Wed, 03 Aug 2005

Licensing and The Knee-Jerk Reaction Against Commercial Entities

The blog licensing thing gets worse, as John Quiggin claims Attribution/ShareAlike/Non-commercial license is the "best default rule".

Please note that blog licensing is much less important than software licensing to me, since (1) most uses of my blog will be excepted from copyright anyway under fair use/dealing/reasonableness, and (2) a handful of people (hello to you both) read my blog, millions are touched by my code.

In a nutshell: the GNU GPL does not have a "non-commercial" clause. If it did, it wouldn't be an Open Source, or Free Software license. This latter link is particularly useful in this context.

The ecosystem built by this, with sellers such CheapBytes (who made their money selling $2 mail-order CDs in the early Linux days), magazine sellers, small consultants and large companies, has fuelled the growth of Free Software and put us where we are today. That's because the license says what you can and cannot do, and doesn't make restrictions based on your motive.

Consider this from Quiggin's blog:

But if Hollywood wants to use bits of the blog in the forthcoming hit movie Crooked Timber of Humanity, they are not confined to the CC license. They\u2019re free to fly me to LA, and make a stupendously generous offer for the commercial rights.

Without the Non-commercial clause, Hollywood could just take the blog without permission, that is true. Their movie would then be under Attribution/ShareAlike. Think about that for a while and realize that the Non-commercial clause is not stopping Hollywood, but it is stopping everyone else who might want to make a commercial contribution.

There's a knee-jerk reaction against commercial endeavor which tends to be worse in people with leftist-leaning politics. I made it for free, so no capiltalist pigs should make money from it! Only on deeper reflection do we see that the ShareAlike license requires collaboration, so if someone makes money doing so, they're helping us anyway, so why worry? That's how we got the Internet after all: telcos, ISPs, PC manufacturers and network equiptment makers didn't give it to us because they were feeling charitable. I'm disappointed that the Creative Commons have a non-commercial clause, but they are hoping to attract commercial publishers, who want to keep the blanket ban on competition. But it reinforces permission culture.

That Quiggin takes this path despite training as an ecomonist demonstrates either a lack of deep thought on this issue, or that he uses economics to justify his leftist dogma, rather than to examine issues. (This paragraph was about as polite as I could make it).

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