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Creative Commons

Neat! I may have to start using this.

Creative Commons Licensing

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
gamahucheur
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:48 pm (UTC)
It's cool, but imagien that the project should, for some reason, go south, taking the WWWsite with it. What then happens to the status of your property?
oboreruhito
Oct. 30th, 2004 12:03 am (UTC)
Nothing. The Commons is a legal agreement that is valid without any foundation or Web site. The existence of the Commons foundation and Web site provides resources and support for enforcing the Commons, but the more you know about how they work, the less you need the foundation and Web site.
gamahucheur
Oct. 30th, 2004 12:23 am (UTC)
Perhaps I've missed something, but it seemed that the way that one indicated what claims one made and what permissions one extended was by way of a URI. If I'm not mistaken about this, then one's declaration is in trouble if the URI is rendered invalid.
oboreruhito
Oct. 30th, 2004 01:24 pm (UTC)
Nothing prevents you from changing the URL to a local mirror. The URL, as it functions now, points to a summary of the legal code, which is the actual license.

Here's an example:
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

The Legal Code is the actual license, and it relies on no Internet document for its validity. It includes the Commons' home page URL only as an advisory contact.

Foremost, the Commons License is a set of guidelines for applying existing copyright law. For a work that I apply the Commons License to, I would be saying that, for a particular work to which I hold copyright, I will allow anyone to use this work in certain specified ways -- without asking me for permission first as is traditionally required by copyright law -- so long as they accept the terms of this particular Commons License.

The Commons License is much like the GPL, or a Terms of Use license, or most any other license -- it's a document of terms allowing the use of a copyrighted work. The URL points to a site where the license is stored; if you don't trust that URL, upload the license to your own server and change the URL to that local mirror, or to a mirror you do trust.

At worst, protection defaults to standard copyright law, which closes up the pre-approved uses the Commons allows -- increasing copyright protection, not reducing it. Enforcement remains, just as with the Commons, the responsibility of the copyright holder.

If you're worried about the permeability of the Commons, one could always write his or her own copyright license. It may not be as hard as it looks. I'd be much more worried about how the Commons License would hold up in court than I would about the URL changing or going down.

For a simple (if a bit dated) breakdown on CC pros and cons: http://zesty.ca/cc.html
gamahucheur
Oct. 30th, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Nothing prevents you from changing the URL to a local mirror.
It seems to me that all of the real novelty here was in the use of a preëxisting URI. Others have already written their own licenses (I amongst them), others have also put their licenses on the WWWeb (I amongst them). It seems to me that there is rarely a case where it is impracticable to (also) distribute the a copy of the license with the product, rather than only providing a URI.
At worst, protection defaults to standard copyright law,
That's probably correct, though I don't recall the copyright acts addressing the issue of holders issuing license copies that they allow to become defective, and (if the acts do not) it might not become a legal fact until-and-unless a court agrees with this.
than I would about the URL changing or going down.
Consider that ordinary copyrights protect works for several decades after the lives of the creators; as a practical matter, this is true because a significant share of works retain value for such time. I certainly do not expect the URI to remain valid for, say, 50 years (unless by some tedious special effort to protect some especially valuable works that will otherwise lose protection).
oboreruhito
Oct. 30th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC)
Addressing your first point: I agree with you that it is not impractical to distribute a copy of the license with the work. Nothing about the Commons prevents anyone from doing so. The Commons is not limited to electronic work distributed via the Internet.

Let me please quote a passage from the License's Legal to address your concerns with the URL of the license:
"4. Restrictions.The license granted in Section 3 above is expressly made subject to and limited by the following restrictions:

a. You may distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work only under the terms of this License, and You must include a copy of, or the Uniform Resource Identifier for, this License with every copy or phonorecord of the Work You distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform."

(Emphasis is mine.)

There is no language in the License that restricts the source of it to the Internet, the World Wide Web, or any particular URL; nor is there any language that prevents anyone from distributing the license as an offline file, as a hard copy, as an audio recording, or within any other medium of communication.

Addressing your second point: Let me again quote from the License's Legal Code.

"Subject to the above terms and conditions, the license granted here is perpetual (for the duration of the applicable copyright in the Work). Notwithstanding the above, Licensor reserves the right to release the Work under different license terms or to stop distributing the Work at any time; provided, however that any such election will not serve to withdraw this License (or any other license that has been, or is required to be, granted under the terms of this License), and this License will continue in full force and effect unless terminated as stated above."

(Emphasis mine.)

I agree that the life and nature of this license needs to be clarified in court. But as it is written (and not necessarily as it may be interpreted), the license is intended to grant, at the time of distribution and use, the release of certain copyright privileges the copyright holder is afforded by law for the life of the copyright itself.

Addressing your third point: Your point about defective license copies, as well as your point questioning how a licensor can distribute the license with a work, is exactly why I said that it is more prudent to worry about the legal feasibility and strength of the Commons license than it is to worry about the means by which the text of the license is distributed.

The Commons license, to the extent of my limited knowledge, is just as valid in the packaging of a physical compact disc of music as it is on a Web site linking to MP3s, as it is on any agreement signed to hear a live performance, as it is on a printed transcript of any musical notation or lyrics of the music, as it is within the license agreement for a computer video game that uses the music. The Commons URL to the license is a convenience -- a service provided by Creative Commons to people who wish to use the Commons license, but, like many LJers, do not have their own Web server -- but that particular certainly is not a requirement for this license to be used. Indeed, the URL has changed before, and likely will change again, as Creative Commons updates the license. (For example, the license I linked to in my previous comment is, so to speak, version 2.0. An earlier license can be viewed here, and still applies to some early CC-licensed works and uses of CC-licensed works.)

Out of curiosity: From what perspective do you percieve that the Commons specifically requires a URL to operate? From Web users who use the Commons logo and canned code to link to the license's page, as many LJers do?

Also, can I see your own license? You may notice that I don't Commons-license my own work because of my own reservations, and I'm always seeking viable alternatives.

Thanks for your reply.
gamahucheur
Oct. 30th, 2004 07:16 pm (UTC)
Addressing your first point:
I don't think that you've really done that. Before Creative Commons, there were already several licenses floating around to be used by creators. While the Commons may not be requiring people to present a URI in lieu of a license, it certainly appears to be encouraging people to do this.
Addressing your second point: Let me again quote from the License's Legal Code.
If the URI becomes defunct, and a creator has presented only a URI, it doesn't matter that the URI once pointed to a license which in no way precluded issuance under other license. If the only “license” presented is a defunct URI, then the rights of the creator may be thrown into question.
Addressing your third point:
My third point is concerned with the likelihood that the URI will become defunct before the creator considers licensing of the work to be irrelevant.
From what perspective do you percieve that the Commons specifically requires a URL to operate?
From the perspective that, when last I checked, the presentation encouraged users to believe that a URI would be sufficient. (The requirement, then, is specific, if not declared and perhaps not intended.)
Also, can I see your own license?
You may not like my most recent alternative, which is part in-your-face statement of political philosophy (with some extra boiler-plate at the very end to make it hard for the courts to toss out the whole license); in any event you can find it as “PraxioLogic Freeware License and Disclaimers 1.0” at one of my WWWsites.
oboreruhito
Oct. 30th, 2004 08:40 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that the Commons oversimplifies the application of the license, and how creators can apply the license to their work. But it is the licensor's responsibility to reliably distribute and enforce the license, just as it is with any license of any kind, and with copyright as well. Yes, if only a URL is used and the URL dies, thus effectively causing the license's text to cease to exist when someone attempts to view it, then the license cannot be issued. The creator's intention to further share his or her work is closed from the time the link goes down until, and if, the link returns, and is dead through that period without the creator's notification or consent.

But the license, once accepted, remains in effect, as it is written in the license, for the duration of copyright or until the licensor revokes the license by the means written into it. Your arguement, to me, infers the possibility that if I give you a work with a printed copy of the Commons license, and you read the license, accept it, then burn the paper with the text of the license on it, the license you agreed to is then no longer valid. Is this how a license, or the Commons license as it is written, legally works? Is a license that someone agrees to annulled simply because the text of it is not available? Or am I still misunderstanding the problem, or getting some fundamental understanding of licensing wrong?

I do not see the unreliability of a single link to a license as being dangerous to the rights of the copyright holder. It is potentially dangerous to people wanting to use the work in the ways allowed by the license, yes. But the original issue was with "what happens to the status of your (the creator's) property", and that "the rights of the creator may be thrown into question." I have a hard time believing, should the license's Web site go down, that the creator would lose control over his or her work. In fact, the creator should regain copyright control -- control he or she had voluntarily given up under the license's terms -- if the license is nullified. Nullifying a license, in other words, should not nullify copyright without the license explicitly stating this. Am I wrong in beliving this?

The Commons license explicitly retains copyright with the copyright owner, and provides only users of a licensed work who agree to the license the privilege of distributing, performing, or creating derivative works without asking for permission from the copyright holder beforehand. Ending, nullifying or destroying the license should only revoke permission the copyright owner/licensor grants to potential users, as the license itself has granted such perpetual use upon accepting the license's terms until the license is terminated, which can only fully occur when the licensee violates the terms of the license.

("a. This License and the rights granted hereunder will terminate automatically upon any breach by You of the terms of this License. Individuals or entities who have received Derivative Works or Collective Works from You under this License, however, will not have their licenses terminated provided such individuals or entities remain in full compliance with those licenses. Sections 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8 will survive any termination of this License.

8. Subject to the above terms and conditions, the license granted here is perpetual (for the duration of the applicable copyright in the Work). Notwithstanding the above, Licensor reserves the right to release the Work under different license terms or to stop distributing the Work at any time; provided, however that any such election will not serve to withdraw this License (or any other license that has been, or is required to be, granted under the terms of this License), and this License will continue in full force and effect unless terminated as stated above.")

If someone really insists on applying the Commons license to Internet content, despite the lack of court precedent on issues such as the very one we are discussing, and wants to link to a Web site that contains the license to license that content, they shouldn't only link to the Commons site's copy of the license, as it may be unreliable. I hope we can at least agree on that point.

Thanks for your reply.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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