[cc-licenses] Unbundling the GPL
james at grimmelmann.net
Fri Apr 27 18:33:18 EDT 2007
I support adding these reasons not to use CC licenses for software. It
is important to have in this FAQ answer clear explanations of why NC/ND
are inconsistent with free software and why SA does not implement
Here is a proposed revision of Terry's excellent summary. I've cleaned
up a few small style issues, and tried to make it so that CC doesn't
take quite as strong a stance on the relative merits of the
freeware/free software business models.
Creative Commons licenses are not intended to apply to software. They
should not be used for software. We strongly encourage you to use one of
the very good software licenses available today. The licenses made
available by the Free Software Foundation or listed at the Open Source
Initiative should be considered by you if you are licensing software or
software documentation. Unlike our licenses -- which do not make mention
of source or object code -- these existing licenses were designed
specifically for use with software.
Creative Commons has “wrapped” some free software/open source licenses
with its Commons Deed and metadata if you wish to use these licenses and
still take advantage of the Creative Commons human-readable code and
Creative Commons customized search engine technology. You can find more
For binary-only distribution of non-free, closed-source software
("freeware", "shareware", or "proprietary software"), the "No
Derivatives" (ND) or "Non-Commercial" (NC) license variants may be usable.
These licenses are not appropriate for distributing "free" or "libre"
open source software. They do not give users of the software the rights
and freedoms normally considered essential for software to be FLOSS.
You will not be able to distribute software under an ND or NC license
through many channels. The free-licensed open-source software movement
has been extremely successful because it has used less restrictive
licenses that secure more freedoms for users, and your software may be
more successful if you choose one of those software-specific FLOSS licenses.
Under no circumstances should the "ShareAlike" (SA) licenses be used for
distributing free-licensed open source software. A ShareAlike-type (or
"copyleft") license will not be effective for software unless it
includes a requirement that users who distribute modified versions
publish the source code of their modifications available. If you use a
Creative Commons ShareAlike license (which does not include this
requirement) for software, it will not work, because users who hide the
source code of their changes will be able to evade the ShareAlike
requirement. There are good, well-tested free software licenses that
implement copyleft much more effectively.
Attribution-only licenses can be used as a non-copyleft software
license, but there are software-specific free licenses that are more
specifically adapted to this purpose. Keep in mind that the Attribution
requirement puts a burden on those who make changes to your software.
Finally, all of the CC licenses prevent the distribution of binaries in
TPM or DRM form, which may be problematic for porting the software to
certain platforms. Some free software distributors object to such this
type of clause.
More information about the cc-licenses