Creative Commons

Yesterday, the EPFL library held an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Creative commons. This was very interesting, because although I have worked with the Gnu GPL, MIT and BSD licenses, these three are only valid when it comes to programs, even if it includes video games.

There is of course a major difference between Mr. X handing out free copies of THE game, which the users are free to redistribute but not modify not investigate, and Mr. Y, who hands out both a copy of his text managament software along with the source code. This distinguishes thus between freeware (or shareware) and open source software. But, what happens with a picture? A movie? A song? You can’t give the source code to a picture, specially one taken with a 35mm. You can’t hand out the source code to a movie, and you certainly can’t hand out the source code to a song.

Opposing argument #1: Most cameras allow for RAW image filetypes. REBUTTED as this file can be considered and integrate part of the picture, and not a source. #2:  You can hand out the script to a movie. REBUTTED, yes, you can hand out the script for a movie, but there is so much more behind it. Casting, special effects, make-up, sound, you can’t create the same movie without the exact same ingredients.  Argument #  3: You can hand out the score to a song. True, BUT, just in the same way as for #2, it won’t sound exactly the same. Just like no 2 concerts from the same band sound exactly the same.

Enter copyright: The moment you hit save on your file, you have the authority over your document / picture / song / other, with no need to tell any one about it, (simply placing the little copyright logo is enough). This makes sense, if Mr. Doe, decides to write a book, he doesn’t want his neighbor to print it & sell it. After all, it is Mr. Doe’s work. Makes sense, right? But this is where copyright laws resemble the patent system:
Rather than generate a drive for innovation & creation, these laws restrict people’s freedom. Quoting a book becomes virtually illegal, and Mr. Doe’s book is not getting much attention. His neighbor needs to borrow some passages in order to teach his Perl class, as the passages are insanely simple to understand. However, rather than write a new book about a new topic (such as, for example, copyright law), Mr. Doe is busy in court suing his neighbour for every last penny.

Enter Creative Commons: Mr. Doe’s book is not selling very well in his hometown, but a small village in Scandinavia is asking for copies. Mr. Doe decides to sell his book for a small price in electronic format to said village. Feeling that the book truly brings a better education to their children, as well as access to better tools thanks to it, the village decides to buy the book for around $10 per head.

“Whoah” exclaims Mr. Doe. “I can publish the document myself, and all I need to do is state what can and what can’t be done with my content? … Awesome”.

In short, the advantages are the following:
Decide what can and what can’t be done with your workl (can it be reused, rehashed, used in a commercial for the man?)


Given the advances of technology, soon interactions will be entirely via computers, and artists are already taking a lead in this bandwagon of collective art creation. Without Creative Commons, the artist would have to ask each individual participant for the authorization to use whatever media it is being created. Win – Win if you ask me.