Why Copyright a Personal Wiki?
I thought about this for a good while, and I think I realized that a Creative Commons license and a personal wiki are incompatible.
Now, bear with me for a little bit here. You may be thinking I'm about to monetize this place or that I'm going to charge a hundred bucks per quote. I'm glad to tell you that's not the case, this isn't some goddamned blog with delusions of grandeur. The copyright is strictly symbolic, and I don't think I'm stupid enough to NOT recognize the obvious drawbacks and injustice that copyright (and the copyright industry) impose on the everyday person. When I say a personal wiki is copyrighted, I only mean this in the most basic sense of the word. This place isn't trademarked nor patented anywhere, and it never will be.
Creative Commons was founded in 2001 as a way to dispense a Copyright license free to the public and meant to allow the creator to voluntarily relinquish some of the rights of copyright while retaining others. Note the bolded copyright license in that previous sentence - a common misconception is that CC works as an alternative to copyright when in reality it's simply a type of copyright license. One of the pioneers in this was the GNU General Public License: the very famous GPL which is a type of copyright license tailor-made for software released under the ideals of open source - and saying that the GPL isn't a copyright would also be misleading in the same sense. Richard Stallman's speech slides are copyrighted, for example.
Creative Commons is great for certain types of works, in some cases even completely irreplaceable. But it doesn't quite work for a personal wiki.
The idea of a personal wiki is that it is a reflection of the author's mind and knowledge. Both are subject to change and is in fact -expected- to change at some point in time, to some degree or other. Not changing my views on the world as I grow older is a scary thought, because it means stagnation and ignorance in pretty much every intellectual level you could think of. Thus, allowing a personal wiki to be “remixed” yields to some very important counterpoints that can't be omitted:
- 1) As soon as the information in the wiki is changed, it stops being a personal wiki. It becomes a two-man wiki at best, or just someone else's wiki outright, using your work as base. The personal wiki loses its essence when this happens because it doesn't fit its single definition anymore. Allowing modified redistributions implies giving up the concept of a personal wiki altogether. What's a personal wiki if someone you don't know can (indirectly) edit it, or at least control how it should be displayed? It's your knowledge, man.
- 2) If one's knowledge can change at any time, an uncontrolled redistribution will be eventually out of date. Outdated information could be ultimately damaging, depending on the topic!
There are also a few other arguments pointed out to me against third-party distribution.
- 3) It betrays the author's right to vanish, should the situation ever arise.
- 4) Someone else may make money out of a personal wiki, making the author feel like a shmuck.
Creative Commons goes against the idea of a personal wiki, at least only because it opens the wiki to the threat of losing its values of accuracy (with regards to the author) and individualism. I would use Creative Commons for any other piece of creative work, but for the particular case of a personal wiki I feel that it only works in perverting its pretty straightforward definition.
If anything, I also feel that it perverts the overall purpose of Creative Commons itself - so why use it for a purpose that makes no sense and damages both work and license? I'd rather leave CC and GPL and PD and all that stuff for the things that really matter.
However, a personal wiki shouldn't (mustn't!) follow the idea of copyright to the letter. I don't care about the money, nor I care about enforcing a “copyright violation” - in a personal wiki, it doesn't make a lot of sense (This doesn't give you green light to go and mirror this wiki, for the exact reasons explained above). Perhaps what's important about copyright is the right of the author to have control over his or her own knowledge, rather than having the legal upper hand just for the sake of making money out of it. If I were to make money out of my writing, believe me, I would at least try to write something much more entertaining.
So I guess I'm “copyrighting” this wiki in its most basic sense: that of securing individual control and authorship for the sake of preserving the core values of both a personal wiki and my own knowledge, explained above - something I think Creative Commons can't do. This yields to issues if the intellectual property is a printed book, an album or otherwise anything that involves money in its creation, distribution, and obtainment by the customer. This is a non-argument in something that is shown on the Internet for free, without intention of profit. I'm trying to draw elements by their concepts, and not by their individualistic benefits or shitty drawbacks they entail. The freedom to read and learn from the Internet has always been yours.
I can't think of any instance, real or hypothetical, where a personal wiki without Creative Commons/GPL/Whatever becomes damaging to the reader, nor an instance where a reader actively suffers as a result of this “Symbolic copyright”. Maybe I'm wrong - that's what personal wikis are for, aren't they? Let me know what you think.