MT Gets Creative and becomes Common

Movable Type is coming out with a new minor version release, 2.6. Among the new items is some improved support for text formatting that I’m really looking forward to. The Trotts have also opened up database support, and enhanced comments — all excellent additions.

Another change that’s going to generate some interesting talk here and there is support for Creative Commons licenses. From the description, it looks like you can turn Creative Commons license support on for your entire weblog, and the license information is included into the main index page and associated RSS page. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be support for adding CC licenses to individual items, unless you do this yourself (in which case, you’re out of luck for matching the material in the RSS file). You’re in an all or nothing mode.

I imagine this will increase the use of Creative Commons licenses all over the place, because there’s nothing that bloggers like more than pushing little buttons to see what happens. This is unfortunate, not because I want to actively encourage people to “steal” from the public domain by maintaining their copyright; but because people won’t be thinking about the consequences of pushing said little button.

A Creative Commons license is a binding legal agreement that, at the least, allows anyone else to re-publish your writing whenever and whereever they want, as long as they don’t do so for profit (unless you specifically grant this) and don’t modify it (unless you specifically grant this). Furthermore, you can’t stop them from re-publishing your work once they’ve done so under the license because the license can’t be revoked for a specific individual after the individual has invoked the license at least once. You can remove the license from future use, but once the permission has been granted, it can never be taken back.

AKMA has given consideration to the nuances of the Creative Commons license in his discussion about licensing with the Disseminary. INAL, but it seems to me AKMA is talking two different things here — contracts with writers, as compared to Creative Commons licenses attached to published documents. The former controls the relationship between the writer and the Disseminary directly, while the latter controls the relationship between the publisher and the public. I may not be a lawyer, but I’ve signed a lot of contracts in my life, and I don’t think Creative Commons licenses are the same type of beastie as a writing/publishing contract.

Hard to say, since most of the legal beagles out and about in the weblogging commons are cautious about making statements on the legality of specific uses of the CC licenses (being concerned, rightfully, about the possibility of getting their butts in trouble for giving advice that could be mis-interpreted.)

Of course, in an ideal world the CC license would be nothing more than artwork, as this world is populated with creators who create works solely for the express purpose of the works being used, re-used, re-published, and re-worked. Works consumed by a public that would never abuse this generosity.

(Yeah. Right. And the only reason we’re going to war with Iraq is to help the poor Iraqis find the true meaning of freedom.)

AKMA also references a discussion thread on copyright and published material. AKMA writes:

Once I decide to turn loose my expression on the world, other folks will do plenty of things with my texts few of which will be governed by concern for my innermost thoughts. If my thoughts need that degree of protection, I can jolly well not release them to the public.

I can appreciate AKMAs viewpoint — if we’re concerned about keeping the expressions inherent in our art (photography, writing, art, whatever) protected, don’t publish them. But that seems to me to be counter-productive to Creative Commons. Wouldn’t this view make us less inclined to release work on the Web?

However, I still think we may talking apples and oranges. For instance, if I publish a work on the web, you can look at it in many different browsers, print it out, copy it and send it in emails, talk about it at lunch and trash it, talk about it in your weblog and trash it, and there’s little I can do about it. I’m not that worried, either, about any of these activities. You can duplicate it, and I won’t be happy, but I won’t ask you to pull the duplication. If you duplicate all my work, then, yeah, we’ll have words. Something along the line of: Get your own life.

But there is one thing you can’t do without getting permission from me: access the writing, modify it, and re-publish it on the web or within some other medium. Unless I sell my rights to you, you can’t change what I write and publish it. You can change it all you want for your private edification…but you can’t publish it. Not on the web. Not in a magazine. Not in a newspaper. Not while eating green eggs and ham.

Following AKMA’s example about my parables, sure you can put them to music. I don’t grant this right, but most likely I’ll appreciate the efforts. Try and make money from the song and we’ll have words. And if you want to add to the story, or edit it, do so, but do so carefully. Weigh your opinion, and check your arrogance at the door.

I can’t speak for other artists, but when you’re a writer, when you put a creative work out into the public sphere, you’re putting a little of yourself into that work. No matter how good the editing, how helpful the feedback, there’s still a moment when you have to struggle with that small id within in order to appreciate the feedback. I don’t know about other writers, but this is never easy for me. I’ve been through this with a dozen books and I don’t know how many articles, but there’s always that little struggle.

So if you feel that your feedback and change really will improve the work, enough to approach the artists directly, then do so. But don’t get your feelings hurt if the artist doesn’t wrap arms around you and give you a big wet one.

As for myself and receiving suggestions (other than corrections to grammar and misspelled words, which are always appreciated), I might agree with your change, in which case I would incorporate the change and give you credit for your help, and allow you to republish the combined work (again, non-commercially). Or I may not care for the change, or even feel that your work ruins the message of my work, and at that point you can huff and puff and pout about the public domain all you want and my only response is going to be, “Get your own life.”

I don’t have this right with my books or the work I do for hire. But I hold this right for my other creative work.

I’m not trying to speak for other people, and I’m not going to play lawyer, and I’m not going to change my mind. If me wanting to maintain the copyright on my writing is stifling the free speech all of you out there, then I seriously doubt that you fully understand what free speech is about. Free speech has to do with being able to speak out against oppression without getting shot.

When I’m dead and gone, if any of this writing even lasts to that point, then have at it all of you. At that point, I no longer care. But while I still live and write, if you feel a burning need to improve on my artistic creations, my writing — go ahead. Nothing will shut me up faster.

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7 Responses to MT Gets Creative and becomes Common

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