Off The Deep End: People Claiming That Supporting Creative Commons Is Being Anti-Creator

from the confusion dept

I’m always amazed when people accuse us here at Techdirt of being “anti-creator.” Considering how much time and effort we spend showing content creators how they can make more money, and highlighting examples of cool and profitable new business models, it’s one of the more bizarre criticisms. And, yet, some people seem to assume that anyone who dares to suggest any path that is not full-on extreme pro-copyright must be “anti-creator.” The blog Technollama has a really stunning strange example of this, where a woman who is apparently a newly minted lawyer tells the blogger that “anyone who supports Creative Commons is by definition anti-creators’ rights” followed up by this whopper:

“Creative Commons has put huge numbers of creatives out of business.”

Wow. I mean, we’ve seen ASCAP lash out at Creative Commons before, but I really can’t recall seeing someone state a position that was more ignorant. Creative Commons doesn’t put any creatives out of business. It’s simply a licensing choice for copyright holders. I’m at a loss as to how that can be against creators’ rights at all. It’s the opposite. It makes it easier for them to make use of those rights.

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Comments on “Off The Deep End: People Claiming That Supporting Creative Commons Is Being Anti-Creator”

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Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is the extent of it: (When I read TFA I had to know if she had more to say than “I know because I heard”)!/LeslieBAP/status/67724692605243392

Really? You mean all of the advances of digital technology being applied to photography, putting professional looking output into the hands of budding photographers the world over, therefor increasing competition had nothing to do with it? The only thing these photographer friends of hers can do is point to CC, as if thats the magic bullet that will bring the money back?

What a fucking crock of shit.

About 8-10 years ago I did a few weddings for about $300 when the couples were typically quoted $1500-2000. Sure, I didn’t have much experience, thats why I only charged them $300. But they got high quality images, on CDROM, that they could do whatever they pleased with. I didn’t insist on any copyrights being maintained, etc. I guess what I’m saying is, going digital allows just about anyone who is proficient to shoot events, photojournalism, art and nature photography, all without the cost of developing, film, etc. People learn a lot faster when the results are right there in front of them, and nothing is going to turn that back around. Go ahead, you daft cunt, push for the abolition of CC. If it ever comes to pass, photographers are not magically going to stop “going out of business.” They will have just as much competition to deal with due to other forces at work.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The threat always seems to be that if we don’t appreciate and nurture them appropriately ($$$) they’ll all disappear…

it’s a bluff. call them on it.

every time someone baawwws in a forum about how they don’t make any money, or that they could make more money working at mcdonalds, tell them to quit creating and get a real job.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, I think CC is like open source software in that regard (unsurprisingly, since CC was inspired by OSS licensing models). If your product is worse than the stuff that is being given away for free, then you will eventually be put out of business. Superiority in sales and marketing may keep you going for a while, but eventually your clients are going to wise up to the fact that they’re paying you for something that is inferior to alternatives that are freely available on the internet.

And, indeed, this is a good thing overall (even if it sucks for the people that are forced to find new jobs or careers as they or their employers fail to adapt to the changing marketplace).

Anonymous Coward says:

“Creative Commons has put huge numbers of creatives out of business.”

Well, she didn’t provide any source for this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this statement is at least partially factually correct. However even if it is correct, it doesn’t support her other statements, or mean what she wants it to mean.

I’m an amateur photographer. I release every photo I take under a CC license. In some of the photography forums I hang out at, I hear complaints from “pros” that amateurs are cutting into their bottom line. They are, in essence, saying the same thing as this lawyer – that people willing to do things for free make it harder for others to charge.

However by the same token, it also means that there are *more* “creatives”, and thus more creativity.

For every “pro” put out of business by someone using a CC license, there is (at a minimum) one other person creating. The net effect on creativity is – at minimum – zero sum, so *even if she’s correct*, the statement doesn’t support her conclusion.

Personally, I think if someone *stops* creating because someone else is doing it for free, then it’s still a net gain for society, as people who do things out of passion will always produce a better product than someone doing it solely to make money.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re not being put out of business by the Creative Commons license. They’re being put out of business by changes in the market they haven’t adapted to. People aren’t giving photos away because they choose the Creative Commons license. They’re using the Creative Commons license because they want to give photos away.

As a previous poster noted, it’s basic logic.

Anonymous Coward says:

While the increase in high-quality creative commons-licensed photos may be making it harder for professional photographers to sell their photos, creative commons is really just the tool for people choosing to make their photos available. The real cause is that suddenly there are a lot of amateurs who have very good cameras in the same class as the professionals who can take pictures of similar quality as some of the professionals, perhaps not on average but certainly often enough. They could choose to provide their photos for free with or without a creative commons license. That just makes the practice explicit and avoids a lot of contracts and lawsuits.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Creative Commons has put huge numbers of creatives out of business.”

The big question here is, how can a licensing system that nobody is forced to use put anyone out of business?
My guess would be that she’s saying that artists who want to be paid for their work can’t compete with the body of free CC material out there.
Of course, if she doesn’t want content creators to be able to release their work under CC, that’d make her the one who wants to take away creators’ rights.

Andrew Aversa (profile) says:

Straw man?

I don’t agree with the woman quoted in the article. I think it is silly to complain about something that creators can voluntarily enter into, and if you can’t compete with free, then you have a problem.

That being said, I’ve seen a certain straw man argument pop up in copyright discussions lately that has been getting on my nerves. It’s something to the effect of, “Creators shouldn’t whine about not making money. They should do it because they love it. If they complain about not making money, they should just do something else. We can live without them.”

This is pretty flimsy. Everyone by now has heard of the “10,000 hours” study, which conclusively showed that the concept of ‘talent’ is unambiguously unimportant compared to sheer practice time, especially when it comes to music. So, it is not controversial to make the statement that if one practices their craft, they will become better at it. If they put less time into it, they will not be as good as others who have. In the aforementioned study, musicians who practiced ~10,000 hours up to a certain point in their career were universally better off than those who practiced 7,000 hours and 4,000 hours. On the other hand, nobody who practiced less was at a higher skill level, and nobody who practiced a lot was no a lower skill level.

Following so far? OK. So, why does everyone immediately accuse any creator that laments not being paid a “sellout” or something similar? Assume musician A is a full-time musician. Because they are compensated for their music work, they are able to be musicians full time, practicing 6-8 hours a day minimum (playing at gigs, in bands, whatever.) Now assume musician B is flipping burgers full-time. All other things equal, musician B simply will not have as much time to practice their art, because the majority of their day will be dedicated to non-music work. And, as per the rule of practice vs. talent above, the musician who practices much less will not be as good.

So, with that in mind, please stop saying that all artists who want to make a full-time income from their art “don’t deserve to” or are somehow less artistic than those who are hobbyists or part-timers. I’m not saying that hobbyists can’t produce good art. I’m not saying that all full-time artists only produce good art. I’m just saying that *all other things equal*, enabling an artist to spend as much time as they want on their art without having to worry about a 9-5 job will result in better art, and that is not to anybody’s detriment.

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Straw man?

Soooo, what you’re saying is that a musician should be able to make a living because he’s that good at it? Because he practiced his art for 10,000+ hours?
Well, I’ve been picking my nose for 40 years, an hour or two a day. That’s at least 15,000 hours! Pay me, so I can do it full time!
Andrew, we live in a capitalist society. You get what people are willing to pay you for the value you add, be it painting, programming, music, whatever. You may be highly skilled at what you do, but if no one else values it, too bad. You don’t get to make a living at it. Quit whining. Shut up.

Andrew Aversa (profile) says:

Re: Re: Straw man?

That’s actually not at all what I said, or anywhere close. I did not say anything about anyone “deserving” to make money. What I said was that /if/ an artist is able to spend more time on their art, they will get better at it (this is very basic, intuitive, and backed up w/ various studies, etc.) I then pointed out it logically follows that if an artist has to spend most of their time on something other than their art, they will not have as much time to practice as someone who can work on their art full-time.

Again, for emphasis, this has nothing to do with anyone “deserving” anything or really even ethics at all. It’s pure logic. If (more practice = greater proficiency) and (more time results in more practice) then it necessarily follows that (less time results in less practice), and thus, (less practice = lesser proficiency.)

People frequently put forth statements like: “…people who do things out of passion will always produce a better product than someone doing it solely to make money.” But this is a logical fallacy. Making money from art on a full-time basis is not mutually exclusive with “doing things out of passion”. As per the points I’ve made above, someone who is truly passionate about their art would WANT to spend as much time on it as possible, improving their level of proficiency and mastery.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Straw man?

Given the absolutely TINY number of musicians (even among the so-called “professionals”) that make money exclusively from their music, I think you might be a wee bit off. Since only 1 in 10 label-signed acts turn any sort of profit, obviously the people in those groups and projects need to have alternative sources of income, as well.

I think your point of view is derived from the naivete that comes from believing that musicians who don’t have jobs do nothing but practice during average work hours…eight hours straight a day, at least five days a week. Baloney. They get the band together a few hours a week, then they spend the rest of it playing Call of Duty and going to parties…same as the musicians who have jobs.

Andrew Aversa (profile) says:

I think you missed the part where I said “all other things equal.” I would argue that a musician who is more interested in playing Call of Duty and going to parties is probably not very passionate or interested in music for music’s sake to begin with. It is incredibly naive (to use your term) to assume that of all professional musicians, when in fact the very best composers, producers and session musicians dedicate enormous amounts of time to their craft. They write and perform music because they love it, not because they make money from it, and no doubt would be making music even if they had to work 12 hours a day. That being said, if they had to work 12 hours a day, they simply would not be able to spend as much time on music, and thus would not be as good. To say otherwise would be to say you believe practice is irrelevant and only innate talent matters, something that has been more-or-less disproved (or at least made very uncertain.)

But we’re not just talking about musicians here. Pick any other creative field. How about graphic designers? Do you think the college student who designs logos for a couple hours a week will have the same level of proficiency and mastery as a full-time graphic designer who is doing it 8+ hours a day (probably during and after work?) Again, all other things being equal.

You’re committing the same logical fallacy as others have, saying that if an artist is a professional, they MUST be only in it for the money, and can’t simultaneously be very passionate about what they do. There’s no basis for this.

A few things to note:

* I’m not saying all professionals are good. Being a professional does not imply that you are good. It implies that you do something full-time. You can be a professional (X) due to nepotism, family connections, sheer luck, etc.

* I’m not saying all amateurs are bad. Again, being an amateur does not imply that you are bad. It implies that you are not a professional.

* I AM saying, very clearly, that artists benefit immensely from practice. I am also saying that if you are working full-time on something other than your art, you will generally not have as much time to practice.

Andrew Aversa (profile) says:

Re: So what?

I know people pride themselves on ‘witty’ one-line responses, but believe me, they’re not as clever as you think.

Discussions like these (particularly on this site) typically revolve around the default position that intellectual property laws are restrictive, outdated, obsolete (etc) and have the opposite of their initial intended effect, which is encouraging creation to the betterment of society. (I agree with this position, for the most part. We need serious IP law reform.)

So, it’s safe to say that people – like you – participating in these discussions care about art and its relation to society. That is, after all, why we get so passionate about these topics.

My point, therefore, should be of interest to anyone participating, since it adds another element to consider as we discuss what we should and should not do with IP laws, who it might affect, and how it might affect them. It’s easy, but incorrect, to assume that any artists who want to work full-time on their art are simply greedy, not passionate, and therefore easily dismissed.


Re: Re: Can't compete against the back catalog...

All the creative commons does is restore the balance of copyright. It injects content into the pool of creative capitol (not quite public domain) that can be used for free. This is something that should have been happening anyway if not for the fact that MegaCorps distorted copyright into something quite different from it’s original intent.

Can’t compete against the back catalog? Cry me a river.

Copyright is not corporate or individual welfare. It’s also not some back door pseudo-property right either.

A healthy public domain should already be interfering with the avarice of would be moguls.

AWA says:

Art v. Society

“It’s easy, but incorrect, to assume that any artists who want to work full-time on their art are simply greedy, not passionate, and therefore easily dismissed.”


I am not certain that anyone here has quite made that claim. I think the general thrust of the criticism you are alluding to is the sense of entitlement, sometimes bordering on moralistic, that certain, self-proclaimed artists sometimes assert. Of course many artists–including highly skilled and passionate ones–WANT to work full-time on their art. That’s not the issue. The issue is to what degree the rest of society should re-arrange itself in order to enable that want. This leads to the question of whether art is made for the sake of society or whether society is made for the sake of art.

PS I believe the “10,000 hours” idea has been subject to a good deal of critique. One might reconsider labeling it as “conclusive” and stating that “talent is unambiguously unimportant compared to sheer practice time.”

Andrew Aversa (profile) says:

Thanks for the reasonable response. However, that’s exactly the claim that people here have made, and there are surely countless other examples in other discussions:

“…people who do things out of passion will always produce a better product than someone doing it solely to make money.”

The implication of this statement is that any artist complaining about money must be /solely in it to make money/. Why do people jump to this conclusion, when, as I’ve said, there is the equally possible conclusion that they are simply very passionate and want to continue being able to put all their time into their passion? You can see by the responses to my posts here that people immediately assume I am defending some sort of moral right for artists to make money, when I am in fact merely pointing out what you just said, which is that passionate people by nature want to do what they love and get better at it.

I do agree that this brings up the discussion of what art’s purpose is, and I actually made another long post about that in another thread. I’m in agreement with you that it is unreasonable to expect society to bend over backwards for artists who are unwilling to adapt to technology, and it is even more unreasonable for corporate interests to have so much influence over IP laws. But that’s really another topic for another thread. I would be happy if more people would simply realize that not every musician complaining about money deserves to be labeled as having a sense of entitlement, when perhaps they just want to dedicate themselves to their passion.

As for the validity of practice being more important than talent, I suppose we could again debate that endlessly as well. However, I really doubt we would have trouble agreeing on the point that artists do in fact benefit from practice, which is the only point that needs to be agreed on for the rest of my posts to make sense.

drew Roberts (user link) says:

Possible Logic

Possible Logic:

Without easy and relaxed licensing options most casual content creators would have their works automatically ARR. Thus the creators actively trying to make money from their creations will have less competition as they are set up to handle licensing issues while many casual creators either could not be bothered with giving out licenses or would be clumsy at it.

With things like cc BY and BY-SA and the GPL and other Free licenses, casual creators can easily make their intentions known and handle many licensing negotiations up front with little or no effort.

Now those actively trying to make a living from their creations have a whole lot more competition in the marketplace making their job harder. Many can’t handle the competition and thus go out of business.

Discuss this flight of fancy if you like.

all the best,


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