January 8, 2007 · Lessig
I’ve followed up on some of the comments in the extended entry below.
One general point: Again, these “distinctions” are not; they describe continua, not categories. Maybe there should be a scale on each access — from extreme RW to extreme RO, total “commercial” to total “sharing.” I’ll think about how best to tinker with that as I see more examples.
Thanks again for the examples — and please feel free to add more.
From the comments:
Tom suggests I “work up a range of dimensions.” As the introduction indicates, I totally agree, and will, as more examples fill the matrix.
Serge suggests technical documentation for Free Software is read only? I don’t get that: All of those manuals are licensed under the (copyleft) FDL, which guarantees the right to edit and modify.
Crosbie read my post as “creat[ing] a schism” and asks why I “would seek to exclude commerce from ‘sharing.’” But again, I’m not trying to “exclude” anything. I’m trying to describe what there is. And indeed, hybrids are precisely sites which practice commerce by encouraging sharing.
Surfer Dude didn’t like the matrix much (“by far the most inance crap youve produced to date”) (he’s obviously not familiar with much of my work), though apparently the inanity infected his brain, for a bit later, his examples were among my favorite. The bathroom stall example shows the continuity with real space; the Burger King example points to a whole class of examples — think about Securities disclosures.
JSTKatz: I agree with all three examples — and agree the third is ultimately extremely productive, though norms against taking porn seriously are seriously constraining.
timsamoff: Perfect example, yes, to demonstrate the value of the mix. It would be great to see how many of the people who give things we call sermons now have them available in a RW way.
Bill Bliss is trying to understand the core distinction. So am I. He suggests audience-generated vs site-generated content. That is also a useful distinction, but not quite the one I’m focusing on. I’m interested in the effective freedom people have with the content, whether site generated or not. Klir is a cool example, however. I do agree, however, that even core Comm/RO sites will use RW — as iTunes does. Another example — Amazon. Even without the reviews, gather data about who likes what creates enormous value back to the user.
Karen regrets libraries are RO. I don’t. I like the RO character of libraries. But I don’t think that’s all they should be.
Tim Hurley points to a perfect hybrid: Threadless.com. This is relatively little demanded of users. When more is demanded of users, are more “rights” required?
Ryan and Own want to complicate things: Maybe that’s necessary. I’ll think through that as I sort through the examples.
michael houghton points to forums as RW-Noncommercial. That’s certainly true, but there are some great examples of RW-commercial. I wrote about one in a review in the London Review of Books — Microsoft.
Dave’s DSL reports is a great example of the progress I want to track as well — sites beginning in one form and moving to another.
Jim Downey’s pointing to Project Gutenberg is the point in reverse. Gutenberg was here long before most of us. It was constrained by technology. But as technology has progressed, it has been able to expand the range of freedom its technology can offer. But in the nature of its work (public domain material) one is free to do with it as one wishes. LII is also a perfect example I should have thought of. In both cases, I don’t think donations make things commercial.
Andy Oram discussed O’Reilly’s work here — as always — signals the future. I hadn’t seen wikicontent before, but this is precisely the experiment I’m trying to understand. O’Reilly is signaling clearly a part committed to the public. I would hope (because then there would be much less of this) that it wouldn’t be necessary for a company to swear off of profits to be able to get community participation. But this is precisely the measure — how much must one give up to get the community to play.
Janet and Crosbie had a significant exchange about CC that is not directly on point. I’m going to defer a complete response. My partial response to Janet is this:
(1) I believe the termination of transfers tool is certainly about the commons: There is a huge amount of scientific and scholarly work locked up in old agreements that needs to be freed for the net. This will be a tool to help do that.
(2) There is a very difficult (maybe unanswerable) debate about whether encouraging and facilitating some contribution to the commons on balance weakens or strengthens the commons. There are easy cases on both sides: If a parallel strategy (noncommercial and commercial) encourages music that otherwise couldn’t be contributed to the commons in any way, that’s a good thing. If a parallel strategy encourages an academic to distribute articles he would have published in a pure open access way now in a commercial way, that’s a bad thing. But I think the strategy should be to make arguments to creators, not to force structures into place that remove the choices of creators. And the critical point (and I should save this for a fuller post because this is too easy to misunderstand) is that people in the free culture and free software movements have got to recognize that not all creators live in an economy that gives them the choice to simply give everything they make away for free. It’s easy to say to an American law professor that all his or her articles should be licensed CC-BY. But it would be absurd to reason from the fact that that is easy to the conclusion it is easy to say to all photographers that all their work should be licensed CC-BY.
Nihongogakusei: What a great site. Hadn’t seen it. Thanks.
Dustin Kick: .Mac is also an example I hadn’t thought of. Thanks as well.