Free culture, yes or no?

I love free culture.  Free is an ambiguous word in English in a way that it isn’t ambiguous in many other languages.  Our word “free” encompasses the meanings of freedom, rights, and a price tag of $0.00.  Some people in the free culture movement like to distinguish these two meanings, but I see no problem in conflating them.

I love free culture because it means stuff is free!  I can find it, read it, watch it, play it, listen to it, share it, edit it, improve it, make it worse, be inspired by it, and more or less do whatever else I want to it as long as I give credit where credit is due.  Free content is designed with these ideas in mind.

Some people like the free consumption aspect of this, no cost, maximum pleasure.  Others love remixing other people’s work and make sometimes terrible, sometimes terrific derivative works.

I love paying for free stuff.  It makes me feel good about it!  I don’t always pay for it, but when I want to support an artist who is making great stuff, I’m going to do that.

When I make stuff, I usually make it free.  I want people first and foremost to have access to my creations without worrying about some legal authority telling them they can’t share them.  I get to say to them, “No one can prevent you from sharing them because that’s how my license works.”

I’m not a great artist, author, editor, or musician, but I love creating content.  I wouldn’t presume to charge people money for my mediocre work.  I am however inspired to improve based on comments from people who read, listen to, or watch my work though.  I also hope that some of my work might be useful to someone else, such that I could save them a few minutes out of their busy work day by providing my content for free.  We both win!  I feel good about having made something useful and they save a few minutes.

Is free culture right for you?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that if you want to control your content, where it’s used, how it’s distributed, then you should NOT use free licenses for your content.  License holders ultimately have the ability to change the license their work is under, and if it’s been distributed under a free license, and users or viewers have shared that or re-worked it, then when the license holder changes it to a more restrictive license they’ve undermined the spirit of sharing and collaboration.

If you want to maintain careful control over your work, don’t use Creative Commons licensing or open source licenses.  That’s fine, most folks in the free culture world don’t care if you want to keep your work locked down.  Just know what you’re doing with the license you choose.

Some of my contributions of free content:

Clipart, Photography, Writing

A good example of some of the benefits of free culture is when you can improve upon an original multiple times.


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Filed under books, internet, issues, media, personal, photography, technology, writing

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