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creative commons

Cory Doctorow links to a nifty graphic design project: crowdsourced covers for public domain classics. If you know anyone teaching a relevant art class at the high school level, or above, I think this might make a fine class project. Everyone pick a title and go for it!

Cory: “I can’t figure out what license the new covers are under and whether anyone can use them as covers in their own collections of public domain books, or whether permission must be sought for each design.” I wondered about that as well. The info page doesn’t cover rights. I signed up to see what one would have to agree to. Answer: a CC license. (Cory will be gratified to hear it!) [click to continue…]

Promoting Creative Commons through a tweaked Facebook meme

by Eszter Hargittai on February 24, 2009

Facebook Album Cover meme resultIf you’re on Facebook then it’s unlikely that you haven’t been sucked into the meme phenomenon. It tends to involve writing something, mainly about yourself, and then tagging other people with a request to do the same. Most recently it got very popular with the “25 random things” meme (yeah, yeah, I don’t think you need to be a certified sociologist to know that those things are never truly random), that first circulated as 7 things then 16 things, but not surprisingly really went viral when it involved tagging 20+ people.

The most recent one I noticed concerns something much more random as you’re requested to create an album cover based on randomly-generated phrases for the band name and album title, and a randomly displayed “interesting” image from the photo-sharing site Flickr (details below the fold). That last bit about the image bothered me a bit though, because the photos people were grabbing and editing were not necessarily posted under a Creative Commons license. I didn’t like the idea of people grabbing images that their creators didn’t necessarily want reused by others thus my interest in finding those shared under a CC license.

I went searching for a way to browse CC-licensed photos from Flickr’s Explore pool (photos deemed especially “interesting” by the system), but found no such option on the site (the closest to it I saw was to browse popular tags of photos shared under CC). I posted a note on Twitter about this, but the best people could do was point me to the CC option on Flickr’s advanced search page, which doesn’t address this issue since you can’t restrict a search to photos in Explore nor is searching for something specific the same as random browsing. Finally, I posted a comment on a Facebook friend’s photo lamenting the fact that I had not managed to find such an option when one of his friend’s replied with a link to a page that Mike Lietz kindly put together to generate CC-licensed Flickr photos from Explore randomly! A note to Flickr though: I think this is an option they should offer on the site.

So now I present to you the updated meme (italics are my additions) promoting Creative Commons as well as free photo-editing software. If you’re going to participate in this meme, I invite you to do so using the tweaked instructions below so as to help spread CC love.
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The Creative Commons as a default rule

by John Quiggin on July 20, 2005

Reader Ben Lancini points me to this piece by John Dvorak, attacking [or rather, confessing to not seeing the point of] the Creative Commons License. This has prompted me to write a post I promised ages ago, in response to Kim Weatherall and Nicholas Gruen. I won’t recapitulate the debate, but just state my own position.
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Creative uncommons?

by Chris Bertram on July 30, 2008

The latest issue of the _Modern Law Review_ has an “article”: (by Phillip Johnson) about copyright law in the UK and US [access may depend on whether you or you firm or institution has a subscription] that suggests that it is harder for someone to give up a copyright than you might think. It would appear to have the implication that even where the creator of a work explicitly dedicates that work to the public domain, their estate might later revoke the license and seek to restrict use, demand payments etc. Alarming (but interesting) stuff. The conclusion:

bq. This article has shown that copyright owners cannot cause their copyright to cease to exist by dedicating it to the public. It is true that US authors may dedicate their US copyright to the public and in so doing cause it to cease to exist, but such a dedication will not have the same effect in relation to the equivalent UK copyright. In contrast, UK authors cannot take any steps which will cause their copyright to cease to exist. Instead, these dedications create licences, which can be withdrawn at any time. Such a withdrawal will bar new users from having access the work. But of more concern is that in England and the United States (and in Scotland, where the formalities for contract or promise are not satisfied) this will also terminate any rights existing users have by reason of the dedication. In which case, only where the conduct of copyright owners is so unconscionable that they are estopped (or barred) would the dedication have any continuing effect. This means that despite the desire of authors to dedicate their works to the public domain, the boundaries of that domain, uncertain as they already are, remain outside their control.

Creative Splommons?

by John Holbo on January 1, 2006

Bob Stein at if:book has a legal/ethical/tactical question about CC and non-commercial use:

there’s a site [but I’m not going to link to the pesky bugger – JH] that reposts every entry on if:book. they do the same for several other sites, presumably as a way to generate traffic to their site and ultimately to gather clicks on their google supplied ads. if:book entries are posted with a creative commons license which allows reuse with proper attribution but forbids commercial use. surferdiary’s use seems to be thoroughly commercial. some of my colleagues think we should go after them as a way of defending the creative commons concept. would love to know what people think?

If you want to view the splog in question, there’s a link in Bob’s post. (Click here for a wikipedia definition of ‘splog’.) It seems clear splog use cannot possibly be non-commercial. As to whether the if:book folks should care, one commenter writes: “Whether you want to go after this splogger is your choice, but in general I think bloggers should welcome addition exposure and treat it like an advertising opportunity. I don’t think splogs are a good thing, but RSS makes all kinds of syndication possible – legitimate or otherwise…”

I’m curious about a different question: how exactly does this CC license define the ‘commercial purposes’ bit of ‘you may not use this work for commercial purposes’? For example, good old J&B Have A Blog has a sidebar of Amazon links; I do the Amazon associates thing. I make a couple bucks. What makes our site different than a splog is, among other things, that small sums we earn are definitely not the point. But I’m not sure how that could be legally codified. ‘Non-commercial’ doesn’t seem the best way to capture ‘incidentally commercial’, or ‘not PURELY commerical’. No doubt the wise prof. Lessig has considered this, but I don’t know what the answer is. Do you?

In case it isn’t clear what I am asking, I think it’s this: the point of a CC license is to allow people to republish content with certainty that they are legally permitted to do so. What allows a blogger or web-publisher with incidental advertising to KNOW that they are a non-commercial user?

UPDATE: I actually have popped the hood on the license and looked inside. But I’m not sure I understand what the legal thing that ‘not for commercial purposes’ means really MEANS, in practical terms:

You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in connection with the exchange of copyrighted works.

Amazon associates and googleads provide monetary compensation. On the other hand, there is that ‘primarily intended’ clause. But that’s vague. The point of a license is to give users confidence they are in the clear. Perhaps there need to be test cases, and just haven’t been any yet?

Actually, the problem may be ambiguity: ‘…in any manner that is primarily intended.’ Does that mean the manner in which I make my blog as a whole? Or the manner in which I make an individual link with an embedded Amazon associates ID? Makes a bit of a difference.

The Ministry for the Future seminar

by Henry on May 3, 2021

Over the next ten days, we’re running a seminar on Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel about climate change and how our political and economic system might have to change to stop it, The Ministry for the Future. We’re happy to be able to do this – it’s an important book. Since it came out, it’s had an enormously enthusiastic reception (see e.g. Barack Obama and Ezra Klein). What we want to do in this seminar is not to celebrate it further (although it certainly deserves celebration) but to help it do its work in the world. So we’ve asked a number of people to respond to the book, by arguing it through and, as needs be, arguing with it. We’ve also published a reply by Stan.

If you want to link to the entire seminar, use this address. The seminar is generally available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. In plain language: you can probably do what you want with it so long as you don’t try to make money from it, and so long as you are willing to share whatever changes you make under the same conditions as we are sharing it. You can find hyperlinks to the pieces below. If you prefer to read it as a PDF, you’ll find that here. And if you want to remix it under the above license, it is available in various formats at the bottom of this post.

The participants in the seminar:

Seminar Markdown Version.

Seminar TeX Version.

Seminar HTML Version.

Seminar Word .docx Version.

Saturday art blogging: the Art Institute’s digital collection

by Eszter Hargittai on November 17, 2018

Recently, the Art Institute of Chicago updated its Web site, which included making available – under a Creative Commons Zero license – over 50,000 of its images. This is very exciting especially since the images are in high resolution. This means that you can zoom in and see the pictures in considerable detail like I did with the image posted above, a section of Monet’s Cliff Walk at Pourville, posted in full below. Given the Art Institute’s exceptional collection, this is a tremendous resource for art lovers, students, educators, and beyond.

Another draft extract from my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons. It’s the last part of the section on “predistribution”, dealing with Intellectual Property. Next up, “redistribution” through taxation and public expenditure.

As always, encouragement is welcome, constructive criticism even more so.

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Aristotle: On Trolling

by Henry on May 7, 2016

Via Cosma, this, by Rachel Barney at the University of Toronto, is the best thing I’ve read on the Internets in quite a while. UPDATE: since it has been Creative Commonsed, as I should have spotted immediately, am publishing the whole below the fold, free to all finders, birds, beasts, Elves or Men, and all kindly creatures.

That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear. And indeed trolling is said in many ways; for some call ‘troll’ anyone who is abusive on the internet, but this is only the disagreeable person, or in newspaper comments the angry old man. And the one who disagrees loudly on the blog on each occasion is a lover of controversy, or an attention-seeker. And none of these is the troll, or perhaps some are of a mixed type; for there is no art in what they do. (Whether it is possible to troll one’s own blog is unclear; for the one who poses divisive questions seems only to seek controversy, and to do so openly; and this is not trolling but rather a kind of clickbait.)

Well then, the troll in the proper sense is one who speaks to a community and as being part of the community; only he is not part of it, but opposed. And the community has some good in common, and this the troll must know, and what things promote and destroy it: for he seeks to destroy. Hence no one would troll the remotest Mysian, or even know how, but rather a Republican trolls a Democratic blog and a Democrat Republicans. And he destroys the thread by disputing what is known to be true, or abusing what is recognised as admirable; or he creates fear about a small problem, as if it were large, or treats a necessary matter as small; or he speaks abuse while claiming to be a friend. And in general the troll says what is false but sounds like the truth—or rather he does not quite say it, but rather something very close to it which is true, or partly true, or best of all merely asks a simple question about the evidence for climate change. Hence the modes of trolling are many: the concern-troll, the one who ‘sees the other side’, the polite inquirer into the obvious. For the perfected troll has no need of rudeness or abuse, or even of fallacy (this belongs rather to sophistic or eristic, and requires making an argument): he only makes a suggestion or indication [sêmainein]. [click to continue…]

Thomas Piketty seminar

by Henry on January 4, 2016

We have finished publishing our seminar on Thomas Piketty. The participants (with links to their responses) are below.

The whole seminar is available on the WWW here.

If you prefer to read the seminar in PDF form, it’s available here.

If you would like the raw LaTeX file for the seminar (e.g. to remix under the Creative Commons license – see the PDF for more), it’s available here.

Finally, if you spot any typos, feel free to let me know in comments!


* Danielle Allen is a professor of government and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Education and Equality in the 21st Century.

* Elizabeth Anderson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. The Politics behind Piketty.

* Kenneth Arrow is the Joan Kenney Professor of Economics at Stanford, and is a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. Which Inequalities Matter and Which Taxes are Appropriate?.

* Chris Bertram is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Bristol. Piketty, Rousseau, and the Desire for Inequality.

* Ann Cudd is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. A critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality.

* Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Piketty, in Three Parts.

* Olivier Godechot is professor of sociology and Co-Director of the Max-Planck Sciences-Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies. Resurgence of Capital or Rise of the Working Rich? On Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century,

* Margaret Levi is the Sara Miller McCune Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. A New Agenda for the Social Sciences.

* JW Mason is an assistant professor of economics at John Jay College, CUNY. It’s Bargaining Power All the Way Down.

* Martin O’Neill is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of York. Piketty, Meade and Predistribution.

* John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland. Piketty and the Australian Exception.

* Miriam Ronzoni is a senior lecturer in political theory at the University of Manchester. Where are the Power Relations in Piketty’s Capital?

* Thomas Piketty is Professor of Economics at EHESS and at the Paris School of Economics. Capital, Predistribution and Redistribution.

Codes of conduct and the trade-offs of copyleft

by Sumana Harihareswara on April 10, 2015

A lot of [open stuff]( — such as the Wikimedia/Wikipedia and Linux projects — are discussing or adopting codes of conduct, or expanding their existing policies. I’ll reveal my biases at the start and say I think this is a good thing; for more, read my speech [“Hospitality, Jerks, and What I Learned”](,_Jerks,_and_What_I_Learned). But in this piece, I want to talk about the similarities and differences between codes of conduct and a set of agreements that some of these communities are more used to: “copyleft” or other restrictive software licenses. And I’d like to draw out some ways that the kinds of acts and artifacts that these policies cover reveal different attitudes towards contracts and governance.
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Ecco l’Euro!

by Henry on January 22, 2013


When going through a jar of old coins during the weekend, I found one that I’d gotten when I lived in Florence in 1999, a kind of proto-euro, issued in Fiesole as a combination test/publicity stunt in the run-up to the real thing. It’s acquired a considerable coat of tarnish in the meantime, which is fitting, and I thought it might be no harm to make a photo of it (together with a number of other similarly verdigrised European coins) available, under a CC license, for anyone who might want to use it for blogposts or the like on the ongoing slow-motion calamity.

Creative Commons License
Ecco l’Euro! by Henry Farrell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Open Data Seminar

by Henry on July 17, 2012

For those who wanted a more print-friendly version of the open data seminar that we’ve been running, here’s a “PDF”: (bog-standard memoir class document I’m afraid – I don’t have John H.’s design skills). It’s available under a Creative Commons non-commercial license – those who want to do their own remixes may want the underlying LaTeX file, which is available “here”: Below, links to the various posts, in order of publication:

“Tom Slee”: draws connections between James Scott and the awkward relationship between open data and actual empowerment.

“Victoria Stodden”: suggests that people interested in the political aspects of open data should learn from the efforts of computational scientists to preserve the step-by-step process through which final results were produced.

“Steven Berlin Johnson”: argues that open data platforms can attract, empower and even create people interested in solving complex problems.

“Matthew Yglesias”: makes the case that open data is crucial to journalism, and that there is often a case for government to produce it.

“Clay Shirky”: argues that there are two different strands of open data advocacy, one devoted to improving services, the other to actually tackling corruption, and that the former works rather better than the latter.

“Aaron Swartz”: finds that open data and transparency don’t address _either_ structural problems of corruption, or help make life more efficient.

“Henry Farrell”: argues that open data will not change politics, but would have advantages under a different political configuration than the one we have.

“Beth Noveck”: sees open data as a foundation for complex democracy and a wellspring of innovation in government.

“Tom Lee”: worries that open data advocates tend towards a blithe over-optimism, but maintains that it still has democratic benefits.

Reading Graphs, Maps, Trees

by John Holbo on March 1, 2011

Hey look! I co-edited a book! It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself. Cosma Shalizi’s contribution is the best. Overall, I think the volume is nice for the way the various pieces talk to each other well, while also addressing their subject, Franco Moretti’s book. Plus: free online, Creative Commons, that good stuff!

To celebrate, I’m going to be posting follow-up stuff about Moretti-type stuff in the days to come. Also, I’ll try to pull together some thoughts about academic publishing and open publishing. This book is a (rather slow-ripening) fruit of the Valve book events of yore. Been meaning to get back to that sort of thing, but life keeps getting in the way in other shapes and forms. (Plus I have some sort of cold at the moment. Terribly sore throat.)

In his contribution to the volume, Cosma discusses, briefly, Stanley Lieberson’s A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change [amazon], which I’m only now getting around to reading. So here’s a question for you. A passage from Fernand Braudel that Lieberson quotes:

One cannot really talk of fashion becoming all-powerful before about 1700. At that time the word gained a new lease of life and spread everywhere with its new meaning: keeping up with the times. From then on fashion in the modern sense began to influence everything: the pace of change had never been as swift in earlier times.

In fact, the further back in time one goes, even in Europe, one is more likely to find the still waters of ancient situations like those we have described in India, China and Islam. The general rule was changelessness. Until towards the beginning of the twelfth century costumes in Europe remained entirely as they had been in Roman times: long tunics falling straight to the feet for women and to the knees for men. For century upon century, costume had remained unchanged. Any innovation, such as the lengthening of men’s clothes in the twelfth century was strongly criticized …

The really big change came in about 1350 with the sudden shortening of men’s costume, which was viewed as scandalous by the old, the prudent and the defenders of tradition …

In a way, one could say that fashion began here. For after this, ways of dressing became subject to change in Europe.

Do you think this is true?

My immediate reaction is to hypothesize that the basic dynamics of fashion have to go back a lot further. Once you get certain sorts of social divisions and status competition – which you surely will in any wealthy urban environment – you are almost inevitably going to get some sort of one-upsmanship churn, along some axis, deserving the name ‘fashion’. I immediately start half-recollecting bits from Aristophanes and Plato that suggest ancient Athenians were sensitive to changes in dress fashions. But I don’t really know. What do you think? (Better yet: what do you know?) When did fashion begin?

Good writing in political science

by Henry on February 17, 2010

Below is an essay that I wrote for my undergraduate class last semester, providing them with my (doubtless idiosyncratic) ideas about how to write good political science essays. It’s also available under a CC license in “PDF format”:, as well as “MultiMarkdown”: (its native format), “LaTeX”: and “RTF”: in case someone wants to play around with it (e.g. by adapting it for another discipline). Feel free to suggest improvements, point out grammatical errors or typos etc in comments, or indeed to comment generally on good and lousy writing in undergraduate papers.

UPDATE: some small improvements made and “Jottit version”: added.

[Cross posted to “The Monkey Cage”: ]
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