Friday, October 22, 2010

The Proxy Publisher

I've been reading and viewing a lot of stuff, and I've recently seen the Creative Commons license popping up everywhere. Even in paper books! If you're not sure exactly what Creative Commons is, I recommend this as a first read, keeping in mind that it's three years old.

So CC is spreading, and it's popular. Yay!

With that said, I also have seen a lot of people make the same mistake.

Keep in mind that the Creative Commons community is large and diverse: my opinions are my own. However, my opinions are not unique.

The mistake many people make is right at the beginning. They decide they're going to wade into the Creative Commons waters, so they release something under a Creative Commons license. They feel good, they're participating, they're "next wave", yeah!

The problem is that they publish under the most restrictive version of the license they can imagine: CC BY-NC-ND. This is the "proxy publisher" setting. It says "spread this around, please, but don't change anything!"

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this license, and in some cases it is what you might actually want to do. However, in most cases, it's a mistake.

The problem is that ND: "No Derivatives".

I understand the idea. These artists would like to keep control over what they release. They don't want it mutating out of their control. BUT. This is a flawed presumption. In many cases, it is the wrong way to come at the situation.

The question to ask yourself: what does the ND license actually protect me from?

Has a CC-released work ever been derived into something that upset the author and was popular enough that it got noticed? I know a few derivatives have been pretty crap, but the community simply ignores them. No harm is prevented by taking the ND license.

Also, derivatives (in the unlikely chance you are that popular) are what give your product (and your personal brand) serious legs. The ability for people in various circumstances to adapt your work to suit their needs means that your work can reach them - and everyone they touch.

To be honest, the only thing I think might be better released as ND is intensely personal art. Even then, I would probably argue against it. ND protects you from something that isn't a threat and cripples your circulation.

I know that a lot of artists have problems with piracy. But that's a completely unrelated issue. Completely. The two aren't even vaguely related, and ND will not protect you from pirates, or from tweens who make your pictures into avatars, or fanfic writers - all it will do is discourage talented people who actually want to build on what you've created.

What I'm trying to say is... think carefully about what you're releasing. Do you really need to maintain an iron grip? Don't you think the community has something to add? Do you really think you are the only person with useful thoughts on this matter?

When you release, go whole hog: leave off the ND. Release with SA, instead. The worst that could happen is that people are led to your work through screwball videos or parodies, and is that really so bad?

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