Share Cropping and CC

I’ve been mulling over this piece by Nick Carr, I’ve forgotten who first linked to it. Something about it just doesn’t sit right.

I’ll concede that there is exploitation occurring in the cases he cites. But there are at least as many examples of services catering to user generated content that are not “share cropping” their users. Flickr, for one, stands out as a good example where they prominently feature the ability to utilized CC licenses to better balance the author’s rights with the sharing and aggregation aspects of the service. I am drawing a blank, but I doubt that’s the only counter example.

I see this more as a user education issue than a case study in a new and pernicious economic model. If more participants in conversational media were aware of Creative Commons, whether they chose to use the licenses or not, I would guess that fewer “share croppers” would be able to get away with such egregious advantage taking. All it would take, I think, is a small but vocal minority of subscribers to call attention to the imbalance inherent in these models for either those services to change themselves or someone else to seize on a competitive opportunity represented by offering the same services with a more favorable mixture of rights.

Also, and what finally prompted me to articulate my thoughts, is that Lessig in Free Culture (published on 2004) describes the relationship between recording artists and labels in almost exactly the same terms that Carr uses. Given the ratio of hits to duds and super stars to non-starters, I think the analogy is quite apt. And I think Lessig does a fair better job of explaining why that imbalance comes about.

No shocker but businesses exist to make money, period. Unless forced by regulation or the market to do otherwise they will settle into exploitative ruts of their own accord. Isn’t that why we have anti-trust legislation?

If you don’t like this “share cropping” or any of the other nasty side effects of market concentration, how about doing something? Raise some consciousness. Contribute time and resources to organizations like Creative Commons. Do something more constructive than hand wringing over a phenomenon that is not all that new or worrisome when you have a better grasp of the relevant history.

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