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[Comments] (7) Sharealike Thoughtcrime: So I got an email which deals with a topic not explored on this weblog for some years: the minutiae of various Creative Commons licenses. Specifically, the chilling effect that my choice of a BY-NC-SA license for Thoughtcrime Experiments might have on authors who don't want their stories hacked into derivative works. I would like to hear the thoughts of random people who read this weblog entry.

I chose BY-NC-SA for Thoughtcrime Experiments for three reasons: 1. that's the license Cory Doctorow uses, and it works out pretty well for him; 2. translations and adaptations to different media are prohibited under BY-NC-ND, and I want those to happen; 3. if you say it fast it sounds like "By NCSA", which makes whatever you're doing sound high-tech.

I also have a philosophical problem with BY-NC-ND which is that it doesn't enrich the commons beyond decriminalizing the act of copying. Imagine if it were suddenly okay to copy all those orphan works from the 20th (and by now the 21st) century. That'd be great news because large organizations could legally digitize all that stuff and we wouldn't lose it to Stanislaw Lem's paper-eating bacterium. But you still couldn't really interact with it until the copyright expired; it'd feel like it was behind glass. That's what BY-NC-ND feels like.

(Actually I'm being a bit hypocritical here because I originally put "Mallory" under BY-NC-ND, but I think I've talked myself out of that now, so I'll change it unless someone talks me back into it soon.)

So that's why I chose BY-ND-SA for Thoughtcrime Experiments. I'm interested in hearing additional arguments pro or con. Also note that I'm okay with negotiating the license even on the level of individual stories, though BY-NC-ND really is the baseline (otherwise it gets really confusing).

Pragmatically, I think most of the hypothetical undesirable uses of your work take place in a copyright grey area anyway, and won't be deterred by your choice of ND instead of SA. But I understand that pragmatism is not the main driver of peoples' (including my) feelings about this.

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Posted by Riana at Tue Jan 06 2009 00:24


Posted by Leonard at Tue Jan 06 2009 00:25

Can you be more specific, your lawliness?

Posted by BOB at Tue Jan 06 2009 08:33

Could you perhaps release the book in parts under multiple licenses? The cover and other metadata are under by-nc-sa, and stories be under whichever (or a subset of whichever).

Using Cory's stuff as an example of what people do with a sharable CC-licensed book - with the cool people that like the more flexible license, those individual stories could be turned into other things, reused, translated, etc. The others could not. If an author did not want to share, then that story would not be included in a translation, or video-game adaptation.

What gains does someone have when using NC-ND?
* I guess they can release it again in the future, modified, for monetary or emotional gain. (i.e. "Get you exclusive Polish Translation here only 3 payments of $19.95")
* They know that they cannot be misrepresented in a sneaky way. (because someone won't edit their story and re-release it in a way that makes it less than obvious that it is a derivative.)

Posted by Lancer Kind at Tue Jan 06 2009 12:57

The NC attribution makes things pretty reasonable. Why get in the way of not for profit derivative art?


Posted by Amy at Mon Jan 19 2009 14:06

Silly me, although I haven't sold much at this point, I still hold on to the pipe dream of being a full-time, financially stable author someday. And giving away rights to your work, when you don't know which story might be the One that makes your career, somehow doesn't seem to be the best way to achieve the desired financial independence. Perhaps those that have achieved more prominence like Cory Doctorow can afford to be more generous? Or is it the other way around.

I liked it much better when the author either sold his/her copyright or kept it after first publication and without archiving in perpetuity on someone else's web site.

Posted by Indy at Wed Jan 21 2009 20:25

I'm the guy who posed this in email. I've never been one to market my work electronically, but something about this project seems more professional than most of its ilk. But the license concerned me because while I (surprisingly) found myself willing to let my work be electronically published and bandied about for free online, I balked at the part where others could muck with it. I suppose it's an ego thing. I agree with Amy; wouldn't be a kicker to end up famous and see your work being reproduced anywhere without any control over it -- and altered by people, too?

I'm not rich or famous. I may well never be. But that doesn't change the fierce dedication I have to what I do. I work very hard to produce stories that I'm proud of; many people enjoy them, some don't. But to work that hard only to have others mangle it sits uncomfortably with me.

My point was that there is only one difference between the two licenses. In one, people can alter your work; in the other, they cannot. Writing fiction is about producing something you can be proud of, and others can enjoy. When you work that hard only to let others muck with it, it ceases to become writing fiction and it becomes a fiction workshop.

This is merely my opinion. Others will certainly have different views. I've been talking it up with writer friends who have sold a fair number of stories and are truly serious about their craft, and so far the consensus is that the idea seems neat, but nobody would surrender their work.

I wondered if this would mean the antho would attract new writers who might not have the skills to tell a story with style and good form and proper English usage and mechanics. Perhaps it won't. As an editor, if I were willing to pay $200 per story, I'd be interested in trying to secure the best stories from the best writers, and would ditch the "give up your copyright" option in favor of attracting those writers and stories.

I'm curious to hear other people's thoughts on this.


Posted by Leonard at Sun Jan 25 2009 22:10

Just to clear up a misconception. Nobody is giving up their copyright. What I want to buy is the right to publish your story on a web page under certain rules about redistribution. If someone wants to do something outside those rules, I can't give them that permission. They have to get it from you, the copyright holder.

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