ShareAlike, the Public Domain, and Privileging

David Wiley, iterating toward openness, Jul 19, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes

David Wiley comes back with more discussion on open software licensing, expressing his argument this way: "So should we privilege people or content? For me, this is a very simple question. Content is simply a means to the end of supporting people's learning. Content is never the end in itself. The idea that we might privilege content over people is frightening to me." It's a nice argument with emotional appeal. But the use of the word 'privilege' is suspect. When we say that a person must obey the law, are we "privileging" content (the law) over people? No, of course not. The law is not simply 'content'. It - like a 'share alike' license - is the expression of some people of the intent to protect themselves, and society at large, against other people. Because companies like Disney can and do steal content from the public domain, 'modify' it, call it trademarked and copyright, and then sue people who attempt to use what they once used to own. As for the distraction of the 'developing world' argument near the end, the problem isn't how they can use our content, the problem is how we have used (and appropriated as our own) their content.
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