Driving Without a License?

Since posting about Creative Commons’ branding confusion, several French patriots have suggested I switch to the Art Libre License.  I am resisting because I can’t work up enthusiasm for any license today.

The idea that every user could and should understand the complexities of copyright licensing appears increasingly delusional to me. The only people who should need to understand licenses are lawyers and their clients. Most users don’t have legal teams involved with their creative and distributive processes, nor should they. Using licenses – even ShareAlike and Art Libre licenses – legitimizes copyright lawyers and copyright laws and the absurd notion that artists should have to give a damn about them.

The only entities my ShareAlike license would really affect are corporations (or in rare cases, people) with lawyers. But for everyone else, I’m considering marking my work thusly:

All Rights Reversed 1

There’s no lawyer-approved legalese behind this. It’s just a statement of intent. It’s certainly compatible with the ShareAlike license and its attendant legal code, which I can still use where appropriate (like on the © page of a book, if I really want to back up my intentions with legal force).

Mike Masnick of Techdirt doesn’t use any license at all. It’s a nice idea, not legitimizing copyright law at all, but because everything is copyrighted by default, there’s no way for users to know they are free to copy and share. Every few days some commenter “threatens” Masnick with “unauthorized copying,” to which he responds that he genuinely doesn’t care, so that periodically informs Techdirt regulars. But that’s more labor than I want to put into assuaging users’ fear.

Hopefully users will have less and less fear as time goes on, and there will be less need to assuage. The fact is, most people really don’t care about copyright. Yet they copy. Even as we argue about different licenses, and how to license, and what the Free-est kind of license is, people are ignoring us and just copying what they feel like. They’re not just ignoring the RIAA and MPAA and copyright moralists; they’re ignoring copyright reformers and abolitionists and Creative Commons and the “copy left” too. They may feel some guilt and fear, but our licenses really aren’t going to do anything about that. They don’t care. And that’s fine with me. They shouldn’t care. No one should care about copyright, because copyright shouldn’t exist.

P.S. – which “all rights reversed” style do you like the most?

All Rights Reversed 1: lower case

All Rights Reversed 2#2: ALL-CAPS

All Rights Reversed 3#3: colon

UPDATE: Maybe I should just use this:



Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

26 thoughts on “Driving Without a License?”

  1. I vote for the all-caps version, simply because the lowercase backwards “d” looks like a “b” and gives one a tendency to try to read it as a regular word. In my case, with an initial quick glance, I thought it said “all rights bereaved”.

  2. What;s wrong with you? How can you wrap everyone up into nice little packages based on your mood. You talk about “the people” as if you have some kind of special insight into everyone. I would have thought you better. I for one do care and I know many people who also care. You have to potential to be a copy-right reform hero, but either care about it or don’t. Do not ride the pony around and use it to market your movie and then say it’s pointless. You sound like a pretentious ass.

  3. I like #1, lower case, but not sure how I feel about the reversed reversed. On one glance, my mind produced something closer to “revered” and on another, “deserved.”

    I’m with you in thinking that Creative Commons has gotten increasingly muddled and confused in general perception as a non-commercial license.

    I like Crosbie Fitch’s license at http://www.digitalproductions.co.uk:

    “Naturally, you are free to take any liberties you wish with my published work. However, should I ever be granted the privilege of constraining your liberty then I constrain you thus: the liberties you take may not be withheld from those to whom you give my work (or your combined/derivative work), who you must similarly constrain.”

    And that’s the key part for me and why I’ve used the CC ShareAlike license and am a GPL adherent – I like the notion of copyleft/sharealike. Please feel free to use my work, but share it in turn.

  4. The reason I reversed the word “reversed” is that in context, when people read quickly, they will read it as “reserved”. The copyleft symbol looks very much like the copyright symbol, and someone expecting that – as most eyes are trained to – won’t register anything unusual. Reversing the whole word confounds the eye a bit and confuses expectations, which will hopefully force more people to actually see what’s there.

  5. Use a different typeface for reversed – the “r”s look alien there. But then again, maybe that’s good, in the context.

  6. Most people looking at this and seeing the backwards word are going to assume, at first at least, that it says “reserved” (you know, the usual thing) and come away believing that this statement is some kind of rights claim. The play of reserved/reversed is fun and useful but putting “reversed” backwards on top of that is, I think, going to interfere with understanding of your message. I think you’d be better off putting the word “reversed” in regular forwards type… or even emphasize it with underline or bold to point out to the reader that this is not your grandpa’s copyright.

  7. Nice response to the typo guy. Touché
    #3 works for me – I’m a right-brain-thinker.

  8. I don’t like any of them because they still confuse the user.

    If I was going to go my own way and not use the licenses available, I would :
    1. Stay away from the word “copyright” or “copyleft” or any clever twist of either.
    2. I’d make sure it clearly indicates “FREE” a word which our minds are very tuned into
    3. I’d make sure it indicates what actions are “FREE”

    So, if I was designing a symbol for a free licence, It would have :
    1. “FREE” on the left side. big font. bold helvetica.
    2. The letter “2” in the middle, for “to”
    3. A list (in smaller font) of words like “copy”, “use”, “share”, “sell”, “modify”/”change”
    3a. The list would be different/subsets for variant licenses, something like how the dvd or wifi logo variants go.
    4. Perhaps a black border/box around the whole thing, just to give it definition.

  9. I like #1 and #2. But I kind of agree with suede’s comment: to avoid copyright, avoid “copyright”. Is there a graphic+words way to indicate “free to copy”?

  10. Maybe you should use a slogan that invites a user to make use of his freedom:
    Copy and let copy
    Copy right now!

  11. “@Zachary – yes, you seem to have misspelled the word “I” as “You” in your last sentence.”


  12. I’m increasingly in the camp that thinks it is stupid to even have to think about these things. One of my friends (typical college student) just made a video and posted it on the web — it takes images from everywhere, music from another source, and he re-wrote parody lyrics on top of that. He has no idea that he might be doing something breaking copyright law. He doesn’t know what Creative Commons is despite my ongoing rants. He wanted to make something and he did.

    I’m a fan of “Please Recycle” myself.

  13. Seems to me…
    * most people would not get “monopoly free” without context
    * ditto for recycling language
    * “copy” is essential because the whole thing is about copying
    * “free” should be included because (as someone says) it’s immediately understood

    So how about: “Copy freely. Please recycle my work.”
    Or “Free to copy. Please recycle my work.”
    Or “Please copy my work, and let others copy your copy.”

    With all this discussion of marks and official language, and whether anyone cares about restrictions and pronouncements, I really like a conversational English statement from the author.

  14. As far as software is concerned copyleft licenses can be used to prevent a company from locking up the software via the embrace and extend tactic. As far as artistic works go, people can easily build upon the final released version, regardless of source availability. In your ideal world, licenses would be irrelevant. However, I do think there’s a certain value in using copyleft licenses in that it gives a sort of guarantee that you won’t change your mind and come after your fans later. Now, I rather suspect that you personally won’t, but given the current state of copyright, it’s nice for users and artists to have that assurance that it will remain free forever. That said, you might try just using your new mark to indicate your intent, but keeping the license too, to provide a certain baseline for the current legal framework.

  15. How about:

    1) “You were born with the right to copy. I reject the privilege that takes it from you.”

    2) “I may not like the liberties you take with my art, but I spend much of my life fighting for the restoration of your right to copy it.”

    3) “I hereby provide a perpetual covenant that I will sue no individual for copyright infringement, nor shall I transfer this privilege to any other who may do so”

    4) “I do not sue my potential customers for freely promoting me or my work, nor other artists who find it inspiring or worthy of building upon. To copy art is an act of love – not a crime.”

  16. I like the second option, although “please recycle” really seams to hit the nail on the head for me. Girl, you’ve got some real fans here, dontcha. LOL. I love it. I’m liking what you preach more and more and see it applying to my tarot deck in progress, which does more than its share of copying.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

    D (insert copied heart here)

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