More on CC & Lessig

Okay… lots of people are commenting and I noticed that NONE of them know who I am or what I do or have even bothered to explore what I am advocating. They think I know nothing about CC and the Free Culture movement.

Here’s the deal with CC: it was never needed. Creatives have ALWAYS had the ability to put their work out there in whatever manner they wanted. A creative could put his/her work into the public domain without CC. Or s/he could license the work out however s/he chose, including for free. Sure, CC got the populace talking about licenses, but only in the context of free ones. And all that “free” drove down the value of the creative products being created, across the board.

The problem with CC is that it shifted the cultural mindset from “art is the property of the artist to exploit/offer as s/he sees fit so that s/he can make a living being an artist” to “art is for everyone and is free and anyone who doesn’t share is against culture and growth.” Because people now think, overwhelmingly, that if something is on the internet it is free to take, billions of dollars of revenue, to copyright holders large and small, has been lost to them (the © holders). This means that people who used to get paid to create (art, music, etc.) now can’t make a living.

We’ve lost journalists and other writers, photographers and illustrators, etc. And our culture is suffering for it. One example– journalism. With hardly any real journalists left, we get “news” that is not fact-checked or sourced correctly. Most of it is crap– poorly written and unresearched. Those who are left are getting paid less and less. We have thus lost the biggest check and balance to power in our society — because of the “free culture.”

In advertising, we’re losing writers and art directors because companies are “crowdsourcing” their ads more and more now. The companies aren’t idiots: it’s cheaper to have people submit ads (signing over all the rights to the work, btw, usually for free) than to have professionals create good and effective work. Quantity over quality. The quality of the resulting ads is worse and those people, those creatives, are now out of work. Photographers, videographers, editors, gaffers, talent, etc., all who were hired by those creative professionals to create or be in those ads now aren’t hired. More people go on the dole. This contributes to the downward pressure on the economy.

For someone who has a job (let’s say as an accountant), making a video for Doritos is a bit of fun. But the impact is that it puts more and more people out of work. How would the accountant like it if the Photographer came in and did the books for one of the accountant’s big clients for free?

Because of CC and the Free Culture Movement, artists and other creatives are driven out of business. Their work is devalued. Those people whose vocation in life is to bring life and beauty and thought to our culture and whose importance was specifically protected by our Constitution are on the brink of extinction. For what?

13 Responses to “More on CC & Lessig”

  1. Paul Melcher Says:

    Thank you so much for those entries on Lessig and CC. I could not agree more and glad that I am not the only one to think this way. It is impressive to see, also how much money is being poured into Creative Commons and the Free Frontier Foundation.
    Apparently someone thinks this is worth 100 millions of dollars a year to promote these, and it is certainly not the creative community.
    And as far as your critics, notice how they always come from non creatives…
    Keep up the good fight, I am 100 behind you

    Paul Melcher

  2. Dan Tobias Says:

    What happened to all the other responses? Are you removing responses that don’t agree with you?

  3. info Says:

    I removed and banned Eugenia (and only her) as she got personal and nasty.

  4. Don Giannatti Says:

    Why is it only IP that ‘longs to be free”?

    Why can’t Ferrari’s beg for the freedom to choose their owners? Where is it written that the ideas for something really cool should belong to the people who thought them up? That seems so terribly irresponsible.

    What makes me crazy is the literal cheapening of the art, whether it be photography or design or poetry. I don’t care if the photographer is a professional or not, the value doesn’t lie there. It lies in the value of the art to the context in which it is presented.

    A company that wants to use an image to impress the people who they want to impress enough to actually want to go and buy their product or service. That has a value. The image has a value within the context.

    And if someone wants that value to be nothing, I have no argument with them at all. Not at all.

    But codifying it with some sort of ‘legalese’ designed to make one believe that one could never give something away before without going through some sort of legal system is so transparently false that it begs the real question. Why?

    The end users of the IP that is created revel in the idea that people can be taught that it really has no value, that the ‘crowd’ can source it better than any single expert, and they can simply eliminate that part of their costs. Sweeet, as they say.

    The cry for ‘examples’ are simply the result of not knowing at all what is being discussed. It reminds me of someone asking ‘what kind of light do I use for a tree?’ Or, ‘could you give me an example of one person actually being killed by air pollution?” Oh, no example that can be directly correlated de-facto? Then… sorry, that whole air pollution thing is a bogus idea… we’ll have to wait until people are actually dying before we clean up the air.

    There are people who are being damaged by the ‘culture of free’, and they are usually on the lower end of the scales, the entry level shooters who need to get the exposure – and the cash to stay in business.

    Now if you think I hate the weekend warrior, nope. Got that wrong. I love them. They keep kicking the asses of those who occasionally need their ass kicked. And they can make great art. And if they give it away, they ultimately hurt themselves. They can become convinced that them ‘attaboys’ and all the cool hi-fives his photo buddies give him for the cover of Time is actually of value.

    While of course, the users still charge for their magazines, the products and services that were illustrated, and more. Good for them. I like capitalism.

    Bad for the original creators though.

    And as far as crowd-sourcing goes, that didn’t work out for the Frankenstein’s – or the crowd, if I remember right.

  5. Luke Copping Says:

    @ don

    My sentiments exactly, I have no doubt that the amateur shooters work is often of value. I just wish they felt the same way. When it comes down to a cash for cash basis, especially on the commercial level. If the client is going to make money off of a piece of IP, than the creator needs to be compensated. I can understand CC dissemination in terms of certain creative projects, artistic statements, or experiments. I cannot however understand it in terms of commercial use or as a business model

  6. Dabitch Says:

    My problem with CC is exactly what you say in the first paragraph: It was never needed (since giving at all away was always an option well within the law).

    It was fantastic that CC brought up the *education* of rights to man-on-the-street who didn’t know much about copyright, and they learned “hey, I can give my music samples away for free and share them with other people”. Less fantastic: they were and still are under the impression that only CC allows them to do this. The education of common man failed right there. Ask anyone and they think CC is the only way to do this – and what’s more. CC is a *brand*.

    Brands can be owned.

    Sure, I’m a little warped in the head, but that creeps me right the hell out. Someone *owns* a law now?

    Not to forget the CC-fans over in Europe, who conveniently forget that CC is based on US law. Not Canadian. Not European. Our copyright laws differ, the biggest difference is that the latter have moral rights and the US left that to libel law. Oh these details make a big difference.

    I also dislike the execution of CC. One mark in the beginning lead to many different licenses. “CC” could be share with attribution or it could be something else. They’ve changed some of this, which is better – but “man on the street” thinks CC = “anyone can use any way they want”, further devaluing the artist who wants to share with attribution, say.

    In a computer controlled world, where we are talking about files, really, I would love to be able to track down the credits and license of an image (or sound file or any file) by finding the *license baked into the file*. But that won’t happen with CC. That would have been gold though! Instead we have places with CC-searches, and that’s, uh, a nice low tech step but anyone can post other peoples photographs to flickr with CC licenses (and they have done).

    Lets not forget the confusion it caused. More times than I can count,I have found images taken by photographers (which I have been granted license to use) re-posted on other blogs. With CC-licenses on the blog claiming everything in it is under that license. In effect, this (and reposting other peoples images on Flickr) is creating land mines in the CC-license. You can’t *change* the copyright license on someone elses work, but so many do and the discussions I’ve had on the CC-mailing lists regarding this have been less than constructive in trying to solve that problem.

    And now, of course, one can’t do anything without CC. People who rake in the dough on speaking and advising companies are telling the news media in Sweden that to survive they have to give they work away, not just post all images to Flickr with CC license, but also post all their TV-reports to Youtube (under youtube’s agreement which is another can of worms), and tack a CC license to every written newspaper report, as if our quoting rights weren’t working. It’s enough to make my head explode.

    I also believe that the future brings more people working in idea-areas, and when the distribution channels all will be owned by major players (think Yahoo, Apple and Google), where all of these peoples books, apps, songs, games, photographs, designs and ideas are sent around – who will be making the money off the work they digitally made? Not the creators.

  7. Dabitch Says:

    I should note that the default licensing on Flickr these days is “all rights reserved”, this happened after Getty stepped in, or at least around that time – before one was strongly encouraged to CC-license everything. You can see screendumps of Flickr-pages here;

  8. Henrik Moltke Says:

    By writing this blog and asking for donations you are ruining the business of REAL writers. Shame on you! Of course just joking, but your arguments are so weak it would be funny if it weren’t tragic.

  9. David Wynn Says:

    Thanks for the posts, because it’s always good to hear arguments from people you disagree with. That said, I’ve got a couple of points to make.

    First, I think you’ve got a tough case to prove when you say that CC has harmed creative output, because there’s no way to measure creative work that wasn’t produced due to copyright policy. It’s analogous to figuring out how much speech was silenced under a given law… there’s literally nothing to measure.

    Second, measuring culture is a ambiguous undertaking, but as I see it, Creative Commons has allowed people to put more work out there in the way they want… which probably leads to a more flourishing culture rather than a more stagnated one. You can make the argument that a lot of it’s of lower quality, but I don’t think we generally measure “culture” by the professionalism of the creative work it produces.

    Third, as an economist, I’m familiar first-hand with the work suggesting copyright extensions are generally a bad idea at this point, and only serve corporate interests at best. After all, copyright on a work is currently the life of the author plus 70 years. Are small photographers really to benefit by dragging the copyright beyond 70 years after death? My intuition says no, and we only extend them at the expense of the public good.

    Fourth, I’m skeptical of your suggestion that free culture causing the decline in journalism. As I understand it, professional journalism has largely suffered due to a demand shift towards info-tainment and “analysis” over hard facts and reporting. The Internet has sucked some of the financial life from newspapers, but the quality of journalism is hardly in decline because people want to find and share it.

    Lastly, I agree with you that people are often unqualified to judge the law and we should listen to those with deemed to interpret it, but I would stress that law interpretation isn’t the same as intent. For example, the first drug testing laws were targeted at railroad employees, because society thought a few badly placed ties would cause disproportionate damage to those riding on trains. But over time, the interpretation has gotten broader and broader, getting away from its intent. I think people have a right to discuss and question that progression, even if we don’t bring the matter to a popular vote.

  10. info Says:

    David, thank you for a thoughtful and respectful reply. I wish more oppositional comments held your tone.

  11. Prokofy Neva Says:

    Amen. I couldn’t agree with you more. Actually, I probably am more critical on Lessig than you are, because I think that Creative Commons isn’t just something you fix by adding another license for “copy this if you pay me”; I think it was a deliberate conspiracy to undermine copyright:

    Creative Communism

    What is Technocommunism?

    Not only are people driven out of business and their work devalued, the megacorporations like Google, which function as a state, and their New Class of API engineers than take all the power and all the revenue, like oligarchs. They give out content for free from their platforms to the ordinary man, and pay pennies to a few bloggers, and then incite a fierce criticism and browbeating of any artist who demands to be paid normally for his content.

    When you look at the millions being poured into CC, you see that it’s a few heavily ideological and very driven individuals like Mitch Kapor who will do anything to impose technocommunism. They are no different than the German industrialists who funded Lenin to destroy Russia.

    Don’s notion of value deriving from “context” is pure communist collectivism. Whose context? What context? Who gets to control it? As always, it’s a handful of comrades doing the controlling; the mob in the context is a harsh collective. The only way to fight back against that tribal tendency of man is to affirm that the individual is endowed with certain inalieable rights. One of those inherent rights is copyright of his creations.

  12. Prokofy Neva Says:


    All your complaints are easy to counter:

    While culture or works of art might be hard to measure, individual people are not. And there is no question that the people “sharing” their work under the Creative Communism drill are not earning money to make a living, and telling themselves a shill that this helps them get other custom business. You have only to actually poll these people (as I do no my blog) to discover that there is a significant percentage of people, even in a climate of promoters of this new technocommunist ideal (like my blog’s readership) that say, no, I don’t need CC to sell my art, and no, CC is not helping me to make money.

    Ask the individual artists, and you find out: they are losing income, losing jobs.

    Neat trick there saying there is “literally nothing to measure” when you have *individual people* to measure. There is no significant number of people making money from the freebie shill — you get a few very loud voices like Cory Doctorow whose method consists of getting paid lecture fees to lecture about…how you can make money giving your books away. That works about once for other people, or not at all…

    “Probably” leading to a more flourishing culture? Andrew Keen is right. Where is the culture? The popular Youtubes of a cat playing the piano as its master forces its little paws to go on the keys? This is culture?

    Er, what is wrong with corporate interests? Like so many Internet moderns vocalizingo n forums, you seem to have a terrible allergy to capitalism, and a terribly tropism to socialism. Why? Corporations are rational entities that gather resources and people and ideas and take a copyright on the work of those whose salaries they pay. It’s one form of organization in a free-enterprise society, and a good one. What has socialism achieved in this regard in terms of jobs and income for people? I’ll ask you what I’ll ask every single person who raises the 70-100 year copyright facetiously in these discussions. Please point to a *specific* copyright that has a 70-100 year limit on it that is frustrating your life as an artist. Did you *really* rely on Minnie Mouse to make your brainchild?

    Journalism began to resort to the infotainment to keep up with the freebie culture emerging on every other website — the California Business Model enables platform providers to first enable users to put up free content regardless of copyright, then waits for those organized with lawyers to send them DMCA notices. Meanwhile, they harvest revenue from clicking on ads. Great racket. How can responsible business compete with Silicon Valley’s perfidy?

    The movement to “liberate” content and decouple it from commerce has had disasterous consequences for our culture, our artists, and our economy. How much damage will it take to get you to realize this? The end of the music and news businesses are not enough for you? And what has taken their place but biased media and lolcats?

  13. New York, May 2010: Fun in the Big City, a Look Back | LIGHTING ESSENTIALS For Photographers Says:

    […] comments to see how convoluted the language has become to deny value to what we do. Part One and Part Two. A follow up deconstruction of Lessigs ’speech’ is here. A recent post does serve to […]