Liberty Commentary

Regarding Creative Commons, and socialist ideas of copyright

by Michael W Dean, Libertarian Punk

Someone asked me about me giving away my torrent of my CD:

Do you have a copyright or copyleft on your albums? copyleft being which allows varying main point is that i don’t think you can allow torrents under a copyright…..I don’t even know why I brought this up. I guess I just wanted to show off my knowledge of creative commons.

Well, your knowledge of Creative Commons and copyright is quite wrong. This is untrue: “i don’t think you can allow torrents under a copyright…..”

To be fair, a lot of people do not understand Creative Commons and copyright (and patents and trademarks, and often confuse all four.) If you own the copyright on something (which I do on this music), you can do whatever the heck you want to do with it. You can give it away, sell it, or both.

I’ve studied the fuck out of this, and actually came up with something quite like Creative Commons before Creative Commons existed:

With my DIY or DIE: How to Survive as an Independent Artist film, I released it in October 2002 (six weeks before CC was announced), with the instructions that “it’s illegal to make commercial copies, but anyone may make ten copies and give them to friends.” I wanted it to catch on like Creative Commons eventually did, but I did not have the backing of the law community, and a state University (Stanford) like CC’s creator, Lawrence Lessig, Esq. did.

But I did get a lot of press for doing it, and it actually sold more copies, not less, than if I’d used the limitations of a traditional copyright:

The DIY or DIE DVD was the first instance of a commercial media product being released under copyright but giving users express permission to make non-commercial copies. The DVD was also released with no copy protection, and no region encoding.

Later, I put it all on YouTube, and it was the first instance of a commercially available DVD being given away in its entirety by the film’s creator. I also gave it away on BitTorrent. I thought it was the first instance of a commercially available DVD being given away in its entirety by the film’s creator, but realized Jason Scott did the same thing with his BBS documentary a few months earlier. Though he allowed someone else to put it on BitTorrent, I put it on BitTorrent myself.

By the way, something many people do not know about Creative Commons: it is not a replacement for copyright. It works within standard copyright, but lifts some of the restrictions on a copyright, but is still built on top of copyright.

And the term “copyleft” has no legal meaning (unlike Creative Commons, which is strictly defined). Many consider CC and GNU licenses to be “copyleft”, but some people just use a backwards copyright symbol, call it “copyleft”, and that actually has no defined legal parameters. A “copyleft” symbol (which kind of looks like it’s derived from an anarchy symbol) basically says “I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t give a fuck what happens to this work.” In fact, people often put a copyleft symbol on work they did not make and do not own, and upload pirated versions of it. It’s a socialist symbol that more or less means “Copyright is theft, property is theft, and I’m taking your shit because I want to.”

Regarding Creative Commons: I think it’s a good idea, but I think it’s gone too far. Many people have a socialist idea that copyright is “stealing”, and many places will not even look at your work if it’s not released Creative Commons, under a license that permits remixing.

I work hard to make my work exactly as it is, and do not usually WANT remixing. I don’t want some armchair “DJ” with a copy of Sony Acid making something unlistenable out of my stuff. (But if a band wanted to cover one of my songs, and asked me, I’d probably let them, but that’s different.)

For instance: I’ve had a few things blogged by, which is an honor and leads to a lot of downloads (but usually nosales). I’ve approached them later to blog other things, and they said they’d only do it if I changed the license to Creative Commons, attribution and share-alike license 3.0 (Cc-by-sa) license, which allows remixing.

Furthermore, a lot of people are so socialist that they hate copyright. When I was showing DIY or DIE in Europe, at punk rock squats, almost every night during the Q&A I’d have some guy on the dole who eats out of a dumpster raise his hand and in broken English tell me that I am a hypocrite for having a copyright notice at the end of my film.

I’d explain that while I”m open to having people make free copies of the film, the copyright notice would help me go after anyone who makes 5000 copies and sells them, or uses footage from the film without permission in a beer commercial.

They usually still didn’t “get” it.

I like the idea of Creative Commons. But I hate the socialist idea that you should have to do it, and a lot of socialist leftists who have never produced anything worthwhile, and only want to takeother people’s media, think you should.