Skip to content

Not Licensed Under a Creative Commons License

James Grimmelmann has about about law faculty blogs that I noticed via Michael Froomkin (Ann Bartow comments here).  His comments are addressed to possible conflicts of interest faced by academic bloggers who accept ads.  The point that caught my eye was this one:

Similarly, the drive to monetize readers encourages blogs to keep a close hold on their content. None of the ad-laden lawprof blogs listed above offers its posts under a Creative Common[s] license. (By way of contrast, Feminist Law Profs and the Becker-Posner blog, both of which are ad-free, use Creative Commons licenses.) I doubt that this tradeoff was explicit in most bloggers’ minds, but it’s a good example of a deep and subtle tension. Blogging for money encourages a particular way of thinking about your writings, one that sees them as a resource whose value can be improved through close management. That way of thinking can make it harder to remember that ideas are naturally as free as the air to common use. As law professors, we of all people should be most attuned to the social value of giving our ideas away freely to all comers to do with as they will.

One way to read this section is this:  The failure to blog under a Creative Commons license reflects a “control the content” mindset that should be anathema in the academic community.  Therefore, if one subscribes to a “free to all” norm for academic writing and commentary, one must offer that writing under a CC license, else suffer the risk of being on the wrong side of the information battle.

I’m posting this note — on a blog that is Not Licensed Under a Creative Commons License (but which is instead made freely available under the Copyright Act of 1976, along with what I believe should be robust standards for fair use, for the idea/expression distinction, for copying that isn’t “reproduction” and for adaptation that isn’t “derivative”) — to make the point that I disagree with that reading on the merits — if in fact that’s what James meant.  It seems to me clearly possible to advocate strongly for broad and full and unconstrained distribution of knowledge and culture, yet to remain intrigued but not necessarily sold on Creative Commons.  Or, even if one is sold on Creative Commons, it seems to me that CC obviously is not the only way to promote free culture.  As Larry Lessig is chronically at pains to point out, CC is all about the creator’s choice.