I would like to clarify why I’ve decided to release the contents of this blog to the public domain instead of opting for some specific license such as a Creative Commons license, Free Art License or even GNU Free Documentation License. The first reason is simple: I don’t want to subject the readers of this blog to any legal mumbo-jumbo. I want people to be able to exploit my work as they see fit without having to go through long documents enumerating a specific set of rights. The only “right” I want to grant is the right to do whatever you like.
The second reason is that all these licenses have been conceived as exceptions to existing copyright legislation, which means that they ultimately reinforce that legislation. Since I’m against the whole notion of copyright, I want to break free from the confines of the copyright legislation altogether. By positioning my work in the public domain, I’m positioning it outside the jurisdiction of the legal system. This is, of course, an anarchic act (in a very modest fashion, anyway).
I want to emphasize that when I use the term “public domain”, I’m not using it in any legal sense. From a legal perspective, the public domain includes those works whose copyright has expired and those works which were excepted from copyright protection in the first place (typically official government documents and such). In modern copyright law copyright is granted automatically to all eligible works without the need for the author to expressly claim it. This means that, legally speaking, it’s not possible to renounce the copyright of your work. The copyright remains with you even if you don’t want it. There is no legally valid way to deliberately release a work into the public domain (granted, this may not be true for all countries).
The legal definition of the public domain is a negative definition, but it’s also possible to define the public domain in positive terms. To me, the public domain is a domain of intellectual freedom (and by “intellectual” I mean any activity that concerns ideas). It’s something akin to Kant’s notion of “public use of reason” (that is, intellectual discourse that addresses the general public and is not limited the demands of a state apparatus or loyalty to an employer). The public domain is such a place where ideas can be exchanged, appropriated and developed freely, in whatever form they may take (text, images, video, music, etc.) and regardless of who originally conceived them. To regulate the exchange of ideas, for whatever purposes, is to subjugate this collective activity to some private interests. I maintain that any such regulation is always basically censorship.
As Nina Paley recently pointed out, cultural goods are by nature anti-rivalrous, meaning that they increase in value the more people use them. This is very much true of ideas. An idea only has value if it’s shared. An idea that is not shared, copied, discussed, appropriated, criticized, built upon or, in short, used withers away without leaving a trace. To copy, then, is to instill value to that which is copied and not to take away value from it like the copyright mafia would like us to believe. The public domain is the place where, by unrestricted exchange, ideas attain the highest possible value.