Case Studies/John Quiggin
The Creative Commons is a crucially important initiative. The most important innovations of the past twenty years, those associated with the rise of the Internet, have been driven primarily by bottom-up creative collaboration and not by intellectual property or centrally planned research. — John Quiggin
The Age Media Blog acknowledges Professor John Quiggin as ‘One of the elder statements of the Oz blogosphere.’ His eponymous blog, John Quiggin, hosts material on a range of topics, spanning academia, economics, politics, and Australian culture. A contributor to the collective blog Crooked Timber and commentator for the Australian Financial Review, John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow at the School of Economics at the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia. Commenced in June 2002, John Quiggin’s blog has since attracted considerable attention, and none more so than his option to license his posts under Creative Commons.
On 1 July 2005, John Quiggin announced that his blog was to be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 2.1 Australia terms. This Quiggin believed to be the ‘default rule’ for bloggers, expressing their standard expectations:
- ‘Anyone can use as much as they like for a non-commercial purpose, as long as they allow others to do the same with the derivative work, and acknowledge my original authorship, either by name or with a link back to the original post.’
This declaration gave rise to what copyright academic and commentator Kim Weatherall, of Weatherall’s Law, termed the ‘Great Blog Licensing Debate’, also noted as the ‘Australian Blog Licensing Frenzy’ on Rusty’s Bleeding Edge Page. The issue for Weatherall was one of whether there should be share-alike terms, and additionally for Rusty as to whether Non-Commercial terms were appropriate. Weatherall took the ShareAlike provision to task:
- ‘I’m not sure I want to dictate to people what they want to do with their stuff, even if their stuff incorporates some of my stuff.’
Thinking of utility, Rusty agrees with this sentiment: by not stipulating that other users behave in the same way as the creator, the usefulness of the work is maximised, rather than locking up downstream uses.
Considering non-commercial terms, Rusty says that to lament others’ success is pointless, where their gains don’t deprive the creator of any benefit:
- ‘When your neighbour wins the lottery, do you complain it's unfair? After all, you might have won the lottery if they didn't! Or do you congratulate them and ask to borrow the Ferrari on weekends? If the latter, and you're not making money on your blog, I'd suggest dropping non-commercial from your CC license, and wishing those who try to make money all the luck in the world...’
He also reflects on the position of freely-distributed software before Linux changed to the GPL.
Interestingly, a party to this debate, David Starkoff, relicensed his blog Inchoate in July 2005, opting for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 2.1 Australia licence.
Positioning himself in contrast to John Dvorak’s confusion surrounding the Creative Commons initiative, John Quiggin writes a glowing appraisal of the ideas expressed in these open content licences. In particular, he defends his choice of the non-commercial, attribution, share-alike version of the Creative Commons licence, which allows anyone to reproduce the work from the blog, with attribution and for non-commercial purposes, as long as they share it under the same conditions. Quiggin states that he has selected this licence, ‘not because it’s necessarily the best option in all, or even most cases, but because it’s the best default rule.’
- ‘Anyone who wants to use material from the blog in this way can do so without asking me. And share-alike is a good feature for a default option, because it means that re-use is similarly free under the same conditions. But if Hollywood wants to use bits of the blog in the forthcoming hit movie Crooked Timber of Humanity, they are not confined to the CC license. They’re free to fly me to LA, and make a stupendously generous offer for the commercial rights. Similarly, if someone wanted to use the posts without attribution for some good reason, they could always approach me and ask for permission. More generally, if someone wants to do things differently they can propose a contract with me.’
The default is positioned historically: whereas once it was the public domain, since it was necessary to make a specific claim for copyright, it is now ‘all rights reserved’ copyright. Introducing Creative Commons seeks to restore a balance between these points.