Creative Commons defends the author, and why this is necessary

There is an ongoing debate on the internet over the merits of Creative Commons licenses, either because it is not radical enough, or, because it is wrong to support the copyright culture, of which CC is an emanation, and which it paradoxically re-inforces.

This is not a critique that I share, and other collaborators at the P2P Foundation, such as Sam Rose, have defended the CC license, because it gives freedom to the individual, which is primoridial.

Here’s another defense and ‘critique of the critique, from the Liquid Culture blog:

It first establishes the context:

There is a type of criticism against Creative Commons which has grown quite prominent within the copyleft recently. The main tenet in this line of argumentation seems to be that CC through its reliance on the existing copyright regime actually reinforces copyright. For example, Crosbie Fitch recently examplified this stance on the fc-uk-discuss mailing list: “CC is flawed in that it consolidates the perception that the artist should be able to control the use of their art.”

After an excursion into Gramscian theory, the entry goes on to argue:


What I want to ask here is: Why this fear of the author, and this stress on limiting the author’s authority over his/her work? Why this almost populist embrace of the alleged collective of consumers? Why this fundamentalist opposition to institutionalising the rights of the producer – seemingly over the whole spectrum of cultural production?

Because isn’t it really the case that what really aggravates us free-thinking anti-authoritarian individuals isn’t copyright per se, but the absurd extremes of the current copyright regime? Post-mortem rights (70 years after the death of an author); DRM (unnecessary and dangerous extra layers of restriction of digital content); the selling and trading of copyrights (they are no longer bound to the original author); draconian interpretations of what is “fair use” or not; etc.

For me, these are all deeply serious issues, affecting the cultural ecosystem of the early 21st century in negative ways, blocking creativity where there could be prosperity and innovation. It’s against the corporate powerhouses – in the extreme stratospheres of copyright – where we should fight the fight, for example prohibiting the extension of copyright expiry dates, the selling and trading of copyrights, the commodification of what is essentially something that should be uniquely tied to the author and acting ways that are as non-interfering as possible on our precious cultural commons.

But rummaging around in the undervegetation, fuelled by a hate towards anything authorial, acting against all forms of copyright, or copyright-like concepts (=CC)? I think it’s a bad idea. Moreover, it’s fundamentalist, narrow minded and counterproductive. Small cultural producers need protection, we all know that.”

2 Comments Creative Commons defends the author, and why this is necessary

  1. AvatarCrosbie Fitch

    This is in danger of portraying me as an author-hating nihilist on a mission to strip away the last few rights an author has remaining.

    However, that would be a misrepresentation and gives poor clues as to what I’m actually arguing for.

    I’m actually championing the rights of the author: to privacy, truth, and freedom.

    I support the absolute right of an author to enjoy complete control over their private intellectual property.

    I also support the rights for all authors to enjoy truth in attribution of their work (published or not), and that they may not be misrepresented (recontextualising their speech or work as political or product endorsement).

    I also support the right for all authors to enjoy freedom of expression and to enjoy the ability to build upon public works, and to promote or share public works.

    Copyright suspends this freedom of expression to permit publishers a commercial opportunity to exploit a monopoly on reproduction and derivatation of the works they publish.

    Over the last few centuries people have come to assume that this monoplistic privilege is a fundamental right of the author. They assume the author may deliver their work to the public and yet suspend the liberty of any other person to further distribute that work or of any potential author to build upon their work.

    Creative Commons licenses apply to published works.

    So my sentence here “CC is flawed in that it consolidates the perception that the artist should be able to control the use of their art” in a more respectful context would make clear that it should be read as “CC is flawed in that it consolidates the perception that the artist should be able to control the use of their published art – even though they’ve voluntarily delivered it to the public”.

    This is why there is one license by the FSF, i.e. the GPL.

    The FSF does not believe an author has a right to suspend the liberty of the public – or even to decide how much or little of that liberty should be suspended. You’ll find Richard Stallman declines to support the Creative Commons for its lack of this principle.

    The GPL restores liberty back to the public (which includes the liberty of the publishing author). That’s all.

    I detect no hatred in my belief that authors should have freedom of expression, and should not have the privilege of suspending that freedom of expression from members of the public to which they deliver their work.

  2. AvatarCrosbie Fitch

    Here’s an excerpt with link to relevent comments by Richard Stallman:
    “I no longer endorse Creative Commons. I cannot endorse Creative Commons as a whole, because some of its licenses are unacceptable. It would be self-delusion to try to endorse just some of the Creative Commons licenses, because people lump them together; they will misconstrue any endorsement of some as a blanket endorsement of all. I therefore find myself constrained to reject Creative Commons entirely.”

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