What Is Creative Commons and Why Aren’t More Publishers/Authors Willing To Work Together?

Why Creative Commons was established and what it is slowly turning into are becoming two different things the longer it exists. Creative Commons was established on the idea that the internet is open and a Creative Commons License was developed to encourage people/websites/companies/services to freely share, build upon existing content and advance the conversation to create better content in the future.

The more people involved, the more people share, the better the information becomes, it is like a snowball effect – theoretically.

Personally, as a the owner of Creative Commons Licensed website and a developer of CC content, as far as I am concerned, I want people to share my publishing’s as much as possible. I do not want any money for it, I do not care if people make money on their sites from it – good for them – all I want to do is share information, spread knowledge and make work that has an impact on people – this means more to me than a 20$ bill.

When I produce CC content, I do not care where it goes or how people use it, all I ask is that people give me recognition for my original work  and that is all. This is what Creative Commons was established to do, encourage people to network with one another and develop open, mutually beneficial partnerships without the greed of money interfering.

To understand why the license was created, you have to first understand existing Copyright law and the restrictions of “intellectual property rights“.

For example, say I find a New York Times article interesting and think it would fit nicely into the theme of my site. If I take that New York Times article and republish on my site, even with full recognition to the Times, the author and a direct link to their original publishing, I will still have violated international copyright laws.

As these laws are written, I could be forced to pay the Times $150,000 in compensation for every article I republished on my site.

While these laws make complete sense for traditional print media, such as with newspapers and magazines, online digital media has complicated things to a degree. Unlike privately owned papers and publications, the internet is public domain/space, so if someone posts something in a public domain, do they really have the right to exclusive ownership to say no one else can see the information – other than on that one page?

One of the more unfortunate things happening right now is that the longer Creative Commons exists, the more and more it is starting to resemble hard-line Copyright laws. For example, last month David Kravets of Ars Techica reported about a Creative Commons site – known as Great Minds – which filed a federal lawsuit against FedEx for re-purposing CC material for commercial use.

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Though this particular CC license explicitly specified the content was not to be used fir commercial gain, as the profitable corporate enterprise they are, FedEx went ahead and republished it anyways. While Great Minds technically has the legal grounds to bring this suit, it is just unfortunate to see them do so.

As Ars Technica alludes, “Great Minds can’t make up its mind on whether it truly wants its material to be part of a free culture.” If you go back to my opening paragraph, the point of CC is to share material and develop partnerships, it was never meant to serve the same purpose as Copyright law.

I do not think Ars Technica is off base to poke fun at Great Minds or Creative Commons here and I somewhat agree with all of the recent criticisms. From my perspective, if you are going to go as far as to take someone to court and sue them for republishing your work under CC, then you have completely missed the purpose of CC in the first place and shouldn’t even be publishing with it.

Why is this happening and why hasn’t the Creative Commons culture caught on?

Creative Commons has been around for 15 years now, but I think it is safe to say the average internet user has never heard of them before – I can only think of maybe half a dozen CC websites which have grown to have many followers.

Perhaps the largest reason more people do not publish with a CC license is not because it is a bad philosophy, but because there is no money in it. For some younger people in society it may feel like the internet has been around forever, but the internet is still in its very early days and internet Capitalization is really just beginning.

From personal experience, my CC website just turned 2 months old the other day today and maybe I was naive, but I had no idea how ‘cut throat’ the online publishing industry really was.

I have been ghostwriting content for commercial use for well over a year, and when I decided to go public I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to publishers I have grown to respect over the time. I wasn’t trying to sell them material or ask them to republish my articles, but I wanted to let people I am here and I am serious about making my name.

I reached out to dozens of websites, publishers, authors and to this day, I have only ever heard back from literally one – The Intercept. I guess I did not understand how fierce the competition for the internet marketplace really was.

I think the perspective many news publishers take is that  anyone who is not working for them is considered a competitor or rival and must be dismissed/ignored.

Here is a specific example to illustrative this point, as recently as last month Middle East Eye was not a CC publisher but they did not clearly defined copyright restrictions and I had seen other sites republish their material for free in the past. It would have been easy enough for me to do the same, but believing it was the right thing to do and in an effort to build a potential partnership in the future, I sent them an email informing them about my site and asking for formal permission to republish their content.

I explained that I do not make a profit from my site, everything I produce is free and open source under CC, that I was a fan of the work the produce and wanted to include it on my news page. Sounds well intended and reasonable, right? Wrong.

Not only did they flat out refuse to reply to me, but within 24 hours of sending this email, Middle East Eye literally changed the terms and conditions of their site to read: “We are the owner or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in our site, and in the material published on it.  Those works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world.  All such rights are reserved.“This language did not exist for months before I contacted them.

Regardless, I shrugged it off and sent them a second email acknowledging that I saw the changes to their terms and conditions and politely asked them how I could legally go about obtaining a license, because I still wanted to republish their material in the future – I was even willing to pay to get this license. Once again, no response and this quickly developed into a theme the more people I contacted.

I have contacted The New York Times, Softpedia, Ars Technica, The Anti-Media, True-Activist, Minds.com, Russia Today – unfortunately that list really could go on for a while – with similar messages and just like Middle East Eye, never heard back from a single one of them.

It is not just websites and publishers, but individual authors which work for these websites as well. I have contacted maybe half a dozen authors I respect about material the have published, similar material I have published, and have also never heard back from a single one. At one point I was actually seriously beginning to wonder if my email was broken, I emailed a friend just to check.

Why are so many online publishers completely unwilling to work with anyone else, in any capacity whatsoever?

Unfortunately, nearly every publisher these days is only concerned about two things,  profit and their bottom dollar. Most have no interest whatsoever in sharing any of their content and they largely embrace Copyright law as an added way of making more money.

From the perspective of the The New York Times, you are one of the biggest names in publishing around the world, the Times already has off the charts brand recognition and millions of followers. So, from their perspective everyone else is trying to reach their level, what incentive would the Times have to let anyone use their content to grow their own names?

This is the type of greed and selfishness which dominate the industry today and it is only appears to be getting worse – even smaller sites adopt a similar frame of mind. As I stated earlier, internet Capitalization is just beginning and is only trending upwards the more people join the online market.

I think people, like the Times, do not even consider the possibility that maybe if they shared more of their content with more diverse sites they presently do not, their content might reach a broader/larger number of people and would therefore be seen by more people. It could then argued be argued that if the Times lifted the restrictions to their content, their audience/followers might actually  begin to grow larger then it already is.

However, the Times and others traditionally do not do this because they think of other sites as competition – who could potentially a portion of their audience. Continuing this logic outwards, if more sites have the Times content, the less traffic the Times itself would get.While this reasonable, sites could also be hampering future their  future growth choosing to restrict content.

The online news industry is over saturated right now – to put it politely.

Digital media has exploded within the last decade and the larger and more popular the industry grows, the more traditional print media gets left behind. To add insult to injury, even for sites that are well established and respected, such as the Times, the money made from digital advertising pales in comparison to the revenue print media generates. It is a double whammy that is slowly crippling the print media industry.

The result?

Companies/brands/publishers/websites are all fiercely competing with one another to hold whatever piece of the market they can. Websites have no interest in CC because it is hard enough to attract any followers for their own page, never mind advertising others peoples pages/material for free so those other sites can be followed by more people.

In the short term, it may feel economically self defeating to embrace CC culture and rarely do people have the time to consider ‘the bigger picture.’

From my perspective, I am trying to grow my brand all the same as everyone else, except I see CC and freely sharing content as a vessel to help grow larger in the future. The more I get seen, the more I can network, hopefully the more my work will be seen – “when we share, everyone wins.

Frankly, seeing the disdain many publishers seem to have for one another, I do not really fell that bad that print media companies ‘aren’t making enough money’ while still banking hundreds of thousands – millions – of dollars every year.

Recently, websites like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post have all begun to installing subscription blocks to their content as a way to make more money from their online audience – to make up for some of the money the print versions of their papers are losing.

I think this is unethical because new these news agencies are trying to use their popularity to force people to pay to see something publicly posted on the public internet, but maybe I am just old fashioned.

Regardless, here is how legally ‘hack’ The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Postet cetera – and bypass their subscription block to read all the same content for free: https://altmedi4.com/2016/09/02/how-to-hack-the-new-york-times-wall-street-journal/

Sometimes I wonder, maybe some of these publishers stay away from my site because some of my content may be perceived “controversial.” Other people have told me in person how I need to “clean up my site” because some of the content was too real for them.

In the spirit of keeping it real, I do not care who is offended by any of this, I am going to say whatever I have to say – I’m just bring honest.

From my perspective, to date, between Facebook Advertising, registering the domain, buying a theme template, time spent developing that theme and all the lost revenue from publishing material on my own site – rather then selling it as a ghostwriter – it has cost me between $1,750-2,000 in the first two months to establish Alternative Medi4.

While the Times makes millions of dollars doing the same thing and cries about it, I have not made a dime for my efforts and I do not do all of this for the profit – I want to change the way people think.

This is also why I embrace Creative Commons culture and freely publish information with the people of the internet for anyone to see/share/read. It is disappointing more publishers do not believe in these concepts.


This article (What Is Creative Commons and Why Aren’t More Publishers/Authors Willing To Work Together?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4