Rhea Myers

Reform Again

I’ve posted about Open Source as being a reform movement before (confusingly in the Aesthetics section of this blog).

One of the things that has struck me about the most successful Open licenses is that they come from a personal desire to be able to continue working with and producing materials in a particular area. So the GPL came from Richard Stallman, a programmer, wanting to be able to continue reading and writing program code. The OGL came from Ryan Dancey wanting to be able to continue playing and writing role-playing games.

And the Creative Commons licenses came from- well, that’s slightly different, and I believe this explains some of the problems with the Creative Commons licenses. The Creative Commons licenses came from Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer, wanting Eric Eldred, a publisher, to be able to republish old materials. Whether this is wanting to be able to produce materials in any sort of primary way isn’t important, what’s important is that the CC licenses were not produced by Lessig for he himself to use on his primary work (the CC licensing of his book “Free Culture” doesn’t affect this argument). What would a Free Law license look like? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t look like the CC licenses. What would a free culture license look like? For me, more like the GPL: providing source so a work can be remade is pivotal to the success of the GPL for programs, and should not be underestimated for music, art, film and literature. Likewise the precise scope of the GPL’s effects, even CC-SA is more LGPL-like than GPL-like.

This is not to say that the CC licenses are not usable, or even that they are anything less than excellent. But the few flaws I personally regard them as having make more sense considered in the context of their creation.