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Suggestion for a New, Creative Commons License

Why There Needs to be an Anti-Capitalism License in the Open Source Movement

An Open Letter to the Creative Commons Organization

Photograph by cdsessums, CC BY-SA 2.0 License
Image: Photograph by cdsessums, CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Date: August 6, 2011

Info: CreativeCommons.org


     I have spent a good deal of time studying CopyLeft and Open Source licensing, everything from the GNU Project's licenses to, naturally, the Creative Commons licenses. The CC licenses are far more elastic, fitting more specifically to whatever purposes any author could desire.

     However, there is a serious conflict. The GNU Project has redefined freedom saying that we shouldn't think of it as "free beer." They even encourage Capitalism, making money off of sweatshops, and ripping off consumers. Right from their website: "...we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish..." (GNU.org)

     Can you legally use six-year old children to wrap plastic around CDs in a forced labor camp in Indonesia for GNU-licensed software? Yes, yes you can. I'm not sure how to explain it, so I won't, but I'll just say it: that's bad. That's very bad. If you don't understand that, delete this e-mail right now. Licenses, however, that have tried to prohibit slave labor are mocked by the GNU Project.

     Look at the Hacktivismo Enhanced-Source Software License Agreement (HESSLA). It demands "liberty from physical restraint or incarceration, freedom from slavery, freedom from torture, freedom to take part in government..." (Hacktivismo.org) In its pathetic Capitalist tone, the GNU Project criticizes it harshly: "This is not a free software license, because it restricts what jobs people can use the software for...." (GNU.org) As in, it restricts the right of software developers to use slave labor. I'd rather destroy the Open Source Movement than do anything for a movement that openly defends modern slavery.

     When reading your website, though, I found a FAQ, which has the question, "Can I use a Creative Commons license for software?" Your response? (CreativeCommons.org) "We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation..." (The FSF and the GNU are equivalent. This is pretty obvious that both websites are, for the most part, exact mirrors of each other. They can't even fake being independent, autonomous organizations well.) And, elsewhere, you state, "If you want to license software, please use the GPL or another free/open source software license, not one of the CC licenses." (CreativeCommons.org)

     "Think of Free as in Free Speech, not in Free Beer." That's their opinion. I'm sorry, I was actually thinking about Free as in FREEDOM. The point when someone thinks they can dissect what this means exactly, in such a way that ignores the will of everyone else, that's the point when freedom isn't even being discussed anymore. Even Soviet Union called themselves Democratic. If you want obedient serfs like they had, then stay on track, and reap the same ruins. The Open Source Initiative holds a similar view, calling licenses "unfree" when they prohibit the violation of human rights. They even call them "impractical" and "unrealistic."

     Oh, and by the way, the GNU License isn't a CopyLeft license. It requires source code to be carried with any executable version. Welcome to the Internet: you don't need to give someone the executable version to let them use the software. Servers can run software, and only respond to requests of users, never distributing the executable, and therefore, never being required to distribute the source.

     This problem was discovered as early, as say, 1988, when the BeerWare License required source code to be transmitted with "any use" of the original. But who cares what some unknown, Belgian, alcohol-enthusiast/programmer writes? He's not some big organization that you can talk about, get credit with, and become popular with. No, he's just some guy. (Poul-Henning Kamp.) Oh, and his software license was one of the first, actual CopyLeft licenses in the world, while the GNU License was, admittedly, never free. (InformationWeek.com)

     You link to it, you suggest it, but everyone knows, from one end of the computer science spectrum to the other, that the GNU License isn't free, wasn't free, and never was free. But, you like it, and its project owners mock those who are trying to stop their source code from being sold by the profiteers of slave labor. It's time you do something slightly more radical than all of these pathetic imitations of revolutionaries. Write an Anti-Capitalist License.

     It's been something that's half-way worked its way into previous Creative Commons licenses. The Attribution-ShareAlike license allows people to make money off of material, only under the condition that they let their customers know that the material is under this free license. The Attribution-ShareAlike-NonCommercial license holds the same requirement, except commercialism is not allowed. So, some poor, exploited farmer in Thailand can't use the material. Oxford University, however, makes money from a government that oppressed Thailand, and since it's "non-profit," it's allowed to use the material. It should be the exact opposite.

     Previously, you had published the Developing Nations License, which sought to address this issue. (CreativeCommons.org) But, that fails as well, and it has been withdrawn fro numerous problems. For instance, in many developing countries, the attorneys and physicians become an entrenched, petty-capitalist class, oppressing people who were once "all part of a common tribe." (See the book, "The Economics of Underdeveloped Countries," by Peter Bauer and Basil Yamey, edited by John Keynes and Milton Friedman.)

     A rather vicious depiction of such a physician can be found in the short story "the Pearl." That physician denied medicine to a baby he had poisoned -- but he gets to use the Developing Nations License, while some homeless man in New York City doesn't. The attitude of the license is, "That poor physician, who exploits peons, he is helping them! But you, homeless man, you have no excuse, because of the country you live in!" It is, essentially, a Nationalist license.

     Why not "Developing Villages" licenses, that focuses on the village as the unit? Why not a "Developing Peoples" license, or a "Developing Regions" license? No, it's a "Developing NATIONS" license. For all of these reasons, this license failed, and has since been rescinded by the Creative Commons group. But -- I like the idea. I like the concept that licenses should be used to obliterate Capitalism, but that all forms of economic exchange are not inherently evil.

     This is why I suggest the Anti-Capitalist License. It holds one condition: employment does not occur anywhere in the use in the material. That sounds like a curious point, because it's quite Socialist. "Once you have so much material, that you must hire someone else to work it, then you don't need the licensed content anymore." A poor woman selling vegetables from her own garden in Morocco is allowed to use the content, just like the unemployed and exploited of Europe and America. More than that, unions and workers' cooperatives, where they are self-managed and democratic, will be allowed to use this material -- while their competitors, the Capitalists and the exploiters, will be barred from the material.

     It seems to perfectly fit the intent of the Developing Nations License: it allows commercial use of material, but only for those who are either in a dire, miserable position, or who are organizing for a cooperative, self-managed world.

     So why don't I just make my own license and my own license organization to promote it? Because that wouldn't really solve so much. Right now, the Open Source movement is steeped in Capitalism and Capitalist thought. The whole movement could do with a good deal of friction, because it's in danger of becoming a redundant attachment of slave labor's profiteers.

     There is a reason why I suspect many in the Open Source movement would reject the idea of this license. "It doesn't allow you to do absolutely anything you want with it!" would be the first objection. But more importantly, it clarifies the truth of class struggle. The Developing Nations License clarified the idea of nations, the Anti-Capitalist License clarifies the idea of class struggle. In Flickr, you can do a search for images based on whether they are Creative Commons licensed, and what type of license. Imagine if they added the new option, "Search Only for Licenses Dedicated to Anti-Capitalism." It would legitimize the concept of class war.

Andy Carloff

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