Because FLOSS is handy, isn’t it?

Microsoft and Creative Commons

Posted by isilanes on July 1, 2006

I have come to know that Microsoft has planned to add to MS Office a plug-in for licensing the documents thus produced under one of the Creative Commons licenses (if the author so wishes, of course).

You can read about it in Slashdot, C|Net and Lawrence Lessig’s blog.

Now, a lot of people see it as something possitive (including Enrique Dans[es]), but I don’t see it completely clear. It seems to be a big boost to the popularity of CC licenses, no doubt about it.

But, is it good news to the freedom of the culture?. It would seem so, since more people will license their works under a CC (many even unwillingly, because they hit the incorrect button in their toolbar, or have the defaults of their Office wrongly configurated), but it is not. They key point is twofold:

1) What the hell is this plug-in good for? What can the author achieve with it that is not promptly achieved just adding a “This work is licensed under blah-blah-blah” manually (keyboard-lly)? It is implied that someone will write a 500-page book, but is too lazy to manually add a statement that could be inserted clicking the ultra-mega-kewl MS Offiz plug-in button…

2) What good is it to free one’s artistic (or otherwise) work under a permisive copyright, if it is burdened by a proprietary format such as those MS Office saves under?

These two facts (doesn’t benefit the author, doesn’t benefit the freedom) make it clear that (as all the steps MS takes) it mainly benefits MS. It effectively helps the author refrain from controling her work too tightly, but moves this “control” into its (MS’s) own hands. Free distribution of important, interesting, popular CC documents will make it even more important to have MS Office if these documents are DOC or similar. More so, MS could threat to cut support for the readers of such documents, increase their price, tighten the piracy controls for MS Office, and/or legally prosecute the compatible readers (OpenOffice.org)… all that supported by a more tight grip in the freedom of choice of the public.

And remember: all the aforementioned attacks to the users’ freedom can only be done from a power position… power given to them in first place by the users. Don’t fall for it!


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