Friday, January 13, 2006

Creative Commons...

There has been much talk back and forward about Creative Commons, the initiative to distribute media under a license that encourages copying.

For those of you not familiar with it, here's the basic rundown of the situation: With the advent of peer-to-peer filesharing, many found themselves distributing music that they didn't have the right to distribute and filesharing became the subject of a big witch-hunt by the copyright holders (in most cases big corporations). Copyright, if I have understood it correctly, comes from that only the copyright holder has the right to make a copy. So how would bands who wanted to use the Internet to spread their music do so without their listeners fearing the smack-down? Enter Creative Commons.Creative Commons allows the copyright holder to attach a license (or rather, a deed) to what they distribute, stating with a short string of text what is allowed. For example, the string: "Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License"* means you can "copy, distribute, display, and perform the work", "make derivative works" and "make commercial use of the work" under the conditions that you "You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor" and "you must make clear to others the license terms of this work". You can also specify other things, such as that the work may not be used for commercial purposes.

If you have surfed the web to any greater degree you will probably have seen the little grey badge somewhere, stating "some rights reserved". Multitudes have jumped on the bandwagon, sticking it on anything that they make, be it music, prose or poetry. Some really good stuff has been released under a CC license, including Finnish hit movie Star Wreck 6: In the Pirkinning. But as it is, it seems as if many attach a CC deed to their productions just to try to give it some credibility, no matter how much or, in most cases, how little work went into it. A thing can also be said about abuse of the CC deed, where it is attached to works that it is obvious that the person distributing it does not own the copyright for it; I have seen this happen myself.

While CC is a nice concept, I can't bring myself to fully embrace it. I think that if the work is of high quality, then it will inevitably be re-distributed over the Internet, whether you want it or not. And if the work isn't of good quality, if people aren't interested in it, then it won't matter what license it's ditributed with. Another thing that it does, is that it breaks down the barrier of conscience. As I imagine it happening, people come across music distributed under a CC license and, seeing as the artist wants people to copy the music, feel less inclined to actually pay for it; the "low threshold" disappears. It's similar with how copy-protection on CDs adds a low threshold: it won't put off those who really want to copy it, but it'll put off Joe Average. I see the same thing, but reversed, happening with CC: Joe Average sees the little CC notice and thinks: "free stuff!", and never thinks about the people who made it, working hard to produce it.

I do believe, however, that in some cases it can be good. But I don't think that it will solve any of the problems that face musicians and artists put off by the bully-behaviour of big media conglomerates.

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