Archive for August 31st, 2009

Is Creative Commons Good for Copyright?

One of the beauties and frustrations of dealing with issues online is the immediate feedback loop and the possibility that such a loop amounts to little more than people talking at each other, rather than with each other. We experienced this last week, when we posted the following thoughts to our Twitter account (@copycense):

Empirical question: how much is it worth in publicity, goodwill for creator to use Creative Commons license vs. copyright registration?

Empirical question: How many creators involved in the arts actually take the time to learn copyright basics? How do they do it?

Empirical question: If creators don’t understand basic copyright, how can they reasonably distinguish between copyright & Creative Commons?

Would energy behind CC be applied better to calibrating U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 to be more neutral to citizen creators? (See Canada)

This chain of thoughts began while we watched a talk by filmmaker and cartoonist Nina Paley, whose film Sita Sings the Blues has become a “copyleft” cause célèbre. Film critic Roger Ebert, for example, has gushed praise on the film. Techdirt’s Michael Masnick has followed and railed against Paley’s plight. Paley, too, has been active in talking about her copyright clearance plight on her blog. The confluence of events has created an environment wherein another creator is held captive by copyright considerations. In this way, Paley has become the film equivalent of Girl Talk’s Gregg Gillis: all they want to do as citizens is clear rights easily and create.

The subtext of all this, of course, is “Why is this copyright stuff interfering with what I want to do?” In this vein, we continue to find amusing and interesting the how selective concern about copyright clearance, remixing, and related issues can be. It’s as if there are certain artists and works for whom copyright issues are real and significant, but other artists and works for whom the same issues either are not real, or unworthy of discussion. But we’ve already addressed this issue.

Typically, we use Copycense’s Twitter account as a news feed: it is quick, concise, and serves that purpose well. Occasionally, we post questions or thoughts to the feed, but usually expand on such questions or thoughts by writing on Copycense’s FriendFeed account. Regretfully, we did not do so with any of the four questions mentioned above.

A number of interesting responses ensued. Robert Richards of the Legal Informatics Blog (@richards1000) questioned the preemption responses we gave, in which we attempted to explain our theory that license contracts — and not copyright — may be the dominant legal regime in a digital information ecosystem. Then, a representative from Free Government Information (@freegovinfo) questioned our assertion that a Creative Commons license is an alternative to copyright; he opined CC works “on top of copyright.”

Mind you, all this dialogue was occurring as each of us were posting separate items on wholly different issues on our respective Twitter accounts. Given the way Twitter works, it is difficult to reconstruct the exact timeline of the posts, which would help the contextual understanding.

Instead of continuing to debate relatively complex ideas within the vacuum of 140-character limited posts, we have decided to address several of these issues here in a more expansive manner. Thus, this article will discuss preemption in copyright law, and why we feel that concept establishes license contracts as the dominant legal regime in digital and online software and services. We also will respond to our own aforementioned questions about Creative Commons licenses, and their role within the legal sector of the digital information ecosystem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Copycense Editorial

08/31/2009 at 08:30

Posted in Uncategorized

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