Exploitive corporate scum love Creative Commons

I’ve already acknowledged my fuzziness around the implications of the various clauses of a Creative Commons license. In my hyper-simplistic way I have come to be convinced by the likes of David Wiley and others I respect in the open culture movement that in too many instances the Non-Commercial (NC) clause created an unnecessary barrier to reuse.

For instance, I know some people (disclosure: one of them is mother to my son) who are passionate about teaching the principles of permaculture, to promote techniques that will decrease energy consumption and promote sustainable food production. Among their activities are workshops in which practitioners share their knowledge with an informal, generally hands-on approach. The instructors get a small honorarium for their time, and there are overhead costs, so a nominal fee (usually $25) is charged to participants. I can assure you that nobody is making money out of this arrangement, it’s just an attempt not to lose money. When I talk with open education types, I often ask how online educational resources could be shared in a way that is relevant and useful to this type of use case. A common theme that emerges in these discussions is that NC-licensed resources are effectively copyrighted against this type of use. Sure, the permaculture people could ask permission. But they could ask permission to use a copyrighted item too. Creative Commons is supposed to promote frictionless adaptability.

On the other hand, you have the position of Stephen Downes and others, who essentially argue that allowing commercial use will inevitably be exploited by corporate creeps in ways that will be contrary to the spirit of Creative Commons. Perhaps the process will even be a lever to move open content into the proprietary domain. (I’m radically simplifying here, but hopefully got the spirit right. I really don’t have time to write this post, I’ve got spam to suck.)

Well, add a point to Stephen’s column.

Via Twitter, I read Vicki Davis’s post which describes how <a href=”a Virgin Mobile ad swiped a picture of a girl (check out the comments) at a car wash, and apparently used the CC-attribution license as justification to use the kid as an unpaid model. Apparently a lawsuit is pending. More swiped images and discussion here.

There may well be more to this, so in the absence of further research I’ll hold my vitriol. But on the surface it seems like a fairly straightforward case of a corporation using an open artifact for aggressive marketing… I’m fairly sure Virgin had lawyers consider whether or not they needed to get permission from the subject of the photo. They did provide attribution in the bottom corner, and there may well be nothing anyone can do (unless the CC license is found not to carry any weight, which could get ugly for a lot of people).

I suppose I could boycott Virgin, but I’ve been avoiding them for years anyway. Richard Branson and his self-obsessed hipster billionaire act put him high on my hatelist long ago. He manages to combine what I despise most about Bono and Donald Trump into one smarmy package.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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