To borrow a phrase from Yellow Dog on Ivan Tribble: The only thing revealing in this piece is that, once again,
The Chronicle PC Mag.com solicits or accepts work by folks who have No clue. There’s an editorial by John Dvorak (whose other pieces I’ve read don’t really show the same blindness that this piece does) about how stupid creative commons is.
He starts by admitting that he doesn’t understand why creative commons has been created. Maybe he should read Free Culture. Then he wouldn’t have written this stupid editorial. He says:
Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous “fair use” provisos of existing copyright law.
At first glance, we might be intrigued–threatens fair use? Yipes!
Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws. In fact, the suggestion is dangerous, because if someone were sued by the Creative Commons folks over normal fair use and Creative Commons won the suit, then we’d all pay the price, as fair use would be eroded further.
The Creative Commons is a way to assert public domain use. Current copyright law says, as he rightly points out, that you have to ask. It also thus implies that if you don’t ask you’re violating copyright, unless you’re within the notoriously fuzzy limits of fair use. Most CC licenses extend rights far beyond what normal fair use allows and, by offering that right (rather than waiting to be asked), the licesnses put the stuff out there to use.
The difference, Lessig points out in Free Culture is between a ‘free culture’ in which some things are restricted and a ‘permission culture’ in which most things are restricted.
The most misleading part of this discussion is Dvorak’s suggestion that fair use offers much of a shield. In fact, it does notdefence against copyright infringement is expensive. “Fair use” may let you win your court case, but you have to go to court. Lawyers aren’t free and you won’t recover your court costs. Creative Commons is a good response to an overzealous copyright law that makes it essentially illegal to copy anything.
At the end of the essay, Dvorak reiterates that he doesn’t understand:
Years ago, to gain a copyright, you had to fill out a form and send in the material to the Library of Congress. Now you just use the word “copyright,” add your name and a date, and publish it. What could be easier? Apparently simplicity was more than some people could handle, so they invented Creative Commons to add some artificial paperwork and complexity to the mechanism. And it seems to actually weaken the copyrights you have coming to you without Creative Commons. Oh, brother!
Lessig suggests that the first bit–about the form–is the way copyright should still work. The second sentence–about the name–is dead wrong. Copyright does not need to be asserted. It’s on everything. It might be hard to defend copyright without it, but it certainly makes it complicated to re-use bits of text and data. Creative Commons is a way to assert copyright in a way that actively allows for re-use. It’s an important mechanism in a culture whose default perms are set to “no.”