Letter to: Creative Industry

This is the letter I sent to the petition organiser to try and get apple’s final cut reinstated.

Dear Andrew Landini,

I read with great interest the petition of a great many creative people who have built their work around the Final Cut product line. Of course, I feel your pain and wish to offer my sympathies.

But I also wish to share with you what I have learned about software and the importance of ownership and control. It is true that there are a great number of good, solid software packages being made by companies like Adobe and Apple which artists and businesses regularly use to get their work done in the best way possible.

The problem with these packages is that they take away effective ownership and with that any sense of control over the direction of the development of the tools in use. These programs are known as proprietary software[1], because they use trade secretes to hide their source code, strong copyright to sell products in a box and even go so far as to implement anti-features[2] to ensure stratification of their market money earning potential.

This isn’t necessarily at issue, but it does put users (and more importantly businesses) at a huge disadvantage. Instead of investing into an ecosystem that requires it take control away from your business, I would like to propose supporting Free and Open Source[3] business models for the furthering of creative tools.

This new way of creating software doesn’t require programmers keep secretes from their users. Development is done in the open, multiple different parties generally pay into development of the same features and we end up with free software that every participant gets full rights to use, modify, and basically do with as they wish for their own business needs.

Tools such as Gimp, Inkscape and Blender are not always first with features or even the best technical tool at the moment. But what they offer is something far more important, they give every user Freedom, Ownership and Control to take the software and fully define how they want to see the software developed further. They require no loyalty to any one set of developers, there is no one company you must go to for support. Despite marginal investment from the creative industry, these tools are already quite powerful.

With most artists and creative businesses understanding and supporting Free and Open Source as a good business strategy, I think we can prevent, in the future, ever having to write an petition begging a mischievous company from putting small creative businesses out of work because they decided to develop for the lowest common denominator.

Best Regards, Martin Owens (Artist, Programmer, Teacher)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprietary_software
[2] http://wiki.mako.cc/Antifeatures
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software

Do Artists Use Ubuntu?

To celebrate the 500th member of the Ubuntu DeviantArt group. I’ve put together some stats for Operating System Use based on self stated use on profile pages:

Windows 7/Vista/XP – 410,000 (76.9%)
Mac – 87,700 (16.3%)
Ubuntu – 20,300 (3.7%)
Linux – 16,000 (3%)
Total: 533,300

These results were compiled by using a strict google search for deviantArt profile pages with the “Operating System: X” as a term. The number of found results were given as the size of the population. Windows and Ubuntu varients (XP/Vista/7) and (Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu) where folded in.

Kubuntu actually accounts for 25% (5k) of the artists who use Ubuntu. 5% use Lubuntu and Xubuntu with the rest saying they use just Ubuntu (not specifying).

Windows Vista and Windows 7 have equal populations with 100k each, 210k is left for windows xp users.

We have a long way to go to attract for artists and creators to Ubuntu and making the open source ecosystem of tools the creators choice for their work. Although these stats may not be reliable, only half a million users out of an estimated 9 million deviantArt users had specified what os they use on their profile page.

Note: Linux is a compound of “Linux”: 3,700, Slackware: 3,160, openSuSE: 2,970, Red Hat: 1,220, Debian: 937, Fedora: 344

Your thoughts?

Artists: Read Licenses!

There is a set of icons that just got posted to deviantArt and it got me thinking about the problems with artists understanding licenses:

The icons are great and these works are awesome and I love that artists are playing with the creative works that are shared in the greater commons available from the Ubuntu community. The problem of course is that ubuntu-mono is licensed as CC-BY-SA, in ubuntu-mono/debian/copyright:

(c) Canonical Ltd 2004- 2009

Unless otherwise indicated, artwork is available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license v3.0 or any later version.

The artist has published his work under a CC-BY-SA-NC license, it turns out that the work is inspired by but not a derivative work, bit if this new work had been based on the original ubuntu-mono icons, then they should be licensed CC-BY-SA as the share-alike terms specify.

Most of the time it’s just confusion and ignorance about the rights and requirements of various licenses and the need to check the licenses when creating derivative works. See the comments below for examples of confusion over the creative commons website text and what issues it can come up with.

This is actually quite hard to manage on the desktop since we don’t express license terms per file in any way on the desktop, it’d be on my wishlist to have some kind of indication on files when they have license terms marked in their meta-data. For SVG files this is quite easy as the terms are normally in the meta headers.

What are your thoughts? Do we do enough to help artists understanding licenses?