Equity-based Licenses

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Approaches that aim to radicalise, in the sense of more equity, the existing mainstream Copyleft approaches such as the Creative Commons and the General Public License approach.


Dmytri Kleiner's Copyfarleft

See Copyfarleft

Patrick Godeau's IANG License

See IANG License

Patrick Anderson's User Ownership approach

See: User Ownership

Copysol Solidarity Economy License

See: Copysol License

Common Good Public License

See: Common Good Public License


See the discussion on the possible merging of the IANG License and the Copyfarleft proposal.

Dmytri Kleiner on what needs to be done:

"I'd like to say a bit more on how I envision a peer-production license would function, in brief, without going into the political economic logic so much unless there are questions. I assume the concept of the Iron Law of Copyright Earnings is understood, and thus the need for what I have described as a Copyfarleft license, is likewise clear.

The IANG license, I feel comes very close to realizing the sort of license I thing the peer-production license should be, with the understanding that there would need be more explicit clauses limiting certain forms of "Economic Contributions," particularly to avoid allowing property holders to extract surplus value.

Such a license would adequately cover what I describe as endogenic usage of common-stock.

This still leaves open the question of what terms to apply to exogenic usage.

For groups of peer-producers that want to simply forbid exogenic usage, this is not a problem, but for most artists this is simply not an option.

For instance, how many recording artist would agree to a license that forbid commercial radio stations or night clubs from playing the music?

Obviously, since the number of radio stations and nightclubs that would qualify as commons-based peer producers and thus qualify for free usage is small, a commons license for popular art forms must also specify some sort of non-free terms for exogenic usage by private radio stations and nightclubs.

But, as a common-stock is owned in common, it can not be the "original" artist privately that benefits from such non-free terms, as is the case in Copyleft Non-Commercial, as that asynchronous relationship between the "original author" and other commons users means the creation is not actually a part of the commons. The non-free terms must benefit the commons as a whole, and not any "orginal author."

But as commons-based peer production is made up of autonomous individuals and groups of commons based producers, how can any temrs benefit the "commons as a whole."

In possibility is employing a Collection Society such as GEMA, SoCan, etc.


Of course, there are problems with this approach, and the function of such a society must be clearly defined, some risks immediately come to mind:

- The society may be hyper-vigilant in collecting and thus be too aggressive in claiming that certain usage is exogenic and therefor is disqualified from having free access.

- The society may become too closed and not recognize or welcome new peer-producers into it's membership.

- The internal structure of the society itself could become corrupt and non democratic.

These risks must be mitigated by explicitly creating terms in the license that define the operations of such a society quite clearly.

It also mitigated by having several such societies, not just one, so that the reputation of a society would attract producers to the best operated ones.

Assuming such societies could exist, and could represent the commons-based producers, they could then license exogenic usage under non-free terms, and use the funds collected to benefit the commons broadly, including:

- Funding infrastructure projects that increase the productivity of the commons, including capital for production, distribution and archiving.

- Providing grants and awards for producers.

- Provide the legal and administrative management of the common-stock.

- Engage in political and educational advocacy for peer-production."

Stefan Merten on why ethical licenses might be a bad idea:

“Oekonux comes more from a perspective on productive forces and their mechanics. This is not about ethics. Two points.

I think Free Software gained momentum **only** because it is non-discriminatory as far as use of the software is concerned. Would the licenses discriminate against certain uses you would run into a couple of problems immediately:

  • Where to draw the line?

On ethical grounds it is very hard to draw the line about good and bad. Because the form of rights Free Software gives you is expressed by a license you need to encode good and bad in the license. This is difficult to achieve in the first place and it is very difficult to maintain in practice.

In effect you would have a license where only very few persons can be sure that they have the rights the license promises. As a Free Software user you’ll never know whether the copyright holder will sue you because on ethical ground s/he thinks you have no right to use the Free Software.

  • Different opinions would scare away good developers

If you had such ethical licenses there are certainly bright developers who would not share the ethical standards encoded in a certain license. In effect they would not join a Free Software project - or create another one with a less restrictive license.

This would be probably lead to separated worlds with less restrictive and more restrictive licenses making combination of Free Software a nightmare. Again this would severely damage the general utility of Free Software.

And BTW: If you check which ideological fights including forks Free Software developers already have about *existing* non-ethical licenses I’d not like to imagine what would happen with ethical licenses…

Leftist people usually have a hard time to accept that the Free Software movement is heterogeneous as far as ethics are concerned. Indeed there are important people which IMHO have very questionable political opinions.

However, if you look at the development of productive forces this does not matter at all. A new form of production gains power whether it is ethical in terms of the ancient system or not. This was similar with capitalism BTW which indeed gained a lot from the wars of the feudals.

On the contrary to me it is a very good sign that the germ form is *not* rooted in ethical / political grounds. To me political forms have proven to not be able to overcome capitalism. And this is logical if you accept that the *real* power of capitalism comes from the way of production - and *this* power is undermined by Free Software.

I’d agree that as a result this not automatically means that a GPL society based on the principles of the development of Free Software means a better place in terms of a mind coined by a capitalist environment. However, as far as I can see a GPL society will remove crucial problems of capitalism - namely the importance of alienated relationships.

In Oekonux we say that Free Software - and other Free Projects - are stronger in terms of productivity / quality than the capitalist way of production. That is Free Projects attack the very stronghold of capitalism. Though Free Software as we know it would probably not be possible without the Internet technology and certainly not without digital copy this would not be important if there would be no different mode of production.”

More Information

Common Good Public License