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

Christopher Allan Webber cwebber at creativecommons.org
Tue Dec 20 15:49:17 EST 2011

Bart and I have spent some time talking about this on IRC before in the
past with him, and I agree with him, I think it's a problem.  In fact,
let me copy-pasta a bit of that exchange:

<BartK> also, check this out:
<BartK> http://pastebin.com/a9D00XKG
<BartK> that was created completely in a text editor
<BartK> so there's no original image source
<paroneayea> yes, data inside code
<paroneayea> and code inside data
<BartK> sure
<BartK> but the GPL applies to it
<BartK> why is it that if I can create it in a text editor, I can get a
        copyleft that works with code, but if I create it in an art program, I

I think that's an interesting question, and I *do* think it's worth
considering seriously.  I've talked to multiple people in the FOSS
gaming communities and many of them feel frustrated that the scope of
copyleft can't apply to them.  In this way, artists who are involved in
both the free software and the game content communities often feel like
they are second class copyleft citizens because their works aren't
considered part of the copyleft of the main work, and they get upset
about the idea that their work could be included with proprietary games
whereas it's the free software community they really care about.

That said, I'm not sure there's a clear way to be able to address it.
In fact, I suspect there's no way to address it without a separate
coypleft license (I doubt the GPL applies there either because the
"linking" isn't really happening anyway), which I think would be
disasterous for reasons I've said in other emails about
one-copyleft-per-domain is the primary way to keep copyleft useful as a
concept.  But also, I think actually including this in CC BY-SA might be
*worse* and would expand the scope of copyleft for most things beyond
where we intend it and result in a lot of things being out of compliance
that we don't want to be.

So I think it's a serious issue, and we should consider it
seriously... but I'm not sure there are any solutions.  I can't think of
any. :\

 - Chris

Bart Kelsey <elbarto at gmail.com> writes:

> I addressed that exact point in a previous paragraph, although perhaps
> I wasn't clear enough.  Here's what I said about that:
> 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.
> There's a clear distinction there between a generic application meant
> for viewing any content, and a game where the content is part of the
> work.  I'd appreciate it if we could actually spend time *really*
> examining this, because it gets dismissed out of hand far, far too
> often (and this is the exact argument used).  I don't see where this
> argument holds water, honestly.  You can always come up with weird
> edge cases for a specific license, but in general it's very clear
> whether a piece of art is part of a game, or whether it's just
> something that's included with a viewer.
> Bart
> On Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 2:50 PM, Alan Cox <alan at lxorguk.ukuu.org.uk> wrote:
>     > 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.
>     Actually not, and for good reason.
>     The question you are heading for I think is the question of when is
>     something a single dervied work or not.
>     In the software case I can't use copyright law to write an editor
>     and forbid you from writing proprietary software with it. In the
>     artwork case you can't stop me loading your NC photo into a non-free paid
>     for app.
>     There are cases its annoying, there are cases where the boundary in law
>     may well be dubious, and certainly the boundary in question is at best a
>     fog not a line. There are however lots of cases where such degree of
>     control would be objectionable to society. Imagine if Windows could
>     forbid viewing CC content !
>     I would personally be very surprised if a game that was no use without
>     that artwork was in fact multiple independent works but I am not a lawyer
>     and this area is definitely a lawyers minefield.
>     Also if the issue is the boundary of copyright and what is a work then a
>     copyright licence cannot I think fix the problem.
>     Alan
> --
> --
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