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Copyright, Creative Commons and Crafts

Creative Commons logoI haven’t written about copyright here in a long time, but you all know it’s my pet obsession, right? Whenever I tumble down its rabbit hole I end up growing and shrinking and losing track of reality until I eventually claw my way out – bloody, exhausted and filthy.

Thankfully, when Sister Diane asked me to be on Craftypod to talk about my pet topic, she had a specific focus in mind – Creative Commons for crafters. She also had lawyer Martin Ertl of LexPublica/Contractually on the show. He did a great job outlining the legal bits, and I spoke specifically about how and why crafters might choose to use less-strict-than-traditional-copyright CC licenses on our blogs and/or patterns, whether we sell them or distribute them for free.

Diane does what she does best – she edited our conversation into a solid high-level overview of a very complex topic. The complexity of copyright is what trips people up about it so much. We all love concrete answers, especially when we’re asking for business reasons, but copyright law isn’t the same kind of law as criminal law. It’s evolved over centuries not according to societies’ moral codes, but according to the circumstances we perceive in society that affect our ability to balance the interests of creators, consumers and the general public.

It’s my opinion that copyright law as it currently exists in much of the English-speaking world isn’t doing a very good job of achieving balance. I think it’s structured to favour creators too much, which kinda sucks for consumers and the commons. Aaaand, my toe’s approaching the edge of the rabbit hole, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyway, go give the podcast a listen – I swear it’s not controversial. If you have questions or comments, fire away!

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madebymegs

Kim…I do like this post you have written. I was reseaching some ideas this past weekend and noticed that too many artists are putting down a CC on an idea that is not theirs and claiming it to be his/her own works. Many vintage images that were produced in the past eras are now being CC by people who do not own these images in any way. I cannot tell you how many times I saw this during this past weekend alone. How the heck can a person put a CC down on an image that is clearly created previously and state that no one else has the right to use it?? I think more has to be done on informing bloggers and artists on the proper use of CC and darn well stealing ideas and claiming it as their own. It seems a lot of “artists” now do not understand that one cannot take an image done in another era and slap a CC down and state no use can be done with this image. Clearly somehow these bloggers have missed the boat on the real use of CC and are not stepping up to the plate with his/her honesty as to where he/she got these images or such in the first place!

SisterDiane

Honestly, you and Martin were so beautifully spoken on this subject, the edit was a breeze. Thank you again for doing this show – it was just the simple, boiled-down take I was hoping for. I totally agree with you – discussions of copyright are so apt to go spiraling.

madebymegs

<html><body><div>Kim, </div><div>
</div><div>I have noticed they are claiming rights to vintage images that are clearly not their own works.  It seems they are photcopying the image and slapping in on their websites and claiming they have all the right to any images that are photocopied.  I can open a book and photocopy and image, but in no way does this make the image my own.  I can understand if one takes a picture and wants credits for the picture, but to blatantly take the claim to work that is copyrighted on its own is crazy.  I cannot remember the sites that I was looking at, but if I remember I will let you know which ones they are.</div><div>
</div><div>I have seen “graphic illustrators” who say this is his/her own work that is created.  You can clearly tell that this image is vintage is out of a book and no way created by these illustrators.  This brings upon a bad image of the CC license and at some points I do have to question whether these licenses are valid in any way on these sites.</div><div>
</div><div>Just thought this could be included in another post for you regarding the proper use of CC and the theft of others' works.  I wanted to do a post on this, but I do feel that you have more readers and the message might come across more clearly through you than myself.</div><div>
</div><div>Megs
</div>

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knitgrrl

You want rabble-rousing? Here you go: a lawyer friend of mine who specializes in this arena says that Creative Commons — and I quote — “allows artists to be stupid.” So many people don't know what copyright really is or how it actually works, and then they go and apply CC licenses to something they probably shouldn't have (because it doesn't work the way they think it does), and get caught up in a mistake of their own making.

I'm not saying CC is bad (I'm not saying it's necessarily perfect, either!) but I think that if you are in a creative field you should probably put more than a little bit of effort into understanding the general concepts behind copyright, fair use and other notions that definitely come into play if you are doing something creative for a living.

knitgrrl

Precisely!

knitgrrl

You want rabble-rousing? Here you go: a lawyer friend of mine who specializes in this arena says that Creative Commons — and I quote — “allows artists to be stupid.” So many people don't know what copyright really is or how it actually works, and then they go and apply CC licenses to something they probably shouldn't have (because it doesn't work the way they think it does), and get caught up in a mistake of their own making.

I'm not saying CC is bad (I'm not saying it's necessarily perfect, either!) but I think that if you are in a creative field you should probably put more than a little bit of effort into understanding the general concepts behind copyright, fair use and other notions that definitely come into play if you are doing something creative for a living.

knitgrrl

Precisely!

Isaac Watson

In my session at the Summit of Awesome I mentioned Lewis Hyde and used some of his thoughts on the concept of the gift as I related my experiences. He has a book forthcoming about Cultural Commons. From his website:

“Always in the background lies the question of the commercialization of culture, exemplified at the moment by many things–the ‘enclosure’ of the public domain, the patenting of aboriginal medicines, proprietary control of genetic materials or of the internet, and the general market triumphalism that has followed the end of the Cold War.”

He recently came to Pacific Northwest College of Art and spoke about “The Gift and the Commons: Creativity and the Common Good,” in which he melds his book The Gift with his thoughts on intellectual property. The link to the podcast of the lecture is below. It runs about an hour long, and the intro is a bit lengthy, but it's full of great stuff. I highly recommend taking the time to listen.

http://untitled.pnca.edu/multimedia/show/878/

Best Sewing Machine

Appreciate this post. I have been confused for years on copyright -and have had a dozen different answers to questions on this topic. I agree that it doesn’t seem balanced and the info available is still too fuzzy in general. Thanks for this podcast – very helpful information!

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