By using free-culture and open source licensing, everyone who wants to participate in Judaism (or any religion) as a collaborative and creatively vital culture, can do so. These special licenses employ copyright to ensure that artists, authors, translators, etc. remain attributed and their work remains shared until they enter the Public Domain. This matters because in the US and many other countries, the term of a copyright is the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years. For works intended to be used by a culture, adapted to different contexts, this is too long. The result is that many ephemeral works in print or digital media are not shared, have extremely limited distribution and enter the Public Domain in complete obscurity, unknown and forgotten.
Are there contrasting forms of, as it were, proprietary religion, like proprietary code?
Varady: I think so, but to my mind the question of whether a religion thinks of its intellectual and creative content as proprietary really makes me wonder whether it is a religion at all or rather some sort of corporate cult. If you really believed you had enlightened wisdom and a practice for pursuing it, wouldn't you seek the broadest possible means for sharing this knowledge and thereby change the world? I'm sure there are groups whose business model involves adherents submitting to a kind of pay-for-play initiation into their knowledge base which they are forbidden to disclose, or to do anything with creatively that can then be redistributed or otherwise shared.
The problem to my mind is that, under copyright law, this is the situation that all people participating in collaborative projects find themselves. They create a work and by default it isn't available to anyone else for creative reuse. So what was once collaboration really becomes an expensive activity of research and negotiation. Unless we have a particularly enlightened teacher, we're probably not taught how to use copyright to best share our ideas. In so many ways we're taught that our creative ideas are commodities and this is corrosive to collaborative projects and their cultures. I can see this attitude even within the publishing houses of established heterodoxies. Where I might expect an eagerness to provide channels for the public to adopt, adapt, remix, and redistribute their ideas, they see themselves as responsible stewards of their intellectual property. Are religious communities synonymous with a passive marketplace of consumers whose experience of religion is divorced and alienated from their essential creative spirit, or are they creatively engaged participants in a visionary movement? It really comes down to how one sees religion itself: is it a collaborative project or is it some sort of passive observed performance art?
Cultures breathe creativity like we breathe oxygen, and for any culture to be alive, it's participants need to be empowered to be creative, not as solitary artists, but as engaged thinkers making meaning with the creative works they've inherited and which are being shared with them.