Choice of license
A copyright license can take many forms. Copyright, as a concept, is related to rights in general and to property rights in particular. Property rights are about social organisation: how can people relate to each other and to the objects that surround them? Property is not objects as such, but should be understood as some sort of articulations that makes it possible for people to live together without too much friction in a material world. Property rights such as those used in the liberal/capitalist market economy are based on exclusion: if this is my car it is my right to exclude you from using it (and a whole range of other stipulations and restrictions, as well as permissions are possible for the proprietor). The genius of the basic Free Software document, which is in effect the constitution of the Free Software community, namely the GNU General Public Licence (or simply the GPL), is that it subverts this exclusionary logic and bases its property rights (copyright) around distribution instead (see for instance this paper (.pdf)). That is the concept of Copyleft. Copyleft is a particular Copyright. It is radically different, but it is a Copyright, since it deals with issues that a creator or inventor may have with her work.
The purpose of this page is to facilitate a discussion about the choice of Copyright, or, as it were, the kind of Copyleft that AktiviX as a collective will use for this Wiki. The GPL and the associated GNU Free Documentation License has been very successful for Linux, other Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) "tribes" resting upon licensing models permautated from the GPL, such as the Apache Software Foundation have also been successfull and are essential elements of Cyberspace. The Apache software is run on almost 70% of all the world's webservers. The sky is wide open for experimentations and the elaborations of Copyleft licenses by the Creative Commons project show that articulations of property rights in a Global Information Society can take an infinite variety of forms only limited by our own imaginations (and political repression and corruption, of course)! If code is law and the architecture liquid it should be possible to build anything?
AktiviX is a network, a collective, or a group in formation of people that has come together through a realisation of the exciting explorations possible between traditional political activists and hackers: free tools for a free culture for a free world - or how can we have free minds of we don't have free information?
The need for a license for the Wiki contributions makes sense in at least three major ways: (i) to organise our collaborations in a way that minimises the potential for conflicts about ownership, both internally to AktiviX and with concerns to external "actors"; and (ii) to practice and experiment with property rights to gain a better understanding of this basic legal aspect of social organisation and to do so through experimental, collaborative self-organisation. Moreover, (iii) by discussing, choosing and testing one or more licenses and by providing feedback to those who create them, AktiviX actively engages with and contributes to the Copyleft movement, which is part of the "movement of movements for globalisation from below".
In brief, there is a need for decision making within AktiviX about licensing of the stuff contributed to the Wiki (and other collorative environments that may emerge) in order to avoid future conflict, to experiment and to make a political statement: another property system is possible!
Aims and Terms
It could be said that property rights, in this case Copyrights, are so fundamental to social organisation that a boundary of a community is drawn up with them. The Free Software community is a good example, as well as the higher echelons of corporate power and wealth, who fight to protect their property through all means. While it is well adviced to avoid fundamentalism and other fanatic behaviour, such as racism and xenophobia, it is also well adviced to draw the boundaries of your community. These can be inclusive and exclusive in so many ways.
Questions it might make sense to ask: where do the boundaries of the AktiviX community go? Where do we want them to go? There are many commons, which do we want to join? Who do we want to share with? How do we want to share? What do we not want to share? Who do we not want to share with? Can sharing be limited at all from a moral perspective? Is it immoral to share with Big Corporations.
Currently AktiviX is using the GNU FDL, because it is the original or default Copyleft license for text in cyberspace. FDL, as a license, is translated from the domain of software (code) to human language documentation about the software (text, incl. prose).
The obvious alternatives to FDL are provided by Creative Commons. CC licenses offer combinations of certain restrictions and permissions as well as an infrastructure for an open participatory revision through user feedback and discussion.
A viewpoint could be that AktiviX endorses the work of the Free Software Foundation and supports the GNU GPL, but considers it relevant to use a CC license, because CC intends to go beyond software in the wider realm of the intellectual commons, and since the FSF is probably better off keeping its expertise strongly focused on the struggle around the GPL (or the question concerning ownership of software code). [THIS IS A STATEMENT THAT DOES NOT ADEQUATELY REFLECT THE DISCUSSION ON THE MAILINGLIST AND HAS TO BE DISCUSSED REWRITTEN OR DELETED OR REPLACED OR AGREED TO OR]
The question of where and how to draw the boundaries of the AktiviX community seems to have to balance on the hand a problem or threat somewhat similar to recuperation and on the other the wish to let an idea travel as far as possible. Activists experience and rhetoric vs. hacker experience and rhetoric.
Social movements and radical ideas or icons have throughout history been subverted for better and worse and there is a strong sentiment that can be called anti-capitalism to which many political activists protest passionately, but there is also a hacker idea of sharing with the big corporate players, (if they play along with rules and because they are needed for acceleration), to gain a stronger position against conservative forces that see the GPL as a threat to their property (see Groklaw and Lessig's blog for more legal stuff).
These are two ideas between which there are tension, but which should be able to reach a common ground. This common ground, or license, however, may not be written yet. Help us write it!
These licenses have been suggested as the licenses that articulate the positions of respectively the "anti-capitalist activist" ethics and the "hacker" ethics:
- anti-capitalist version
- hacker version
Some of the differences have been outlined on these threads:
This means that in effect we are in a dispute about what "commercial" actually means in the CC language - a potentially interesting conflict!
It seems that "commercial" might mean any kind of selling and trading where money is involved begging further "analytic breaking down" into categories that are about what kind of commercial activity. This may be defined by intentions, morals and values or code of the organisation performing that activity, since there is a big difference between Seeds for Change and IBM, for instance.
What is an appropriate, sustainable format for commercial activity? Is there such a thing as anarchist business?
Getting on with it
Does anyone object to using a version of a Creative Commons license, the exact details to be decided on by AktiviX as a collective?
- If so, why?
- Are you quietly accepting?
- Are you speaking out because you are unsure and beed more time to better understand the issues at hand?
- Do you need more suggestions or help?
Assuming that there is wish to migrate to a CC license, the question becomes:
- Do we choose between the two proposed licenses?
- and if so, how do we make that decision?
Should AktiviX stay with the FDL?
- And if, then why?
Or do we choose not to choose, because the options available cannot adequately cover the grounds we desire?
- and if, how do we articulate our "perfect" license?
All depending on time, input and intentions either of these options may be the "right one".
--k40z 04:40, 8 Jul 2004 (BST)