Dmyri Kleiner, "The Creative Commons is to Free Culture what Shareware is to Free Software"

The Creative Commons is to Free Culture what Shareware is to Free Software
Dmyri Kleiner

Back in the early days of computers proprietary software developers
had a problem. Often working from home or small-offices, far removed
from their potential customers, there was no easy way to sell software
to their customers. One common way was to use classified adds in
computer magazines, but unless a software title was very well known,
it was difficult to convince customers to pay for it before they had
the opportunity to try it and verify that it does what they need it

Yet, the very emerging of computers had the solution embedded into the
very technology, users where already distributing software on their
own, by way of exchanging floppy disks, uploading software to Bulletin
Board Systems or Online Services, or even printing out source code so
that others could rekey it on their own computer.

However, this practice was directly contradictory to the way
commercial software was sold: paid for in advance and sold in a box in
a store or by mail order. To prevent such unauthorized distribution,
commercial software was often distributed on copy-protected media that
used various cryptographic and obscurity techniques to prevent it's
users from distributing on it's own. This was "All Rights Reserved"
software, the published insisted on you buying it from them or their
contracted resellers, and not, under any circumstances, share it with

In the same way that commercial art, movies, music and books, for
instance is "All Rights Reserved," publishers want you to buy it
directly from their or their agents, and never share it with others,
and likewise, the rights being reserved are the publisher's rights.
Yet, the very technology that made a recorded music industry possible,
mechanical reproduction, also made it possible for its users to share
it. Starting from home-taping to today's online social platforms, fans
of certain artists actively share with each others. And just like the
commercial software authors, the music industry has availed itself of
a wide variety of tactics to prevent this, from legal and political
intimidation, to all sorts of cockamamie "Digital Rights Management"

Yet, this "All Rights Reserved" business practice was well and
good for well-funded publishers who where able to afford effective
advertising and build out large-scale distribution networks, yet for
both smaller artist and smaller commercial software vendors, such a
system worked agains them, and they turned to ways of using users'
sharing with other as means to find their audience and customers.

In the software world this manifested as "Shareware" and in cultural
production this manifested as the "Creative Commons."

Both these movements developed as systems of "Some Rights Reserved,"
granting users the ability to share with each other, but restricting
them according to the will of the publisher, common restrictions in
both cases included non-derivate clauses, and non-commercial clauses,
effectively preventing consumers from becoming producers, meaning that
the publishers where eager to use consumer sharing as a means to build
the value of their property, but wanted to make sure that their status
as producer was maintained, that all creative and commercial use of
their work was restricted only to them, that their consumers would
remain consumers, instrumental only as casual distributors.

Reading both the Shareware and the Creative Commons licenses,
there was no confusion over whose rights where being reserved, the
publishers claimed all rights and denied all responsibilities. The
consumers' rights where not mentioned, except in efforts to limits any
they might have.

Meanwhile, at the radical fringes of cultural production, and in
the quickly expanding belly of information technology, a more
revolutionary way of thinking existed. Artists and Software users
felt constrained by the restrictions on their ability to be creative
and productive with the culture and software they had, from the
poet Comte de Lautreamont's call for a poetry written by all, to
Richard Stallman's call for a computer operating system written
by all, free culture and free software where concerned with the
rights of the consumer, not the producer. Or even more to point,
concerned with abolishing the distinction between producer and
consumer, understanding culture and technology to be a mutually
constructed wealth, the value of which becomes more rich the more
people contribute to it.

The use of the word "Share" in Shareware and the use of the word
"Commons" in Creative Commons share a misleading disingenuousness,
they seem to imply common cause with the consumers, but no less than
"All Rights Reserved," "Some Rights Reserved" is designed to enclose
the consumer, to make sure they can not become the producer. "Some
Rights Reserved" allows consumers to contribute to the value of the
producers' product as promoter and distributor, but not to share in
the value, which, far from being "common," remains the sole property
of the producer.

Free Culture and Free Software attempt to prefigure communities that
truly share in common.