Incompatible Licenses (was: Exceptions on licenses)
Thomas Uwe Gruettmueller
sloyment at gmx.net
Wed Oct 29 23:23:56 EST 2003
Hi! (IANAL, TINLA.)
On Mittwoch 29 Oktober 2003 21:49, Wouter Vanden Hove wrote:
> Yes, but I wonder if the license is applicable to the specific
> instance of the work, or specific to the individual who is
> receiving the work. Or is this difference really irrelevant?
> "You are allowed to copy this work."
> What exactly does this mean?
> 1) *YOU* (and only you) are allowed to copy this work.
You can easily write such a license, but it would not be a free
> 2) I, copyright holder, give this instance of the work a
> license that permits copying, and I give this instance to you,
> therefore you are allowed to copy.
The free software licenses are usually thought to be granted to
everybody, but not collectively, instead individually. This
means that you offer the license to everybody, so that every
single one of them is granted an individual offer to a personal
instance of the license. The licensees individually decide
whether or not to accept the license (indicated by performing
the rights granted within), and they can also terminate their
license individually (by breaking the rules). However, in the
case of a free software license, the *offer* is usually directed
If there is a free software license that can be used in a way
that not everybody receives the offer, thus restricting on
certain fields of eneavour or discriminating against certain
persons or groups, I think the license should only be called a
'free software license' as long as it is offered to everybody.
(In theory, the GPL could be used restrictively, the GFDL not.)
> The difference is when you lend that instance to someone.
Typically, free software licenses apply to everybody, no matter
if the instance of the work is owned or borrowed. However, the
GPL says, that you can only change your *own* copies, so if you
have borrowed a piece of software, and you want to change it,
you have to create your own copy first. You cannot patch the
paper tape you borrowed.
(I just said 'paper tape', only to express how old-fashioned I
consider copyright law.)
> Or is this a difference between a license (applies to the
> instance) and a contract (applies to the individual)?
I'm confused. AFAIK a license is a contract (between the
copyright holder and the licensee).
> I was thinking about this difference in a context of a
> sampling license for education:
> "Dear Professor, Can we use parts of your textbook in the
> Wikipediaunder the FDL?"
> "Yes, but only in the Wikipedia."
Right. However, in this case the wording is quite ambinguous, so
you should ask your professor to clarify what exactly he means:
a) Only you can take parts of my textbook and put them into the
Wikipedia, but once they are in the Wikipedia, everybody can
reuse them in other projects, too. However, which parts to
take, depends on you.
b) Everybody can take excerpts from my book and use them under a
slightly *modified* GFDL which carries the additional
restriction that the text must not be used for anything but
the Wikipedia. Such a license would be incompatible with the
original GFDL, and the Wikipedians would certainly not accept
> Now we have rebranded the cc-sa-nc as an educational license.
> But these works cannot be used as raw materials for the Free
> Encyclopedias Wikipedia and Planetmath, that are licensed
> under the GNU FDL.
Copyleft licenses are usually mutually incompatible. :o( For
computer programs, this is not such a big problem, as there is
one widely accepted standard license, the GPL.
Unfortunately, this is not true for the licenses of general
content. The free content scene is already scattered into pieces
and still people come up with new copyleft licenses all the
> Would it be possible to have a license-(option) that uses
> cc-sa-nc for a general public but allows certain people
> ("wikipedians") to use it under the FDL in their
> Wikipedia-project and only in their project, making derivative
> works of the original cc-sa-nc? That derivative then is
> licensed FDL can be further used by anyone under normal
> FDL-terms, but a necessary step via Wikipedia is necessary and
> can be tracked via the history log.
Allowing things for certain people or projects only would not
work, because this would either not work (see option b above) or
not make much sense (see option a above).
One could generally allow that everybody could relicense the text
under the GFDL at any time, for any purpose -- but then, why not
use the GFDL in the first place? Dual-licensing makes the
copyleft mechanism weak!
I think there are only two solutions to get out of this mess:
a) Convince people that instead of creating more and more
mutually incompatible licenses, they should gather on a table
(or better: public mailing list) and create the ultimative
'one-fits-all' license for free content. (The main problem is
not to find a lawyer who can check the juristical validity of
the license, but to make the license logically consistent.
And maybe it is also more interesting for lawyers to create
restrictive licenses than to create a truely free one.)
b) Abandon the copyright law, worldwide. Without the copyright
laws, there would not be any need for copyleft licenses at
I do think that there should be some protection for the
author. For example, I do not want people to knowingly
destroy or alter the *last* instance of a work I have
created, without asking me first.
Another form of author protection that springs into my mind
is the issue about attribution. I think it should be up to
the users how much attribution they give the authors. A radio
station that never gives attribution should not be forced to
read out several pages of names for certain songs. However,
if attribution is given, it should be given percentually (and
the author should be free to decide wether he wants
attribution at all).
However, these things are not the business of copyright law.
Its main idea is to forbid copying, distribution,
modification and certain other things. These prohibitions do
not serve the people of the 'digital millenium', so please
consider abandoning these laws.
-- - http://184.108.40.206/~sloyment/ - --
"Look! They have different music on the dance floor..."
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