Creative Commons, Conservative or Liberal

One of the fastest spreading ideas in the past decades has been the idea of "free open source software" and the related idea of the Creative Commons.

Despite this spread, Creative Commons has not been adopted by liberals, or conservatives. It hasn't become part of either system of thought -- it seems to exist apart from the traditional political coalitions.

There have been some on the Left who have started to impose some CC and FOSS ideas into the the Left politics, but, I think it's not really "clicking" for most people. It seems to be mostly younger people who are interested.

The political alignment of Creative Commons is hard to nail down. At first read it seems to be pretty "liberal" or freedom-oriented. It may even be interpreted as a kind of communism.

However, if you look at who is promoting CC, it's Lawrence Lessig, who comes from business law, and seems to have a conservative orientation, at least into his 20s. Since then, he's moved ever leftward, primarily through cyberspace law.

Left and Right

Politics of left and right are not so simple. Both "sides" are coalitions of issues. The right is Christian, and the left is secular. Right is pro-business, left is pro-worker. Right likes to use military force, and the left does not. Right is traditionalist, left is open to new things. Right is anti-gay, left is pro-gay.

Within this, it's possible to have Democrats who are pro-business secularist gays, and Republicans who are Christian veterans who also support what could only be called "socialism."

Of course, you also have gay, pro-business, pro-force Congressmen like David Dreier (Republican). You also have a woman who is pro-war, has ties to war businesses, and is pro-worker, like Jane Harman (Democrat). Both are from the Los Angeles area.

Then, you also have cross-cutting issues, like immigration reform. Immigration reform gets the support of Churches, of some businesses, some labor, some Civil Rights groups, and a lot of Latinos. It's a Democrat issue, and falls on the left, but at the same time, it's not strictly left. Some labor unions aren't that into it, and gay and lesbian immigrants are marginalized.

So, where does CC fit into this?

Generally CC is supported by technology companies, and opposed by media companies.

The former own very little in copyrighted material that produces revenues. Their wealth is primarily in patents and manufacturing. The latter make all their money from copyrights. Both factions are large businesses - in fact, some of the largest in the world.

Within each side are internal conflicts between workers, who produce copyrighted works, and the company that sells these works at a profit.

In tech companies, workers trade salaries for intellectual property rights. They lose the right to collect royalties on their work. The trade off is job security and generally high salaries. Generally, free software (FOSS) projects emerge, not from companies, but from workers producing products on their own time: hobby work. Sometimes, this work gets sold to a company for money.

In media companies, the people producing copyrighted work fall into two categories - those who work like the tech workers, for wages, losing their right to royalties, and "creatives" who work partially for royalties, or largely for royalties. The conflict there is between creatives and the companies.

Because there are media unions, people don't need to produce something and sell all rights to it. They can produce with the expectation of future royalties, because the labor organization will help enforce the collection of royalties. In the music business, copyrights are administered by companies.

The general trend has been that CC and FOSS have found support among the workers. Nearly all workers support copyright, but, a faction also support CC and FOSS, and, in fact, provided the labor to produce works that fall under CC and FOSS. (Likewise, all workers have violated copyright at some time, so support is situational.)

I would say, in terms of pro-worker or anti-worker, CC and FOSS are pro-worker when they are wielded by the workers/authors. Thus, CC and FOSS are "left" in that respect. If a company imposes CC or FOSS onto someone's labor, involuntarily, it's not pro-worker.

In terms of pro-business or anti-business. It's both. It's pro-business to technology companies, and anti-business to media companies. The effect on business overall is hard to determine, but it seems to be pro-business.

So, this may be why it's difficult to push for FOSS effectively. It exists outside the realm of the left-right polarizations. Yet, it exists, and thrives.

The global situation is different

While copyright is a big issue in the United States and some Western European countries, it's not an issue in poorer countries, according to an article at Tech Radar.

Poor countries generally allow copying of anything. Prices for many works are simply out of reach. In the communist country of Vietnam, most materials are government-printed and free of cost.

The effect of CC has been to introduce the regime of copyright onto what were, previously, copyright-free zones. By having CC become more acknowledged as a more "liberal" form of copyright and intellectual property protection, organizations like WIPO can impose copyright on the global South.

Indeed, Lessig and Jack Goldsmith wrote an editorial criticizing the passing of ACTA in WaPo. (I think Goldsmith is considered pretty neoliberal or conservative.) So, again, we see the CC and open internet advocates also acting as the liberals, criticizing but not opposing globalization of intellectual property laws.

Thus, in the global context, CC has been a conservative, pro-business force.

I'm sure this is not the first time that a position that's progressive domestically has been part of promoting an imperialist or pro-business project. Nor, is CC the most glaring example. CC is just about copyright, after all.