Friday, October 12, 2007

Licensing

For this week's OpenEd class, I jumped on the readings early in the week, meaning to write early. When I looked at the questions, though, I got a little stuck, so I've had licensing terms floating around in my head for the last few days, as I've pondered: What is missing from CC, and how can we possibly make CC and GFDL content compatible with each other?

Stian and Greg both mention that a non-BY license would be nice. I would agree with that. That got me thinking, since Attribution is the most consistent and simple term across all the CC licenses. Obviously the implementation of a SA-only license would be pretty straight forward to implement, but then I wonder if without making a declaration to put your work into the public domain or selling the copyright to CC like in their Founder's Copyright, could you simply implement a license that allowed anyone to use your content however they like (similar to BY, but without the actual BY)? Would it matter that it would have the same effect as declaring it to be in the public domain? Would it have the same effect?

BinaryApe (from Flickr)
The CC license could possibly benefit by adding a Notification clause, which could go with or without any of the existing licenses, asking that those who remix or make certain other uses of the content notify the creator that their work has been mixed into something else. Something like that might be too difficult to understand and costly to implement. CC works because it is simple, and I believe it is important to keep it that way.

Looking to the software world, the shareware model comes to mind. We've all probably seen websites with a little PayPal donation box or downloaded software like WinZIP or others that can be distributed for free but require payment to continue using it. Pollock discusses the Magnatune music label that allows users to choose what price to pay for their album downloads. There's a restaurant in Salt Lake City, One World Cafe, soon to open another restaurant in New York City, where guests pay whatever they feel the meal was worth, and they can help do dishes or serve food to work off their meal if they need to. I don't know how well it would work with open content. You'd run into issues with both NC and SA with a shareware license, but maybe it would be worth it to CC if they provided a service to run payments through their system for a nominal 5% cost recovery fee.

The shareware idea there is kind of a brainstorming idea, not well thought out by me yet. Our GNU friends have a page dedicated to the various software licenses that are available and how they relate to each other. Perhaps another of the software licenses will spur an idea of how to license content differently. When it comes to GNU, however, something about them just makes me slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the 20 pages about why we shouldn't say Linux, but GNU/Linux, when referring to that particular operating system. I mean, I enjoy and appreciate Open Source software, but perhaps not so much that I really care what the difference is between Free Software and Open Source Software (although I could very easily explain the difference between Free Software and Freeware if you needed another clue as to my location on the geek-continuum). Their approach seems to be one of a fundamentalist, with only one right way to license. Stallman and friends get pretty worked up about whether a given license is really open and get upset about CC's NC clause (not because NC is unclear or difficult to enforce, but because it is unfair to disallow commercial use). The CC licenses give more choice to a creator than does the GFDL, because of the range of available licenses. That additional choice adds complexity and incompatibilities, though.

I hope something can be worked out so these licenses can be more compatible with each other, but it seems unlikely to happen quickly. In the mean time, it may just be a liberal application of fair use that allows a mixture among the various incompatible licenses, along with a sprinkle of a gentleman's agreement not to sue.

1 comment:

David said...

The notification clause, eh? That would make lots of people really happy - people trying to figure out who is using their stuff and how. You're one of the few people who managed to come up with a new clause - nice idea!