CC and the real and false “sharing economy”

Adapted from a post written to Creative Commons staff, on strategy.

CC is a project with a grand mission, and one that good infrastructure is necessary to help create. While the licenses are the best-known part of that infrastructure, they are just a basic set of tools
toward an end, not an end in themselves. For the infrastructure we build to be useful, it has to be integrated with everything laying on top of it. While CC has been successful with several of the individual sets of tools, it should do better connecting them to the things everyone else already knows that they care about.

Building in support for sharing and openness through CC is similar to building in privacy, security, and many other features of good technological citizenship: the kind of design decision that becomes important in the long term, and often hard to make after the start, because the business model or the basic functionality relies on making one of these impossible. You’re not going to do it unless you decide that it is a feature you want from the beginning because it’s going to make you better than the others. We should be able to convince people that it will: that when people contribute content to be shared, it should be *really* shared, and that openness is a way to create the web and the world and even the business you want.

Most of the popular “sharing economy” involves services and content that are not really shared: one entity has control of a resource, releasing control for some purposes that they like, possibly for payment, without needing the most inefficient of the old platforms to do so. Some improvement, sure. But those points of control still exist, who may shut down or limit the thing being “shared”–and then whatever was built on top of it dies, often both a community and its content. CC should not want this to be the new definition of “sharing”. Single points of failure fail. CC materials and other truly shared resources don’t die this way. They may be stewarded by whoever cares about them, and have the potential to take on new and unexpected lives; the communities who get the most use from them can keep them alive even when no one else is interested. The difference between real and false sharing is that with truly shared materials, there isn’t a necessary disconnect between the interests of those with control of a resource and those who use it and depend on it.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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