What’s the difference between these two articles?

She puts them down, side by side, and examines them. By all accounts these are our regular everyday journal articles. They’re both written in English, they’re both academic in tone, they’re both saying similar things. But what of these differences? The bright green Creative Commons banner gives it away. It’s that oft-overlooked permit of authority – the license. One article has a Creative Commons license – you are free to share, you are free to remix. The other is branded with a copyright – this is property of Publisher XYZ, all rights reserved, not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

What’s the difference between these two articles?

She looks at the two articles again, this time putting one on top of the other as she ponders their newly minted character. “I guess it feels less like I’m being lectured, and more like I’m being invited to participate in a conversation with the author,? she says, gently lifting the article with the Creative Common license. Her tone is optimistic. “I think I’d be more inclined to comment on an article that I have permission to tweak; the other article feels too static, it feels too rigid, like a granite slab.?

So what’s the difference?

This woman has no real interest in the issue of copyright, nor has she ever heard of a Creative Commons license, yet she’s very intently seized this idea that the Creative Commons license affords her far greater intellectual involvement, and she’s eager to take advantage. There is this impression that a license that allows remixing and repurposing lets loose this pent-up dialogue between her and the author that was previously set aside by the traditionally monologic practice of authorship. It lets loose the possibility for this previously unheard commentary. This previously impossible commentary.

She seems relieved.