Yesterday I was, on a whim, flipping through the TiVo menus and I saw that I could subscribe to Rocketboom on it. On an average yesterday, I probably would have ignored this feature, since I would have had no idea what Rocketboom was. However, since Rocketboom was featured on either Morning Edition or Marketplace (since our crappy internet connection is out again, I can’t look it up to know) this week, I actually knew what it was and was interested in it.
So tonight I got to watch my first Rocketboom. It featured Mark Hosler of Negativland and he mostly talked about copyright law (which makes sense coming from him). Negativland was heavily involved in the creation of the Creative Commons license. What I found interesting was that Mark Hosler was actually fairly critical of the CC license (for reasons I agree with).
Since I started releasing things that other people might use, I have struggled with what license to release my work under. In the end, I have released most of my code under the MIT license (in my laziness, I’ve never actually bothered to learn the details of what this means — a coworker once told me it was the most relaxed of the OSI approved and I was happy to accept that explanation); I basically wanted an “I honestly don’t care what you do with this, just use it” license. I didn’t care how the code was reused. I didn’t even particularly care if I was attributed for it.
Mark Hosler talked about the a la carte menu that CC gives the user for creating their own license terms (‘Cannot be used for profit’, ‘Cannot be changed’, etc.) and how this, ultimately, is ridiculous. Once released in the wild, the creator cannot expect to retain any control of his or her creation. It can be reconstituted, reused, recycled and remixed in ways that the creator never intended or expected and, if the original has any value, should be.
What I liked about his viewpoint is that he noted a difference between the intellectual property and the artifact (at least, this is what I got from it). Negativland was compensated for making an original work that satisfied both their label and their audience. What becomes of the work (shy of outright plagiarism — that is to say, passing off the original work as one’s own) is none of Negativland’s business since they had an arrangement to be compensated to create the original work in the first place. His prevailing argument (again, in my opinion) is that intellectual property should be more defined by the inspiration, not the artifact.
Unfortunately, I still don’t know what license to release my work under.