Dvorak vs. Creative Commons

In a recent opinion piece on PCMag.com, Mr. Dvorak shows off his stunning lack of comprehension of the benefits to Creative Commons Licensing.

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford?

CCL is a simple way for content creators to let everybody know what they’ll allow others to do with their work. There’s no lag time in tracking down the content creator/copyright holder/legal department and then phoning/emailing/snail-mailing them to find out if it would be okay to take their work and do X with it (whatever X might be). This simplifcation of the process allowing others to remix existing content is a wonderful benefit to the public and content creators alike. Content creators can take any CC licensed material they like, mix it up into something new and put it back out much more quickly without worrying that they’re going to be sued for breaking somebody’s copyright. The public benefits because this allows a lot more content to be created much more quickly.

A bit later in the article, Mr. Dvorak starts complaining about the optional commercial provisions in the CCL scheme.

This means that others have certain rights to reuse the material under a variety of provisos, mostly as long as the reuse is not for commercial purposes. Why not commercial purposes? What difference does it make, if everyone is free and easy about this? In other words, a noncommercial site could distribute a million copies of something and that’s okay, but a small commercial site cannot deliver two copies if it’s for commercial purposes. What is this telling me?

Provided that the content creator tagged the content as having the Non-Commercial provision in a CC license; then it’s telling you that creator does not want to use their work in a commercial fasion. How hard is that to comprehend? The sad part is you almost picked up on a key reason people use CC licenses but you had to go at it backwards. Yes, a noncommercial site could distribute a million copies (of an appropriately licensed work) for free and that’s a great thing; articularly for the non-mainstream, unknown content creator who just wants to get their work out in the public eye.

Then Mr. Dvorak comes up with this bit of nonsense:

This is nonsense. Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws.

If he had done even a modicum of research on the Creative Commons website; he would have found their page detailing the Baseline Rights included in ALL CC licenses. The only thing “bogus” about this suggestion is Mr. Dvorak’s claim that it’s the Creative Commons folk who are making it. A Creative Commons license doesn’t say you cannot have any fair use rights; it simply says “Hey friend, here’s some stuff for you to play with, so long as you’re willing to play by the rules.” And then it gives you a convenient link to check out what those rules are. Along those lines, Mr. Dvorak complained that the Creative Commons folk could sue somebody and ruin what little fair use rights remain to the public and again a quick look through the Creative Commons website puts paid to that bit of nonsense.

For his next delusion, Mr. Dvorak decides the Creative Commons folks are somehow corrupting Public Domain. I would have thought having a clear & concise document specifying that a work has been dedicated to the public domain is a good thing. *shrug* Maybe that’s why I’m a no-name blogger and not an editor at PC Magazine.

There are several more examples peppered throughout the remainder of Mr. Dvorak’s article. All of these examples could have been cleared up if he’d bothered to do a bit of looking around the Creative Commons website, but probably the most basic bit of guff that he writes is in the last paragraph of the article.

And it seems to actually weaken the copyrights you have coming to you without Creative Commons.

With this one sentence, we can see Mr. Dvorak appears to actually understand what a Creative Commons license does1. I would suppose since he has the basic idea that he does not agree with the concept behind Creative Commons and so wrote this rather inflamatory article. It seems to me Mr. Dvorak is suffering from RIAA syndrome. That is to say, he’s an established content creator who just does not understand –and doesn’t want to understand– the evolving landscape of the business environment.

1 A CC license removes the specific restrictions on the use of your content that you decide do not need to be on the content. One could consider this an intentional weakening of the copyright.


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Yesterday, the Register posted a fairly decent response to Mr. Dvorak’s rantings. Though Mr. Orlowski displays a definite naivete, when he claims:

Want to use a sample? Go ahead and use it. With a nudge and a wink, you’ll probably get away with it.

In today’s increasingly litigious society and with the increasing power of computers; we’re quickly moving into a world where you definitely won’t get away with it regardless if you make it into a chart topping it or only share it on you website with your 6 closest friends. If your derivative work is online; then it is only a matter of time before a webcrawler indexes it for somebody’s search engine. Once the work has been indexed; with the ever increasing power of tomorrow’s computers, the time it takes a record label to find & sue you is shrinking to an infinitesimal amount.

Yeah I was rather disappointed with Dvorak’s assessment here… this article really shook my faith in his competency

I’ve started listening to old epsiodes of Escape Pod and in EP011: Herd Mentality Stephen Eley has a rant about this very issue.

[…] Update: seems I’m not the only one who has noticed Dvorak’s assumed tome on CC. […]

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