Free Culture

Copyleft Concepts 2


A licence that tries to support non-creative interests by adopting them as part of its terms is volunteerist. Anti-military and human-rights licences are volunteerist. This is a form of instrumentalism.


“What’s mine is mine what’s yours is mine”. Licenses or contracts that privilege upstream users or project hosts over downstream users and contributors, usually financially but sometimes attributionally.


A project or license that tries to keep or accrue value for a privileged party is exploitative. Or iniquitous. Good examples of this are WMIMWYIM contracts on media hosting sites and the use of noncommercial licensing. This is a form of instrumentalism.

Given the feedback I have received I’d like to be able to replace Instrumentalism with Volunteerism and Exploitation, but I don’t think they quite divide the concept between them.

Further feedback gratefully received.

One reply on “Copyleft Concepts 2”

Volunteerism – ahhh interesting, it will depend on the importance one places on different aims, and the kind of instrument you want the license to be. From your point of view I suppose a “free culture license” should just concern itself with removing restrictions imposed by copyright, without imposing any further restrictions; it should only further creative freedom, as you see it. Of course a license that purports to protect human rights wouldn’t be volunteerist if it contained a clause to that effect, but a free culture license (according to your understanding) would be. Correct?
(aside – I thought you were going to take a snipe at people who tend to lock out commercial opportunities, either with crude non-commercial clauses or by paying insufficient attention to commercial opportunities).
Exploitation – maybe this is a bit too broad, or not quite the right label? Demanding that an artist sign away rights when they join your web site seems potentially exploitative, because you are demanding that the artist *lose* something so that you can gain value, so unless you give them something of value in return you’re clearly exploiting them. This is close to the essence of Marx’s exploitation thesis – that capitalists take the use value of a worker’s congealed labour and return a paltry portion of the exchange value in return. Unless you’re in an equal partnership, which won’t ever happen in a for-profit organisation, an old school Marxist would say the producer is *always* being exploited!
But is it exploitation if an artist gives only a part of the value of their product to others? Can producers exploit other producer/users? They’ve not taken anything away from society, except perhaps that which society might expect if there weren’t any copyright regime. I guess it would be exploitative if you thought that there was some legal/social contract, or more weakly a social norm/presumption, that content is shared (more) freely. But given our ordinary use of the word “exploit” that would have to carry quite some weight…
Keep it up, it’s fun and cowardly to pick holes in your valiant attempt to map our copyleft concepts 🙂

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