Free and Free and CC

Many times I have said, er boasted, that pretty much form the time I started this ed tech computer work, I’ve made it a habit to give away, for free, just about anything I’ve made. I do believe it comes back to you. And it has, in the forms of invitations to visit some wonderful islands like Iceland, New Zealand (a second time), Australia (twice too!)… as well as spawning a world sprawling network of connections that might never have happened otherwise.

This came about in my very early years, as I discovered the joy of finding/mining for nifty desktop applications, HyperCard source code, etc on the Info-Mac ftp server then at Stanford (long live sumex-aim!). And I was lobbying my bits into the free space from the time of setting up my first gopher and web servers at Maricopa.

maricopa old servers

I tossed things onto my old grey home page, and I continue to get requests or thanks for some really old photos from the desert. It went on with the idea behind the Director Web site and really lurked in the foundation of the Maricopa Learning eXchange.

So when Creative Commons came online, I was all over it as it just made so much sense — taking the guesswork about using other’s material and making it easier for them to use your own. So since then, I applied my logic to what the terms said by using the license for Attribution (makes sense), Non-Commercial (if you want to make money, then you can ask, but hey, this is for the free sector), and Share-Alike (pass it on, eh?).

But recently a blog post and some emails with Beth, and her links to background by Mike Seyfang are opening my eyes that what seemed sensible to me might actually be restrictive on spreading the free stuff – some things with NC licenses fall off of search tools, and Share-Alike apparently gets caught up in some remixes.

But the funny part is that I have fallen in a trap I have sometimes accused others of- that is over-estimating the monetary value of my own content, by having the fear that Some Big Evil Moneygrubbing Corporate Entity will get Fabulously Wealthy By Using My Stuff. As Mike wrote:

Because I figure the RISK of my digital work never being discovered/re-mixed outweighs the RISK of being ripped-off (cheated out of money I deserve) or having some evil corporation “˜do a blackboard on me’.

referring to a statement by Stephen Downes about his reasons for NC.

So I am considering, pondering, swaying that the most free, is the simple BY Attribution license, and until someone strongly can compel me backward, have switched this on my blog and my flickr collections.

It’s simple, direct, and says, “use it, just give me credit and/or a link.” Okay, so when X-Mart grabs my photo of Alien Faces in Juniper Berries and makes a gazillion dollars on some new product ad, I might be sorry when all I get is a credit. Because what is more likely to happen, and more fruitful are examples where some German rock band uses my photo of Death Valley on their CD.

All of this assumes a lot– that people really bother to look at the licenses or even understand it. For as long as it has been “out there”, I continually see at conference workshops rather blank expressions when I ask about turning to CC repositories to find media, and incredulous surprise when they see what is there… free for the using.

So… let free be really free, wildly and openly free. Free it forward. Not Free With a Confusing Asterisk, but Free, Period.

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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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. Wow. Info-Mac. Blast from the past! I foisted some of my stacks there as well, and downloaded MEGABYTES (at the time, an insane amount of data) of files to use and deconstruct.

    I also remember the Maricopa Director Web. I spent a good portion of each day in there for several months while learning Director and working on projects. I always wondered why such an important resource wasn’t provided by (or at least sponsored by) MacroMind/Macromedia…

  2. DirectorWeb was out there (August 1994) before Macromedia set up their own web site! But I did not do it for compensation, it was the community spirit of the Direct-L listsver (where we first crossed paths long ago), it made sense as the early web was ramping up… and Marvyn H had actually done it one step earlier with a “shared cast” ftp server at Houston Community College (hah, two community colleges beat ’em to the punch).

    but wait a minute– I did get a clock form Macromedia and I still have a black t-shirt they tossed my way. The biggest thing was getting an invite to the Shockwave beta… yum… Fried Green Director!

  3. Welcome to the fold! The CC “By” license is my default license for content unless I’m legally prevented in some way because of a component from doing so.

    Miguel, the FDL is very specific to documentation (including things like references to “Document”, “Front Cover”, etc. The beauty of the CC licenses is that they can apply equally to music, photos, paintings, text, etc.

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