[cc-community] CC and GPL questions for Brett Smith / the FSF

Brett Smith brett at fsf.org
Wed Feb 15 11:25:10 EST 2012

Hi everyone,

Thanks for showing such strong interest in this issue, and thanks to
Chris and Rob for helping to boil it down a bit.  I think compatibility
between some CC licenses and the GPL could be mutually beneficial for
users of both, and I'm happy to help explore whether and how that can be
done, much as we did with Mozilla for MPL 2.0.

I've addressed the specific questions below, and I'll be following up on
the thread to catch any I missed.

On 02/02/2012 09:58 PM, Christopher Allan Webber wrote:
>   - Would be useful to hear:
>     - How receptive generally might be the FSF to working on GPL
>       compatibility?  (Is the case made for compatibility rationale
>       compelling enough?)

Very receptive.  Some of the toughest questions I deal with in my job
pertain to license interactions in cases like you describe, where a
piece of software is under the GPL and associated materials under
another, often CC BY or CC BY-SA.  Being able to simplify the answers to
those questions would be very worthwhile.

>     - How feasible is said interoperability?  Is there anything from a
>       technical/legal standpoint that might make it difficult?

While providing compatibility between two copyleft licenses can be
tricky, it is doable, and at this point we're at least familiar with the
usual tripping points and some common solutions.  The hard work, I
think, will be on CC's end to come together to find an approach that all
stakeholders can be satisfied with.

>     - It seems like the MPL's recent GPL compatibility route might be a
>       good one to allow for compatibility in most cases, but allow for
>       "opting out" for those who are really against it.  Does this seem
>       like a reasonable and/or feasible strategy for CC licenses also?

You certainly *can* do it.  It probably won't surprise you to hear that,
from our perspective, ideally you wouldn't.  :)  It does add a relative
lot to discussions about compatibility between the two licenses: people
can't generally assume that works under MPL 2.0 are compatible with the
GPL, but instead have to check each specific work for a particular
notice to the contrary.

Skipping the opt-out option makes the terms a lot cleaner for everyone
to understand.  Mozilla felt like it was a necessary term to do right by
their community.  The CC community should have a similar conversation.

Rob's questions are on point, but I'm a little hesitant to address them
head-on right now because I think they might be a little premature. They
implicitly approach compatibility from the perspective of "In order to
be compatible, we can't have any conditions that aren't in the GPL."
That might be very strictly true under some very strict definitions of
those words, but as we've seen in approaches taken by the AGPL, MPL, and
other licenses, it's very possible to achieve a useful level of
compatibility without going all the way and making one license's
conditions a subset of the GPL's.  So as the next big picture step, I
think I'd like to help CC have a conversation about what level you're
looking to achieve for CC BY and CC BY-SA.  If that sounds good to you
all, I'll say more about that after I catch up with the thread.

Best regards,

Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer, Free Software Foundation

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