[okfn-discuss] Removing the nc: why license restrictions on commercial use are problematic and (frequently) unnecessary

Saul Albert saul at theps.net
Fri Apr 28 08:08:56 UTC 2006

On Fri, Apr 28, 2006 at 01:02:00AM +0100, Tom Chance wrote:
> I've heard quite a few artists refer to it that way, even if they're
> not quite correct to use the term. But to claim there aren't *any*
> moral dimensions that distinguish NC licenses from full copyright is
> quite a strong claim! Is granting the freedom of noncommercial use
> really no better than denying it?

The lack of definition of terms contains the misdirection. 'Granting the
freedom of noncommercial use'? That's quite a loaded description.

> This is just another mailing list, fair enough, but to dismiss the
> issue with some cryptic remarks about "information proles" and
> discourse gentrification doesn't really wash. Or rather, it's
> intriguing but will hardly interest the sort of people uninterested in
> the kind of essays published in the recent node.L reader, who I'd say
> are the vast majority of copyright holders! I've read it and found most
> of it a load of repetitive babble.

I'll pass on your comments to the editor Marina Vishmidt :). I don't
think my remarks were particularly cryptic. I'm sure the people on this
list are familiar with labour/information politics. I think it's really
important to discuss labour and see through the minutiae of pragmatic
litigiousness to the issues underlying copyright reform - which is a
class issue, globally: not the sort of thing you can solve by starting
discussions from inside the CC-bubble. I'm hoping that by moving the
discussion to a political level, we might be able to achieve some
clarity, then re-enter the discussion and see ways of approaching CC-NC
that address those issues and the conflicts of which they're symptomatic
in a strategic way.

> Lots of copyright holders are, however, interested in CC because it's
> plain English (ahhh, bliss) and speaks about issues they face. Maybe in
> the higher echelons of OpenCongress discussion groups CC is construed
> as wilful misdirection, but at least Rufus, Mako Hill, myself and
> others are trying to bring a wider audience into the discussion by
> discussing the shortcomings in more accessible terms.

I really don't think my language is so inaccessible? I wouldn't want to
take responsibility for 'the higher echelons of OpenCongress' discussion.
I believe I spent most of that day arsing around with the wireless
network at the Tate :) Which texts were you finding most inaccessible? I
think there are very very few texts that discuss CC in an interesting and
non-conformist way, and I don't think any of those people were at the
Open Congress...

> I'd say that there are very real ethical concerns surrounding IPR
> raised by CC, and significant distance in between CC BY-NC-SA and full
> copyright. Maybe they're too liberal, too bourgeois, too reformist or
> too far from a real information commons. But before this ramble goes
> toooo far from Rufus' original post, to dismiss the popularity of the
> NC clause as "misdirection...  a way of isolating certain kinds of
> labour from certain kinds of exchange" is just completely unhelpful to
> my mind! Either tackle the issue from a practical point of view, or
> draw a *clear* line between the bread and butter issues and your wider
> radical arguments against copyright.

'Ethical issues' are really complicated, and in my experience, tend to
get blurry when slogging through the detail of reforming a tortuous
system such as copyright. It would be good to discuss these issues, but
it's very hard to do that without actually having a discussion that
clears the details out of the way - for the moment - then returns to them
re-oriented with a clearer head and the momentum to be pragmatic.

I get the feeling from attempts to personalise the argument that perhaps
discussing the underlying issues is somehow threatening. Maybe it's
better brought up at a face-to-face meeting - so I look forwards to the
next meetup and hope I'm in town for it.

All the best,


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