Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
News Your Rights Online

Lessig Proposes "Creative Commons" 125

Posted by timothy
from the please-resurrect-writenow dept.
cmuncey writes: "Lawrence Lessig's newest effort is profiled this morning in a SFGate.com article this morning. Creative Commons will offer customizable flexible intellectual property licenses that can be used by artists, writers, and others in moving their works from copyright to public domain in a controlled manner. The aricle also cites plans to create a 'conservancy' for what looks like orphanware. This is a joint work of Lessig and people from MIT, Duke, Harvard and Villanova."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lessig Proposes "Creative Commons"

Comments Filter:
  • by cmuncey (66980) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:40PM (#2987344)
    There's an .pdf article with some interesting ideas linked to this at Lessig's site - Reclaiming a Commons [lessig.org]
  • by base3 (539820) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:41PM (#2987358)
    That's nice that you want us to move our intellectual property into the public domain in an "orderly" manner once it's stopped making money for us.

    What do you have to offer us to:

    - pay us for what you want--it must have value since you want it in the public domain, and it's our duty to extract that value for our shareholders.

    - protect us from liability should anyone manage to damage themselves or their own companies with the product you want us to give away.

    Unfortunately, there aren't easy answers to those objections. The answer isn't some kind of volunatry feel-good way to have corporations give to the public domain, because it's not going to happen. The answer is to make copyright for a "limited time," as the framers intended. Not for 95 years when 5 years is an eternity in <cliche>Internet time<cliche>.

    • by paulbd (118132) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:00PM (#2987472) Homepage
      and it's our duty to extract that value for our shareholders actually, not quite. when your corporation was given its charter, there was an implication that it was given for the good of the public. presumably, your corporation was likely to perform some public good, in return for which we (the public) decided to remove personal responsibility from the company owners and controllers. you therefore have a primary duty to perform a public good, and if you cease to do so, we should remove your corporate charter and allow you to act as privately owned business with full financial and legal culpability. once you make it clear your corporation is living up to the charter, then you can focus on the secondary duties towards your shareholders.
      • by deebaine (218719) on Monday February 11, 2002 @02:42PM (#2988185) Journal
        I've never heard that incorporation was offered as a quid pro quo in exchange for doing something for the public good. I'll be interested to investigate if it did in fact start that way. In any event, it has (d)evolved from that intent.

        I run an LLC, and I guarantee you that when we filed with the state, there was no understanding that we had any duty to see to the public good. In fact, most of the communication consisted of a stamp on our Certificate of Organization. Hence, it is difficult for me to see what duty I have to act for the public good from a legal standpoint relating to our filing with the state. Clearly there are ethical reasons to act for the public good, but if you were to threaten to take me to court because I wasn't fulfilling an implied agreement to act primarily in the public's best interest, frankly, I don't think I'd lose much sleep.

        Do you have a reference for the implied agreement to act in the public interest? I'm interested to know more.

        -db
        • i don't have a reference for you i'm afraid. i know that when corporate charters were introduced into english law under Charles (the second, i believe), this notion of public good was explicit. the US did not have corporate charters from the beginning, partly because the king didn't want to grant them, and then later because the founders were unsure of the appropriateness of it. i have read some works from that time that express a believe that limited liability was immoral. it is possible that when the US finally adopted the idea of limited liability via corporations, the whole sense that there was an exchange between the broader society and the organization was never codified into law. it was certainly present in the discussions of the idea that predated its adoption into law. if you step back and think about it, however, there is some sense in which the understanding is explicit: there is no earthly reason why the state would grant you with limited liability unless it believed it was in its best interest to do so. since granting it actually removes certain potential benefits to the state (via legal action), there must presumably be some reason why the charter was issued. US society has not always believed that limited liability companies were a good thing - presumably we do now, and whatever the reason, it presumably implies a belief the the LLC's existence will bring benefits to us all.
        • Historically there may have been a "purpose" or "public good" requirement for corporate charters in some jurisdictions (England, U.S. states), but in the U.S. at least very few if any states still have any requirement of a public good or even a specified purpose -- the typical "boiler-plate" language in a certificate of incorporation is that the purpose of the corporation is "to engage in any lawful activity".

          As to why states would give out limited liability charters "for free": the argument is that individuals would not band together (as stockholders) to form entities of large enough to engage in meaningful economic activity unless they could be assured of be liable for no more than the capital they contributed.
      • This is a whacky idea. Do you think that there is an implied warranty in a charter declaring that the company will operate the public good? Where did you learn that? Yale Law School?

        Your ideas about a "primary duty to perform a public good" have no support in any law. In fact, should the board of directors or the officers of a corporation decide to depart from profitability in order to pursue their own conception of what is the "public good," it is likely that they will be hit with a large and successful shareholder derivative lawsuit. Surely you are aware of that, no?

        I could set up a corporation called "lawyamike" right now if I wanted. It's just a matter of filling out the forms, and then filing in Delaware, where the fees are low. Does that mean that I have to comport myself with the public interest in mind? Of course not. That's absurd, as is your idea.

        But putting that to one side, who do you think decides whether a corporation is acting in the public good? The FTC? The state? The consumers? You?

        Utility commissions, on the state and the federal level, regulate certain corporations based, in part, on how they serve the "public interest" or the "public good." That regime is the exception, however, and it occurs typically when the state has granted a monopoly -- not just a corporate charter -- to an entity in order to provide a good or service.

        That's amazing stuff you wrote. What're you, some kind of Soviet?
    • by elfkicker (162256) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:04PM (#2987490)
      Good points. I think you can make a pretty simple case for both questions.

      1) You've reached a point where you cannot profit from that property any longer. By releasing it, you allow other people to use it, and perhaps create a new market for that property. This can be beneficial because you are already the formost expert on the property if new profitable opportunities come up. You may alos have the option of entering back into the game with duel licensing.

      2) Seems like every peice of software I've ever used disclaims liability right up front. I think the courts would be even more understanding if you're giving it away. You get what you pay for sometimes.

      I personally see little reason in not opening up your IP once you're done with it. Normally by the time you'd want to, the cat is out of the bag and there's very little secret. Just holding it hostage for the abaility to sue infringers seems like a rather weak plan to me.
    • Are you objecting to Lessig's ideas, or agreeing with them? Lessig's positions on issues like this (such as the continual extension of copyright) are well known and cited in this article as well as the many other writings on his own site.

      As for Lessig being aligned with our 'corporate masters', I really don't think that Microsoft would agree . . .
    • by Bonker (243350) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:11PM (#2987528)
      pay us for what you want--it must have value since you want it in the public domain, and it's our duty to extract that value for our shareholders.

      The problem with this argument... and the fallacy that so many corporate types fall for is that value is not an absolute.

      Case in point... I am a PC owner who has aquired a Motorola processor for an older Mac. I *could* spend my money and try to build a system around that processor, but I'd rather spend it on a newer system with with an AMD processor.

      I could try to sell it to a mac-owner, but most Mac ownwers are used to spending a little more on hardware than PC owners. Most probably will never have a use for my processor.

      The one person who does have a use for my processor is the poor kid who's managed to scrounge, beg, and borrow all the parts necessary to build a Macintosh Quadra-era PC, but lacks a processor to make it run. (This exmple may be flawed...)

      The point is, the processor only has value to someone who can't afford to buy it. It doesn't have value to anyone who could afford to buy it because they can already afford better, just because the tech has advanced so far so quickly.

      The same is true of 'orphanware' and 'abandonware'. I would never seriously consider paying to have a Donkey Kong arcade machine. It's old, clunky, and probably smells of whatever bar or grease-pit it's been rotting in for the last 2 decades. I highly doubt that Midway has sold any to anyone but the most rabid of collectors in at least a decade.

      To download the rom for free, (and illegally), gives me a great deal of satisfaction playing a old, great game I would not otherwise ever engage in.

      While the hardware and software combination may have a small amount of value to collectors, the software itself has no value at all, except to those who wouldn't have it unless they could get it for free.

      • Rubbish.

        Just because guys like you are only willing to pay $0 for the Donkey Kong ROM code, does not mean it has a value of $0, nor should Midway offer it for sale at $0.

        It means you and the copyright owner do not have an agreement to let you use their property. YOU, the consumer, are not the sole arbiter of what a reasonable sale price is.
        • by Bonker (243350) on Monday February 11, 2002 @02:55PM (#2988301)
          YOU, the consumer, are not the sole arbiter of what a reasonable sale price is.

          Uhm... Yes I am.

          Have you ever heard of the laws of supply and demand? If you didn't sleep through highschool economics or miss out seeing the graphics, you know that the higher the (consumer) demand for any given saleable object, the higher the price the originator or merchant can sell it for.

          There is zero real demand for Donkey Kong roms at any non-zero price. Therefore, Midway cannot reasonably sell those roms for a profit.

          Ergo, the price... legitimate or otherwise... is $0

          A lot of black market economies work on this principle. A token amount is paid for a desirable, but basically valueless or disposable item that is for some reason difficult or illegal to obtain.
          • There is zero real demand for Donkey Kong roms at any non-zero price.



            Perhaps... But you have finite time, and a desire for entertainment. You might not buy Super Mario Bros. XXIV if you had unlimted access to all the great games of the past. So it becomes a case of eliminating the competition. You may not like that, or somehow feel it's wrong. But the companies don't care what you or I think.


            Temkin


            • You may not like that, or somehow feel it's wrong. But the companies don't care what you or I think.


              Ah, but the problem with that is no company has ever succeeded in eliminating a market.

              Despite the fact that Midway wants to sit forever on those old games and never let them see the light of day again, just so that they can sell more 'Mega-Super-Fighter-Alpha-Zero' machines, there is still a market for those games.

              Thus, right or wrong, grey or black markets spring up. In this case, the grey market for abandoned games isfairly benign [www.mame.dk] and beneficial to everyone without hurting the original developers. (They can't money off it anyway, so the only way it 'hurts' them is by taking the rom out of their control'.

              In other cases where a demand for an illegal good or service, the black market can be much, much more scary. Just ask child prostitutes or 3rd world kids who are raised or sold to organ farms.
        • It means you and the copyright owner do not have an agreement to let you use their property.

          It isn't property. Copyright is an artificial monopoly right, not one of ownership. This misconception (perhaps intentional) is one of the primary causes for the outrageous length of copyright these days.

      • I would never seriously consider paying to have a Donkey Kong arcade machine. It's old, clunky, and probably smells of whatever bar or grease-pit it's been rotting in for the last 2 decades.

        A new display and cabinet would fix that.

        To download the rom for free, (and illegally), gives me a great deal of satisfaction playing a old, great game I would not otherwise ever engage in.

        So would buying a legit copy of the software for ten bucks at Amazon [amazon.com] and playing it on your Game Boy.

        However, I don't think it should be wrong to connect a cartridge dumper to your computer and play games of which you own a legitimate copy through an emulator, no matter what Nintendo says [nintendo.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Tax write-offs could become the answer to how value returns to shareholders.
    • This is utterly true, money is a hard thing to argue against, especially in a capitalist society. IP holders SHOULD allow thier property to pass into the public domain after a reasonable time period, for the good of the people. However Corporations exist for the sole purpose of making money and are not in and of themselves moral entities. Certainly many corporations have moral people working for them, but morality usually takes a back seat to profits, this is especially true today when stockholders can sue a CEO for not extracting every last penny from its IP and government is oh so willing to let them do it. Naturally any corporations first reaction to any situation is going to be "Where is the money in that ?"

      In order for real change to occur in our favor, we muct give these companies a compelling reason to realse thier IP to the public domain. Since money is the prime motivators, perhaps charging for continued exclusive use after a reasonable time period, say $1000 a year, every year after 15 years. Maybe allow the company to write a certain amount off thier taxes for say 5 years after the IP has been released. Perhaps a combination of both.

      • by paulbd (118132) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:24PM (#2987596) Homepage
        Corporations exist for the sole purpose of making money this is a common misconception. people may decide to form a corporation for the sole purpose of making money, but people cannot create a corporation without the agreement of the state. the state agrees to remove personal and legal financial responsibility from the owners because it is convinced that the public good will be served by so doing (e.g. that the company will accomplish things, offer services etc. that it would not without this legal allowance). without a corporate charter, company owners are legal liable for all actions of their company, which is generally considered to be a bit restricting on what they may consider doing. so, no, corporations do not exist for the sole purpose of making money. they exist because at some point in the past, people decided it was in the public interest to allow them to exist. if a corporation's existence does not serve the public interest, then it is entirely legal to retract its charter. that this is rarely done says more about politics than anything else.
        • people decided it was in the public interest to allow them to exist.

          This is true at least in theory, but in reality many companies act in thier own self interest. To stay on topic, I will give Disney as an example. How does keeping the Mikey Mouse IP locked up for another 20 years serve the public good ? The only reason they do it is to make more money. Releasing Mikey would serve the public, because then other artists could do thier own takes on him or Non-Profit organizations could use him as an icon.

        • The argument that corporations are understood to exist for the public benefit is abstracted one step too far. Lawmakers felt that a legal entity shielding individuals from liability would be beneficial, hence they created the idea of a corporations. This much is true, that the general idea of a corporation was deemed to have public benefit.

          However, it does not seem to me that any specific corporation need have public benefit. Reading through the Massachusetts General Laws governing corporations, I find nothing to suggest that Massachusetts corporations are understood to have any requirement to act in anything other than their own interests. This may be different in your state. However, in Massachusetts, no such requirement seems to exist. The relevant laws appear in the Massachusetts General Laws Chapters 156 and 156B; I'd be interested to know if I am missing something.

          -db
        • This is simply untrue, or at least, ridiculous. By that logic, all property rights exist only in the public interest, that is, because the people through their elected (or appointed) leaders have decided to protect those rights. Ditto for any other privileges that the state grants, such as drivers' licenses, etc. Your idea is an intriguing one ... for me to poop on.
      • However Corporations exist for the sole purpose of making money and are not in and of themselves moral entities.

        No less an authority than Peter Drucker disputes this statement. He says [business2.com]: "...no financial man will ever understand business because financial people think a company makes money. A company makes shoes, and no financial man understands that. They think money is real. Shoes are real. Money is an end result. What is a business? The only function of a business is to create customer [value] and to innovate."

        He considers profit "the test of the validity" of the business's activities. Earning a profit, it says here [acton.org], is how one measures the firm's efficiency in fulfilling its fundamental purpose, namely, to create a customer.

        Corporations have a role to play in society so the ultimate question is is not what the purpose of the corporation is, but what the purpose of society is. Corporations cannot achieve a profit and at the same time thwart the objectives of society in which they exist.

        The idea that work and human endeavor have no higher purpose than making money is a pretty miserable philosophy of life and has never been a sufficient foundation for a society or a corporation.

        • The idea that work and human endeavor have no higher purpose than making money is a pretty miserable philosophy of life and has never been a sufficient foundation for a society or a corporation.

          I agree, the foundation of any society or corporation should be for the betterment of mankind. However, that is just not the reality. If it were, there would be no need for a minimum wage, underage worker laws, worker safety regulations, consumer protections or environmental regulations. All of these things came about because corporations set aside the "Betterment of mankind" philosophy in favor of greed. Many of the companies who were the worst offenders are still in business today and didn't change becaue it was the moral thing to do, but changed because they were forced to.

          • All of these things came about because corporations set aside the "Betterment of mankind" philosophy in favor of greed.

            Perhaps such a philosophy of greed is inevitable. Corporations are primarily economic constructs and may be incapable of defining higher goals. Businesses are mostly consumed with competing with each other. It is probably unrealistic to expect them to come up with some common agreement on restraints on behavior that would otherwise make them more competitive.

            As long as corporations can't or won't think very hard about their wider responsibilities, one cannot take their protests about government control seriously.

        • Nicely put, but I'd take it a step further: Innovating and creating customer value are also just means to an end.

          The real raison d'etre of a business--the one purpose that no business would ever be started or kept running if it didn't satisfy--is to give people something to do with their time, ideally something interesting and useful and remunerative. Yes, you have to profit to keep the enterprise going and make the investors happy, and to profit you have to innovate and create value--but that's not really why you're there. You're there because you and your employees all agree that today, for whatever reason, it's better to be there than somewhere else. Innovation can cease, profits can dwindle, and a business can creep along for quite a while waiting for better times--but as soon as nobody gives a rat's ass about coming to work anymore, it's doomed.

          I see profit as comparable to breath. You have to breathe to stay alive, but that doesn't mean you were put on Earth for the sole purpose of breathing.
          • ...but I *love* this analogy:

            I see profit as comparable to breath. You have to breathe to stay alive, but that doesn't mean you were put on Earth for the sole purpose of breathing.

            Excellent...

    • by neuroticia (557805) <neuroticia&yahoo,com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:17PM (#2987552) Journal
      Hm.

      (note: "we" is in the figurative sense. In fact, I am a no one.)

      Your "questions" are not the potential pitfalls that I see:

      Regarding payment: your source, as you said is no longer making money for you. It is not a valuable resource to you, and to "us" it's along the lines of old clothing donated to the Salvation Army. We might be able to do something with it, we might not. Personally, I think the govermnent should offer tax breaks to the "donors" of source code to the public domain. (This, of course, brings about the potential of fraudulent source code, questions about the 'value' of the source and how to measure it... etc.)

      Regarding liability--Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see that many lawsuits regarding opensource or public domain software. In fact, the only lawsuits regarding software that I can think of off the top of my head involve commercial software with fairly restrictive licensing agreements. Isn't it a common "term of agreement" that open source and public domain software is largely "use at your own risk"?

      There *are* other questions that would be harder to answer, but I just can't think of them right now. It's 12:16 in the afternoon and I need sleep.

      -Sara
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:20PM (#2987573) Journal
      The answer is to make copyright for a "limited time," as the framers intended. Not for 95 years when 5 years is an eternity in "Internet time"."

      How about software enters the public domain once a compnay stops providing tech support for it plus, say 3 years.

      This would certainly put the stop on the tread mill of constant upgrades. [smile]

    • by drew_kime (303965) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:25PM (#2987597) Homepage Journal
      protect us from liability should anyone manage to damage themselves or their own companies with the product you want us to give away.

      The fact that our current legal system does nothing to discourage frivolous lawsuits is the real problem here. I agree that it will be raised, and that it is a fact of life. But that's not a problem with copyright law, it's a problem with tort law.
    • 1) pay us for what you want--it must have value since you want it in the public domain, and it's our duty to extract that value for our shareholders.

      Discovering how to extract that value may cost more than it earns. And, you may recieve some small benefits from putting your IP in the public domain. As many companies engage in charity work for PR, this would allow you to do the equivalent of charity work in a field full of potential employees.

      2) protect us from liability should anyone manage to damage themselves or their own companies with the product you want us to give away.

      If your work is in the public domain, then you no longer own it, right? A "no warranty, express or implied" clause might actually mean something for IP in the public domain. You're right, this might be a real issue, but isn't that exactly the problem that these licenses will need to address?
    • It must have value since you want it in the public domain

      Things can have value in more than one way.

      Copyright holders often use restrictive licenses primarily to profit from their work. This is called "financial value." To prevent this profit altogether, the copyright holders often argue, would remove the incentive to produce music.

      Many artists see another type of value. For example, a musician could use (or "steal" as the droids might say) a few notes from another song, or sample a bassline to use in his own work which he would otherwise not be able to complete on his own. This is valuable to the second artist and can be called something like "artistic value" To charge the artist to use the work of others reduces his ability to produce more art, especially if he can't afford it. This effect tends to make well known "artists" more financially successful and lesser known ones worse off.

      The best way IMO to be rid of this great intellectual property divide is to rid ourselves completely of the concept of intellectual property.

      Those who fail to understand why the world would then be a better place are sometimes scared off by this idea because it sounds anti-capitalist or "communist" as some of them call it. What nonsense, I say.

      Intellectual property be gone, and let the long-lost natural creative innovation of humanity flow once more.

      (and to all the "but you wouldn't be saying that if you couldn't afford to put the food on the table" bunch - spare me the bother of having to parse your nonsense this time.
    • Your points illustrate exactly why we need copyright reform at the most basic level. Congress must be pressured to roll back the term limits to nearly their original length.


      Think about it. Copyright started off as a compromise between the public and the creators. The public grants creators a limited monopoly on their creation, and at the end of that period, it becomes public domain for all to use freely. Now, what has happened since then? Congress has extended the term lengths 11 times. Additionally, the scope has been broadened quite a bit. Then there are the additional restrictions put in place by legislation such as the DMCA. How have any of these things benefitted the public? Who was standing up for our side when these bills were crafted and passed? Nobody of any significance, obviously. The copyright industry is a heavy contributor to political campaigns. We were sold out. Worse, hardly anyone noticed! (which is probably why they felt that they could get away with it)


      Until the public is again given a fair deal, you can't expect them to show much respect for copyright. They'll do whatever they can get away with, just like the copyright industry.

    • By no means does Creative Commons wish to give up the fight to extend the public domain by limiting copyright term.

      The supporters of infinite copyright term argue that works have some value forever and thus should be protected. We don't actually believe this argument--but if the works have value then there is some merit in granting tax deductions for donating them to the public. That may be another campaign by Creative Commons--stay tuned.

      Lessig's and my case against the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act is on appeal to the Supreme Court--see http://openlaw.org/eldredvreno [openlaw.org]


  • Makes sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    Isn't part of copyright control the right to release of said control? This makes it easy to precisely define what can and can't be done. Sometimes people want full protection, while others don't mind some other uses.
  • Why bother??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Monday February 11, 2002 @12:58PM (#2987457)
    IP holders aren't interested in any of these proposals. They're only interested in dichotomizing the world into customers who are gouged, and pirates who are prosecuted.

    What is their motivation for changing their licensing?? You can argue that a flexible license would reduce piracy, but frankly these compaies are already doing a good job of shutting down major piracy services. I just don't see any motivation for change.

    • Re:Why bother??? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jat2 (557619)
      That may be true for companies that hold IP (and, from reading other comments, that is a debatable point). However, consider that a large amount of IP is produced by individuals.

      For example, a friend of mine is an aspiring film-maker. His primary goal is exposure, and he understands that releasing his IP (in this case, a film) into the public domain will give him an opportunity to increase his exposure cheaply. However, he would like to retain some of the conditions of his copyright. (If he did release his film into the public domain, then he may not have any legal options if a studio decided to rip off his idea without even giving him credit.)

      I can easily imagine that many artists would have a similar use for a spectrum of license options between 100% restricted and 100% public domain. Furthermore, Lessig's idea about embedding the license into the digital media makes this more attractive to someone like my friend.

  • Licenses-R-Us (Score:3, Insightful)

    by imadork (226897) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:04PM (#2987489) Homepage
    So, it sounds like the plan here is to make a web site where you fill out a form stating how much control you want to keep over your creative work, and you can print out a license tailored to your needs. Am I getting that right?

    IF I am, it seems that these licenses will not have been tested in court. So how useful are they? Will you put your exciting Foo Application in the Commons, only to see BigSoftCorp take it when the license is proved invalid by a technicality?

    Not to mention, will the OSF feel the need to approve or dis-approve every single possible combination?

    • by laetus (45131) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:11PM (#2987521)
      The other question is, if their license-du-jour you create online doesn't stand up in court, do you have any legal redress against Creative Commons?

      I bet they'll be paying particular attention to creating fine print that says, "use our licenses at your own risk."

      • The other question is, if their license-du-jour you create online doesn't stand up in court

        Well then, the product would revert to standard copyright, by which no one but the author has any right to do anything with it. Any type of license other than standard copyright is a way of specifying what rights the purchaser/liscensor has to a product. By default, no one but the author has any rights.
        • IANAL, but if you didn't register the copyright, you have a harder time proving your case that it's your IP. Some people might use Creative Commons exclusively without registering a copyright, thereby NOT having a registered copyright to fall back on.
    • But if the license is proven invalid, BigSoftCorp loses *all* rights to your work. Copyright withholds most rights (I forget all the details, but I'm sure google and/or openlaw would find them) to the copyright holder. Licenses are designed to change that fact. So, for example, the GPL allows the redistribution of a copyrighted work, given certain restrictions. If the GPL were found invalid, then redistrubtion of a GPL'd work would become illegal. The GPL'd work would not suddenly become public domain. Same would be true for these licenses.
    • IF I am, it seems that these licenses will not have been tested in court. So how useful are they?

      I'd say about as useful as a custom built license by your attorney. If I read the article correctly these licenses will use standard legalese and may be built upon premises established in court already.
    • Remember that if the license isn't valid, there's only copyright. And thus, as these licenses are to promote freedom of use, the copyright is more restrictive than the licenses.
      The BigSoftCorp can't take your code away.

      The license generator could also consist of a few basic templates that provide the framework for the license, and a number of chapters that can be applied to those templates. Thus, You click and check what You want to give and not give, and an appropriate template is chosen and the needed chapters put into the template.
      If the templates (basic wrapper text) and the individual chapters are all solid, and the license generator is programmed well and the different license paths that can be taken designed by those well versed in law, the likelyhood of a license that doesn't hold in the court should be pretty small.
  • by volts (515080) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:11PM (#2987526) Homepage
    While there are aspects of Creative Commons agenda that push the envelope of achievability, a well organized set of free license agreements, is a nice concept.

    An artist might, for example, agree to give away a work as long as no one is making money on it but include a provision requiring payments on a sliding scale if it's sold. As participation in the Commons project increases, a variety of specific intellectual-property license options will evolve in response to user needs, which in turn would create templates for others with similar requirements.

    Within a few months, artists, writers and others will soon be able to go online, select the options that suit them best and receive a custom-made license they can append to their works without having to pay a dime to a lawyer, let alone the thousands of dollars it typically costs to purchase similar legal services.


    A consistent set of licenses that cover the objectives of GPL, LGPL, Berkely, Artistic, etc. and other points on the spectrum to fully commercial would be a great benefit to us all.
    • I agree. It would be like re-engineering the actual ones to their basic components and let you choose wich ones want to use. This work extends the meaning of the GPL/BSD/Artistic/others licenses, not restrict them. You could easily redo a GPL-like legal license with say, obligation to say "don't spit" in every source file.

      With a well developed interface for the modules, you should not have problems of deciding whether a chosen pair of licenses may or may not interact.

      But as I mention in my other comment downwards, the main use of these model is not in software, but in artistic/scientific material. Module compatibility is only a problem with rewritable/pluggable material, wich is often not the case with music or literature!
  • Lessig Q&A (Score:3, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) <alexNO@SPAMphataudio.org> on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:15PM (#2987545) Homepage Journal
    If you haven't read it already, check out Lessig's ten questions [slashdot.org] from December.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:19PM (#2987560)
    There already are a number of free licenses in use. It's hard to tell from this plan, but does he intend to just ignore these licenses? What about all the works already published with them? And it sounds like this could turn into a sloppy mess if you let people select options to make a "custom license" - I mean, what about compatibility? If everybody's got their own license, you can't combine anything anymore! Or is he saying that the licenses and methods currently being put to use just aren't good enough? Will he make a Foundation like FSF but for music or other things?

    So these are big red flags that sprang to mind upon my initial reading. It sounds too much like a PR stunt, trying to reinvent the wheel. If Lessig works with the others, well OK. But if it ignores existing work, I would not trust it. The point is that people should work together, not try to out do one another. (Did the FSF do this too?)

    Also I noticed his two published books are not public domain, open source, free, or copyleft. What's up with that? Again, what is the motive? Why not walk the walk you talk??

    (Please mod up, I'm anon this post...)
    • As I mention in my other comment, the main use of these model is not in software, but in artistic/scientific material.

      Referring to soft licenses, it would be like re-engineering the actual ones to their basic components and let you choose wich ones want to use. This work extends the meaning of the GPL/BSD/Artistic/others licenses, not restrict them. You could easily redo a GPL-like legal license with say, obligation to say "don't spit" in every source file.

      With a well developed interface for the modules, you should not have problems of deciding whether a chosen pair of licenses may or may not interact. But this is only a problem with rewritable/pluggable material, wich is often not the case with music or literature!
  • I think that software which nobody is interested in should be allowed to die gracefully. I think there is little future generations can learn from the kind of spaghetti code that was commonly produced in the 80s and 90s before OOP became the dominant paradigm.


    Why make future generations suffer ?

    • I think that software which nobody is interested in should be allowed to die gracefully. I think there is little future generations can learn from the kind of spaghetti code that was commonly produced in the 80s and 90s before OOP became the dominant paradigm.

      Why make future generations suffer ?


      Dammit! I left my cluestick at home.

      Jason.
    • Is there more future generations can learn from the kind of spaghetti code that is commonly produced after OOP became the dominant paradigm?

      Is that "some things never change"?
    • I think that software which nobody is interested in should be allowed to die gracefully.

      Software that NOBODY's interested in would die gracefully. Think of the repository as a crypt. Perhaps a few visitors here and there to pay respects or just because they're curious.

      The real value would be to those who are using perfectly usable software that is no longer sold or even supported by the company. Why should someone upgrade when the new product contains features they don't want and may require investment in beefier hardware while the existing product works fine. What if they want to deploy it on another machine? Can't buy the old one. Don't want the new one. Even without having the source code it shouldn't be a problem to obtain another copy (I lost my installation disk(s) or they were damaged). I've been there. So have many others.
  • Enforcement?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scarhill (140669) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:33PM (#2987637) Homepage
    So the poor, Starving Artist picks out the Creative Commons license that meets her need. For the moment, assume the license is ironclad. Then, mean old Megacorp comes along and steals Starving Artist's work. How is she going to enforce her license? Will Creative Commons maintain a staff of lawyers to work license infringment cases pro-bono? Do we trust that lawyers will take these cases on a contingency fee basis?

    Unless there's some answer, the license won't mean much. Lessig is a very smart guy. It will be interesting to see his full proposal on how he expects this to work.
    • These kind of intelectual rights are enforced by author coalitions. The problem is, the coalition tends to become a lobby wich mainly defends the rights of the record companies instead of their real obligation. But this shouldn't happen if instead of a coffee-for-all boilerplate each author could enforce her own prerequisits.
    • Will Creative Commons maintain a staff of lawyers to work license infringment cases pro-bono?

      Be careful! If you use the term "pro bono" instead of "for free," you appear to support the 95-plus year copyright term granted by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act [wikipedia.com]. (No U2 jokes please.)

  • by argoff (142580) on Monday February 11, 2002 @01:35PM (#2987648)
    I don't mean to flame, but I think he's in denial. It does not look at what's going on from a pragmatic point of view. There are people out there who actually think that leveraging intellectual properties to their extremes are what the internet and the information age is all about. (Sort of aken to the days of those who thought that the industrial revolution was all about leveraging inventions like the cotton-gyn to extend their plantations to be thousands of times bigger) They were/are simply so dilusioned that we can almost be assured that there will be no compromizing till the bitter end.

    As long as this attitude is in place we will continue to have DMCA pushers, and they will not back off on their irrational demands that all information be treated like peoperty. To come back with an attitude of compromize is pitifull. The only honest solution is defiance and civil disobedience of copyrights till people start to get it and can no longer afford to keep shoving irrational demands down our throats.

    I happen to know that Lessing does not like this approach because he contends that it's extreme and that it won't get sympathy because it's "harmfull" to artists, but no one ever seems to look at the down-side of copyrights or they just assume on faith that it's less than the up-side. Well it's not about sympathy, society will come arround when the media runs out of money. It's about freedom, and how I have a moral right to apply it to my and other's benefit even if a copyright holder does not like that. There is no reason why people shouldn't act this way, and now with the internet they have the power to without having to get token permission or to purchase token licenses.
    This is far more respective of creators then the copyright lords have ever been to them or us.
    • by mwa (26272) on Monday February 11, 2002 @02:02PM (#2987882)
      What you say is true, today, because the "IP holders" are middle-men. The buy IP rights from the IP creators and sell them. Lessig is promoting a program where the real IP creators, the artists and inventors, have a chance to regain some degree of control over their work.

      The idea of the Internet as a public commons is anathema to the DMCA supporters because, with a global network of free distribution, their business model is dead. In order to survive they must protect their model with legislation, or adapt. Coporations do not adapt well to change.

      I'm cautiously optimistic about Lessig's program, because it could prove to be an industry self-help program that can help them adapt, reduce their reliance on legislation and strong-arm tactics, and still provide value to their customers and shareholders.

      Hey, I can dream can't I?

      • ... Lessig is promoting a program where the real IP creators, the artists and inventors, have a chance to regain some degree of control over their work.

        This is better than what exists now, but there still exists a moral right as an individual to copy for the benefit of others or themselves no matter what a copyright holder says. In that sense, Lessings soltion decetralizes the threat, but does not get rid of it - making a tennable solution even more difficult.

        Defiance and civil dosobedience is half the work and has twice the effect. I still think Lessing is in denial.

        • By "moral right as an individual to copy for the benefit of others" are you refering to "fair use", or ar you refering to some "right to pirate regardless of the consitutional basis for copyright"? If the former, then I'm not sure this project has much at all to do with specifically addressing fair use. (Maybe it does, who knows?). I think the fair use issues of the DMCA, etc., are going to have to be tested in court. Historically, the courts have been very reasonable about ensuring peoples fair use rights. The problem is a legislature whose minds are guided by their wallets and have no clue about the impact of DRM on fair use.

          If the latter, then I think your just plain wrong. Copyrights aren't evil, in and of themselves. Ridiculous extensions subverting the concept of "limited time" to mean longer than anyone lives is the problem.

    • One of the central points behind Tragedy of the Commons [dieoff.org] is that given a finite supply of grazing grounds and a competitive environment of farmers grazing on these grounds, an incentive to overgraze is built into the system. Thus the commons for all are destroyed as each farmer maximizes his "share" of the commons to everyone else's detriment. Hardin's essay leaves out the potential for ad-hoc agreement between competing farmers to limit over-use of the commons (without privatization). But most importantly it doesn't even consider the potential for a limitless commons -- that is, one in which the supply in commons is not finite.

      This is where Tragedy of the Commons breaks down, Lessig says in The Future of Ideas [amazon.com], his latest work. As Lessig points out, it's a logical fallacy to use Tragedy of the Commons as an analogy to further certain intellectual property rights since there is no limit to the number of times some kinds of IP can be duplicated and distributed. Being a physical object, grass in a commons is in finite supply and subject to the potential for overgrazing. But without artificial barriers (such as copy protection technology) how can one ever over consume to scarcity the supply of digital data such as a software program?

      Interesting book.

      Cheers,
      --Maynard
      • I totally agree with that which is why the "copyright commons" project is so crazy. I envision millions of individual copyright holders nickeling and diming each other to death with a variety of specialized licenses and rules to the point that everybody is rendered incapable using the information they have right before them. By doing this he practically creates a tragedy of the commons where there was none before - or did I miss something?
        • Through Creative Commons, Lessig (among others) will provide a set of licenses which allow a gradation of freedoms and restrictions for copyright holders and consumers alike. Yes, as stated in the article it's likely that some of the licenses would not meet OSI license requirements as "open source", never mind "Free" under rms's definition. However, they will provide a medium ground between a completely restrictive license as defined under DMCA provisions and a completely open license under OSI or gnu guidelines. Lessig has repeatedly stated that he is not inherently against copyright, but he does oppose the use (abuse) of copyright law to further limit use of copyrighted goods beyond duplication rights. While I can't speak for Lessig, I assume that he at his cohorts will attempt to craft licenses which balance the rights of copyright holders to limit commercial duplication against the rights of consumers for "fair use" personal duplication and reverse engineering.

          Cheers,
          --Maynard
    • Whether Lessig is in denial or not, I have trouble viewing this 'Commons' as a good thing. Like Tasini's victory over the New York Times, I think this attempt to circumvent copyright restrictions is hollow. Probably, it will see some use, but not on the level you would find with reasonable copyright laws. For one thing, even with his 'commons' he's allowing the creator to make decisions for how their work is used. If they maintain their copyrights, they can already do that. All this does is eliminate the requirement of contact for someone who wishes to use the work. The permissions, those not needing payment, are registered.

      I disagree with the use of something along this line for another reason. It gives the illusion of a freedom. We don't need illusions. We need true access to intellectual works within the 'limited times' of the Constitution. Which life +70 or 95 years is not.

      The tighter the lines are drawn, the more likely the public will be to wake up and take notice. This licensing will create a blur on those lines and hinder those who seek a change to a Constitutional Copyright Law, because it will be more difficult for the public to see the damage.

      And if we want to ever see again a copyright law that adheres to the Constitution, the public will have to take notice. It can't be done without them.
    • In the threads of this article, I've noticed alot of people saying the same thing - so I decided to respond here rather than to each one individually.

      Man, how can I explain to people that the problem is copyrights and allowing any restriction on copying at all is a bad thing. God help me, but here it goes, just hear me out.....

      About 400 years ago there was an innocent little practice in America called indentured servitude. It was for blacks and whites, it couldn't be inherited, and anybody could gain their own freedom and property after a few years work. It sounded like a good deal, but unfortunately this was but a seed for a vine whose growth we could not controll that led to ever increasing restrictions and abuse that eventually led to a bloody civil war and countless years worth of damage to the people who were caught in the slave culture.

      Well the same is true with copyrights of even the smallest imposition. They are a seed who'se ultimate growth can only destroy us and the freedoms we value. In fact we can already clearly see it happening with their massive extensions, and the freedom of speech and the DMCA. The people who say "well, a little bit of copyrights are ok" I must admit sound pretty rational, but just don't get it. Dammit, I don't want to go through this just to pass the same bullshit down to my children. If we ever want to move on, we simply half to wipe the entire concept that it's ok to derive benefit by restricting the copying practices of others - period. For God's sake, how much of our freedom of speech is going to go to hell before people get it!

      One more thing, it is bad enough that we have that seed planted and growing here, but that we are trying to plant it in other countries like China is unforgiveable. They do not have a government with checks and balances, and do not have a culture of freedom to protect them from the same pressures that we are suffering under now. What will happen when it becomes their turn, when trillions of dollars are at stake in their country, when enforcement goes unchecked? I really don't think people are thinking through the consequences of our copyright attitudes. Dammit, I hate this attitude people have about copyrights - please, just let it go.

  • One of Free Software's main benefits and main cause of success is the moral reward, the feeling of doing a good to the community.

    This kind of licenses can bring to general creative work these perceived benefits. Authors of poetry, music, books, scientific investigation, whatever, may release their work as a gift to humanity. This would give them public acknowledgement and gratitude while assuring their right to control the content donated.

    Public may be able to appreciate these values and want them as a good in itself. If you believe in market laws, soon it would become an extra advantage for a comercial product the fact of being released with a permisive license. This is right now happening in the software domain.

    I wonder what the effect of automatic control of licenses might be. We have all being scared with news about DMCA embedding in hardware the control of not copyrighted material reproduction.

    But if this control is developed for real author (not editor) protection, with the license being a running program? Well developed-debugged licenses would be an extra tempt for artistic products, and record companies would try to keep a work well done. Everyone in the industry take profit of this model of release.
  • Good for the Goose?` (Score:1, Interesting)

    by lawyamike (199551)
    I am just dying to set up my own version of the Creative Commons, using their content, the source code from their web site, etc. (Well, maybe not the source code from their web site, at least not until they put up something worth stealing.)

    The thing that kills me about Lessig is, however he rails against the evils copyright and the virtues of the commons, I end up having to shell out $25 each time I want to read his book. And I have not yet seen him webcast his lectures which, if true to the form of most law school classes, cost about as much as a broadway show to attend.

    Remember Phil Greenspun (of photo.net)? He wrote a book about designing web pages that was just fantastic. He charged more than $30 for the book, but he filled it with some great photography, so that it would be a coffee table book for those who purchased it. Then he went ahead and put the entire text of the book on the Internet, so that those who did not want to buy it could just browse it gratis. THAT's somebody who practices what he preaches about open source.

    I ended up buying Greenspun's book. His stand made it well worth the thirty bucks, and the pictures make the book worth having around.
    • You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. Lessig does not think copyright is evil, he thinks it's a useful tool to ensure that creators have an incentive to create. But he feels that it should be for limited times only. In any case, I'm not gonna sum up lessig for you here. I'll let him do that [lessig.org].
      • You obviously have not read Lessig's book (but have read too many of his press releases or one-page summations from his web site). In a court case, Eldred v. Reno, he argued -- without success -- that a recent extension of the Copyright Act was unconstitutional. So you are correct insofar as he once advocated that position. In his more recent book, on the other hand, he argues that some goods should not be copyrightable AT ALL, because the goods are more appropriately treated as held in common. (He gives the examples of, for example, the roads; they are not good examples; roads did not spring from thin air.) Please see his discussion of the "commons" in Chapters 1-2 of The Future of Ideas, a book that you obviously have not read.

        Doesn't anybody mod flamebait like this anymore?

        • People don't mod flaimebait like this because it isn't flamebait. You were not talking about the roads in your first comment, you were talking about books. I feel that you are misreprisenting his viewpoint when you claim that Lessig thinks some things should not be copyrightable at all. Even though I have not read his new book yet, I am certain that nowhere in it he ever claims this. Certainly not for any form of creativity. I know this because he stated so very specifically in his latest debate with Jack Valenti [usc.edu]. As a matter of fact, Valenti makes almost the same comment you make, implying that because he had to purchase Lessig's book he is being hypocrytical. Lessig subsequently totally refutes that statement.

          Anyway, I think the roads are a very good example of a commons: they were created with public funding, to the benefit of everyone. Of course, since roads are rivalrous, they are subject to the tragedy of the commons, as is evident in traffic jams.

          Maybe I was a bit harsh with my wording in my first reply, for which I apologise!
          • Software code is the product of creativity. As is Einstein's theory of relativity, which Lessig submits as an example of a good that should not have been -- and was not -- copyrighted.

            I am not mischaracterizing Lessig's arguments, but I think our disagreement springs from Lessig himself being deliberately ambiguous in his views. He would look like a moron if he said that copyright should not attach to certain goods, even if he does argue that society would benefit from just that regime. So when he faces an intelligent interlocutor in real time, like Jack Valenti, Lessig has to back down from his more ridiculous positions.

            Lessig's lectures are a case in point. They are nonrivalrous goods. They are derivative insofar as they are based upon a compendium of existing knowledge upon which Lessig could draw at little or no cost. The cost to Lessig of providing his lecture notes over the internet would be negligible. In these ways, there is nothing that distinguishes his lectures from, for example, source code or the theory of relativity. So why doesn't he provide them to the public, consistent with his ideology?

            I commend his book to you. Lessig lapses into this pseudo-sophisticate newspeak throughout, but the background chapters are interesting and, for the uninitiated -- to which category I am not assuming that you belong -- informative.

            Also, Lessig looks like Dieter from Der Sprockets.

  • Look at me! I'm Larry Lessig!! I'm important!!!

    No you're not.

    Finally, an opportunity to burn some Karma and harp yet again on Slashdot's obsession with Lessig.

  • After reading the SFGATE.COM article about the Creative Commons, I think that I understand the concepts driving the initiative. Lessig suggests that there needs to be a controlled way to release items into the public domain so that the author retains certain residual rights such as (a) attribution to the work; (b) integrity of the work; (c) right to remain an anonymous author; etc.

    These principles are basically the tenets of the Moral Rights regimes that are set out in the WIPO treaties. Most countries have adopted statutory protections of Author's/Creator's rights. These "moral rights" however, have not been fully included in the copyright legislation in the United States. Specifically, the USA has deferred to the commercial exploitation of copyrighted works as it believes that is the true objective of copyright. Lessig, proposes to give American creators something that they would already have if they lived in Vancouver or Toronto... moral rights.

    That said, it would appear that Lessig has a very good chance of succeeding in the new venture because these regimes are thriving throughout the world. Lessig's "free" price tag is just about right given that non-American nationals don't pay for these additional rights.

    Kudos to Lessig, et al. for trying to remedy a glaring deficiency in US Legislation through the formation of a private venture.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson

Working...