Reading Floss+Art really has got me wondering if art should be free. By free I don’t mean public domain, but rather in a way that ensures the work stays free, such as releasing their work under Creative Commons or some similar Copyleft licence?
When I approached this question I split it into two questions, should art be free and should design be free. To clarify, I see art as something more aesthetic, more pleasing to the eye. I don’t think it strictly is there to answer questions, but more to raise them. It’s like a fiction book, which isn’t there to provide facts, but to entertain.
I see design as something that solves problems. Need to push something up a hill? Design created the wheel. Need to make a mark on a paper? Design created the pen and pencil. It is true that there is some artistic (as I’m defining it here) concepts that went into it’s design, but primarily I see it as design.
Overall, of the two I feel that it is design that should be set free, especially when it can benefit so many people. On the screen a UI design may make a program easier to use but on a wider scale it sets the scale for other programs. If all other/similar programs followed the same design principles those programs in turn would become easier to use and everyone would benefit. However, too often I read of stories where companies patent whatever aspects of their program they can. Doing this does give them the upper hand over their rivals, but it prevents others from improving on their work and benefiting the users.