I’m not going to say it…

Unfortunately, I came down with the same flu that’s hit so many others. This and a nasty snow storm that just blew in are conspiring to keep me from my much needed walks and explorations, dammit. So I might as well work on the edits for Practical RDF, and some tech tweaks around here.

One tweak is, I upgraded to Movable Type 2.62. I had to re-apply my Trackback re-build customization, and one small change in the search template, but other than that, the upgrade went without a problem.

I hadn’t started playing with any of the new features yet, but did notice the button to add Creative Common licenses to your weblog. However, before you touch that button, you might want to read about the experiences of a MT user that Phil documented. It seems someone decided to play around with the license only to find out you can’t remove it from the page. There is no off switch. Currently, the only way to remove CC licenses in MT is to make a change in the database, and it sounds like the templates.

Big ouch, there. Sounds like Ben is working on the problem, but I wouldn’t play with pushing buttons now, until this fix is made.

However, there is a misunderstanding I do believe in the license interpretation. From what some of the legal beagles here abouts have said, if you apply a CC license on a work, and then withdraw it, this withdrawal doesn’t impact on people who have already used your work. However, the CC license will no longer apply to new uses of this work. At least, this is my understanding of what others have said.

(I wish I could remember who said this and where. This is one of those times when we need to be able to track a thread regardless of use of tracback and other technologies.)

Additionally, and legal people correct me if I’m wrong, in Phil’s comments, the person who had mistakenly applied the license stated:


It would have only granted an “irrevocable license” on any new material published while the CCL was still displayed. (The content published previously remains protected by its original copyright since it predates the CCL and cannot be covered by the CCL legal agreement.) Since no new content was published under the Creative Commons License while it was briefly displayed on the site, the license’s addition to the page and later removal is mute.


Sorry, but from what I hear, the CC license applies to whatever it’s attached to, regardless of date of material. Unless you specifically make annotations that the license is only effective on material dated after such and such a date, or only to the design of the site, or only to the writing, or only the images, that license applies to everything. And if you mix CC licenses and copyright on the same page, from what I’ve been told, the person can pick which license they choose to use your material under — so long copyright.

Copyright is copyright by default — if you want copyright, don’t touch that button!

Dammit, call me cranky from being sick and missing out on my walk, but the point I’ve been making is that the use of the license is too damn confusing for people who aren’t legal experts. I think adding CC license support into Movable Type is a mistake, pure and simple. This is a case of technology and law mixing to the detriment of both. Adding new toys, but new toys that can bite you on the butt.


On Egoboo and original art

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I think I need either a copyright weblog, or a copyright category. If I add a copyright category, what graphic would I use? A graphic of an aspirin bottle?

Kevin Marks sent the link to a very interesting, though extremely footnoted document on copyright: Questioning the Economic Justification for (and thus the Constitutionality of) Copyright Law’s Prohibition against Unauthorized Copying, by Mark Nadel, a lawyer.

I discovered the phrase “egoboo” in the document, an abbreviation of “ego boost”. Get used to it, I’ll be using the phrase much in the future.

The document focuses on monetary compensation for copyright, but gets into many of the items we’ve been discussing, including the moral rights of creators. In particular, the section titled “Access to Raw Materials” is fascinating. Best quote:


Courts have long recognized that all artists build on and borrow from their predecessors. Many of Shakespeare’s plots were originated by others. In fact, literary imagination may be “but a weaving of the author’s experience of life into an existing literary tradition.” As Siva Vaidhayanathan eloquently reveals, even leading copyright advocate Mark Twain acknowledged that “but then, we are all thieves,” and pop star Moby agrees. Thus, many have challenged the very concept of truly original work or that any one person can be recognized as the author.


Well this just releases my flights of fancy. Buckle up for the ride…

I can’t find the comment, but someone wrote in response to one of the weblog postings related to copyright that words are raw material from the public domain, so an author can never really ‘own’ what they write.

If I use the words badly, will you take them back?

You can’t own your home, because the dirt on which it rests originally blew there from somewhere else. You’re using someone else’s dirt. Give it back

The water you’re drinking was originally someone else’s p…ool.

Do you smoke? Well, you’re taking the public’s clean air. Did you ask first? And better not tell me you smoke AND you drive an SUV. Probably also talk on the cellphone while you drive, too. And eat red meat and belch in public.

BTW, did anyone give all of us permission to use the air around us to transmit our WiFi signals? And did anyone give you permission to use that stray signal you picked up?

Did you give me permission to use the Internet? Did I give you permission to read this? Wait! Wait! You have my permission! Don’t leave!

A photographer can’t own an image because all they’re doing is copying an original that doesn’t belong to them. As much as they may want the model, all they can own is the physical photograph, but not the image or what formed the image. Well, unless they’re photographing fruit they bought. Or their cat.

A parent doesn’t a own a child; they’re only leasing them for a while.

Give me time and I can find the right convolution to explain why none of us owns anything, and all of us are thiefs.

Now, this is fun!


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.