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Free Range Memes

Before I dive into deschooling and spiritual privilege and so on, I'd like to share some reasons why it's important to me to publish my writing with Creative Commons licenses.

Some considerations that come to mind are accessibility, money positivity, my own curiosity about derivative works, respect for the life and health of memes, and questioning the meaning of "original authorship."

Accessibility is probably the easiest to understand. To someone with a credit card, a dollar is just a dollar. To someone with no way to make a payment online, content that costs a dollar is locked up behind an impassable paywall. Similarly, to someone with unlimited bandwidth at home, DRM controlled content that they can't download is right there whenever they want it, whereas to someone who takes their outdated laptop to the public library once a month to access the Internet, a DRM-free download makes a difference.

Another reason for choosing Creative Commons is that I'm cultivating money positivity, which I don't have to explain because it's thoroughly and courageously described by Tada Hozumi in his blog.

Thirdly, I am so curious about anyone else's creative work that might be inspired by mine. I certainly wouldn't want to discourage derivative works.

Then we come to the wellbeing of the memes themselves. I'm using the term "meme" to refer to any information that's transmitted from person to person by communication.

Memes are generally not recognizable units, like rocks on a beach that I can pick up one by one; they're more like waves in the ocean of human consciousness, moving, interacting and dissipating with fractal complexity and no discernable boundaries.

I consider memes to be living beings. They grow, reproduce, learn, die, change and evolve, just like us carbon-based DNA beings. I tend to assume that memes have their own conscious experience, some capacity for learning and healing, and a preference for mutually supportive relations with their fellow beings. I'm aware that some readers won't share those assumptions, so that's okay, and let's move on to copyrights.

Owning the copyright to a meme is not equivalent to owning an individual dog, horse, plant, fish or human slave. It's more like owning the patent on a whole species, or linneage, or variety. I distinctly remember the sick feeling in my belly the first time I heard about patented genes. It's a step beyond slavery, somehow. Western biology holds that the most basic drives of life are survival, growth and reproduction, and yet we're assigning legal rights to restrict other beings' survival, growth and reproduction? How might I feel if I were pregnant, and excited about being pregnant, and someone suddenly told me it was illegal for me to reproduce? To me, as I write this, the genetics of a growing corn plant belong to the corn plant, and only a meme deserves to hold the copyright to itself.

So, basically, planting proprietary memes in my mind is equivalent to planting patented terminator seeds in my garden. Since drawing that comparison, I feel weird about listening to copyrighted music, whether or not it's pirated.

I've been told, in response to some of these ideas, that violating copyrights is "stealing." Maybe legally it is. I don't actually know. If it were up to me, I'd rather have separate terms for two different things that get called stealing. One kind of "stealing" removes an object from the current owner's possession, whereas the other kind facilitates the reproduction of a meme without damaging the original copy.

One more thought: How do I know where my art comes from? I don't. All this content has appeared in my life in bits and pieces, and I rarely remember where any particular bit came from, if I ever found out in the first place. I'm not Jehova posing as Original Creator of anything. All I'm doing is recombining what's already here, available to me, to make it more available to other humans.

On top of that, I've had several experiences of apparent telepathy, some of them quite striking. Whether or not these contitute "paranormal" phenomena is beside the point. My point is, even when I have a thought and I'm sure I've never heard it from anyone else, the elements of that thought still came from somewhere, I just can't trace where. Maybe it came from someone just down the street, who's about to come and tell it to me word for word and not understand why I'm staring at them, wide-eyed.

This reads a bit like a defense, or an attempt to convince someone else to release their work into the commons. I didn't mean it that way. I just wanted to share my process of deciding how to share my writing.

Free Range Memes by Tamias Nettle is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International