Arnold Kling Misinterprets Creative Commons

Commons Committee
Arnold Kling at TechCentralStation: Content is Crap

Perhaps misled by the constant refrain of the Creative Commons animated presentation -- "It's easy when you skip the intermediaries" -- Arnold Kling interprets the CC liberal licensing ethos as being primarily a defense against content being "stolen by the evil media companies." In fact, it's nothing of the sort. By disclaiming certain of the rights copyright grants authors, under certain conditions, you could even say that the CC licenses make it *easier* for third parties to "steal" (repurpose, redistribute, reuse) creative works.

The filtering duty provided by current publishers Kling highlights is important -- but in a system of strong copyrights, many novel highly effective filtering, distribution, and promotion avenues can be precuded, because casual handling of a work is prevented by the default copyright conventions. For example, your biggest fans may be reluctant to forward your work to others, via email/blogs/P2P. You couldn't even feed many works through the sorts of "bayesian filtering" algorithms Kling favors, as that might trample certain creator's copy-control rights.

The kinds of liberal licensing -- or outright public-domain donations -- promoted by CC enable thousands of flexible new filtering roles, processes, and technologies to be tried. Many -- probably most -- won't prove any better than the old linear value-chain fed through publishers. But some will outcompete the traditional process, at least for certain works and certain audiences, because the net does many-to-many better than any system rooted in the physical world.

Liberal CC-style licensing isn't the enemy of novel, useful, expert content-filtering: it's filtering's greatest friend.

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