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So I’ve been looking into the Creative Commons licenses for my possibly-big thing. They are awesome and I will certainly be using them in future.

However, there’s a glaring omission. For those who don’t know, Creative Commons is basically a way of issuing a free blanket license on material whose copyright you own – basically allowing anyone to do anything they like under a range of standard terms, without all the headaches of getting clearances and permissions in advance.

The four standard options, which can be mixed and matched to some degree, are BY (if you use my stuff in your work, you have to credit me), NC (non-commercial: you can only use this if you’re not making money from it – if there’s profit involved I may want some so you have to contact me first), SA (share-alike: if you want to use my material you have to share whatever you make on the same terms as I just specified), and ND (no derivatives: you can only share this exactly the way it is, you can’t remix it or mash it into something new). See the link for proper explanations.

The problem I have is that, provided it’s not “commercial”, there’s no way to say “you can’t use this for political speech”. So if you create some awesome feisty feminist character and the local NeoCon franchulate, sorry, political party wants to make posters with her on them, they can do so freely provided none of the steps in the chain are “commercial”.

Now, I know there’s a mighty fine line (or else a very wide, smeared one) between opinion and political speech. But I’m pretty sure most jurisdictions already have legal definitions of political speech for regulatory purposes. Here in Oz, it’s the stuff that has to have that little spiel “Authorised by so-and-so”. So my suggestion for an NP clause for the Creative Commons is something along the lines of simply:

“You can’t use this if you’re working (whether paid or unpaid) for a political party or a government agency; you can’t use this in anything that would count as political advertising for other legal purposes, or to advocate voting or otherwise supporting a particular political party; and you can’t use this in material that is primarily intended for an audience of politicians or members of a political party.”

Does it work for you?

I’d do something to recognise the paradox that undermines all representative democracy: even if you choose a person who is genuinely a member of the local community and committed to representing the same, the very business of going off to the centre of power to participate in government exposes them to ideas, influences and concerns which may be completely outside the experience of the community they are supposed to represent.

In such a situation, do you act on what you now know? Or do you act to represent your constituents – even though you may now know them to be in the wrong?

This is one of the central flaws in representative democracy as it is currently practiced: that this tension is not openly stated and understood.

So my party would recruit and promote its candidates on the following basis:

  • They are grounded in local issues but capable of dealing with the bigger picture;
  • They are expected to deal with the bigger picture, and manage both outwards and inwards (i.e. represent their constituency to the wider community – but, crucially, also vice versa);
  • That wherever possible before they contribute to a decision they will have a chance to come back to share the information they have because of their privileged position with their constituency, in order to synchronise their perspective with the constituency’s to whatever extent possible;
  • That where possible the above will happen over some time, to allow for questions arising from the community to be answered;
  • That there is an expectation that the constituency will take some responsibility for paying attention to the stuff being brought back by their representative.

…And this is why my party would almost certainly fail completely.

I don’t, however, believe that spending time on consultation such as this is wasted. Time spent making the decision, vetting the idea, getting everyone on board, etc leads to better decisions – and it means implementation is less likely to be sabotaged because more of the bunfights have already happened. Plus there is the little matter of respecting and seeking the consent of the governed.

Urgh. Need sleep. Sorry if this is muzzy – it gets that from me.

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