I've been inundated with a variety of contractual issues in the last few days, quite a lot of it is Requests For Proposals for programs of work where potential clients have clauses in their agreements specifying that any idea (or derivative) developed will belong to them. The strange thing is, these are the same clients who are often contracting or asking me for support in finding ways to spread their messages and ideas to wider audiences.
The perceived paradox is that we, me included of course, want to hold on to the ideas that we come up with, for many different reasons. However, it may just be that one of the barriers to the idea getting "out there" in the first place, or being adopted and adapted by others, is the tight restrictions of the traditional intellectual copyright - the (c) symbol.
I've personally been tossing about in this sea change of intellectual sharing for some months. Making the personal and then the business strategic shift to an alternative paradigm has taken nearly two years of trial and error and will no doubt continue. I am having to redesign my entire concept of a consulting business, along with all the supporting paraphenalia. Some of these lessons are directly pertinent to the spread of good practice.
As I am not the first to struggle with this concept, there is now a robust framework for dealing with this issue - the Creative Commons Licence. http://www.creativecommons.org/ This organisation has developed licenses specific to many countries that cover may combinations of the following:
Generally you are free to copy, display, distribute and perform the work
a) Attribution: you must give the original author the credit
b) Non-Commercial: you may not use this work for commercial purposes
c) No derivative works: you may not alter, transform or build upon these works
d) Share-alike: if you alter, transform or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one
and then there are a few minor details to take note and if you'd like to read all the fine print for each license for the combinations you choose then they are available for you.
On the basis that the spirit of a CC license is to copy, distribute, display and perform a work, then that sounds to me like a good start for spreading good practice. My choice is to add in (a) and when I am providing my ideas, thoughts and materials for free, then I expect them to continue to be made available in the same way so (b) needs to apply. I'll then make a choice regarding (c) and (d) for each idea or product, though I know from the theory and practice of spread and adoption, if I really want something to take off then I will need a balance as (d) is quite often a necessary step in the implementation and adaption process.
What I have learnt is there is no going back.
2008 Sarah Fraser CC:Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works