A Bug in Early Creative Commons Licenses Has Enabled a New Breed of

All new to me…

“Creative Commons invented a robo-lawyer that did good: made it easier for copyright holders and users to reach agreements with one another. I think Pixsy has created a robo-lawyer whose purpose is to terrorize innocent people into paying…”

Stewart has been pushing his “Copyleft Trolls” paper, including online. It’s not really a paper in the law review tradition. It’s way more loaded and activist than that. It’s more like a blog post with footnotes, and of course there is an actual blog post.

It doesn’t surprise me that Doctorow picked it up. It’s on-story and on-tone for him.

But if you read the paper, Stewart doesn’t actually grok copyleft:

The movement to reform or replace copyright with a system more suited to online use and culture, particularly favoring noncommercial secondary uses through contract-based alternatives, is sometimes called “copyleft.”

A lot of the licenses he’s talking about, or the licenses involved in many of the cases he’s talking about, aren’t copyleft at all. A lot of the suits are about CC-BY licensed work where the users didn’t give attribution.

I’m not a fan of many of those lawsuits. Or the lawyers who bring them. But the idea that every license should have a grace provision that saves people who violate the terms isn’t open and shut. There are certainly cases where it makes way more sense, and is perfectly fair, for creators to choose the older 3.0 CC licenses that don’t have the “fix”.

There was a parallel push from Red Hat and some others to get Linux contributors to “backport” a GPLv3-style grace provision into the GPLv2 terms for their past contributions. Whole 'nother topic, but related, for those following along from a strictly software point of view.

  1. I really don’t get Doctorow… His writing seems disingenuous.

Take this sentence which, (for some reason) is also it’s own paragraph:

[…] objectively cool.

Not even wrong. There is something about his project that feels opportunistic and cynical to me but as a contract dev I just don’t have the time to track down that scent. Maybe you have something that definitely sets his project out somewhere?
2. The quote from Stewart doesn’t suggest to me he misunderstands copyleft, I think it shows there is a psychologically distanced description available to people who don’t work in the industry like us maybe? That description is bolstered with a quote from Belgian academic Severine Dusollier who DOES seem to know her stuff as being quite high up in CC org for a while (Dusollier, Séverine | Sciences Po Law School). What she has to say isn’t a million miles away from a more social science type of reading? That copyleft is a loosey, goosey ‘movement’ rather than an industry standard policed by Big Tech.

Although having said all that, Big Tech has been triumphant is controlling and influencing FOSS development and as such, the distinction between winners and losers I predict will become much more obvious. ‘Winning’ projects will join the ranks of Big Tech while ‘Losers’ will become radicalized and proletarianized towards activism. It’s already happened to an observable degree of course.