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Creative Commons and The Plains


There’s a been good discussion about music and Creative Commons licenses happening on the pho list the last day or so. The most novel post comes from Jim Griffin:

Here’s an example from my new reality: In our neighborhood (The Plains, VA,
population 266) and in our region there are many people who adopt for their
land a conservation easement, essentially signing away (sometimes with
certain modifications) their right and any future owner’s right to develop
the land outside some fairly restrictive parameters.

On a strictly financial basis, it makes little sense. The dramatic reduction
in the land’s value does bring lower property taxes, but this pales by
comparison to the lost right to develop the land. And make no mistake about
it: The Washington area sprawls, especially so with the restriction on the
height of buildings in the city. Northern Virginia is a hotbed of real
estate development, and plots of land of 30 or more acres go for a massive
premium to builders ready to sell about 40 houses per acre. It is the OBS,
the One Big Score, rivaling a hit album, or a string of them, in the
financial payday it delivers.

Put simply, you’d be an irresponsible fiduciary to adopt a conservation
easement on your land.

On the other hand, it is not uncommon for an owner to choose to do so.


They have a long-term perspective on their role in the community. They know
they at most use the land during their lifetime, and they want to preserve
its place in the “commons” that surround us.

The move to The Plains has been a journey from ME to WE, from the ego-sphere
of Hollywood to the community grain silo, the volunteer fire department and
a wave of the hand to and from the neighbors who share this valley. I can’t
remember my neighbors in Los Angeles; already I cannot forget those who
share this place between the mountains.

So I guess I get the Creative Commons. Or I hope to. Or there is hope that I
might, and that some of it may rub off on our son. And as I write this, as
the fading twilight of The Plains reflects off the pond, Creative Commons
makes sense. These songs, like this land, are ours for a time, and there
comes a time we should pass them on to the community.

The Creative Commons story has many altruistic and pragmatic readings. Jim’s story above adds one of the former. In the same thread Lucas Gonze adds an insightful rendition of the latter:

My own perspective on CC is that it doesn’t matter whether licenses declare that files are redistributable or anything else in particular. What matters is that there is legal metadata.

A big part of the current impasse is caused by the need to automate clearances. We need to be able to write programs which look up rights, or at the least have a computer assisted method for looking them up by hand.

About the plains, conservationism and altruism, I personally don’t see open media (or code) that way. Making your media more open gives you certain practical benefits, and if it isn’t the selfish thing to do then you shouldn’t do it.

Either, or, neither? Make up your own story. Keep those ideas around for the next contest. (None planned at the moment!)

Text by Jim Griffin and Lucas Gonze above copied from pho-list postings with permission.

Posted 06 August 2004