The Free Culture Discussion

In Episode 22 our hosts discuss Free culture and the successes of Creative Commons and why we’re not yet living in a world where content is vividly shared, re-used and re-mixed. While they are correct in the statement that we have a long way to go there are pockets of this universe where Creative Commons had some impact.

They already mentioned Flickr and the possibility to CC license your photos there (a huge source of imagery for every time I have to write a blog post).

For me one area is mainly missing out: Scientific Publishing. This is the area where Creative Commons licenses met a very specific community and made a large impact in the last years (under the label of Open Access). Some countries even require publicly funded research to be published with an Open Access (often CC) license. Right now there are multiple journals only publishing CC licensed scientific articles - I have published in some of them myself and see this as an important change for opening up research culture.

So why don’t we have more re-use and re-mix? One of the issues are licenses themselves: The CC-ND (no derivatives) or NC (non-commercial) licenses are to call out here. The latter don’t even make it to the Wikipedia. Sadly these licenses seem to be among the ones most used. They inhibit people to actively re-use and re-mix content.

Another body of work I happily plunder is in the Public Domain (check out the fantastic Public Domain Review for a curation). Probably a project like this a “Free Culture Review” curating the best out there licensed openly (AKA CC0, CC-BY, CC-SA, PD) could help as a point to find the fantastic works out there created with creative commons licenses.

Interesting, thanks for sharing! Why do you think the scientific community have been so open to this?

So are the scientific journals you mentioned mainly using ND and NC licenses?

I think that CC is a success. We have lots of material that is now share under a remix licence, and awareness is growing. The “Failure” of the remix culture that you talked about is really that this hasn’t happened as much and as comprehensively as we would have all liked.

Exactly the same can be said of the spread of the Linux desktop. We would have all liked to see Linux takeover the desktop, but that hasn’t happened (yet) but it has been a resounding success in other areas, Servers, supercomputers, Home routers, Media set-top boxes, and Phones…

Good question. One argument that speaks very much for Open Access is that most research is already funded by the public and thus should be available for everyone. Also scientific publishers were very strict with paywalls etc. so suffering in the scientific community from strictly enforced “copyright” was high (at least for researchers in smaller institutions)

Many yes. Though Plos ONE one of the most interesting journals out there uses CC-By.

I agree with you there - though we should not forget: We are a very hardcore niche somewhere on the internet :smile:

How much of the open access stuff is a reaction against Elsevier and similar, do you think?

Very good question. Elsevier quickly took the role Microsoft long had in OSS for scientific publishing ;). While many people are upset with their intransparent pricing schemes and packaging of journals (e.g. you can’t subscribe only to “Goats” you also have to buy “Lamaherding professional” and “The International Journal for Cat Diseases”) - few would probably cite them as the reason to go Open Access. If I recall correctly Harvard actually took Elseviers pricing scheme as a starting point to urge their researchers to publish open access.

Can an example be provided of how a re-mix would be good in a scientific publication? I think I am confusing this with the usual use of references.

Re-mixes in scientific articles - at first this sounds quite weird. Thinking a minute about this though: Often scientists either write Reviews on specific topics or give talks or lessons not limited to their results. They then use graphs, images and results of other studies - sometimes exceeding a mere quotation. I’d say there we come pretty close to a re-mix.

But, in such a critical area, by sometimes exceeding a mere quotation, wouldn’t there be an increased risk of taking something out of context, misrepresenting the original material? I am sure that already happens anyway.

I might get chastised for saying this but… I believe it should be the decision of the content creator as to which license they use for their work. I like the fact that creators can choose between a license that allows for modification of a work and one that doesn’t.

We should not be upset with creators for choosing one type of license over another. They created the work and should be able to license it the way they want.

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I agree with this assessment, but I think it is WAY too early to be looking too hard at things. Culture moves slowly, and especially if you involve technology (which I think we would agree “remix culture” does), then you are fighting against the uneven distribution of another resource. When technology is difficult for some people (maybe even most) to understand and effectively use, the benefits of something like free or remix culture are somewhat limited.

That, however, will probably all change as time marches on. Then we will see what really starts to happen. The free/remix culture is something that more directly affects the creators, and you will almost certainly have more consumers than creators in almost any field and culture is no different.

C. Titus Brown writes an excellent blog, Living in an Ivory Basement and touches on sharing code in scientific endeavors for reproducible experiments ( a cornerstone of any scientific research ). One of his articles on this topic specifically is here. He discusses the great lengths his team had to go in order for the work to be publicly accessible, so it could be reproduced. Interesting read. It seems to me that reproducing science requires the ability to touch and possibly change almost any aspect of the original work.

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