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Dmytri Kleiner proposes new commons-oriented license

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
27th July 2007


Dmytri Kleiner has written a Marxist critique of both the limitations of the General Public Licene and the Creative Commons license (for Mute Magazine), which ends with a proposal for a new type of Copyfarleft license which would disallow commercial usage, but only by private firms.

It is not similar, but reminds us of a previous attempt at creating the IANG license, whose proposed terms we also list below.

Here are the details for his ‘Copyfarleft License’:

“For copyleft to have any revolutionary potential it must be Copyfarleft. It must insist upon workers ownership of the means of production.

In order to do this a license cannot have a single set of terms for all users, but rather must have different rules for different classes. Specifically one set of rules for those who are working within the context of workers ownership and commons based production, and another for those who employ private property and wage labour in production.

A copyfarleft license should make it possible for producers to share freely and to retain the value of their labour product, in otherwords it must be possible for workers to make money by applying their own labour to mutual property, but impossible for owners of private property to make money using wage labour.

Thus under a copyfarleft license a worker-owned printing cooperative could be free to reproduce, distribute, and modify the common stock as they like, but a privately owned publishing company would be prevented from having free access.

A trend in works by pro-copyleft artists seems in one sense related. The copyleft Non-Commercial licenses create two sets of rules with theoretically endogenic (orginating within the commons) ‘non-commercial’ uses being allowed while exogenic (orginating outside the commons) ‘commercial’ uses are forbidden except by agreement from the orginal authors. Examples of such licenses include the Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike license.

However, in order to create commons endogenic terms, the works themselves must be in the commons, and so long as the authors reserve the right to make money with this work and prevent other commons based producers from doing so, the work can not be considered to be in the commons at all, it is a private work. As such, it can not have commons endogenic-free terms, such as a copyfarleft license would require. This problem of creating ‘commons deeds’ for works that are not really a common stock is typical of the Copyjustright approach typified by the Creative Commons.

A copyfarleft license must allow commons based commercial use while denying the ability to profit by exploiting wage labour. The copyleft Non-Commercial approach does neither, it prevents commons based commerce, while restricting wage exploitation only by requiring the exploiters to share some loot with the so-called original author. In no way does this overcome the iron law for either the authors or other workers.

‘Non Commercial’ is not a suitable way to describe the required endogenic/exogenic boundary. Yet, no other commons license exists that provides a suitable legal framework for commons based producers to use.

Only a license that efectively prevents alienated property and wage labour from being employed in the reproduction of the otherwise free information commons can change the distribution of wealth.”

The IANG license proposal:

“”The IANG license is a free license, namely it allows users not only to use, but also analyse, modify and distribute the work to which it applies. However, it differs from most other free licenses on several points.

First, this license applies to any type of intellectual work, whether in technical, literary or artistic field. It allows all creators, whatever their specialty, to guarantee the greatest social utility of their production.

Next, this license also gives economic rights. It guarantees every person the right to access the bookkeeping of each commercial distribution of the work, and grants its management to whom finances it by their donations, purchases or investments.

Last, this license requires the democratic exercise of the freedoms it grants. It allows every person contributing to a creative or economic project based on the work to participate in decisions concerning this project.”

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