Copyright seems to make sense. People create things, they get to benefit from them, and so they create more things. The only problem is that I have never created something that I get monetary benefit from. Copyright isn’t what encouraged me to create anything. When I write, make, record, or do anything original I’m never thinking ‘wow I’m going to make a ton of money on this.’ I think about the benefit that it can bring to me but I also, I get excited to share it with my friends, colleagues, and peers.
“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction him-
self without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light with-
out darkening me”
When I share, I get feedback, I make myself vulnerable, and I am benefitted by sharing. That is what open licensing allows me to do. It not only helps me protect certain rights to my own creations, but puts a sticker on my work saying: I want to share this. It’s a marker that I like to share more than it is claim of ownership or a demand for credit. I want my work to grow, I don’t want my work to be locked away, and I want others to build upon my work. I want someone to add guitar riffs to the audio file I put on soundcloud, I want someone to add visuals to the learning module I wrote, I want someone to comment on my blog post telling me why I’m wrong (in a kind way of course).
Ideas, movements, and causes – they aren’t like paintings, chocolate bars, or laptops. They can’t be stolen, used up, or depleted. I’m not advocating that everything be communal or that we can all take from one another at our own whim because it benefits us. I think the principle, as James Boyle and Jefferson both share, that ideas are not property is spot on. I think this is a space in which it is much easier to agree upon than talking about a true commons. The idea of a commons can be scary and off-putting to those who feel they have so much monetary benefit to gain from sharing their creations. If we’re talking about things that aren’t concrete, it is a much approachable and less scary way to introduce people to the commons.
I have been the beneficiary of lesson plans, images, videos, slides, research, and I haven’t stolen them as my own or precluded someone from receiving benefit from their creations. Instead, I have tried to build upon those shared resources. I think the moment that we find a commons resource and can use it to improve upon our own work, is the moment that it can all click for us. All of this, without taking from the work that others do, but rather building upon that creation and working towards a common cause.