Why You're Going License-free For All the Wrong Reasons

by Lux

on 08.12.12

There is a lot of talk of freedom among iPad-wielding “social activists” of every variety and cultural-movement, but it’s just that—talk, without any legitimate philosophical foundation. Advocates of license-free or public domain intellectual property are no exception, despite the fact that freedom of use and of distribution is central to their cause. Ignoring the question of whether or not license-free works are sensible, profitable, or realistic in today’s world, most arguments for going public are founded upon fundamentally misguided motivations and value systems, and are therefore unconvincing.

Many advocates for license-free media seem to believe that through unrestricted “sharing”, a utopic society of thinkers will flourish, their ideas and creations expanding and evolving until they transcend the boundaries of human existence. They will all join hands in friendship as they feel the very fabric of time and space disintegrate due to the sheer intellectual brilliance emanating from their tiny, shriveled dicks. These people are naive, and have far too much faith in mankind. Because they excessively value the opinions of others, they are satisfied to be repaid for their efforts solely in metaphorical upvotes.

Others decide to go public with their work because they believe their product doesn’t deserve monetary compensation or acknowledgment of any kind. Their judgment is usually correct, but this pattern of thinking is part of the reason why free or unlicensed works are often associated with low quality and low inherent value. The option of releasing license-free should not make standards irrelevant or nonexistent.

This isn’t about inspiring creativity or releasing pieces of shit that nobody would ever pay for—it’s a matter of personal freedom. By licensing intellectual work, you are restricting the ways in which people can consume products of the mind, things that cannot be depleted or degraded by the amount of people utilizing them. Even more permissive licenses, like the CC Share Alike, force the consumer of intellectual property to alter, redistribute, and attribute work in accordance with beliefs dictated by the original creator. It says, “feel free to use my product as you wish, but if you do anything I disapprove of I will shove the fist of the law so deep in your asshole that you will die of internal blood loss.” A person who truly believes in individual freedom would never use force to impose their opinions on others. If you value autonomy, you cannot restrict the use of something as intangible as code or a cartoon character, or something as undefinable as a song, simply because you (may have) thought of it first, and therefore believe yourself to have some sort of authority in the way those unquantifiable assets are used. An individual’s use of intellectual resources does not infringe upon the creator’s freedom to use their work in whatever way will benefit them the most. In this way, intellectual property is distinguishable from physical property, and its use should not be restricted in the same manner.

It is unavoidable that any judgments made on the legitimacy of licensing are made in the context of a world where most things are encumbered by copyright. However, if an individual believes public domain is truly the best and most moral decision, he must consider a world in which everything is also public domain. Any predictions about this sort of environment are nothing more than conjecture, but it is relatively safe to say that the dynamics of business would shift dramatically. New ways of monetization would be developed, and the way consumers relate to corporations would be altered, as brand identity and loyalty are currently built largely upon trademarked intellectual property. It is important to remember that these changes would, most likely, happen gradually, as public opinion on licensing shifts and more individuals realize that copyright is no longer effective or in their best interests. No matter what becomes of the world of business, I have faith that (intelligent) people are self-serving enough to find ways to profit.