Copyright
Stuff you can do with the stuff that is here.

I have worked very hard on many things on this website. Not all of them, but many of them. Any blog post that is not a flippant two-line description, any story, the site design itself — generally if something is added here at least an hour of work has gone into it, and frequently much more. So I want you to keep your grubby paws off it, right?

Well, no.

Unless otherwise noted (as of the 11.9.11 rebuild nothing is) everything on this page is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which you may also see represented like so:

Creative Commons License

What does this mean for you? It means that you can:

  • Redistribute the work you see here in other venues, for example on your own website, on public forums, on Freenet, on bus stops, whatever. This is also, since it has come up before, me giving you express permission to translate or format-shift my work.
  • Create new, derivative versions of my work. For example, you might rewrite one of my stories, take one of my photos and photoshop obscene images into it, or shamelessly steal my page's... "design" for your own use.

If you want to do these things, however, there are three things you have to keep in mind:

  • You must attribute me as the original author, including a link back to the original source material. When crediting me, "Alex Osaki" is sufficient, as in "Alex Osaki originally made this. [link]"
  • You may not use my work for anything commercial — that is, things that you will sell or make a profit from. I may, on occasion, specifically waive this restriction, so if you need me to please contact me first.
  • You must preserve this license. If you republish or translate my work, or if you create something new based off it, you must allow others to do the same. Fair's fair.

Copyright is something that I am extremely serious about. Why? Because our world is fucked up right now. We live in a world where pharmaceutical companies' zeal to fight generic drugs deprives people of needed medication in the Third World, where the RIAA sues the indigent for hundreds of thousands of dollars in ephemeral "damages," and where researchers admit that somebody might be sitting on a cure for cancer but afraid to act because they're worried about stepping on patents.

It's not up to us to become vigilantes. It's not up to us to pirate mp3s and claim we're sticking it to the man, or to leak drug formulas and set up illegal factories to turn them out. It's not up to us to break the law. But as creative individuals, it is up to us to take a stand for ourselves, because we're the only people we can speak for. And that's the thing. If you are an artist, and you release your work under the current copyright regime, you are part of the problem.

Am I saying that if you draw a webcomic, and put the little circle-C symbol next to it, that you're stalling the cure for cancer? No. But I'm saying you're voluntarily choosing to be part of a system of laws, ethics and philosophies that is doing that. When you use copyright, you are making the statement "yeah, record labels sue college kids for tens of thousands of dollars for sharing mp3s, and I'm okay with that. That's the kind of system I want to be part of."

And maybe it is. But it's not the kind of system I want to be part of. For me, it's high time we, the Little Guys, admit a couple of things.

First and foremost it's time we admit that we're not calling the shots. Copyright, trademark and the patent system were designed to protect creators and, by giving them a legal shelter for their ideas, to foster creativity. In a world where companies spend billions of dollars to acquire patents just to use them in defence against other companies who have spent billions of dollars acquiring patents to attack them, who in God's name can seriously argue that it still does that? "Intellectual property" moved past us as soon as it was invented. It's the domain of corporations now, people with deep pockets and big-name lawyers. You think your copyright means a damn? Wait until some Disney lawyer decides they want to adapt your work and pays their legal department to find a loophole to screw you. They've done it before.

Secondly, and much more importantly, it's time we honestly admit that we've been stealing from each other for a long, long time. If I said that I came up with all my ideas in a vacuum — like I went up some mountain in the Himalayas, meditated for a few weeks, and came back down with "Sympathy for the Devil"? I would be a liar. Art is a fundamentally infringing activity. As artists, we're constantly referencing the work of others, borrowing their metaphors, taking little bits of their characters and remixing them into something new and, hopefully, enjoyable.

When you create something, you have two choices. You can say "damn it, this is mine, and you can't do a damned thing about it." You can cast your lot in with the patent trolls, with the record labels; with those seagulls from Finding Nemo. You are entirely within your rights to do so, and if you make that choice I won't attempt to subvert it. But I'm saying there's another way.

The other way is that you say "you know. I may have made this by myself, but I could only do so because of a lifetime of consuming popular culture, being inspired by other people, seeing how and why they made me laugh, or cry, or realise something new about the world." You can sit on your work like a dragon guarding his hoard, or you can turn it into an open invitation for creativity. You can try to inspire others; you can view your work as a single lamp in the darkness, or as a creative spark in one raging, brilliant, 6.6-billion alarm fire of frenetic artistic activity.

This, I think, is what creating things is about. It's about helping others, about building something together, about realising that we are a community. And that is why I do not use copyright, and you shouldn't either.


Sub-disclaimer:

Everything here is of my own design, with the exception of any pieces that are explicitly noted as having separate authorship and the Twitter feed to the left, which is also released under the Creative Commons and was built by Harald Kraft and published in this blog


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