet you see this over and over as if it were!

Again, I think the mark is missed. Perhaps the license allows a creator to put something into public domain before it would “officially” have that distinction. Then again, it is a matter of making the level of re-use explicitly clear– how much content can one find that says as a clear statement “This work is in the public domain, that means you can use it for your purpose”. It is never that clear. We are left with guessing… “Hmmm, it comes from a US Government web site, and federal documents should be in the public domain, so I guess it is okay”

What should be clear is that Creative Commons takes the guesswork out of the equation for people who want to re-use content. For people who create content, it provides a self declared level of willingness to allow that content to be re-used, rather than the old school of copyright that says, “thou shalt never reuse until my grandchildren are dead”.

How old school can you get?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.