Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Copyright is not evil

Once again, I’m the curmudgeon. I think I’ll have “bah humbug” etched on my tombstone.

Just for balance, I’d like to point out that I do, indeed, enjoy using a Creative Commons license for the Fray Audio, where the ownership is shared and the intent is noncommercial from the get-go. I’m a big supporter of what Creative Commons is trying to do.

But I’ll never use a CC license for my photos, for example, because even their most restrictive license only “forces” people to attribute the work (“Photo by Derek Powazek”), use it noncommercially, and not alter it. By that logic, a religious right group could, say, take a photo like this and use it in some sort of awful anti-gay propaganda. Worse, the license would make sure my name was attached to it. No thanks.

I’m no copyright prude. I get what CC is trying to do, and I’m all in favor it. But I also still believe in traditional copyright law. It’s there to protect artists. And, in the example above, protect the unspoken trust of people who I’ve photographed to use their images appropriately.

The thing to remember about traditional copyright is that it does just what it says: It protects an artist’s right to copy the art they make. But the copyright holder can always, always, always allow others to copy their work with permission. So Cory can allow people to copy his books en masse, and I can choose to let some people use my photos and not others. That’s our prerogative as the artists who made the work.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I make awesome community-centric web stuff. I sometimes post things to Flickr and Twitter. I’m mostly harmless. More.





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