I’ve been sitting on this for months, and it still bugs me. Fine print at the Transit Camp site declared the following:

By agreeing to participate in Toronto Transit Camp, you are agreeing to the Transit Camp Pledge. Part of that Pledge is that all content created at the event will be covered by a Creative Commons Attribution–NonCommercial–ShareAlike license.

I made no such agreement or pledge. I also made no copyrightable works at the event that could be covered by any such pledge. (I would be interested to hear someone make the case that photographs taken by my own camera fall into that category.)

I believe I am the only person who is interested in copyright reform who does not support Creative Commons. (Yes, I’m the one.) Creative Commons is based on a number of flawed premises (e.g., you cannot be harmed by “freely” permitting others to use your work); all the wrong people are signing up (the really useful and attractive work belongs to corporations, not bloggers); there are intractable conflicts with Canadian law (like droit moral); it’s legally untested; rights are given away forever; and, at root, you don’t need it. You can specify your own set of rights and permissions quite easily, and even without the fair-use doctrine that copyleftists are always calling for, most “users” already have more than enough room to do what they want under existing law.

Also importantly, Big Daddy CC, Lawrence Lessig, took an important case to the U.S. Supremes and totally blew it. Are you following the wrong leader?

As with other sets of rights and permissions, including the ones already written into law, you’re free to choose Creative Commons. I just don’t think most people really know what they’re getting into. There’s so much discussion about Creative Commons on blogs that a form of peer pressure has emerged. If you opt out, you must be as bad as Disney.

Well, I opted out and I’m not as bad as they are. I’ve suffered for copyright and you haven’t. And I have an excellent copyright lawyer. I know what I’m doing. Do you?

Now, this Transit Camp business seemed like the worst form of peer pressure. In fact, it was outright coercion: Agree to sign away your rights (all Creative Commons licences involve signing away rights) or you can’t come to our party.

If you really believe in copyright reform, then you arrived at that belief by observing that the existing régime is too restrictive and is biased in favour of multinationals. The Transit Camp régime was too restrictive and was biased against every participant.

The fine print attempts to explain the policy thus:

All the online, audio, video and physical content produced will be delivered to the TTC for their review and consideration as they pursue their plans for the future. 

You’re handing your work over to the TTC. Or rather, some unnamed person or persons will take it from you and give it to somebody else.

These artifacts will also be used to mount a planned exhibition at a future community gallery show.  Your work will always be your work, with full credit.

Except that works cannot actually be hung in a gallery without permission. (The copyright holder has the sole right to control exhibition of a work. That would be you.)

In effect, this means the TTC can benefit from these ideas, bloggers can blog about it, the material can be shared and distributed widely. But as soon as someone wishes to use the material outside of the terms of the licen[c]e (i.e. make money with it or make it proprietary in some way), they must contact the copyright holder to negotiate terms of use.

In practice, this really means that the presumptive winners of the contract to redesign the TTC Web site, Jay Goldman and Radiant Core, can use your ideas as part of their pitch. Besides, Transit Camp was pretty much Jay’s idea. Beautiful! Mickey couldn’t have set it up better.

If any of you think you can get away with nonsense like this at future conferences, be advised now that I will show up, intentionally create a copyrightable work, and sue you if you try to use it in any way permissible under Creative Commons but impermissible under existing law. I’ve taken down bigger adversaries than you, and I’ll laugh while I’m doing it. It would be just as unwise to use the foregoing as a pretext to exclude me from an event. You’re conference organizers, not pirates. Presumably.

Fun little exercise: Find and cite any and all of my own uses of Creative Commons–licensed work.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.05.15 17:29. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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