April 16, 2005

Creative Archive Licence

by Scott Rettberg · , 10:45 am

creative archive logoThe UK has launched an initiative to release materials from the archives of the BBC, Channel 4, the Open University, and the British Film Institute in a form of the Creative Commons. The Creative Archive Licence will make materials available to the British public to remix and use in noncommercial projects. The terms of the Creative Archive Licence are no commercial, share alike, give credit, no endorsement, UK only. Within those stipulations, materials including 100 hours of of radio and television from the BBC and silent comedy and drama from BFI are being released for the British public to “Find it, Rip it, Mix it and Share it.” Although it’s a shame that the Creative Archive Licence will be UK only, the release of these and other materials should be a boon to artists and educators. It also makes a great deal of sense to me that publicly funded work should be made available for reuse by the public that funded it. One can only imagine the benefits that artists and educators would reap should NPR and PBS launch a similar initiative.

Lord Puttnam delivered a speech at the Creative Archive Seminar to launch the endeavor:

The key to really capitalising on the opportunity is going to be delivered by those who, with a leap of imagination, find the means to deliver compelling content in a way that plays to the specific strengths of the online world.

I think we’re only just beginning to explore what these models might look like – in the public and in the commercial sector.

At the moment most serious discussion around those new models is being inhibited by the fact that, whilst enormous amounts of energy are being expended to protect intellectual rights online, there hasn’t been anything remotely resembling that energy going into discussions around the use of digital technology to enhance access, and diversity.

The obsessive focus on the threat has continued to blind many to the opportunity. The commercial music industry has already paid a high price for that. The public sector cannot afford to make the same mistake.

9 Responses to “Creative Archive Licence”

  1. nick Says:

    The Creative Archive site is no doubt inspired by Creative Commons, a US nonprofit, but the site doesn’t mention Creative Commons anywhere. I did find a press release and news story that mention the connection, though. The news story quotes a gushy Lawrence Lessig.

    Now, as you say, Scott, the US should do the imitating and NPR and PBS should make their archives similarly available. If it can be done without restricting access to the US, that would be even better. (In the UK, existing restrictions on media funding made this implausible, although we can hope that this will change with time.) I also hope that “free” licenses restricting use to a certain country aren’t an unintentional result of this project. Just when we were almost over the nation-state…

  2. mark Says:

    I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, it is more freedom than was previously allowed. On the other hand, it is somewhat more insidious, seeming “free” but really being quite non-free (due to both the “noncommercial” and the “UK-only” restrictions).

    If it becomes a sort of standard way of doing business, it will also have a fairly negative impact by driving the marketplace of ideas in a fairly strange direction, and will also further dilute the term “free license”, as this is definitely not a “free license” in the longstanding sense that has been meant since the mid-1980s (e.g. licenses like the MIT, BSD, GPL, GFDL, CC-with-attribution, CC-sharealike, etc.).

  3. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    Well, the GPL is notoriously “noncommercial”, and there’s a “noncommercial” version of CC-sharealike, too. As for the “UK only” restriction, I think the Beeb is pretty much forced to add this due to the nature of its game: the content it produces is paid for by British public, so it’s only this public who gets the benefit, and all of us non-payers are excluded. Not nice, but, to me, not “strange”, either…

  4. mark Says:

    That’s not correct; the GPL is in fact explicitly not “noncommercial”. The Free Software Foundation does not consider any license that prohibits commercial use to be a Free license, so their own license certainly includes no such prohibition.

    The only restriction on the GPL is the “copyleft” restriction, which is what CC calls “sharealike”: If you distribute a modified copy, you must license your modifications under the same license. You’re free to sell your product, perform it publicly for a fee, and do whatever else you want with it.

  5. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    Mark, of course you are free to do what you want with your product under the GPL. However, other people are not. One of the points of the idea of “free software” is to restrict the freedom of maximizing profits. And subverting the rules of the market one operates on doesn’t seem to be a commercial endeavor to me.

  6. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    And to make it clear where I stand, personally: I call the GPL a political rather than a commercial license, and I support it.

  7. scott Says:

    Although it does have its limitations, one of the benefits of the CC: system and, for Brits, the Creative Archive, is that from an educators perspective, I can now encourage my students to do legally what they were already doing illegally — reusing web content from others. Even if the only result of the movement is that students have more material available for remixing for noncommercial purposes, I consider that a good thing. For material like writing and photographs, it makes perfect sense to me to make my material available for noncommercial purposes only — that is, I don’t want you to publish my book or photographs and profit from them without asking permission first. If you want to use it for your classes or for your art project, I don’t event want you to have to ask. I wouldn’t want to see the culture of permissions completely disappear — as an artist, I still want to retain certain exclusive rights. The genius of the creative commons isn’t that it advocates that everything be released into the public domain immediately after creation in a completely egalitarian/communist fashion, but that it allows for shades in between the current draconian copyright regime and the public domain.

  8. mark Says:

    Dirk: My point was that the GPL permits other people, not just you, to use your stuff commercially. There is no “noncommercial” clause: I can take GPL’d software and use it in a commercial product, and there is no problem at all with this, so long as I release my changes under the GPL. In fact, Red Hat’s entire business model is built on making commercial use of GPL’d software, and the FSF has no problem at all with this.

    Under a “noncommercial use only” license, like the BBC’s new one, what Red Hat is doing would be illegal. For example, if I packaged up everything the BBC released into a nice easy-to-browse format with a snazzy GUI and released in on DVD-ROM, and then sold it for a profit, that wouldn’t be permitted, even if I released all my additions under the same license. But if they had released their stuff under a GNU-style license, there would be no problem.

    As the FSF states: ““Free software” does not mean “non-commercial”. A free program must be available for commercial use, commercial development, and commercial distribution. Commercial development of free software is no longer unusual; such free commercial software is very important.”

  9. Dirk Scheuring Says:

    Yes, you’re right, Mark; I see that now. Sorry for bothering you.

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