June 1, 1988

What most interests me about Creative Commons is the remarkable similarity their logo shares with that of the Chanel Fancy Ties and Socks Emporium.  Isn’t it astonishing?

Watch out Creative Commons!  If it happened to Cut Copy it could happen to you too!

That is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Watch out Creative Commons!

You don’t agree?  Well, okay, I’m sorry I mentioned it.  I really am.
Anyway, Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is supposedly a effort by champion bore Lawrence Lessig to

increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.

Creative Commons attempts to do this by offering content creators “Some Rights Reserved” licences, which specify exactly the way the author will allow you to re-use their work.  The licenses specify, for example, whether the author allows you to “remix” the work, whether you can share it, whether you’re allowed to use it for commercial purposes, etc.

Lessig created the Commons in order to combat what he saw as the erosion of traditional American copyright legislation.  While the US’ Founding Fathers were all about getting cultural products into the public domain, like, practically as soon as they’d been published, legislators like Sunny Bono have in recent decades shifted the emphasis towards lengthier periods of private control.  The current US and Australian laws state that copyright now resides with the author’s estate for 70 years after the author’s death.

Now, I am certainly not of the opinion that this kind of extended copyright protection is even vaguely reasonable.  Is it right that Warner Bros owns the rights to all public performances of “Happy Birthday” until at least 2030?  Surely no sane man would think so.  Is it morally correct that Men At Work should be sued for writing a flute riff that sort of elaborates on the melody of Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree?  It would be the height of insanity to suggest that this is the case.

In fact, art has always relied on just this kind of cultural reappropriation and recontextualisation.  Homer’s “Odyssey” for example, has been generally accepted as the culmination of hundreds of years of retelling and refinement of traditional Greek stories.  As Jean-Luc Godard satirically put it, if the principle of copyright extension is pushed towards its logical conclusion, then Greece might be able to find a way out of its current financial woes by charging royalties for the use of democracy, philosophy and tragic theatre.

BUT, Creative Commons doesn’t really do anything to ameliorate the fairly ridiculous lengths that current copyright law has reached.  Warner Bros is obviously not going to slap one of those double c’s on their manuscript of Happy Birthday now, are they?  Not when there’s dollars to be scrounged they aren’t, no.

As Creative Commons themselves point out, Creative Commons is not an alternative to Copyright.  That is, the rights that the author specifies in their Creative Commons license aren’t rights that they wouldn’t have if they just had a normal copyright license on their work. So, if I decide not to have a Creative Commons logo on my blog, and then somebody decides to copy one of my hilarious historical inaccuracies and republish it on their blog, that doesn’t mean that I have to sue them, just because copyright gives me that option. In fact, I am most likely to be really cool about that whole thing, because I like to think of myself as being “not a prick”.

70 years, Sonny?  Really?  Get out of it, 70 years.  That's crazy.

Pictured, from left to right: Not me. (

Now, I guess Lessig and his pals argue that the benefit of having a Creative Commons license on your “work” is that whoever is reading it will now know exactly what they’re allowed to do with it, without fear of being crushed by The Man.  But, if you’re really that concerned about being sued, you could always just ask me for permission or something, couldn’t you?  As noted, I am really cool about this sort of thing.

As you have probably gleaned, I have decided not to put a Creative Commons license on my blog.  I just don’t really see the point.  I am most assuredly of the opinion that cultural creation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that all culture is basically “remix culture”, etc. It just seems to me that a better way of ensuring that cultural production is left unfettered by silly legal constraints is by concentrating on destroying said restraints, instead of tip-toeing around the edge of them.


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