[cc-community] Strengthening the CC-BY-SA copyleft with respect to code

Bart Kelsey elbarto at gmail.com
Tue Dec 20 14:18:23 EST 2011

Hi folks.  I'm the founder of OpenGameArt.org, and I'd like to bring
something specifically to attention that I've had to deal with many times
over since founding my site.  Earlier someone mentioned making the CC-BY-SA
copyleft stronger.  I'd like to specifically bring that to attention with
respect to content included in computer programs.  A lot of artists are
hesitant to submit art to my site because it's at best a grey area whether
the sharealike clause of CC-BY-SA would apply to a game (or other computer
program) that uses the content they submit.  For instance, if I submit a 3d
model under the CC-BY-SA license and someone wants to use it in their
closed-source game, right now they would be able to do that so long as they
shared any changes they made to my 3d model.

Now, what about something like a generic 3d model viewer?  Wouldn't this
sort of change prevent a program like that from being distributed with
CC-BY-SA licensed models?  The answer to this is that if the program you're
distributing is a 3d model viewer, then that program itself is the work,
whereas if you distribute a game that uses a 3D model, the entire *game*
(including the assets therein) are the work.

For a more complicated example, what happens if someone releases their
closed-source game engine and separately releases their CC-BY-SA content?
Again, it's simple to determine whether they're doing it to skirt around
the sharealike requirement, or whether the engine is a separate work.  If
the engine is released along with instructions for building your own
content on top of it, then the engine itself is a separate work.  On the
other hand, if the engine is useless without the content release, then
clearly the content is part of the work, regardless of whether it was
released separately.

At any rate, right now if an artist wants to create art for use only in
open source software (or at the very least, software with a sharealike
license), they have no viable licensing options.  This is particularly
frustrating since those protections *are* available to people who write
code.  When artists ask me why art doesn't deserve the same sharealike
protection as program code, I don't have a good answer for them.

Bart Kelsey

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