May 1, 2005  ·  Lessig

Creative Commons recently launched a relationship with BzzAgent. The blogs were not amused. See Corante, Corante_II , Corante III, Just a Gwai Lo. BzzAgents has now responded poorly, calling Corante “liars.” As I’m partial to Corante, I’d be willing to ask CC to pull the relationship on the basis of that bad judgment alone. But I’d be really keen for some feedback.

Here are the facts to keep in mind:

(1) This “partnership” (like all our partnerships) is pro bono: CC doesn’t get or give money in these commercial contexts.

(2) The aim of the partnership is to extend our work offline. The vast majority of BzzAgent action occurs offline.

Thanks for the help.

  • http://www.corante.com/strange/ Suw Charman

    My basic problems with this arrangement are:

    1) BzzAgents do not have a good reputation amongst the people I have spoken to – which primarily means my friends and those on #joiito – and I fear that CC’s reputation would be tarnished by association with a company whose methods many disapprove of.

    2) BzzAgents encourage people to modify their normal social interactions in order to promote a company in return for rewards. To me, this seems like ‘conversational spam’ and as a tactic it could backfire. People who get spammed and find out about it might take against CC because of the tactics used to bring their attention to it.

    3) Those BzzAgents who choose to promote CC are a self-selecting group, just like those individuals who have chosen to promote CC because they believe in it. This means that if CC’s desire is to move beyond their existing user base, BzzAgents may not actually be able to fulfil this aim as their Agents may turn out to be in the same demographic group as existing supporters.

    4) Dave Balter claims that 80% of their ‘word of mouth’ marketing happens offline, but it is not in the offline world that CC has strength – it is through adding a CC licence to your digitised works and making them available online that you add to the commons, and it is through online searches that people find CC-licenced works. If BzzAgents are promoting CC offline, are they capable of reaching the correct demographic to increase adoption of CC?

    5) Regardless that CC is not paying BzzAgents actual money to promote CC, there is the risk that existing supporters may feel betrayed. Many people have worked hard to support CC through various methods, including buying CC merchandise, and to have CC then ask BzzAgents’ Agents to promote CC explicitly for reward could be interpreted as a slap in the face. Is CC willing to risk alienating it’s existing supporters in the hope of gaining some new ones?

    6) One has to question the quality of the promotion that BzzAgents are going to be able to provide. If they are more used to promoting sausages or shoes, then they may not do justice to CC. Are they really going to be passionate about copyright reform?

    I understand that CC wants to increase adoption, but I do not think that an alliance with BzzAgent is a good way forward. The alliance with Flickr, to pick an example, is far more constructive and far more likely to introduce new people to the concepts behind CC. What other online communities could benefit from CC? What moves are being made to promote CC amongst, say, the film making community?

    I would rather see CC reach out to their existing supporters and to formulate schemes which help supporters to promote CC in an honest, transparent manner. Equally, I think CC needs to help journalists out more too, make it easier for them not only to pick up the basic concepts but also find angles which will be appealing to their readers (the MP3 thing is so overdone it’s not interesting anymore).

    I passionately believe in CC and copyright reform. That’s why I took part in the Free Culture audiobook project, and wrote about it at such length. That’s why I turn up to the London Copyfighter’s Brunch as often as I can, and write about copyright and digital rights every chance I get. That’s also why I question the wisdom of this agreement with BzzAgents.

    I would love to be proven wrong on the points I have raised, but if I thought there was any hope of that, I wouldn’t be as vociferous as I am.

  • http://www.columbuswebmakers.com Joel Goldstick

    Terrible idea to get in bed with these creeps. I have just read the articles you linked to and the response from this company. I think it negates the whole idea of ‘the commons’ to enlist propaganda creeps to play ‘reality tv’ with something that is much too good of an idea to be sullied this way. It feels like the same thing the government and companies do by creating ‘news stories’ for media outlets that are not mark as what they are.

  • http://www.simonpole.ca Simon Pole

    I checked out the BzzAgent webpage as soon as it was announced on the CC blog. I stayed there for about 5 seconds. The whole things seems patronizing and exploitive.

    This outfit has a creepy feel that was not present in the spread firefox campaign. The entire premise of the way this company does viral marketing, is that you lie to people. You come on like you’re an average, disinterested person, but really you have an ulterior motive. Want to soil the image of CC? That’s the way to do it. Their true colours have come out, with their reaction to a small level of criticism.

    The other question is: Why does CC have to have a “relationship” with these people? The CC is a broad-based movement — CC licences are everywhere now on the internet. If this company is so intent on helping CC, why do they have to have an official connection with the CC governing body? They should just do it on their own, as citizens movements have always done.

    But then, this outfit doesn’t really care about citizens movements. They’re out to make a quick buck. They remind me of Microsoft offering crippled versions of windows to poor people in Brazil.

  • http://www.elastico.net/ Jos� Luis de Vicente

    I believe this is obviously a serious PR problem, given BzzAgent’s creepy image. However, beyond that, the issue is the way the use of this channel categorizes CC as a “cool product” more than as an legal and ideological instrument for reform and change. Many people all over the world have embraced CC because they firmly believe in the values the organization stands for, and have been inspired by the impressive work the organization has done so far.

    The most important NGO use frequently marketing campaigns, of course, and maybe it’s right to open the debate of wether CC should start using them to better promote its objectives in the offline world. But I don’t think many supporters of CC would be comfortable with BzzAgent’s strategies.

  • Zzbagent 007

    Please ask the CC to pull the relationship.

    Offering incentives for social behavior destroys people’s trust. It takes away from the honesty of social interaction. It’s that simple.

    The nature of Creative Commons isn’t to run around and call Bloggers liars. Dave Balter and BzzAgents seems to think that’s how the Creative Commons should be represented. Jumping in to bed with Dave tarnishes the CC. Dave and the BzzAgents know they need something to build their brand out of the “shill” company they’re known as by most people.

    A 12-week campaign involving 1,000 agents can cost $95,000, correct? Nice tax deduction for Dave and BzzAgents. It’s not they’re doing this for nothing. Perhaps Dave could tell us exactly how much he’ll be writing off with this?

    The BzzAgent reports indicate they interrupt conversations to talk about their shoes (http://www.bzzagent.com/pages/AgentsAtLarge.jsp) to earn points….”I kept finding myself in conversation after conversation about gun control, stem cell research, etc. I was trying to steer towards airport security so that I could talk about my shankless shoes, but that didn’t happen. But the Presidential race did come up. Hey, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the Presidential aspects of my shoes (which went with my suit – so I was loaded for bear)….So the soap box speaker (who was visually annoyed I took the floor from him) jumps in “speaking of airports . . . ” but he was cut off from another gentleman (Edward) who was either tired of the soap box speaker or actually interested in my shoes.”

    Is this how we want Creative Commons to spread? It feels gross.

    Dave Balter and BzzAgents also says this (http://www.corante.com/strange/archives/2005/04/30/oh_dear_creative_commons_shack_up_with_bzzagents.php#comments)…”And for those who call us liars, I’d suggest that if 1/2 the companies out there were as transparent as we are, you’d find much more devious behavior than honest communications”.

    I read that as, we’re transparently lying. Dave Balter justifies unethical behaviour by saying others are more unethical.

    If a marketing group wants to help the CC for offline efforts there are many things that can be done. Print, TV ads, event marketing, etc…But having BzzAgents earning points promoting the CC along with sausage, cream cheese and shoes led by a CEO who calls bloggers liars seems counter productive.

    It’s not a big deal, let’s just decline and move on.

  • jb

    >there is the risk that existing supporters may feel betrayed.

    heh. that’s it, right? honestly, if you support something cause you “believe in it”, why you complain about someone got paid to promote it further? is your righteous belief so strong that would be shattered when someone got reward for something you have done for nothing?

    i know, the whole foss community is now feeling betrayed and angry cause CC hired a coder full time. we are such a fan girls.

    besides, while it’s certainly true for some “true believers” out there, just because its human nature (or fan nature?), i don’t think it will be such serious threat to CC. loyal fans are always leaving, for numerous reasons, like the team moved stadium, the band switched label, or, most likely, just because their fav thing got more popular.

    btw, i saw many true believers of CC done a total publicity failure.(those ppl who push their inaccurate, often ridiculous interpretation of CC, in inappropriate circumstances). i doubt anyone can do any worse, paid or not, even in your world, where everyone must lie when then got paid.

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    My friend JB has a pretty coherent comment here. I’d sincerely recommend reading it; it’s better than anything I would have said on the subject. (Bottom line: recommends against, on the grounds that introducing ‘mercenaries’, even if unpaid, distorts the feeling of the movement.)

  • http://www.metafilter.com ericb

    The tactics of BzzAgent are as unseemly to me as those of the Bush administration paying journalists for favorable coverage and planting a “shill” in the White House press corps.

  • http://www.redharvest.net The Continental Op

    I concur with those who’ve already given the “thumbs down” to the CC-BzzNet relationship.

  • http://www.metafilter.com/user/21820 orthogonality

    (1) This “partnership” (like all our partnerships) is pro bono: CC doesn’t get or give money in these commercial contexts. (2) The aim of the partnership is to extend our work offline. The vast majority of BzzAgent action occurs offline.

    I agree that getting Out the Bzz™ is a an “Uncommonly Creative”™ best-of-breed interactive re-purposing of the under-utilized mindshare of next-generation Change Agents.

    My only complaint is that other out of the loop synergistic paradigm shifting methodologies are not being embraced by Creative Commons.

    Creative Commons offers eleven different licenses with egg-head names like “Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)” and “CC-GNU LGPL”.

    BORING!!! Who even knows what it means, and only fat nerds with glasses talk that way. Let’s give Creative Commons a rad new look with rad new license names, and synergistically open up new marketing avenues for selected companies will maximizing Creative Commons’s revenue potential

    I suggest the following changes to License names:

    • “Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd)” ==> The “Reach out and touch someone™ AT&T™ License”
    • “Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)” ==> The “Burger King™ Have it Your Way™ License”
    • “Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)” ==> The “Just Do It™ Nike™ License”
    • “Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)” ==> The “It’s everywhere you want to be.™ Visa™ License”
    • “Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)” ==> The “Where do you want to go today?™ Microsoft™ License”
    • “Attribution (by)” ==> The “Drivers wanted™ Volkswagen™ License”

    Don’t think of it as “selling out”, think of it as selling in!

  • http://alex.halavais.net/news/ Alex Halavais

    I don’t hate BzzAgent, and I can sympathize with businesses who take this approach; at least businesses that have not developed their own following of evangelists, of geniuine buzz.

    But their work in this case isn’t really pro bono. It requires a payment in credibility, a transfer from the reputation of those of us who already promote CC. Our reputations and abilities to advocate for CC are put in jeopardy when people know about BzzAgent’s campaign, while BzzAgent gains from its association with CC. This has the potential to do some real damage to the future wide acceptance of CC, and should be nipped quickly in the bud.

  • http://www.metafilter.com/user/21820 orthogonality

    I use CREATIVE COMMINS™ everday to fight teh Man! And so do all the other kewl kidz!

    We’re a-blogin’ and a-ajoggin’ and a-bumpin’ and a-groovin’to new ideas on copyright — because copy-”right” can be copy-”wrong”

    My BzzKit™ on Creative Commins&trade is a little eggy-heady if you’re scannin’ on my freq, my freaks, and you ain’t gonna read all that small-print no more’en I, so I’ll boil down what’s in there for all you hep catz. Basically, you see somethin’ you be wantin’, you can just take it off the web or e-Donkey or BearShare, and if your put “copyrite © 2005 Creative Commins” on it, you can use it for free with no hassles from . Yeah, it’s that easy-peasy, Weezy! Just slap on the C-C, and it’s yours to do as you please-please. Yeah, it’s all kool in skool if U ain’t no fool!

    So that’s my Buzzzzz, cuzz — slap on Creative Commins™ and you avoid the fuzz!

    eWord up! Back at-cha! Now git down and tell your friends, and come back 2-morrow at this same Bat-time to this same Bat-channel kidz for more of the Bzz you luvzzz. We’ll be talkin’ ans squakin’ ’bout how all the coolest dudes and dudettes drink Pepsi Blue™ when purchasing their Genuine GM Parts™!

  • jb

    other vaguely amusing point in suw’s comment.
    4) “they do offline, but CC is online thing” one.
    um. have you ever talked about anything ONline, in your offline social life? you passionately spread CC online, but you do talk about it offline too, right?

    >but it is not in the offline world that CC has strength
    this might be exactly why they(CC) want to do something offline. i wonder what you mean by your online/offline divide. maybe im just not familiar with “online” people, apparently never affected by anything offline. are they AIs or something?
    why offline activity cannot affect online world? or, maybe that Bzz-something actually said “we do offline. i mean, completely offline! we never waste our time to talk to anyone who blog or produce anything can be digitized!. yes, our offline tactic never ever reach anywhere online and we are proud of it!” .
    that might be a problem, i guess.

  • http://www.ericrice.com Eric Rice

    Drama! Drama! Drama!

    Good grief. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Get the word out about Creative Commons and call it a day, already. I might be taking an ‘ends justifies the means’ approach but good grief… I’d rather see them pimping CC than coffee makers or shoes. Sheesh.

  • http://www.foolishpeople.com John Harrigan

    FoolishPeople will no longer be using a Creative Commons liscence. This is mainly due to the fact that they are happy to market product in a manner that destroy’s individualism and encourages the creation of Hive Mind sensibilites.

    Secondly the firm which Creative Commons is happy to be associated with enjoys calling Bloggers liars.

  • http://www.bzzagent.com Dave Balter

    Friends of Larry and Creative Commons �

    Please know that we really, truly want to help the CC cause. I wanted to take a moment to clarify our view and make sure everyone understands what a BzzAgent program really involves. If it still �creeps� you out or � more importantly � isn�t going to help Creative Commons, then we�re more than happy to pull the plug.

    The Creative Commons BzzCampaign is part of our GoodBzz effort, where we offer our services free to non-profits and good causes. We�ve performed campaigns for the March of Dimes and the National Outdoor Leadership school (NOLS). Both companies will attest to how much the campaign helped their specific efforts and how positive the perception and outcomes were. We will begin working on some global health issues this fall.

    Let me be clear that BzzAgent is absolutely against any type of shill marketing. We started this business because we are opposed to companies that hire actors to pretend they�re people they�re not. We are opposed to organizations that seed chat rooms, blogs and forums and pay consumers to claim opinions they do not have.

    BzzAgents are not provided any cash for their services, and they are not obligated to do anything in our system. They join in order to get more involved and communicate with brands they love. BzzAgents may earn points for reporting their communications with others to us � both positive and negative interactions are acceptable to us. Those points can be accumulated and redeemed for brand association (or non-profit donation) rewards. I want to be clear here that people aren�t rewarded for their activities. They�re rewarded for providing us information that is immensely valuable for the brand/organization. They�re rewarded to letting us know how they communicate so that we can thank them (when�s the last time Apple called you to thank you for telling everyone about the ipod?) and continue to help them become more effective communicators.

    We have a Code of Ethics that each BzzAgent is asked to stand by. The first Code is for a BzzAgent is to �Be Open� about the fact that they�re a BzzAgent. So long as the opinion they�re sharing is honest, then how they formed it shouldn�t matter. Imagine you go to the supermarket. There�s some cheese � let�s say it�s Gouda – out for you try. You try it. When you return home, you tell your spouse or roommates about the cheese. You say that you tried it at the supermarket in a sampling program, and that they�re offering 15% off or a free box of crackers to buy. The person you�re talking to likely won�t care that the supermarket offered you the free sample, or that there is a discount. He or she will care about your opinion. That�s what we want to harness.

    In the case of the Creative Commons campaign, we�re offering the campaign to individuals in our system who might be interested in helping the cause. They aren�t forced to communicate with anyone, but we help them become conscious of how to share their honest opinion more effectively. I recognize that while there are many in the blogosphere and online who understand what Creative Commons does, there are many, many people out there who don�t. Ask 10 random people tomorrow about Creative Commons. I�m guessing at least 5 of them don�t know what it is.

    The Word-of-Mouth that YOU � the current CC community – contributes is invaluable, but for CC to really make it into the mainstream, it needs to be accelerated and augmented. It�s going to need help accessing communities that wouldn�t otherwise consider the copyright issue. It�s going to need to get into everyday homes and to the uneducated. To the educated who aren�t reading blogs everyday. To those not online. To those online who just happen to communicate in different places than we all do.

    At BzzAgent, we�re very aware that our model has many kinks and concepts to work out. We look at our system everyday and try to figure out how to maintain an honest approach. As a marketer, I�m angry at the fact that I�ve learned to filter out 95% of the 3,000 ads I see each day. I�ve learned to not believe what I see on tv or in print. I�ve been trained to wonder about product placement and celebrity endorsement at every turn. We wonder if there�s a world where marketers can utilize honest opinions instead of tag lines. It�s a big change, and one that may have its pitfalls, but you can�t blame us for trying.

    It would be a shame and really unfortunate to not accept our help for Creative Commons. We are believers, just like you, and happen to have a system that can really make a difference.

    Dave Balter
    Founder, President
    BzzAgent

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    I am leaning towards recommending that CC drop Bzzagent, but I am witholding my final judgement until I’ve researched the issue a bit more.

    heh. that’s it, right? honestly, if you support something cause you “believe in it”, why you complain about someone got paid to promote it further? is your righteous belief so strong that would be shattered when someone got reward for something you have done for nothing?
    i know, the whole foss community is now feeling betrayed and angry cause CC hired a coder full time.

    I think that it’s important to note that there is a difference between a full-time employee and a part-time contributor. Can we afford to pay everyone who’s submitted bug reports to Mozilla? Can we pay everyone who writes a plugin? That’s different from the need to hire full-time coders, which nobody is upset about. It’s easier to justify full-time employees in a non-profit than paying for what would normally be volunteer work: “If you want to get paid, you can dedicate your entire life to this organization as well.”

    Lots of non-profits have paid and volunteer employees simultaneously, but they don’t do micropayments to everyone who acts as their street team: in fact, usually the cash flow goes the other way. Those who are peripherally involved usually contribute money instead of time. If I can’t get a job at the EFF, I will become a member and send in my donation, and then proudly wear my t-shirt. If I have to be paid to wear a t-shirt, if there aren’t enough unpaid volunteers getting our message into the streets, that’s a problem. The solution is not to pay people to wear t-shirts to artificially inflate our ranks, but to find out why people don’t care enough, why we need to hire people to be our street team. Doesn’t CC want to become a membership-based organization like the EFF?

    The situation is complicated because BzzAgent is doing this pro bono. If CC had hired BzzAgent, I would not hesitate to ask CC to give that money to a genuine grassroots organization like FreeCulture.org instead. However, recommending that CC drop BzzAgent is recommending that CC refuse a gift, which seems impolite. You need to have a good reason to refuse a gift.

    Of course, on the other hand you could see it as CC lending its reputation to BzzAgent in return for the “Bzz”, which is a trade, a business deal, given that BzzAgent relies on reputation to spread its products. If it’s not clear that CC wants to share its reputation with BzzAgent, that is a problem.

    I’ll come back with my final decision later, but right now I’m not feeling too good about the deal with BzzAgent.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    “As a marketer, I�m angry at the fact that I�ve learned to filter out 95% of the 3,000 ads I see each day. ” – Dave Balter

    As a consumer, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve learned to filter out 95% of the 3,000 ads I see each day. And … I hope I am astute enough to discover when a BzzAgent “shill” is “shilling” me.

  • http://www.metafilter.com/user/21820 orthogonality

    I’d rather see them pimping CC than coffee makers or shoes. Sheesh.

    I agree! Better that they Get Out the Buzz™ about Creative Commons™, the best way to share your imagination, than the Senseo Single-Serve Coffee Machine™, which makes the smoothest most aromatic coffee I’ve ever had, and in the convenience of my own home, or Journeys Shoes™, which caress my feet with attitude I can wear, at home, to the beach, or anywhere.

  • Todd Morman

    Yeah, that was a great bit of self-promo, Dave, but when do we get clarification of your claim that Suw Charman “misstates nearly a dozen facts” in her first post about the partnership? Either you can back that up or you can’t. If you can’t, you owe her an apology for writing such obvious self-serving bullshit.

  • http://www.tecknik.net/poke/ Marcus

    Dave: “Accelerated and augmented”… by shills? If you aren’t encouraging shills, what value does your system actually add? If your members are already supporters of the products they are pimping, is BzzAgent not charging its clients for normal human interaction?

    Oh yes, we’ve learnt not to believe what we see on tv or in print… now we learn not to trust people we know, because they could be getting rewards for what they mention in conversation. It truly is a brave new world.

    I really thought the Creative Commons would be smarter than this.

  • http://www.archive.org brewster kahle

    As I recall, there was quite a controversy at the birth of “public relations” in before WWII when people would be paid to send letters to the editors, seemingly from themselves. I understand this practice is now widely discreditted and avoided in the legitimate PR trade.

    It seems these folks are doing the same sort of thing.

    I would pull away from them.

    -brewster

  • http://www.asheesh.org/ Asheesh Laroia

    Just a quick comment, since Nelson and Suw and so many others have said great things.

    The agreement with Bzz would be good because it encourages people to evangelize (*correctly*) Creative Commons.

    The problem is, Bzz looks like it’s paying CC evangelizers who are insincere, and rewarding them with unrelated stuff.

    Compare this against the SpreadFirefox campaign. That one feels “Not Evil” because it’s (1) not linked to an existing marketing company, and (2) the stuff Firefox spreaders get is Firefox-branded.

    Bzz looks too impersonal. Creative Commons and the Free Culture movement is about bottom-up participatory culture. People would feel comfortable with a “home-grown” community-built marketing organization.

    So, I’m slightly against Bzz. I know what I’d prefer: an “in-house” SpreadCC organization.

    (P.S. Even if BzzAgent is charging its clients for “normal human interaction,” it’s their business to make money, not to give their clients something new.)

    Asheesh.

  • http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/ Matthew Skala

    Hey, guys, 1998 called. They want their business plan back.

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    Creative Commons is supposed to be open, transparent and honest. BzzAgent isn’t.

    End the relationship.

  • http://www.bludge.net Dobbs

    The Creative Commons BzzCampaign is part of our GoodBzz effort, where we offer our services free to non-profits and good causes. We�ve performed campaigns for the March of Dimes and the National Outdoor Leadership school (NOLS). Both companies will attest to how much the campaign helped their specific efforts and how positive the perception and outcomes were. We will begin working on some global health issues this fall.

    It seems to me that this is the crux of Bzz’s motivation. They have an abysmal reputation online and are simply trying to turn that tide. In addition, they hope to later pitch clients by saying exactly the above about CC (a group with an, up until now, unsullied reputation online). Though it’s not surprising that Dave is playing the altruistic card, I, for one, don’t buy it for a second.

    In addition, I would love to know how Bzz finds out which of its clients its agents is “already a fan” of. I assume their client list is available somewhere and that the agents who want to earn more credit/rewards simply argue in favor of those products/services. I have to assume this because the other way around (getting Agents to submit a list, blind, of products they want to pimp, and then matching those up against existing clients) is in no way feasible.

    So, I’m asking: Dave, how do you determine if agents were truly fans of the products prior to your taking them on as clients? If you don’t verify it then I cry bollocks to your claim that they only pimp things they like. Just like anyone on commission (and face, these people are on commission), they’re going to sell as much as they can of everything they can.

    It would seem logical that an Agent’s decision on what to pimp isn’t based on what they like but what they think they can easily work into conversation. That, my friend, is the definition of a shill.

  • Oyyoyyoy
  • http://www.kevinwimberly.com Kevin Wimberly

    I think Suw’s first comment is excellent. The BzzAgent model really bothers me. Just look a the homepage – the lady is talking about New Balance shoes and Nike products. That makes me sick! Almost as sick as when I fell for a recent banner ad that showed a “stolen” Audi car. It turned out to be a viral marketing campaign, and I was duped – a mad at myself as the the character in Joyce’s Araby.

    BzzAgent says that the CC movement need to be “accelerated and augmented,” and that may be true, but at the same time, isn’t that why we cringe when we see blatant product placement in movies and TV shows? True, most of those products don’t NEED the acceleration like CC could use, but is the CC movement going to die without artificial injection? I am seeing more and more buzz about CC online and offline than ever before. The natural method may take a little longer, but it is much more pure and doesn’t reek of artifice. I have a Copyright Commies pin by William Spears – it’s on my bookbag in lawschool – I’ve had so many people ask me about it. There’s your offline buzz. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I teach technology training sessions at the school – I have been doing a successful RSS presentation, and I include an OPML file with SharpReader – it has subscriptions to blogs and legal resources that praise the CC movement. All of my handouts have a CC logo and license. People ask about it. Again – I’m confident that other people do the same thing across the country.

    How much more will getting fake watercooler talk really help the movement. Smart consumers will read either a lack of knowledge or insincerity immediately, and that will turn them off. People who are PASSIONATE about CC should be the ones spreading the gospel, and not someone who chose it for points. It just introduces a virus – a virus of bias – and I’m afraid that, to intelligent people, it will be obvious (contrived speaking points) and quite a turnoff. It’s the reason I don’t watch the OC (“I A9.com’d him”) and why I won’t buy an Audi. And if I’m simplifying or mixing viral marketing with the Bzz business model, I’m not the only one – the average Joe you’re trying to reach with the CC message will not see the difference either.

    Don’t tarnish the buzz that, I promise, is ALREADY buzzing with the CC movement.

    Kevin

  • http://lemi4.blogdrive.com Lemi4

    I second Todd Morman’s motion, and I add to that the question: what about calling us liars?

    Word of mouth (as far as I can manage to remember from college) is about trust; and calling the community a “bunch of liars” is not a good way to build that trust. Regardless of wether you were just overcome with emotion or not.

    You see Dave buddy, its like this. Our individual blogs are our emotional vents; we are very much entitled to throw out our expletives to the world there because it is our own personal media. But there is a critical difference between our blogs and our personal diaries (and to yelling in our own room or in the middle of a forest for that matter): our blogs are also public space (unless of course if it resides in Livejournal or other similar blog hosts which allow blogs to be shared ‘with our friends only’).

    I can only imagine what you must be feeling, Dave, to have your baby dissed and bitchslapped by a bunch of strangers, and often without much forethought nor an honest attempt to be fair, but that’s what happens on the ‘Net (and why many would go to say that discussions at SlashDot are of such low quality). If you haven’t noticed we people living in here digital sea have a bad habit of shooting from the hip. But just the fact that some can be so uncivilised does not give you the right to be uncivilised yourself.

    So…

    IMHO your response here is a good step forward, and I honestly hope that you continue in that direction. Your offering to help CC honestly is a good thing. I certainly don’t “blame you for trying” (and I love your idea of turning the marketing communications industry on its head by relying on honesty as opposed to plain persuation), but you’ve got to realise (and I’m sure that you’ve realised) that BzzAgent-the-Brand has been having a PR problem itself. Perhaps it could be said that its a rub-off of the marketing-communications and advertising industry’s reputation in general but it is real nonetheless.

    I personally am not ready to pass judgement on wether your marketing communications strategies are ethical or not (since I’ve only gotten wind of this via RSS from about an hour ago), but I stand by my communications professors’ axiom that word-of-mouth is spontaneous and honest. Or it doesn’t happen.

  • http://www.kevinwimberly.com Kevin Wimberly

    Last thought – Forgot to add this – maybe this should be a call to arms from Larry – Why not have the people that already support CC go out and spread the word? Are we forgetting the power of the Web and the community? Why not have Worldwide Creative Commons day where college students plaster campuses with posters, professors make it a point to discuss publishing papers under CC, musicians hand out pamphlets to their friends, and everyone something in the offline world to spread the news? Put PDF templates on the CC site for bumper stickers or something. Don’t buy/rent/lease the grassroots when you already have it for free. You have the Commoners Club – put us to work.

    (and, how much cash would it take to buy cc.org!? I sure wish we had it instead of…)

  • http://www.simonpole.ca Simon Pole

    Using BzzAgent could actually be a bullet to the head for CC.

    Check out this link.

    A “BzzAgent” submitted two book reviews on books he’d received from BzzAgent to the Concord Monitor. The newspaper was taken in, and by printing the reivews, broke its own ethical guidelines (i.e. by not indentifying paid advertisements as such).

    If any “BzzAgent” did something like that to talk up CC, we would kiss years of organizing goodbye. CC’s good reputation would be burnt up in a moment.

    For a movement where ethics and the law are in the forefront, using representatives with a dubious grasp of both (i.e. the BzzAgents) is just not a smart thing to do.

  • http://apperceive.blogs.com Markus Sandy

    The issue is not BzzAgent. The issue is behaving in an ethical and honorable way.

  • Yarrow

    From the Google cache of “BzzAgent Boot Camp: 4 of 12″ which is titled A BzzReport from the Castrol SYNTEC BzzCampaign”

    One of the people who I was meeting with (Jacob) knew one of my co-workers (Christi). So Jacob asked me how often I hang out with Christi outside of work. Which I replied “quite a lot – my wife and her are really close. So close we are taking a road trip to Houston in a week or so to visit my in-laws.” Jacob was surprised. He asked, “How often do you travel with children?” He was asking because I don’t have children and she has a three year old. Now I am talking road trip and there is a Bzz report brewing here – so I spring with “It isn’t so bad – I keep my truck in great condition with Castrol SYNTEC so it’s not like I am going to break down in Centerville (halfway between Dallas and Houston).” This throws poor Jacob. He’s like “Castrol SYNTEC? What is that?” So I asked him if he had heard of Castrol oil? Which he had.

  • drivingmenuts

    And this differs from astroturfing in what way?

    Wikipedia: Astroturfing

  • http://www.theelusivefish.com TragicLad

    I’m a bzzagent.

    I’m not involved in the CC campaign, although I don’t need to be. I’ve been talking up the benefits of CC for months. The people I’ve been talking to have been corporate communicators, graphic designers, copy writers and other assorted folks on the commercial end of art. I’ve yet to encounter a single one who was familiar with the creative commons before I began talking to them.

    I think BzzAgent’s big mistake from day one has been to offer reward points for buzzing. Not that the rewards are anything spectacular. There isn’t anyone driving away in a new car or flying off to Tahiti from their bzzing. At best you’re getting a memo pad, a t-shirt or a book. But regardless of what the reward is, the resulting image is that you’re a paid shill, or that your comments are compromised.

    From what I’ve personally seen and experienced with BzzAgent – they are trying to maintain as transparent and honest a business as possible. Most of the ethical lapses are on an individual level amongst the BzzAgents themselves, and the main organization seems quick to react and affect change when change is needed. The one item I’ve Bzz’d to date was a book. I wasn’t overly keen on the book’s format and that was what I talked about when Bzz’ing it. The response from BzzAgent was “thanks for Bzzing, even if you didn’t love it. We do want all Bzz to be honest, so thanks!”. Maybe some people faked loving the book in order to get a free fridge magnet, but I doubt it.

    While there is likely to be some over-reaction in certain blog circles to an association with BzzAgent – I think the benefit of it is percisely that it will reach the people, as one previous commenter stated, who normally have conversations about sausages and shoes. These BzzAgents are going to be passing the word on to the teacher who lives down the street, to the small garage band their kid’s a member of, the co-worker who’s a hobbyist photographer, the lady selling watercolours at the crafts fair. The people who do watch shows like the OC and buy Audis and wear clothes from the GAP and buy the ipod because everyone else does. These are the people that the BzzAgents can reach, and reach quickly.

  • Matt Price

    Nietzsche wrote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” The rest is implicit (either way).

    There’s a certain irony in the “Bzz” that this controversy has created. I’m picturing Creative Commoners flocking to the BzzAgent website, the blogosphere “Bzz”-ing about, and cynically wondering if all of this was an anticipated benefit of this “pro bono” promotion. I wonder how many Creative Commoners are thinking to themselves, ‘hmm.. good idea..’.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    TragicLad writes: “While there is likely to be some over-reaction in certain blog circles to an association with BzzAgent – I think the benefit of it is percisely [sic] that it will reach the people, as one previous commenter stated, who normally have conversations about sausages and shoes.”

    WTF! I can’t tell you how many people I know who are so stoked about discussing Kayem’s Al Fresco sausages and Johnston & Murphy’s shoes! [sarcasm]…[I can't help but think that some BzzAgents are wet with the idea that I've just identified two of their clients in this post]. The “bzz” is “bzzing.”

    It is because of such deceit that I will be sure to never purchase either companies’ products, knowing that they’ve stooped to such an ethical low of “shilling.”

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    TragicLad has just pointed out the solution! All BzzAgent needs to do is stop giving people points, and they’ll lose the reputation of producing paid shills! Once all the BzzAgents work for free, nobody can complain :-) It would save them money anyway….

  • http://www.theelusivefish.com TragicLad

    Just curious, but if BzzAgent were to not provide ‘reward points’ for anyone buzzing about Creative Commons and if they were to request all BzzAgents to state ‘I learned about this through BzzAgent’, would that remove most objections to the association?

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    Actually, I have a serious suggestion for fixing BzzAgent’s problem, which I believe TragicLad was getting at… why not rather than giving people general points, instead pay them with the products that they promote? For instance, if you promote weiners, then you get paid in weiners or weiner discounts, which means that you must actually like the weiners otherwise you wouldn’t want to get paid with them. Similarly, if you promote Creative Commons, you only get paid in CC memorabilia (which is close to how the volunteer street team gets paid anyway).

    I think that would fix most of the motivation issues, although I’m not sure if it would fix the openess/obviousness problem.

  • http://quo.elicitbehavior.com Jon

    I don’t think that BzzAgents is a bad thing intrinsically… I just don’t think that CC needs to be, or would benefit from being, associated with it.

    It’s just that CC already has a dedicated and, dare I say, rabid base of folks who talk about, and up, the merits of CC. There is no need for a third party to start trying to get uninformed (or, probably more accurately — less informed) folks talking up something they don’t fully understand.

    CC is something that can, assuredly, use all the support it can get… but it’s best served by folks that have a passion for the subject, not random folks who get a welcome pack for saying they’ll talk about it. … … … on the other hand, I have signed up to be a BzzAgent… and rest assured that I will be a CC BzzAgent if I get the chance. … … I just don’t think that this is an avenue that is necessary… because, to be honest, I’ve been talking CC up for a long, long while now…

    -Jon

  • Kathleen

    Lawrence,

    You say that BzzAgents are “working” for CC “ProBono” —

    The question is, what are they getting for this work? I think the obvious answer here is: Association with the excellent reputation of CC.

    Before I had any idea who they were, I saw that they were working for CC and thought they must be ok.

    You see, they’re vampires trying to suck up your good reputation, by association.

  • Nathan Jones

    I don’t have strong feelings about BzzAgent. I doubt the relationship would be as damaging as others have said here, but I also doubt it would be the most effective way to get the word out. Instead, consider setting up your own viral marketing campaign, taking the lead from SpreadFirefox. Interested people can contribute ideas, start or help with projects, create materials (eg. posters, presentations) that can assist with getting the word out in the offline world.

    This may be better than relying on BzzAgents, as you’d be starting with a group of people that is already interested in seeing Creative Commons grow. BzzAgent is about offline marketing, but its agents are still Internet connected. The difference is that they are specifically prompted to market offline. So, say to the existing CC crowd “hey, blogs are great, but we really need your help to get this out to everyone”.

  • http://www.eastasiacenter.net/matthewbroudy Matthew Broudy

    I’d like to offer a slightly different opinion about the whole thing. Yeah, they are a bit of a sleazy company, but compared to you’re average PR firm that has no transparency, and get’s articles listed in supposedly repuatable news sources, they’re not that bad. That being said, CC already has an amazingly powerful word of mouth campaign behind it.

    CC not exactly a product, but it still has a potential audience that hs not been reached. Keep in mind that just because it has only been applied to digital media is no reason it couldn’t be applied to other kinds of patents. These patents could potentially be produced by people who are not internet savvy, who do not travel in circles where CC is common knowledge. For CC to fulfill it’s full potential it needs to move off of the internet. In this way Bzzzagents could be very useful to CC. However as a number of people has pointed out, why work with a company that might tarnish your repuatation.

    What I propose is that you work with BzzAgent as special client. Most importantly this would entail not giving points to bzzagents who work with you. Instead you could send interested agents a CD with photos, music, and text distributed under the CC license. You could include some opensource music mixing software, gimp for editing the photos. You could include information about CC, those neat flash videos about the white stripes for example. You could encourage bzzagents to burn copies of the cd for there friends, in this way your not promoting a cool new product, even the average joe will be able to see the value of what your offering. You can ask him to give a copy to musician friends so that they can mix music, graphic artists will be excited about the images and video, writers might be interested in using some of the written work published under CC. I think this has the potential to get information that you need to a demographic that doesn’t have it. What do people think about this idea? I think we need to find a more constructive solution than just telling bzzagent to screw off. Take what you can, and do it in such a way as to maintain your image.
    -Matthew Broudy

  • http://orcmid.com/blog/ orcmid

    I had never heard of BzzAgents before the concern about a CC relationship hit the blogosphere. I looked at the primary debate and how it played out, and I read Dave’s open letter here and on the BzzAgents site.

    There’s something that trips me up every time I read about this, and I think it is right here:

    … they aren�t forced to communicate with anyone, but we help them become conscious of how to share their honest opinion more effectively.

    When is the last time you needed support in sharing your honest opinion more effectively? Why would someone be concerned about that? I don’t think this is Toastmasters, you know? In the only cases I can think where finding the courage to be authentic mattered (asking for a date, proposing to my wife in a public place, giving calm voice to being ill-served in some situation), I can’t see getting green stamps as having any relevance.

    I’ve been in training and development programs where people do take on being able to share something they find valuable, but there are no toasters, only the satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life and being able to do that anywhere that empowering others matters. That’s the closest I can come to someone wanting support in being themselves and sharing something important. But it was the thing itself and no reward in the background that brought people to want that and to take on developing themselves as leaders in their own lives.

    Now, having pontificated about all of that, my question is what is an appropriate action? What’s the way to determine how this can be effective and not end up with a big ewwwww-reaction?

    Maybe there’s a bigger question. I’m always looking for the bigger question. Of what benefit is general popular buzz to Creative Commons? What does engaging popular culture provide? What action do you hope to inspire? In short, why is it felt that any marketing campaign is needed, silent or otherwise?

  • Shane C.

    Personally, I like TragicLad’s suggestions in his most recent comment and, yes, think they would appease the concerns about potential ethical breaches (such as Simon Pole linked to — thank Simon!).

    In the same spirit of looking for creative solutions, I’d like to add my two cents:

    Along with the mandatory disclosure of BzzAgent association and removal of any “payment” system for agents (in CC’s case, at minimum), I sugest that all parties here would be well served if BzzAgent were to, furthermore, release all of the “talking points” that it distributes to its agents under a Creative Commons license.

    That way:

    • Creative Commons would benefit (as originally conceived) from the offline promotion, and would be able to share BzzAgent’s marketing expertise more broadly (e.g.: online, to its current supporters); and
    • BzzAgent’s “belief” in the CC would be shown in actions as well as words and, following TragicLad’s suggestions, would be ethically consistent with the CC as well.

    In other words, CC’s association with BzzAgent could be the start of a “Spread Firefox-like” campaign.

    (And if “reputation by association” is a concern, simply be clear that you’re accepting a conditional relationship, and make those conditions public and explicit. Dave Balter has already stated that their “[business] model has many kinks and concepts to work out”; why not just be similarly up-front, rather than throwing out the pro bono baby with the bathwater?)

  • http://zota.org zota

    Official sanction of a relationship with BzzAgent is a gift from the CC community to a questionable marketing company that has nothing unique to give. If they sincerely believe in changing copyright, they can go right ahead and put up CC licenses and links wherever they choose. But I see no reason to officially reward them with our collective reputations.

    Personally, I prefer not to be associated with them — they seem to be sniffing for charity geek chic — and I don’t want my involvement in CC projects to be tangled with their issues.

    Dump Bzzt. Start a real community-based “get CC” effort.

  • Neal Shrader

    I think the cognative dissonance that’s at play here is that the Creative Commons is about freeing ideas and culture from its current corporate and legal stranglehold. What BzzAgent’s approach does is monitize personal everyday interactions — regardless of the genuine enthusiasm and honesty of a particular agent. In monitizing these interactions, we are being pulled that much further into this corporate paradigm that movements like the Creative Commons are a direct backlash against. I suspect that the foul taste this leaves in people’s mouths is the fact that people are being prompted to act and report to a higher power, instead of just acting of their own volition. Doesn’t the image of someone receiving a Creative Commons buzzKit and logging every interaction regarding the CC Movement seem a bit — forced? artificial?

    On a more superficial note, BzzAgent’s branding might be a part of the problem too. Sematically: Bees — Hive — Drone — Consumer — Product. I’m sick of being labeled as Joe Consumer. And I certainly think it’d be a shame if people started thinking of the Creative Commons as simply a product.

    We want community. We want grassroots. We want things to change. This is a step that’s diametrically opposed these goals. What this gives us is manufactured community and prompted grassroots interaction by a financially motivated third party. It doesn’t matter if an agent really believes in it or not; in the end, BzzAgent told you to do it.

    Please reconsider this relationship. Follow Firefox’s example. They’re on to something.

  • Jonathan

    I recommend dropping BzzAgent. It seems to me that CC has an excellent reputation, and there is far to much risk in having that reputation adversely affected bt BzzAgent’s business model.

    If someone is engaging me in discussion about CC it’s presumably because they think I’m better off by adopting CC licenses for my work. If I was to find out that person had an ulterior motive (ie. shilling for BzzAgent) then I would suspect everything they had said to me about CC (even if everything they said was legit).

    It reminds me of a recent debacle in New Zealand, where someone thought it was a good idea to use postal employees to gather data on the homes they delivered to: http://tvnz.co.nz/view/news_national_story_skin/473029%3fformat=html

    The CC brand seems strong to me; don’t mess with it…

  • Jules Pieri

    I’m a little embarassed to admit that I’d never heard of Creative Commons until I tripped on it through the BzzAgent maelstrom. Clearly this CC community is populated with intelligent, passionate, creative people who know about something that many people like me (a sometimes free-lance writer) need to know about. But I sadly don’t have much time for blogs–as much as I enjoy them–and whatever CC has been doing has passed me by.

    Enter BzzAgent. My instinct is that the type of BzzAgent who would sign up for this campaign would hardly be doing it for a fridge magnet. If anything, they’d be giving their reward points to a non-profit. (Maybe BzzAgent would be able to direct them to CC itself.) But more importantly, that BzzAgent might reach people like me who’d have genuine interest in CC but happen to live lives that don’t yet intersect with CC’ers.

    I don’t see the great harm in that. We are talking about ordinary people here, not evil puppets whose moves are remotely directed by some BzzAgent command central. I wouldn’t care that the information came to me through BzzAgent. I’d just be glad to get it.

  • http://mulley.net Damien Mulley

    Said Kevin Wimberly:

    Last thought – Forgot to add this – maybe this should be a call to arms from Larry – Why not have the people that already support CC go out and spread the word?

    I definitely agree with that. The fact that the Creative Commons was aligning itself with this to increase its offline presence means it feels that it needs more coverage. All those that feel so passionately about the Creative Commons need to show their support. How many of us actively promote the Creative Commons, how many have donated cash or time to the Creative Commons ?

    There seems to be an emerging consensus that the CC needs to better promote itself. I think the likes of BzzAgent and other marketing/pr companies should work with the Creative Commons people to design a campaign that involves all the supporters to increase awareness. This campaign needs to be transparent and supporters feedback should be listened to. In return these commercial companies get good PR for helping the Creative Commons but more importantly they get invaluable experience helping a worldwide campaign that is trying to make the world a better place.

  • http://www.coderkeitaro.com keitaro

    I agree with the general sentiment that this association was ill-advised.

    I appreciate that CC wants to spread the word in the physical world, to people who perhaps have never even thought about Copyright or IP, but CC will be viewed negatively by associating with this company.

    And aside from the ethical considerations of lack of impartiality caused by rewarding the agents, the response from Dave Balter to Suw Charman was so aggressive that I for one would not want to see something I believe in associated with the company he represents.

    And his response here makes me even more disturbed.
    It is the usual corporate copper-plate when management gaffe so publicly.
    I just hope he apologises as plainly as his original “liar” post, rather than hide behind corporate doublespeak.

    The model CC should be using for its marketing campaign should be the one established by Mozilla for the Firefox browser.
    It has been highly successful. So much so that even my parents have heard of Firefox. [Which shocked me!]

    I find it interesting to note that someone has already snapped up the spreadcc.com domain.

  • Spence

    Has anyone read this?

    Looks like Dave has retracted a bit…

    http://blog.bzzagent.com/article.php?story=20050502055230461

    From my perspective at least Dave’s listening. Most corporate folks would simply either spend millions on a PR campaign dissing us and/or just disregard…

  • anonymous

    Ben Yates:
    >”…offering incentives for social behavior >destroys people’s trust. It takes away from the >honesty of social interaction.”

    This is precisely the problem with stealth marketing and it’s a point that needs to be hammered home. Imagine what the world will be like if stealth marketing becomes widespread, a world where I have to be on a constant state of alert, having to evaluate whether *any* person I talk to is going to try and sell me something. I have to evaluate whether it’s worth the *risk* of talking to someone. When somebody asks me to take their picture I have to think, is this person trying to sell me a camera? Now what I am going to do? I’m simply going to ignore anybody who asks me to take their picture. I’m going to ignore any stranger who asks me a favor. I’m going to ignore any stranger who starts to talking to me in public places (although Bzzt has got private places covered pretty well don’t they?)
    Walking downtown will be like walking through a bunch of carny’s at the fair: Just look at the ground and ignore them.

    I’m willing to spend my time helping someone out, but I’m not willing to spend it being marketed to. At the very least, it should be *me* who decides that I want to spend my time being informed of products, not you Mr. Balter.

    Suw:
    >”Now, if companies want to try their luck with >BzzAgent, that’s up to them.”

    I object to this statement. Why? Because it’s not up to *me*. I don’t get a choice to be a part of the stealth marketing campaigns. Any other type of marketing I can opt out *except* this one.

    I don’t want your product Mr. Balter. How do I opt out? Should I be a hermit? Do you suggest that I constantly be on guard with everyone I talk to? I know that your agents aren’t going to introduce themselves as such. Should I prepare to walk through the valley of carny’s every day?

    Your methods truly disgust me, they are insidious and prey on the good nature of people. Some may say that for any other product/marketing, this would be fine: if people don’t want it the market will respond, people won’t buy. In this case however, I, and everyone else, are consumers of your product, and have no say in the matter. The market can’t correct this.

    Mr. Lessig, I think you have greater social responsibilities than promoting Creative Commons.
    Even aside from social responsibility this will hurt Creative Commons. You will definitely lose respectability among the people who spread the *real* word of mouth. People who believe in the cause so deeply that they don’t need, nor want, money to spread the word. Look at the outrage already. You may gain the laymen but you will lose the experts.

  • http://www.gomaya.com/glyph Dave Pentecost

    Yes, it was ill-advised, unnecessary, self-defeating, cheapening of your principles and your “brand”. With the best minds on the planet already supporting CC, there has to be a better viral campaign that you can produce.

    Larry – I saw you at Cooper Union with my Cooper graduate son and for us it was as historic as Lincoln appearing there (didn’t see him, though!). Thanks for the inspiration and please keep up the good fight.

  • Todd Morman

    In monetizing these interactions, we are being pulled that much further into this corporate paradigm that movements like the Creative Commons are a direct backlash against.

    Yes, exactly. Isn’t the commercialization of social space the precise problem CC was created to fight?

    While it’s good Dave has quickly apologized to Suw (simultaneously making sure to “out blogs as a mechanism that has no editorial review” – like that’s news), it doesn’t alter the fact that his company has little to offer CC beyond a well-deserved bad reputation. Dave insists in his apology that those of us who don’t like BzzAgent are operating “without consideration for how we really work.” Bullshit. Seems to me we’re all quite clear on how these folks work (Dobbs nailed it above). Dave may actually believe his company is a Radically Different marketing tool that has no similarity to Those Other sleazy companies, but that doesn’t make it true.

    P.S. I’m going to commit to spreading the word more directly about Creative Commons myself, and encourage others to use this episode to do the same. I’ll expect my skateboard soon, Larry.

  • Dan Wright

    Zzbagent 007 pointed out that Bzzagent will be taking an ~$100,000 tax write-off for this work. This is no small thing; tax incentives are a big motivator for corporations doing “charitable” work (art patronage, donations to charity, etc…), and effectively mean that the american taxpayers are subsidising this little project on behalf of CC, whether they want to or not. Given the general “creeppyness” of Bzzagent (which I agree exists even though it is hard to quantify), in combination with their great effort to sell how wonderful they are for doing this, makes me say “stay away”!

  • Keith Ivey

    This is reminiscent of WordPress’s recent disastrous alliance with search-engine spammers, and it’s just as disappointing and incomprehensible. BzzAgent is in the business of face-to-face spam, and will tarnish the reputation of CC. I hope CC will see the error of their ways as quickly as WordPress did and disassociate themselves from BzzAgent.

  • Bruce Heerssen

    Prof. Lessig, I think some folks have had some very interesting things to say about this. I do not have any first-hand knowlegde of BzzAgent, so I won’t comment directly on them.

    I would, however, point out that if you want a movement to stand on its own deserved reputation–as opposed to a manufactured one–you would be best served by avoiding any appearance of impropriety, even where none exists in reality. Specifically, it appears that BzzAgent has enough negative “Bzz” (sorry ;) that any association with them, no matter how altruistic, is likely to tarnish CC’s reputation and hence its effectiveness in fulfilling its mission.

  • Anon_Coward_and_proud_of_it

    SPAM SPAM SPAM:
    “Yeh thats really great music man, have you heard about CC ? Yeh it’s really cool. I like your image, have you considered how these Shoes (insert brand here) could enhance it?
    And like this Music Service (insert Brand here) man would be really cool to realease your stuff on man, they’ll protect your CC rights with their excellent DRM. Yeah really cool.
    And everyone man they are using this program (insert brand here) to edit tracks man, yeah man that Free Gnu stuff just crashes man….”

    As the Bzz service costs, the other products bZZd are more likely to be corporate rather than Open Source.

    Also the top 100 Bzzer on the Buzz site ( an example of good practice ) when asked directly by someone who he is Bzzing shoes to “how, young man, do you know that?” – he lies: “”It’s a Trivial Pursuit fact. …”. Now maybe it is but thats not how he knows it..he declines to mention he is being paid in kind to promote shoes, in fact in none of the Bzz examples does anyone mention they are Bzzing, promoting a product or have been given free samples.

    That top 100 bZZer on their site, they’ve destroyed him with their prizes.
    He’s at a political rally party and everyone all night is engaged in political debate and all he can think about is how to mention his shoes, It really bothers him all this political talk, he keeps trying to steer conversations into areas where he can mention his shoes.
    This is bad, very bad.

    Hey how about reediting all that CC’ed content out there so it includes products that I am Bzzing. Wow big prizes.

    In fairness the Bzz site does say that Bzzers should Bzz about Bzz and be honest. But it never states ( i had a good look ) that anyone should disclose, they are working for expected rewards and promoting free samples.

    Why don’t Bzzers disclose their interests? Because if the listeners knew the truth they would switch off and take the recommendation with salt pinches.

    Bzzing depends apon non-disclosure to be effective.

    Agents are paid in kind.
    Bzzing is a dishonest form of spam.

    Speech just got a whole lot less useful.

    Choose Viral Marketing Bedfellows wisely.

  • Rob Davis

    Team CC —
    You should’ve known better than to hop in bed with a company that has stirred so much controversy in the blogosphere.

    Quickly step away from BzzAgents before CC is permanently smeared.

    Spreading buzz among a bunch of strangers is not worth the damange this will cause to your core fans/users.

    -Rob Davis

  • three blind mice

    We wonder if there�s a world where marketers can utilize honest opinions instead of tag lines. It�s a big change, and one that may have its pitfalls, but you can�t blame us for trying.

    you might be blamed, dave balter, for not trying.

    and good on you for making an effort to innovate.

    considering the comments expressed here, many of which seem openly hostile to commercial endeavour, it may be better for BzzAgent to pull the plug on CC before YOUR reputation is damaged.

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    There’s been some interesting debate about this on my personal LiveJournal: Is advertising evil?. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not accurate to say that BzzAgent pays people to “shill” for products, since they get rewards whether or not they say positive things, and the rewards are not necessarily even physical goods, they can be donations to non-profits.

    However, it is clear that a BzzAgent only gets rewarded if they write reports back to home base about how people responded to the “Bzz”. Some people might think of this as getting rewards for “spying on your friends.” While there is no need to include personal details in your report, it is certainly possible that even with all identifying information removed, your friends may still object to you telling their personal stories to a marketing company. How does BzzAgent deal with these privacy issues?

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    It’s easier and more fruitful to keep your existing customers than to replace them with new ones.

    Users of CC licenses have an emotional investment in CC. They may apply ethical standards to CC that you never expected. If you asked them “CC goes to a football match; how will it behave?” or “CC finds a wallet with 100 dollar in it; what will it do?”, they could probably come up with an answer.

    That you (“you” being CC.org) get flamed so much may be a surprise; it may not even be fair. But it is something you will have to deal with. Alienating your current customer base is not always a bad decision. But you better be sure that the new customers are worth it, because the old ones won’t come back.

  • Eric Stephani

    I understand what CC is trying to do. But why do they have to “commercialize” it? The moment you provide incentives to someone to promote something they would not normally talk about it, it becomes commercialized. Your, in effect paying for that product placement. In this case it would not be CC, but BzztAgent paying (I think). I don’t know, I just get a weird feeling about it.

  • http://orcmid.com/blog/ orcmid

    I read Dave’s apology. It just gives me more questions. How the hell is the use of BzzAgents fostering open, two-way dialog in the marketing space? Huh, tell me what kind of dialog and relationship is that? OK, I’ve had enough with this one. If you don’t walk your own talk, forgettaboutit.

  • Nikki

    I’m in total agreement with those who advise CC to end the relationship with BzzAgent. It seems to me that the people who are most likely to be true evangelists of CC are the very people who are turned off byt the tactics of BzzAgent. Aren’t there any marketers at CC? If so, didn’t they learn anything from “New Coke?”

    The image of CC joining the throng of companies and organizations trying to manipulate public (even a very select segment of “the public”) opinion is quite at odds with the core principles of CC.

    There is no question that CC should end the relationship with BzzAgent. Professor Lessig, I don’t even know why you’re wondering what you should do. My recommendation is to approach an ad agency or marketing consultant and ask them to take on CC as a pro bono client. A good agency/ consultant will help create a solid marketing campaign that identifies itself as just that – a marketing campaign. Then there will be no need for “transparency” because everyone who sees it will know that it is actually paid (even if pro bono) advertising – unlike BzzAgent.

  • Joe Buck

    Look, there’s not even an issue here. For CC to associate itself with BzzAgent is just wrong and brings discredit on CC. As for BzzAgent’s offer to use its shills to promote CC “pro bono”, the only bono that BzzAgent is being pro for here is its own. It’s an attempt to legitimize something sleazy, namely efforts to produce “buzz” by subverting human relationships. When a “friend” recommends something to me, and I later find out that this “friend” made the recommendation to get BzzAgent points or something similar, that’s corrosive to the relationship.

    By the way, your new security system prevents people with dynamic IP addresses from posting comments. Folks with such addresses are supposed to use their ISP’s SMTP relay, but that’s not possible when posting a form. So if you’re converting your comment posts to email, and then applying a blackhole system to the resulting email, that’s just broken (I tried posting this comment last night from home, so now I’m posting from work).

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com John

    Commons Music has our position statement on this up (hint: it’s not positive).

  • http://www.prelinger.com Rick Prelinger

    I wonder if there are other things CC and like-minded orgs might to do encourage people to get behind its licenses and ideas. While attending the BBC Creative Archive License Group launch a couple of weeks ago, I was struck at the generational divide between CC-type orgs and the audiences they hope to reach. We are a bunch of people, mostly 25-55 years old, trying to target a group that is overwhelmingly aged in their teens and twenties. We need younger people involved in these initiatives, not just as model users but also in policy-making and governance positions. And we need more younger artists out in front — my consciousness was deeply influenced by David Byrne, but I don’t think him and Gilberto Gil are speaking to my 14-year-old nephew.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    BzzAgent’s ethically dubious tactics seem to be in keeping with similar practices:

    “Corey Greenberg, tech editor for NBC’s ‘Today’ show… received payments from Apple as well as Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Seiko Epson, Creative Technology and Energizer Holdings, charging $15,000 apiece to talk up their products on news shows. The contracts were first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal….James Oppenheim, technology editor for Child magazine, has also appeared on ‘Today’ and a number of local news shows, trumpeting products made by his clients. These include Microsoft, Radio Shack, Atari, Mattel, LeapFrog Enterprises and Kodak, for a fee of $12,500 for each media tour, the Journal said.” [Washington Post | April 19, 2005]

  • nathan

    You don’t need astroturf, you need a cool t-shirt. I wore a copyleft shirt to a party full of Disney employees and they asked what it was about. They were interested because the emergent consequences of our current copyright system isn’t something they usually think about.

  • http://www.kylebunch.org Kyle Bunch

    Rather than signing up with the BzzAgents (and their questionably-honest tactics), how about using the CC community to establish an open source, intensely-honest/transparent version of the same thing?

    I’m sure that with a little coordination, there could be thousands of BzzAgents who ACTUALLY PUBLISH CC WORKS REGULARLY, who would love to go out and talk about CC to others….just provide us with some key points, and let us go to town.

    With all the talk about transparency these days, the Commons has a tremendous opportunity to bring some structure and protocols to the world of viral marketing.

    I, for one, am more than willing to help lead the charge.

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com John

    Hey, remember those journalists that government offices paid to promote their agenda? Guess they really “accelerated and augmented” by creating “bzz,” huh?

  • http://terminal.n17.waw.pl alek

    I think the move was a wrong one, even the message about it on the CC weblog was unusually artificial and strained, with its “regular joes”, “bzzzing campaigns” and “sharing opinions with consumers” (I think CC should be about sharing with *people*). And the invitation to “become a BzzAgent and help support Creative Commons” makes no sense, because you do not need to be a BzzAgent to support CC and I see no reason for CC to invite its own supporters to join Bzzz army. Thinking along these lines, BzzAgents don’t need a Bzzz campaign to spread word about CC as well- if they are really passionate about it, they should do it anyway. That’s what people do after all, talk with each other about things they care about – but without an incentive structure, hierarchically provided information, etc.

    This has already been mentioned above, the best outcome of this episode would be a grassroots “Spread CC” campaign, if CC feels that a more organised campaign is needed on top of all the ongoing activity. Maybe all is needed are some simple tools, like a good webpage hub and things like leaflet / poster / sticker / button / stencil / t-shirt designs (at best easily translatable) that can be printed and spread in the offline world.

  • http://www.bbsdocumentary.com Jason Scott

    Drop the relationship. Bzz is the sort of organization I would wake from a deep sleep so I could slit their throats, because letting them die in their sleep would be too merciful.

    It would be soundly ironic if, on the eve of announcing a 4-year project documentary I’ve been working on and releasing under a CC license, I had to turn around an discredit everyone involved in this decision.

    Yeah, file me under the “extremes”. I will show you all what “extreme” is.

  • Matt Price
  • http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/ Alan De Smet

    On the whole, if some marketing firm wants to spread the message, good for them. A few random thoughts on why maybe not in this case.

    • Lots of people find BzzAgent fundamentally offensive. Hard to say if “enough” people do. If most BzzAgents are sincere about spreading the word I see no harm. If there are lots of mercenary people doing it just for the rewards, that’s not so cool, but I could live with it. Ultimately you need to look at the angry pro-CC people. Some will complain but will ultimately move on. Some will actually do something negative (at the very least severing their relationship with CC). If the number of people who learn about CC and become interested exceeds the number of angry people who get angry, it’s probably worth. Unfortunately it’s hard to guess what the numbers are. You’re more likely to get people complaining than saying good things; that’s just human nature. Worse, many people claim to be in group 2 (Will get angry and stop using/evangelizing CC), but are actually in group 1 (Will complain bitterly, then get on with their lives). (And rather cynically, will stopping using CC actually make the world a better place? Do you really want such fickle supporters?)
    • BzzAgent has shown a remarkable lack of tact. Like it or not, Blogs are a major force in CC. I’d be very leary of pissing “the blogosphere” (to the extend that such a concept exists) off. Clueless comments like “BBloggers as Liars” are dangerous. They show a deep lack of a clue about viral marketing, the area they’re supposed to be experts in. Secondly, this is likely to anger existing CC supporters even more, moving more potentially into camp 2. At this point it could be viewed as a personal insult. Not so good.

    All in all, a shame. I think it could have been a good opportunity and this particular tiff could have been sorted out with some charismatic ego soothing on both sides. BzzAgent escalated things when they should have known better. As a result, I’d suggest you break off the relationship. I would be careful to do so politely. BzzAgent doesn’t deserve to be vilified and the people taking more extreme positions shouldn’t get the sense of “complete victory, clearly I should be extreme and closed minded in the future!”

  • http://www.jarche.com Harold Jarche

    A Commons is a shared space, and must be cared for by and for all of us. BzzAgent’s norms seem to be antithetical to CC’s, and I cannot see this relationship as beneficial to the Commons. It raises BzzAgent’s credibility and may give some short-term markets to the CC name, but what will it do to the Commons?

  • Shane C.

    I support Alan De Smet’s call for moderation and open-mindedness…but disagree with the idea that a simple cost/benefit analysis (of “how many supporters gained” vs. “how many supporters lost”) is all that’s required here. As numerous others have pointed out in various forms, this is, in part, an ethical consideration — and ethically speaking, the end doesn’t always justify the means.

  • rjh

    My first gut reaction was “oops. mistake.” but it took some thought to figure out why. The problem boils down to this: so long as there is a relationship between bzzagent and CC, any supporter of CC is immediately suspect as being a dishonest paid shill. Some people will accept those suspicions and continue to support CC. Others will decide to protect their personal reputations by ceasing to support CC. Which leaves CC supported by a mixture of fanatics who care more about CC than about their reputations, and paid shills. That is not the kind of company that I would want to keep.

    It would be far superior for the bzz people to simply donate money to purchase up front honest advertising. The Firefox campaign worked in part because there was no hint that the supporters were covertly paid. Their endorsements were clearly and transparently motivated by support for Firefox. The advertising was clearly and transparently advertising. Readers were not deceived about anybody’s motivations or intentions.

    Please end this relationship. I don’t want to have to deal with the conflict between having an reputation for honesty and endorsing the CC licenses.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    Suw Charman accepts Dave Balter’s apology; suggests he “murder…[his]…darlings“.

  • perianwyr

    I think the most hilarious part about all this is that BzzAgent is a company that’s supposed to trade on reputation, and here it is getting trashed.

    Way to rock out.

  • http://www.tom-hanna.org Tom Hanna

    Apparently in the Creative Commons crowd it’s not that common to be creative. I don’t think I’ve seen such an anticapitalist crowd since the Wall fell.

    Anyway, mark my vote for spreading the word any honest way you can.

  • http://www.zenatode.org.uk/ian/ Ian Gregory

    Very interesting debate going on in these comments. When I started reading my gut reaction was that linking CC to BzzAgents was a bad idea. Having read all the comments and thought about it a bit my gut reaction has proved correct. I think it is a terrible idea, and unless the relationship is terminated I will not be inclined to promote CC to the extent that I have been. Larry, please try to get this stopped.

  • http://www.memeticminds.com Martin

    I agree with the people who believe that CC + BzzAgent is not a good idea. The one ironic thing: it’s only because of this debate that I am getting really interested in CC, which I (hobby musician, with that old dream of one day reaching more than those 5 to 10 friends of mine…) haven’t really paid any attention to so far. ;-)

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    So, let’s be realistic and look at the results of this marketing effort so far:

    1) Dave Balter has made a fool of himself in public, then confirming he should have known better by apologizing.

    2) CC has given the impression that it could be any combination of the following
    - Imperceptive enough to miss that bloggers (CC’s current base) are communicatiors first and online publishers second
    - Not effectively using their own bright people. My first thought was “Matt Haugey said ‘ok’ to this?” and it turns out he thought it was a poor idea too.
    - Not listening to their base. The general consensus of bloggers is that BzzAgent is “creepy”. That’s not something CC should want to associate with.
    - Not having a conversation when it matters. If the CC had asked before the annoucement if it was a good idea, they would have received a similar answer without the PR cost.
    - Not creative enough to actually ask their base how CC can raise awareness outside of the blog publishing world.

    Regardless of whether any of these are true, it’s the perception that matters. This has been a massive PR flop for Creative Commons. Cut and run as soon as you can.

  • http://www.commonsmusic.com John

    Speaking of bloggers as liars, Dave has told a fib of his own.

  • http://www.robmers.org/ Rob Myers

    CC getting into bed with BzzAgents is a bad idea. As other posters have pointed out, CC will pay for this in credibility. In fact I fear they will pay for this *with* their credibility.

    I push CC “offline”, and I have got genuine results. I don’t want half-assed pay-per-shill idiots undermining my efforts. Particularly half-assed pay-per-shill idiots organised by a publicity company that can’t even damage control its own image.

    This will be an Andrew Orlowski article shortly, between his anti-blog rants, so please end this unholy union before he can claim “It Was Me Wot Won It”.

  • Jon Husband

    I agree with the comments such as those of brewster Kahle and Stephen Downes … this is a nuanced form of PR, where the BzzAgents are being “rewarded” .. dave balter’s word.

    That’s the whole point of participatory, bottom-up dynamics .. the “rewards” come from alignment with beliefs and values put into some kind of action.

    GONG !

  • http://www.coderkeitaro.com keitaro

    “hostile to commercial endeavour” – Three Blind Mice
    “such an anticapitalist crowd” – Tom Hanna
    “Capitalism: An economic and political system in which a country�s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state” – Oxford English Dictionary

    I do not think many of the comments here show an anti-commercial or anti-capitalist bent.
    I for one was more concerned for the reputation of CC than in expounding any socio-political theory.
    The fundemental ideas behind CC do not actually support any specific socio-political theory.
    You could argue that CC is very capitalist in nature, as the intellectual capital is controlled by private individuals and not the state. [Or large corporations. As they are more powerful than, and indistinguishable to, the state nowadays.]
    And also that CC encourages the kind of capitalist entrepreneurialism that drove early society.
    Some people actually do release things under CC licenses with the idea that �1: Content, 2: CC, 3: �. , 4: PROFIT!�.
    They use CC to increase their profile, and by doing so increase the likelihood of employment or publication.
    Other people use CC to create a free and open dialog to help incubate new commercial ideas.
    So to say the crowd here is anti-commercial or anti-capitalist is a little na�ve.
    CC is a “Creative Commons” and is therefore accessible to, and usable by, people of ALL political persuasions.
    We are just concerned that the �good name� of CC could be damaged by this association.
    Perhaps we are being a little too acerbic in our commentary, but that is because it is genuine and heartfelt.

  • Jon Husband

    From TragicLad upthread:

    I think BzzAgent’s big mistake from day one has been to offer reward points for buzzing

    exactly the point .. we live in a society that has become driven by “rewards” (btw, Alfie Kohn once wrote a great book tilted “Punished By Rewards”). People don’t have to care about the wisdom or usefulness of CC .. they’re gonna get reward points for talking it up. Yippee … more points … points … points. Cool – a “Frequent Bzzzer”.

    Word of mouth that is meaningful comes from fans, believers, people who want to believe and support “a better way”.

    This BzzAgent controversy is creating a fair bit of buzz in the blogosphere for CC .. but probably in ways more damaging to CC’s reputation than helpful in spreading the word about CC’s usefulness.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    Jon Husband:

    Alfie Kohn once wrote a great book tilted “Punished By Rewards”

    An incredible book. He has several other great ones too. I can’t say how much he has influenced my approach as an educator. I highly recommend it and see many parallels to what Kohn speaks of and what makes many FOSS/CC artists/coders tick.

    Highly energetic and creative people are often the ones who do what they do regardless of what they may garnish as a wage. Of course, this does not mean they do not accept a wage if offered – but one could say they encounter their “rewards” rather serendipitously. Such passionate work is very beneficial to the world as a whole. It is such a shame to see the US mentality do whatever possible to suppress such beauty.

  • http://www.electricinca.com Matthew Wharton

    I was agnostic about this issue initially as I had until now never heard of BzzAgent, but having read the comments here I’m now leaning towards the ending of this new relationship.

    I’m sure the offer was made with the best of intentions, I’m assuming that it was BzzAgent that approached Creative Commons and not the other way round, but if there is this much negative feeling then such a relationship could do more harm than good.

    However there does seem to a feeling amongst many people that the Creative Commons needs to be better promoted offline than it is currently. It is quite a difficult concept to get across to people when the mainstream media is most often pushing the agenda of the big media owners and talking about piracy of intellectual property. I’ve talked to a few artists and musicians in the past year that shared the philosophy of free culture and yet had no idea that the creative commons existed.

    In order to launch this campaign BzzAgent will have produced a BzzKit and guide for their BzzAgents in order to assist them with their ‘word of mouth’ promotion. Perhaps BzzAgent has come up with some good ideas to promote Creative Commons offline that we could use.

    I think the best thing now to do would be for the ending of the relationship as it now stands and for BzzAgent to publish this BzzGuide online, under a CC license of course, so that Creative Commoners can use it and add to it. If it is made clear that no one is being rewarded for promoting CC then there can be no question of impropriety anymore.

  • Jonathan Butler

    I encourage you to end the relationship of CC with BzzAgent, as you are already inclined to do, Mr. Lessig, but not because Mr. Balter labelled “bloggers as liars.” He has as much right to make emotional, hyperbolic, unsubstantiated claims as any other blogger. Rather, I find the relationship inadvisable because BzzAgent has insufficiently distinguished themselves from disingenuous viral marketing shills. It may well be that they can succeed in making that distinction in the future, or maybe not, but until they do, the CC “brand” has more to lose than to gain by association with and promotion through BzzAgent.

  • http://www.paultopia.org/blog/ Paul Gowder

    I haven’t read all the comments here, though I have read the originally linked Corante posts and “liars” reply. My thought on this whole thing is that the Corante posts represent a weird kind of “grassroots elitism.” Why shouldn’t a grassroots organization promote itself using the same tools corporations get to use? If CC genuinely believes that these (weird looking) Bzz people will be effective, then use them. There’s no reason to cling to some kind of false purity in this world.

    One of the first things new grassroots community organizers, for example, learn is that they have to get over their inhibitions about asking people for money. Sure, it would be nice if they didn’t have to get their hands dirty with money. But they want to win, right? Then they need to go for the dough to pay for the leaflets and the postage and the website. Much the same can be said for CC and marketing.

    The “Bloggers as Liars” comment is a bit unnecessary. But again, will it help or hurt CC? I think you need to be totally utilitarian about this. I’m personally kind of skeptical that there’s a net benefit from this kind of “buzz” marketing. But if the anticipated return from this marketing is less than the cost of ailenating a few people, go to it!

  • http://www.communityguy.com Jake

    I’ve commented more on this over on my blog:

    CommunityGuy.com

    But overall, CC is having enough trouble solidifying in the minds of the
    world… why bring in a ethically and morally question business as your
    marketing team? (Whether they actually ARE ethical or moral is an
    entirely different question… I’m just saying that they are certainly
    not in a very good position in the minds of the world at this point)

    Any bad press or bad perception only rubs off on CC.

  • http://bcostin.typepad.com Bryan C

    I’d end the relationship. I’m relatively new to CC, but BzzAgents obviously makes a lot of your early adopters uncomfortable. It would be awfully counterproductive to sacrifice the accumulated good will of all these real people for a helping of artificially generated “bzz”. Thank BzzAgents for their kind offer and politely decline.

    I just started using a CC lisense on my flickr account. I see that they’ve also just released their new and improved Creative Commons search facility. It’s this sort of real-world exposure that’ll bring CC to a broader audience, not silly marketing schemes.

  • Nick

    I agree with Suw Charman, especially on this point: Flickr seems to be the perfect model for spreading CC: it’s natural, and fully integrated with the site. Don’t do it artificially (especially through a PR company which – I think there is a wide consensus – dodgy morality.

    CC’s spread might be slow, but it’s happening: people will see it in Flickr all the time, and across the blogosphere. Don’t get impatient.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    Apparently in the Creative Commons crowd it’s not that common to be creative. I don’t think I’ve seen such an anticapitalist crowd since the Wall fell.

    Not “anticapitalist” at all. I – and others – would be happy to see BzzAgent grant a tax deuctible $100,000 cash donation to Creative Common for use in an open, transparent advertising campaign (e.g. banner ads, T-shirts, event promotion – among some ideas).

    It is the questionable tactics and implicit ethics of the current business model of BzzAgent that folks find objectionable.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    Dave Balter – for how much can we put you down to help in underwriting an incredibly creative and transparent marketing campaign? At the very least, how about a matching campaign (dollar-for-dollar), encouraging all BzzAgents and CC supporters to also donate? This might be an interesting solution to help mitigate the admittedly poor PR that has evolved over the past few days.

  • http://www.blissvoid.net ross

    Bzzagent seems incredibly slimy and makes me feel much less warm and happy inside about sharing my stuff via CC.

    It makes me feel less like a part of something real and honest and more like.. a number.

    Just my emotional response. I definitely want the growing wave of CC to continue naturally. It doesn’t need to be pumped full of buzzy steroids
    -ross

  • http://www.blissvoid.net ross

    Also..I was hoping to stay away from marketing. It creeps me out. I don’t want my creative endeavours to be associated with something like Bzzagent.
    -ross

  • http://www.theelusivefish.com TragicLad

    ericb – quick question…
    If, like you say, you are happily filtering out 95% of the traditional forms of advertising, why would you want anyone, let alone CreativeCommons to squander $100,000 on such an endeavour?

    This is the quandry marketers are in. Assuming you have a great service/idea like the CreativeCommons, how do you get people to listen? How do you get the people who should know about CC to sit down and listen for the five minutes or so it takes to explain about it?

    BzzAgent’s solution is to try and set forth a structured Word of Mouth campaign. Dave Balter feels he can get a far better return on investment with that approach.

    Now the prevailing perception here is that such a campaign would be dishonest and poorly executed. I disagree, but if you’re convinced that’s the case, nothing more I can say would change that.

    So if BzzAgent and the like is out, then what would you suggest that won’t be filtered out 95% of the time?

    There have been a couple calls from people to start an open-source marketing campaign, similar to spreadfirefox. That’s certainly a good start, and I hope someone runs with it. When it’s up and running, please direct me to it as I’ll be glad to contribute.

  • quixote

    I’m a science fiction writer and a big fan of open source (mmsf_open_source.html). I have CC licenses on my sf site, my blog, my Flickr posts. I’m technically ignorant enough that I’d never heard of BzzAgent.

    Now that I have, I’m horrified. As one commenter said, if Bzz was sincere, they’d just do it. They’re the ones who’ll profit (and I do mean profit) from a relationship. CC will be touching spam, which is like touching the Marburg virus.

    For God’s sake, don’t do it. For all our sakes, don’t do it. And rinse everything down with strong chlorine bleach.

  • http://bsmoffatt.blogspot.com bmo

    CC needing offline buzz and engaging Bzzagents to do this is like Greenpeace holding a fundraising concert and getting Hell’s Angels to do security. Or something like that. Who made the call?

    Larry, I know it’s a gift, but so is an exploding cigar.

  • http://www.robmyers.org/ Rob Myers

    considering the comments expressed here, many of which seem openly hostile to commercial endeavour, it may be better for BzzAgent to pull the plug on CC before YOUR reputation is damaged.

    Commercial endeavour is not an excuse for a self-defeating business model or for incompetence. A reputation whoring operation that cannot manage its own reputation doesn’t deserve anyone’s time or money.

    More damage:

    http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,67410-2,00.html

  • Ben

    In the afformentioned Wired Q&A, Balter talks about his target audience as “consumers”, and about CC as a “product” and a “brand”.

    I don’t think CC should be, or even can be promoted by people who’ve missed the Cluetrain…

  • Nick

    This is already four days old and no update.

    I think I’ll leave it 5 days, and unless the relationship is withdrawn, I’ll pull the CC licence from all my Flickr photos, and encourage my friends to do the same. I know it’s petty. Are people who are going to be interested in CC really all offline, in bars and clubs?

    CreativeCommons should start a Spreadfirefox-alike, stop this relationship with this company which basically uses people to lie to their friends in order to advertise and profit, appologise to all the people who’ve been spreading CC for free, and then ask itself why it accepted the BzzAgent offer.

    I note BzzAgent does not CC-licence its own website or blog. If they were as passionate as they claim to be – as us unpaid evangelists already are (were) – then that CC licence would have been there for months. That, I think, is all we need to know.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    If, like you say, you are happily filtering out 95% of the traditional forms of advertising, why would you want anyone, let alone CreativeCommons to squander $100,000 on such an endeavour?

    I happily filter out marketing messages which have no pertinence to me or my life…including arthritis drugs, baby carriages and minivans. I happily accept advertising in all forms which inform me of a new film, new CD and even a new automobile in which I might be interested. I have learned to discriminate and “choose” to respond to the marketing messages that “openly” bombard my everyday life. Being “shilled” by a covert method – whether it be from a commentator on NBC “Today Show” who is “talking up” a new gadget (but, is actually being paid $15,000 under the table to do so) or a fellow who has interrupted a conversation at a party to “forcefully inject” half-hearted comments regarding Allen Edmonds shoes (“Which all modern Presidents have worn!”) is repugnant to me – and, to many.

  • http://gnuosphere.blogspot.com Peter Rock

    I’ve finally read all significant posts available and here’s my “opinion” in the form of a paraphrased story…

    Dave Balter said to Suw Charman (emphasis added) -

    We are in the business of helping organize honest, authentic word-of-mouth for companies and organizations.”

    —————————–

    One day the devil and a friend were walking down a winding path. About 50 yards behind the two walked a stranger – an ordinary gentleman. The devil reached into his pocket, pulled out an object, and dropped it on the path in anticipation that the gentleman behind them would scoop it up. As the devil and his friend continued down the path, the friend turned to the devil and asked –

    What was that you left on the path?
    A piece of the Truth“, replied the devil.
    But you are the devil,” said the friend. “That will be very bad for you if people were to learn about the Truth.
    Not all all,” replied the devil. “I shall let him organize it.

    ——————————

    Honest” and “authentic, word-of-mouth” need not be organized in a traditional “business” sense. If what is spoken is authentic it will be self-organizing, powerfully nebulous in nature, and garnish more and more support as it naturally picks up momentum due to its inherent wisdom. That is, if one wants to spread the word about cool trinkets, tools, ideas, knick-knacks, or pattywhacks for sale, then BzzAgent is probably for you. But if you want to pursue a benevolent shift in global consciousness – you needn’t rely on tricks, cleverness, or patches. In fact, in the the long run, doing so may end up hurting one’s cause.

    My understanding of the CC however, is that it is interested in doing something much more powerful in this world – something even beyond the CC itself. Something that most BzzAgents likely miss and thus fail to grasp the big picture. As far as I can discern, the CC is not interested in control, popularity, sales, or profit.

    The CC is interested in awareness. Plain and simple.

  • nalkon

    Marketing people are slimy, right up there with lawyers. Though we’d all benefit from the exposure that CC would get, it’s irrelevant in the long run since Creative Commons is the future anyway.

    If you guys really want some marketing done, there’s better ways to do it than associating with these folks. Create a volunteer grassroots CC marketing organization with open membership, and ask the internet community to participate, and we will. You’ll get the exposure you want without having to sell out.

  • http://www.paultopia.org/blog/ Paul Gowder

    I guess the question is:
    1. Who is your audience? Is it more valuable to have the people posting here against bzzz or the people who they (presumably) can recruit? (And what are they recruiting FOR, exactly? “Hey, you! If you create something, give it a CC license?”)
    2. Will they forgive? How quickly would this blow over?

    By the way: have you seen this story re: some freak suing the FSF for using GPL as a “price-fixing” device? Outrage. I hope the abuse of process suit bankrupts the jerk. CC should keep an eye out for this guy though… http://linuxbusinessnews.sys-con.com/read/80782.htm

  • Kent

    Based on his statements, Dave Balter seems like a hot-head. Does CC really need this kind of association?

    How’s this for a vote on the issue? Over the weekend, I wrote a $250 check to the Creative Commons. It’s still sitting on my desk, where it will continue to sit, until I hear that CC has politely said “no” to Dave Balter.

  • level 9 safeguard

    Please, if you’re going to comment on the way BzzAgent works, familiarize yourself with it. It’s easy to look like a genius in front of a bunch of people who also know nothing about the topic at hand. But for those of us who are actually familiar with the BzzAgent model, you look like a bunch of whiney psuedo-intellectuals who probably keep CD books full of blank CDs with made-up band names written on them so they can get the satisfaction of people saying “I’ve never heard of any of these artists.”

    As a BzzAgent myself, let me clarify a few things.

    1) The rewards often do come from the company paying for the campaign, but in some cases it’s not always feasible.

    2) The rewards DO NOT motivate people to “shill” others. The points are there to motivate us to send in reports letting BzzAgent know when we do “Bzz” someone.

    3) BzzAgent provides the same number of points to us regardless of what we tell people about the product. If I get a cofee maker, and the coffee sucks, and I tell all my friends to avoid it, I still get the same amount of points. This is because I’m not being rewarded to “shill” I’m being rewarded to keep BzzAgent, and consequently their clients, in the loop.

    So please stop saying otherwise, it’s simply not true, and makes me begin to agree with Mr. Balter’s comments about people on the internet being liars.

    This is how you get massive numbers of people in the US believing that Iraq was involved in 9/11. If people say it enough, regardless of whether it’s true or not, it becomes common knowledge. Don’t be those people.

    It is incredible to me that people who love the cause so much would try to hold it back for fear it is selling out or becoming corporate. I wonder how many of you really love CC, and how many just love how obscure and grassroots it is.

  • three blind mice

    peter rock: My understanding of the CC however, is that it is interested in doing something much more powerful in this world – something even beyond the CC itself…. As far as I can discern, the CC is not interested in control, popularity, sales, or profit.

    just like scientology.

    nick: CreativeCommons should start a Spreadfirefox-alike,

    because this is the most effective form of advertising for a cult. unbiased, honest product information is no more likely to come from a “spreadfirefox-alike” than from karl rove. zealots do not question their cause or blaspheme their god.

    dave balter, the negative responses on this board should give you a warm feeling that you are doing something right. when CC is remembered as nothing but an abbreviation for carbon copy, the for profit business model will continue to thrive.

  • http://www.2222322.com JH

    just like scientology.

    …or, just like a non-profit organization.

    because this is the most effective form of advertising for a cult. unbiased, honest product information is no more likely to come from a “spreadfirefox-alike” than from karl rove. zealots do not question their cause or blaspheme their god.

    What god? What are you talking about? CC is an attempt for artists to control their works they way they feel they should, and if that includes sampling, commercial/non-commercial derivatives, or whatnot, then how is that anything akin to a religion? By that matter, couldn’t copyright itself be called a religion unto itself?

    What broad terminology are you using to define this?

  • http://www.blissvoid.net ross

    three blind mice:

    CC is a tool I use to share things I create. I do not see how that relates to religion at all.

  • KCinDC

    Ah, more evidence of BzzAgents’ persuasive people skills: “you look like a bunch of whiney psuedo-intellectuals who probably keep CD books full of blank CDs with made-up band names written on them so they can get the satisfaction of people saying ‘I’ve never heard of any of these artists.’”

    I’m convinced. These are exactly the marketing experts CC needs to improve its reputation and spread its message.

  • http://www.i-boy.com/weblog/ George

    A very interesting debate …

    Among other things, I’m a blogger and photographer. I also like mountian climbing and making web sites with photos from the trip.

    I like Creative Commons and Common Content, and I’ve used its copyright for my creative work.

    I’d like more people to know about CC.

    MW wrote: However there does seem to a feeling amongst many people that the Creative Commons needs to be better promoted offline than it is currently.

    I would argue that Creative Commons needs to be better promoted. Period. Ask around … How many of your non-alpha-geek friends, family, and colleagues have heard of CC?

    Go on. Ask.

    And then ask people in other places other than major metro areas in the USA. Then try asking people in Europe. Sure, CC is expanding, but as great as it is, CC is still relatively unknown by the masses.

    Why not do something about it?

    SpreadFirefox is a great campaign. Let’s do something like it.

    Tell-a-friend campaigns are effective, too, and CC should have better ways for members to inform others about their content.

    Getting CC into places like the Firefox search bar or the new Yahoo! Search for Creative Commons are great initiatives.

    We should do more.

    In addition to being a fan of CC, I’m also a fan of BzzAgent. They’re one of the most transparent marketing and communication companies I’ve ever seen. They have an open, effective business model with reputable clients. They advocate an ethical approach to their business and seem to want to do some good.

    Did Dave Balter screw up and make a mess of things, especially with Suw? Yes. Open mouth. Insert foot.

    That said, it is my experience that Dave is a very passionate person and cares very deeply about the company he is creating … much like the way folks are passionate and care about CC. He was very quick to re-think his words and offer an apology. Not something you see every day …

    Contrary to the opinion expressed in many posts, BzzAgent does not “use people to lie to their friends in order to advertise and profit” … They help companies organize and manage word-of-mouth marketing.

    It is so easy to make fun of and come down hard on BzzAgent … They’ve worked with a sausage company and a shoemaker. Gets a laugh every time. But who cares? They want to help CC, and they want to do it for free.

    There is much CC has to gain from this partnership.

    Work it out. Don’t throw it out.

    “Of course, that�s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”
    - DMiller

  • http://singlenesia.com JohnFen

    TBM said: “The rewards DO NOT motivate people to “shill” others. The points are there to motivate us to send in reports letting BzzAgent know when we do “Bzz” someone.”

    So you’re not a shill, you’re a spy? That’s so much better.

  • level 9 safeguard

    oh yeah, i’m a spy.

    yup, deadly frankenstein gangster assasins are going to descend from my friends’ ceilings in the middle of the night donning thermoptic camoflauge reverse engineered from aliens to insert secret CIA mind chips into their heads. All because I told a marketing company that my friend liked a book i shared with him, and didn’t even tell them his first name.

    Yup, check your house for bugs your friends, or should i say BzzAgents, may have left under the soap dish to broadcast your most intimate thoughts to demonic marketers just so they could get a nascar beer ‘cuzi.

    OR realise that there are real monsters out there to fight, like the marketing companies respnsible for such devious spyware (i.e.: virii) as vx2 and gator. The companies that put coke ads up in your kids highschool bathroom. how about the RIAA and the MPAA?

  • http://singlenesia.com JohnFen

    Well, clearly this is a matter of point of view, but after going over BzzAgent’s website in detail (particularly those horrible BzzAgent reports), I can honestly say that I consider this scheme to be on par with, if not worse than, other devious schemes. Maybe not as bad as spyware, but certainly as bad as coke ads in school bathrooms.

    The problem is that it’s an abuse of personal relationships. It’s bringing marketing into an arena where it simply doesn’t belong. BzzAgents are paid marketing people (just because you get paid in “reward” merchandise instead of cash doesn’t mean you aren’t getting paid).

    This type of marketing is destructive. It means that I have to start turning on a social “spam filter”, so that when I’m talking with anybody in any setting, I have to be constantly wondering if I’m being sold to or being market-researched. BzzAgent is completely different from genuine word of mouth, which is organic and natural, not bought and paid for. I would avoid products and services that make use of this type of marketing scheme just as strongly as I avoid products sold through spam or in-school advertising.

    BzzAgent, in my opinion, devaluates word of mouth, and casts doubt on the honesty of relationships. Yes, I’ve read all those pretty words about transparency and how BzzAgents are ancouraged to by up front aout heir role as marketers. The BzzAgent reports show that in practice none of those words are very true.

  • level 9 safeguard

    JF: I agree with everything you said, except for the personal spam-filter. If your friends are going to tell you that a movie they hated was good, to please a marketing agency that doesn’t care either way if they promote the movie positively or negatively, you might want to think about getting new friends.

    There is nothing inherently evil in what BzzAgent does, it’s what you think BzzAgents might do that is the scarriest thing. It’s the age old “if you give someone a gun, and they shoot someone, who’s fault is it?” but in this case I think you’re looking at it like “if you give a chimpanzee a gun, and they shoot someone, who’s fault is it?”

    Are people inherently good, or inherently bad? I still don’t know the answer to this one.

  • Rob

    BzzAgent may be exactly what it says it is, and maybe Mr. Balter should be taken at his word that his intent is purely benevolent. But I have grave doubts about the ethics of rewarding people for talking up products in casual conversation, whether on or offline. It implicitly cheapens the discourse. Add me to the chorus of echo-chamber voices recommending not proceeding with this relationship. But it’s your project, Prof. Lessig, not mine. You must decide who you feel it is best to ally your project with.

    Here’s my Bzz. Don’t we already have enough marketing and advertising in our lives? Why must everything be viewed as a marketing exercise instead of being decided on merit? It doesn’t matter anymore whether a position has merit, it matters whether it “polls well”. Let’s not convince people that CC is good because it is good, let’s convince them that it’s good because everyone is mentioning it. Just like American Idol must be great television because everyone is talking about it, while NOW with David Brancaccio must be terrible because no one talks about it. There, my own little Bzz for PBS. :)

    I see “Buzz” as a term of derogation, just like “spin”. When I see BzzAgent, I think “SpinAgent”. Spin and manufactured buzz (also known as “astroturfing”) are enemies of enlightened, serious discourse. So Mr. Balter, no offense but I hope your business winds up a dramatic failure.

  • http://singlenesia.com JohnFen

    L9: The problem isn’t that my social acquaintances might lie to me in their recommendations. The problem is that the very topic of their conversation has been intentionally seeded for commercial gain. BzzAgent makes a big deal about how they’re just channelling and organizing something that people do anyway. This is perhaps the most damning thing they have to say. It admits that they are commercializing something very personal and private: our friendships and aquaintanceships (is that a word?).

    This isn’t as simple as people being given free samples and then telling their friends how great the product is. If it were, then it would be more honest and essentially no different than, say, setting up a table in a supermarket and handing out free samples. BzzAgent doesn’t run things like that because they know that in setting up a “buy-in” by participating agents, they are creating advocates who are emotionally involved for reasons that have nothing to do with the products at all. In this sense, the agents are being used even more insidiously than the people they’re “bzzing”.

    I don’t know if I’d call the BzzAgent scheme “evil” or not. It certainly is, in my eyes, manipulative and highly objectionable. More objectionable (in a sense) even than hiring actors to plug products in bars: at least that’s an obvious sales job.

  • http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org Carrie McLaren

    For many of the reasons listed above, I would STRONGLY urge you to end this partnership. The ends simply don’t justify the means.

  • Shane C.

    Earlier in this thread, a commenter pointed out an example on BzzAgent’s website of an apparently “exemplary” report…from an agent who, in fact, blatantly misrepresented their association with the BzzAgent when asked directly.

    Those of you who visited BzzAgent’s website over the past few days to confirm that claim would have found that it was true, and that the report, from “BzzAgent Monel,” was to be found on the site’s Top 100 Agents page as the “BzzReport of the Month.”

    Well, guess what? Apparently BzzAgent’s idea of how long a month lasts is different from mine and the rest of the western world’s, because that “BzzReport of the Month” has just been replaced by a different one…in which the agent does disclose their corporate association (to the “ecstatic” reponse of the person being buzzed, no less!).

    Here’s the current “Top 100 Agents” page.

    And here’s the Google cache of the one from this morning, with BzzAgent Monel’s report.

    [N.B.: If someone could mirror these pages or provide more permanent links through archive.org or somesuch I'd appreciate it, because I have a feeling they might change again pretty quickly.]

    Now, this “correction” wouldn’t in itself be a bad thing…if, along with it, the company had been open/honest/up-front/transparent about the change. (E.g.: “This month’s previous report has been removed due to questions about its appropriateness. For those of you wishing to view that report, a copy is archived on our site *here*.”) But they didn’t do that. Instead, they just “disappeared” it, without comment.

    As a result, it’s hard to see this as anything other than an (attempted) whitewash of the fact that they have actively supported and encouraged the ethically questionable behavior of their agents, as recently as just this morning. And for those of you (like me) who have been trying — to a fault — to give the company the benefit of the doubt, this one can’t be easily excused by saying “well, maybe they’ve made some mistakes in the past…” (because it just happened today), or that “it was just the result of a single agent” (because the webpage change obviously happened from within the company itself). This is the company noticing the callout here (or more likely, seeing references to it in their own blog), and then trying to cover up its sloppy ethics with slippery
    communications.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    Shane C. … I, too, noticed that BzzAgent today replaced this month’s “BzzReport of the Month” – i.e. Monel’s report – the one in which he/she pitched Allen-Edmonds shoes at an event where he/she poked fun at the participants – e.g. “they have more money than sense, etc.” and tried ever so hard to break into the conversation of a group assembled there. Eventually, he/she found a chance to assert that “every American President since “x” has worn Allen-Edmonds shoes.” This “BzzReport of the Month” was on the BzzAgent site until this morning. It has been referenced elsewhere … and someone will be sure to dig up the original language and webpage. The tone, the language and the underlying disdain for the audience, and the primary focus on the act of “shilling” a product truly reveals the questionable approach of the ethically-suspect tactics of BzzAgent.

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    On review – Shane C. – you reference the appropriate page at BzzAgent (which was referenced until today). I reproduce its contents here –

    BzzReport of the Month
    BzzAgent Monel
    Johnston and Murphy LiTe
    10/20/04
    Social Location

    So I am in North Dallas (Highland Park) at a dinner fund raiser for some congressional candidate. This was well to-do affair in which the people hosting it had more money than sense. If you have a marble driveway leading to the front door. . . anyway, I was there as a favor to a friend. Her boss was hosting it so she had to be there. My wife was in Raliegh all week, so I was getting tired of pick-up from Sonic / Taco Bell. So this was a promising evening if for nothing but the networking. I kept finding myself in conversation after conversation about gun control, stem cell research, etc. I was trying to steer towards airport security so that I could talk about my shankless shoes, but that didn’t happen. But the Presidential race did come up. Hey, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the Presidential aspects of my shoes (which went with my suit – so I was loaded for bear). Somebody got on a Bush vs Clinton soap box (comparing Republicans and Democrats) and they were really droning on. Someone needed to cut the tension – so I was there with “well, you know what they both (being Bush and Clinton) had in common? They wore the same kind of shoes – Johnston & Murphys.”

    That raised an eyebrow – with a question from someone wearing what I think was real fur (Kiki was her name – not kidding) “how, young man, do you know that?” Which I reply – “It’s a Trivial Pursuit fact. Every President since Fillmore has owned Johnston & Murphys. See these shoes I am wearing? These are Johnston & Murphy LiTes. These shoes don’t have shanks either so I don’t have to worry about running around airport security with socks.” So the soap box speaker (who was visually annoyed I took the floor from him) jumps in “speaking of airports . . . ” but he was cut off from another gentleman (Edward) who was either tired of the soap box speaker or actually interested in my shoes. He said “Hold on a second Bob” turning back to me “you said that these were Lites – does that mean they don’t have metal shanks?” Which I explain about the shoes don’t have shanks but also that they are form fitting, the dual-density outsole, and three part insole, etc. Edward said “I haven’t bought a pair of Johnston & Murphy in about four years. Maybe I need to look into some.” I offered to write down the name of the LiTes and my style of shoe on the back of my business card and to drop me a line after he purchased a pair. I hope to hear from him soon.”

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    Allen-Edmonds vs. Johnston & Murphy! It just goes to show how well the Bzz is propagating!

  • http://ericb_metafilter@yahoo.com ericb

    - or, not!

  • http://www.simopole.ca Simon Pole

    Corante calls this “the systemic flaw” in BzzAgents — that it “attracts people who are wannabee manipulators.”

    And the whole point of CC, is not to manipulate people, not to control them, but allow people to have a place where they can make their own choices for themselves and their community.

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    After significant thought, I’ve decided to recommend that Creative Commons terminate its relationship with BzzAgent. (It’s likely that nobody is still reading this far down in the comments, but oh well.) The catalyst for this decision was my experience with promoting Creative Commons tonight.

    I was standing in the hallway of my dorm, talking to some people who were visiting because they lived on this hall last year. We had a long, philosophical discussion about our litigious society and how it makes certain amusement park rides impossible.

    Eventually (I forget exactly how), the conversation turned to free culture, because it is a fundamental part of my philosophy and I think about it all the time as a co-founder of FreeCulture.org. I told them about open source software, DRM, the DMCA, copyright extensions, etc. Then the conversation turned to archiving material, with sites like Archive.org, and I naturally wanted to talk about Creative Commons licenses at that point. I realized at that point it would be easier for me to show them the “Get Creative” video on my computer than explaining CC myself, so I invited them into my room and we watched it together. Finally, since I have a crapload of Creative Commons propaganda lying around my room from the FreeCulture.org booth at the college activities fair, I gave them some CC buttons to take home with them.

    At some point, I started feeling like a salesman. The only thing that kept me from creeping myself out was that I knew that the only reason I was “selling” this stuff so hard was because I honestly care about it, and it came up naturallly because it is part of my life, my philosophy, my worldview. I also knew that although my “selling” Creative Commons to them might be a little weird, they know that I’m just a bit of a crazy activist, and they felt educated and informed afterwards and interested in signing up to our mailing list.

    But if they knew that there were BzzAgents running around promoting stuff, they would be more suspicious of me. If I were a BzzAgent, I would be more suspicious of my own motives, and worried that I am becoming an actual salesman. Even if I am not a BzzAgent, I would worry about them interpreting my “selling” of Creative Commons as the actions of a paid “shill”, and I would be more reserved and paranoid about reaching out to people.

    Whether or not BzzAgents deserve a reputation as paid “shills”, that’s what they look like at first glance to many people, and I don’t want my activism to be questioned in that manner, I don’t want people wondering if when I act like a salesman I’m really a salesman.

    Please terminate the partnership in order to avoid casting suspicion on enthusiastic activists such as myself.

  • http://nelson.freeculture.org Nelson Pavlosky

    Oh, not that anyone cares, but I remember how we got from litigation and amusement parks to free culture… we were discussing whether the amount of crazy people and random violence had increased over the past century, or whether it was constant. I then was going to be like, well, let’s go back and look at TV over the last century, and then I realized that this was impossible, largely because copyright laws don’t permit it. If copyright were only 28 years, we’d be able to see a far broader range of film and TV on Archive.org than we do today, and comparing violence on TV in the 1950′s to violence on TV today would be a trivial exercise for anyone with a broadband internet connection. That’s how I started talking about Archive.org, and then Creative Commons.

    So, it was really a natural evolution of the conversation :-)

  • http://cnuk.org/ mattl

    Nelson, I’m reading this far ;)

    It seems like a really bad idea to me. People who don’t care about something promoting it as if they really did. That’s awful.

    Let’s put our collective energies into producing materials for people who really, honestly care about this, to encourage others to do the same. This is what I do every day, and when I see people I’ve spoken to about it, encouraging and involving others to do the same – that’s better than any ‘prize’ offered by a website, but if people really need a prize – email me and I’ll see what I can do ;)

  • http://ForMothersDay.com hb IV

    great blog! big fan.
    you may want to see the new viral psa going around For Mothers Day,
    for a good cause.
    http://ForMothersDay.com

  • http://blog.bzzagent.com Dev Purkayastha

    (Hi. I’m a web developer for BzzAgent, but am also a big CC partisan first & foremost.)

    “People who don’t care about something promoting it as if they really did. That’s awful.”

    I don’t think this is fair, because we’re presuming that they’re just pimping/shilling the CC idea. I’ve taken a look at the reports that were coming in, and there’s real enthusiasm for the ideas behind CC – the actual ideas mind you. And, I saw some really great dialogues going on – spreading CC ideas to budding law students, to composers, to musicians. This was actually working.

  • http://singlenesia.com JohnFen

    “This was actually working.”

    I don’t think anybody was doubting the effectiveness of it. People were doubting the ethics of it and were worried that the fact that many people have issues with BzzAgent would cause those people to also have issues with CC.

  • Shane C.

    Two corrections and an apology, with the clarity of hindsight (and the absence of adrenalin):

    First: The questionable ethics of one “BzzReport of the Month” as I described them here are, as has since been explained by Dave Balter, a reflection of an earlier and looser code of conduct than the one BzzAgent was operating under at the time of my comment. (That this sort of thing is an evolutionary process for most new businesses I understand completely, and that the difference in the “currently expected” conduct was not disclosed explicitly on that page is something I trust, in good faith, that they will be reviewing in the near future.)

    Second: The fact that that page was pulled a day *before* the announcement of their new (and substantially improved) code of conduct, rather than the day of or the day after, I can certainly excuse given the exceptional circumstances of the past week.

    And finally and most importantly: my concluded accusations of a “whitewash” and “coverup” in that comment were, in light of these facts, unfounded and unfair, …and the raw emotion with which I stated them was uncalled for under any circumstance. My apologies to Dave Balter and BzzAgent for my vitriolic and unjustified attack…and my apologies to anyone who read and participated in this thread for damaging and detracting from, rather than supporting and contributing to, the more level-headed ideas/opinions/beliefs that were expressed in this discussion.