November 26, 2008  ·  Lessig

Chris’ post says:

For Obama media to be offered under a CC license (with the licensed embedded in the media itself) would signal his seriousness about embracing openness, transparency and the nature of discourse on the web. It would also signify a shift towards the type of collaboration typified by Web 2.0 social sites, enabling a modern dialectic relationship between the citizenry and its government.

Note the “seriousness” of Obama’s commitment here might well be wondered about. Note the tag line on “change.gov“: “CONTENT COPYRIGHT © 2008. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.” Talk about “change” — an effectively governmental website claiming “all rights reserved.”

  • Dan Bentley

    I thought that works created by the government were public domain. Am I just horribly mistaken? Why not make this public domain?

  • Dan

    Just to play devil’s advocate, it seems the operative phrase here is “effectively governmental.” When the web site is paid for by public revenues (i.e., taxes), then the public will have a right to expect and demand the use of the work it has funded.

    After all, a commercial monopoly may be “effectively governmental” or a nonprofit organization that provides a service that government has reneged upon may also be “effectively governmental” depending on what you think “governmental” means. Anyone who has the ability to exert coercive force is “effectively governmental” in some sense.

    While the transition is still merely the transition, and does not actually hold the direct coercive power of government, perhaps it should still reserve all rights as a default, as they contend with the imperative to stay on message during this very sensitive period. I mean, practically speaking these folks have much bigger fish to fry than IP issues surrounding the transition itself, which will evaporate on Jan 20. And until then they are essentially a private enterprise, even if they are preparing to take over the reins of public power in a few weeks. Perhaps the transition material will become public property at that point?

    Final thought: they haven’t chosen the CTO yet, have they? Perhaps when that person comes on, he or she will have an opinion on this. Or not. Does Eric Holder have any track record on this stuff? Who else would be in charge of IP-related issues in the Executive branch?

    Bottom line: I suspect they just haven’t bothered to think about this yet, and used the reflexively “safe” default so as not to spend time on it. When the promised transparency of more open government begins to be implemented with a strategic plan, I expect this sort of thing will indeed change. But I’m willing to wait a few weeks to see it happen.

  • http://ejnorman.blogspot.com Eric Norman

    I would bet you’re right that they just haven’t thought about it yet.

    But I’ll also bet a lot more that they won’t think about it unless prodded.

  • http://digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    Given rights are self-evident and inalienable, none should be willingly surrendered, and if a state would suspend them should the individual fail to ‘reserve’ them, they should indeed all be reserved without compunction.

    Unfortunately, I fear an individual’s reservation of their rights is impotent. The natural right to share and build upon published culture has been suspended by the state granted privilege of copyright – and without consideration to any reservations the individual may have about this suspension of their liberty.

    If Barack Obama would cease suspending citizens’ rights then he would abolish copyright, and at least in the interim neutralise the copyright applying to his works with a copyleft license.

    Now that’s what I’d call change.

  • http://rekha6.wordpress.com Rekha

    I agree that there’s still time before can know just what the new team’s policy is. I do find it interesting – though not surprising – that the Obama logo seems to have not been restricted, judging from the proliferation of remixes. Just like a corporate brand that lets pieces of itself out to the masses but retains ultimate control.

    We got the O. And the president. Hopefully more!

  • http://waitingonthenewmoon.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/what-is-the-most-exotic-thing-you-have-ever-put-in-your-mouth/ Delicious Monster

    Dialectic? Reminds me of the phrase “dialectical materialism.” Hmmmm. Where have I heard that phrase before? What philosophy espouses that belief? Hmmmm.

  • Rick

    Perhaps, Lessig, you should propose to use certain materials from the change.gov site for an upcoming presentation and seek “authorized use.” While the sites’ reservation of rights is, no doubt, standard boilerplate it might be interesting to learn what entity alleges ownership and who is charged with representing the “owner(s).” Further, it takes this discussion out of the “lefty rumbling” category and makes it a real-time issue.

    BTW: Great stuff on the Charlie Rose show.

    BTW2: Whoever “thunk up” the CC angle on the YT videos in your previous blog gets my recommendation for the (hoped for) new cabinet post, “Secretary of Commons”. Perhaps we can extend that to the (more hoped-for and dredfully needed), “Secretary of Common Sense.”

  • http://digitalproductions.co.uk Crosbie Fitch

    That’s a good idea Rick.

    It would be interesting to see a representative of the people maintain that copyright’s suspension of the people’s liberty is in their best interest.

    NB The government should secure the people’s exclusive rights to their writings and inventions, but should not grant monopolies to publishers or corporations that necessitate suspending the people’s liberty or invading their privacy.

  • http://factoryjoe.com Chris Messina

    That is indeed interesting. We’ll have to watch what the footer says after Jan 20.

    If it is/were an after-thought, that speaks to the kind of awareness-building opportunity we have.

    What if the footer of change.gov read “CONTENT licensed under Public Domain Dedication © 2008. NO RIGHTS RESERVED.”

  • Dan

    Eric: The campaign had a fairly specific policy for open government, associated with its tech platform. So, while prodding for the right thing is always good and recommended, I still expect that the actual admin will proceed in this direction naturally. It always helps to have a mobilized constituency calling for the right thing, because it provides political cover for the admin, as well as helping keep their attention on the issue. But my expectation is that there will not be so much push-back from the admin, and less inclination to go in the wrong direction to begin with.

    In the end, what the transition does in this regard is probably not very important, in and of itself. What the admin does is important, but I’m not sure that this example in the transition transfers to the admin. The transition is intrinsically time-limited and domain-limited.

    As for absolute copyright abolitionism, even Lessig doesn’t concur with that (as evidenced yet again in his Charlie Rose interview), and I concur with him in that regard.

  • http://www.cathygelis.com Cathy

    The copyright notices are actually even more unfortunate… On the job application system, the notice reads, “data copyright © 2008 The Obama-Biden Transition Project all rights reserved .” Copyrighting data? Oh dear…

    I suspect though that this is probably a product of oversight and not policy. (Which is why they should hire me to help them…)

  • Johnny

    It would be interesting to see the authoritative texts about government’s work and copyright. The quote mentions that copyright restrictions are not applicable in the United States, while a public website on the internet is accessible worldwide (playing along as the devil’s advocate here).

    Interestingly enough, the change.gov website does not explicitly state who the copyright owners are. If being an American tax payer equates to being a copyright holder on the government’s work, then change.gov’s copyright notice does not restrict usages by Americans.

  • http://blog.k1v1n.com Kevin

    I wrote them and asked what was up. Be curious to see if they will actually respond.

  • john edwin

    Schmidt, who was one of the president-elect’s most high-profile supporters, was in Chicago Friday as part of Obama’s 17-person economic transition economic advisory board. The group met to discuss how to deal with the ongoing financial crisis.
    ————————–
    john edwin
    online football betting tips, odds, news

  • Rick

    and while they’re at it….
    Look, I’m all for change, couldn’t fathom a vote for McCain, and have no clue why some 47% of the populace did vote for him but….
    Now we have the Obama commemorative coins from New England Mint. The TV ad is in classic Ronco “as seen on TV” style and offers two gold plated coins with smiley-face Obama on them for $9.99 + S&H ($29.99 value!!) The fine print disavows, of course, any relationship to the US Mint or the Obama Inauguration Committee. The offer is only available for about sixty days so better hurry!!
    Then there are the commemorative plates. You know: the ones you stand up on a little holder in your china cabinet. A bit pricier but, as the young black couple tells us in the TV ad, we can hardly miss this opportunity to personally own a sure-to-be-priceless souvenir of this historic moment. Better hurry: these are limited editions with only sixty-five firing days left!
    I did consider getting the plate as a Christmas gift for my ultra-conservative brother-in-law but apart from the appeal to my twisted sense of humor I find these offers utterly tasteless (at best). SOMEONE seems to be cashing in on newfound fame, and sales will likely come almost exclusively from middle and lower income (if not downright poor) black families who feel duty-bound to own this stuff.
    Shameless. Disappointingly shameless.

  • Kevin Sutherland

    Maybe they have changed their policy since this post, but right now the Change.gov homepage has a link to their Copyright Policy, which explains it is CC-licensed unless otherwise noted.

    http://change.gov/about/copyright_policy