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31/05/2010 / mygirlbetty

Rip me off

There’s a lot of things I don’t think about, y’know?

Like I don’t think about sport very often (actually ever), I don’t spend any time mulling over ways to make recipes better, or much dwelling on politics. Some stuff just doesn’t get much air time in my head, as it’s already quite full of shiny things, and the oh-so-excellent Band I Love The Most that day and reflections on if the Cookie Monster is happy with his lot.

I have never thought about copyright, nor whether I’m breaking copyright law (save for now when writing essays). It seems clear that this type of law is one of the most forgotten but oddly powerful and far reaching types of law there can be. If everything is under copyright, and simultaneously we live in a society where originality is hard to come by, where does that leave us?

Scholars of the copyleft school say we are born to share: ideas, thoughts, files, food etc. I would agree, because I’m a massive hippy at heart. But some more than idle thoughts need to be given to whether or not I, as an individual publishing content on the single most important piece of communication technology known to man, am going to do the same.

Who would want to steal my crap?

At first my gut instinct is to laugh at the notion of putting a copyright on the brain poo that leaks onto my blog. Having thought about it for a while now, I still find it difficult to believe that anyone would ever want to use my thoughts and ramblings for any purpose of their own, and perhaps no one ever will. As a writer (of sorts) who is, thanks to the ease of the internet, effectively published now and as someone who finds the issue particularly pertinent to the future of creativity on the net, however, I think I need to take a stand.

So this bloke, Lawrence Lessig, who I mentioned earlier. He has written a whole heap around the copyright debate, and started an alternate licensing corporation called Creative Commons. Lessig believed the whole copyright thing, as it stood at the time to be a ridiculous farce, designed to make money. While reading a couple of his essays, I was inclined to agree (he is very convincing). Lessig proposed that we needed a new system, one that encourages sharing of ideas and thoughts freely, and one with more freedom to move than the old.

I quite like the ideas behind Creative Commons. General copyright law seems outdated, and the freedom to share and share alike is something I’m sure more interesting people than me can make good use of. As pointed out by another theorist, Armin Medosch (paid in full: copyright, piracy and the real currency of cultural production) however, the ideals behind CC can’t cover every extreme. Lessig’s (Open code and Open Societies) seeming view that the economic side of copyrighting will work itself out seems idyllic and often unrealistic. Having said that, if making money from your creation is paramount, there is licences under CC that stops other people from doing the same, however it does not stop them from reproducing yours, slightly tweaked and giving it away. So the issue of how does one profit from their art remains a little unsolved by the CC crew.

What I did

Creative Commons offers a few different options, mainly around whether you want your work to be changed at all, and whether you want people using it to profit or not. To be honest, I struggle to care. Not in a gen x way, but because I feel like taking out a licence that says “as long as you credit me” or “as long as you don’t make no money” makes me a bit of a wanker. If I’m honest with myself, it’s the credit thing that would bother me the most. I wish I didn’t care who took credit for what I wrote, but I do. I want the world to know that I am witty, not some rando. But again, I have to wonder if this actually matters. Putting aside my stuff, I can totally see Lessig’s point about creative types sharing their treasures, and I guess as it doesn’t hurt me at all, and if it can increase awareness about other styles of licensing, I’ll give it a burl.

I ended up picking the licence that meant that people can use my work, but they have to credit me and they can’t profit from it. I still feel like a miser, and part of me is like- if they can make money where you can’t, then more power to them, but I think my stuff is not about making money and I don’t like the idea of it being used for that.

That is all, I guess. The moral of the story being that perhaps while I am producing average blog entries, now someone has the right to make them less than average on their own terms. I like that we’re all in this together.

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