First things first: A while ago, I wondered out loud how having Creative Commons licenses on some of my work affects the likelihood of someone appropriating it to mint NFTs, and my recourse against them doing that. At the time, I thought the news was mixed: while Creative Commons people argued that minting NFTs was against the spirit of the less restrictive licenses such as [CC BY-SA], crucially, it was not against the letter of them, so these licenses could not be invoked to forbid such practices. Which, fair enough, that’s not what they were designed to do, so obviously, the best course of action would be to adopt the most restrictive license, and wait for Version 5 licenses that addressed this issue. Maybe get involved and make the case for a separate “Derivative Works and Commercial Use Allowed, but no Fucking Crypto” license.
Turns out there are two problems with that.
The first is, by itself, still minor: if you go to the Creative Commons website and use their choose-a-license interface, whenever you choose a restrictive license, it will show a message saying “This is not a Free Culture license”, in your language (hopefully – I get this page in Dutch, by the way). This is a nudge; the message exists to encourage you to choose one of the less restrictive licenses, so you get the warm fuzzy dopamine hit, the clout and – dare I say it – the virtue signaling points of choosing a good license, the better-than-the-other-one version, the one that causes “This is a Free Culture license” to show up, so you know you done right. As I said, by itself, this bit of nudging is mostly harmless, but…
The second problem has to do with the spirit of the licenses. David Gerrard has been paying more attention to the NFT infestation than I have, because it is his, like, his job to do so, and what he’s finding is that Creative Commons is Shilling for NFTs:
Creative Commons isn’t explicitly telling you to get into NFTs, you understand. They’re just taking the time to mention how NFTs are totally cool things that museums are totally using.
NFTs are about coming up with new ways to enclose content and control its dissemination, with gratuitous financialisation. This is literally the opposite of a creative commons.
It turns out that NFTs don’t have a good reputation with the wider public — and, in particular, they have a bad reputation with Creative Commons’ Internet-native, technically-knowledgeable and strongly opinionated base.
Specifically, CC director Catherine Stihler and others in the organization have been shilling for NFTs and have allowed FileCoin, a cryptocurrency scamming company, to sponsor them. Interestingly, Gerrard cites the same article that I read a while ago, At The Intersection of NFTs and Creative Commons Licenses, that made me think “Okay then”, but places it in the context of other communications from Stihler and others, such as this Tweet by Brigitte Vezina, and these paint a much more alarming picture than one article by itself.
So why does this matter and why is it alarming? Remember what I said about waiting for Creative Commons Version 5 licenses that specifically address NFTs minted by third parties. These will be written and approved by the people currently leading the Creative Commons organizations, and if they are pro-NFT, if they don’t see how NFTs are the antithesis of a true Creative Commons, how likely is it that they will address this problem adequately? And if they’re actively shilling for NFTs, and are in the pockets of crypto scamming companies, there’s a clear conflict of interest in the moral sense, if not in the legal one. So while no one can predict the future, we should proceed as if nothing good will come out of Creative Commons the organization when it comes to preventing the appropriation* of one’s creative work for a money-laundering scam that also accelerates the rate at which the planet burns.
So here’s what I will do: effective immediately and at a minimum until the present board resigns and its successors implement policies to prevent conflicts of interest and update the licenses to allow users to spefically disallow third-party NFTs, all my old work that used to be under any Creative Commons license will revert to being under conventional copyright, as much as is legally possible. I will start removing CC language from my websites where I find it. Luckily here, my old webcomics have become quite obscure over time, so this won’t have a big effect in practice.
I will also not promote or support Creative Commons in any way, shape of form, including donating money to them or recommending their licenses to people as a solution for allowing or restricting the reuse of their creative work. This is not a boycott as I am making this decision alone and have no leverage over Creative Commons; I simply believe this is the right thing for me to do.
Sadly, this is not going to be the end of it. The rate at which this bullshit has infested the online world is appalling. The Doublespeak of referring to the blockchained internet as “Web3” (whatever Web3 might have meant two years ago, this is not it) and “decentralized” (it is very centralized and designed to exclude) is already so endemic that it seems hardly worth pointing out that this is Not What These Words Mean. For example, in the same post linked above, Gerrard mentions that the venerable EFF has also taken to shilling NFTs, and in the Mastodon thread where I found out about Gerrard’s post, there is already some whataboutery being mooted about Patreon’s owners being neck-deep in NFTs. This stuff is everywhere.
My take on this is that sadly, we live in a society and if a problem in society is pervasive, the best we can do is pick our battles. I will cut off organizations where I feel empowered to do so and where the benefits of doing so outweigh the harm to myself and others. Quitting Patreon over their owners involvement in this particular problem (and keep in mind that they are problematic in other ways) would not just deprive me of a modest reward for making webcomics, it would mean that I’d cut off funding to about a dozen other creators and other people who need money much more than I do. In cases like this, advocacy is the best I can do.
Cheerier stuff now. I’ve been meaning to post this: Nude Art Is Getting Censored On Social Media For A Tourism Board. So They Went To OnlyFans. Meera Navlakha at Mashable (India) on the online Vienna Laid Bare exhibit. This actually seems like the principle outlined in the last paragraph put into action: in 2021, we need social media platforms to promote and inform, but you can Never Trust A Platform Not To Sell You Out, so you play the platforms against one another.
Yesterday was Black Friday and I spotted several posts on Mastodon.art saying that stock/reference photo providers that I hadn’t heard of before were offering discounts. These are:
These are always useful to have around and I will look into their offerings in more detail later.
Speaking of checking things out, Luminance by Sinevibes is a lovely software shimmer reverb that I’ve already tried a little bit but will be testing further this weekend. If I choose to purchase it, it’ll be 40 dollars, but considering that budget hardware shimmer reverbs are often several 100s of dollars and I can use this in a mobile studio setup while traveling in a converted Mercedes Sprinter van this winter, it’s worth it if it sounds good.
* Remember, to call it “stealing” would be to recognize the ownership claims made by NFTs, which are bogus and should not be recognized at all.