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

Bart Kelsey elbarto at gmail.com
Tue Dec 20 16:01:40 EST 2011

Unfortunately, for something like this to be widely usable, we'll probably
need to get the FSF to consider it as well.  I'm going to jump into
code-speak here for a minute...

The GPL has two concepts are are of interest here:

* LINKING - this is where a program loads other code into memory, like when
making use of a library.  Non-GPLed code isn't allowed to *link* to GPLed
* BUNDLING - this is where a number of distinct, separate programs are
distributed in the same archive.  GPLed code can be *bundled* with
non-GPLed code.

The FSF has declared in their clarifications of the GPL that including art
with a game is "bundling", which is fine for the purpose of the GPL
itself.  However, this also extends to their definition of free software,
which is where things get troublesome.  If an art license could specify a
specific set of conditions for programs that make use of the art in a
non-generic way, and the definition of free software could be expanded to
understand these kinds of provisions, as opposed to just tossing them in
with "bundling" (which is clearly different), then a license like this
could be very useful.

Again, I'm not necessarily saying that CC-BY-SA should be changed in this
way -- it's just that there's a separate and *very real* need for a license
like this, that no one is addressing.  I think part of the reason for this
is that the code and art communities don't really have a lot of respect for
one another, and so for the few of us who deal with both code and art,
there aren't a whole lot of options.  If the needs of people who deal with
both could be *recognized* by both sides, I think we'd be able to make some
progress on this.


P.S.  One time I tried to bring this up on debian-legal.  One person very
helpfully linked to a terse blog post (that they had written themselves)
telling me that if I want to create a new license, I should die and go to
hell.  I realize that license proliferation is an issue, but in some cases
I think the need is large enough that we need to look beyond the knee-jerk
NO NEW LICENSES response and ask why people are asking. :)

On Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 3:49 PM, Christopher Allan Webber <
cwebber at creativecommons.org> wrote:

> 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
>        can't?
> 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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