[cc-licenses] Who are "Original Authors"? (comment on 3.0 Generic)

wiki_tomos at inter7.jp wiki_tomos at inter7.jp
Sun Aug 13 10:21:23 EDT 2006

This is a comment on the version 3.0 in a way, but 
not about an issue unique to the version 3.0 licenses.

In short, I think it is important to clarify who are the 
"Original Authors." The clarification could be in the 
license text, in FAQ, or both. 

Below is a longer version of this short comment. But 
please be aware that I am not a lawyer, and I could 
well be wrong on the points I make in this post. 

1) Importance of understanding "Original Author" 

CC Licenses of many versions, including the 3.0, require 
that the Original Author's name (pseudonym) be supplied in 
connection to copyright notices (see, 4.b.(i) of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 
Generic, 4.c.(i) of CC-BY-SA 2.5, 4.b. of CC-BY 1.0 Generic, 
for examples.) 

When one uses a CC'd Work which has been refined and transformed by 
multiple creators involving different CC licenses, figuring out 
proper attribution could become difficult. Yet it is a 
responsibility of a licensee to do so, and failing to 
perform the duty could quite possibly result in license 

The 3.0 draft adds one more reason to consider the 
understanding of "Original Author" important. Section 4.f. 
of the CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 Generic says that original author is 
protected from being dishonored. Dishonoring, again, leads to 
license termination. Whose reputation does a licensee have 
to protect when he uses a CC-licensed work? 

In some cases, a licensee might better study the nature of 
reputation some of the Original Authors have, in order not to 
cause damage. 

2) Examples

As I understood, Original Author whose reputation a licensee has to 
pay attention to are probably as follows: 

- Authors whose work is used in the Work You are using, and 
whose work is under CC-BY 3.0 Generic (and possibly other 
BY 3.0 licenses, but not the US). 

- Authors whose work is under some CC-BY-SA license IF the 
Work You are using is under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic (or 
possibly other BY-SA 3.0 licenses, but not the US). 

- Authors whose work is under some CC-BY-NC-SA license IF 
the Work You are using is under CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 Generic (or 
possibly other BY-SA 3.0 licenses, but not the US). 

This formulation is not complete, because I did not consider 
some licenses such as CC-BY-SA 2.0 UK, CC-BY-SA 2.0 AU, 
CC-BY-SA 2.0 JP, which seem to have some clause protecting 
Original Authors' reputation. But as formulated above, it 
seems complex enough, and not quite intuitive. That is why 
I think there needs to be some clarification somewhere. 

To illustrate the formulation, here are some hypothetical 

==Case 1: ==

Alice writes a poem, releases it under CC-BY-SA 2.5 Generic. 
Bob makes it a song lyric, and releases it under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic. 
Cathy use the lyric a in her musical which is under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic. 

And suppose that Cathy's musical is very controversial, and Alice's 
reputation is damaged. 

Is is possible for Alice to terminate Cathy's licensee status 
for the reason 4.f of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic? 

Alice's poem is under CC-BY-SA 2.5 Generic, not 3.0. But Bob's 
lyric heavily relies upon Alices' poem. Is Alice one of the 
Original Authors of Bob's lyric? 

My preliminary answer is that Alice can terminate Cathy's license. 
The license "Work," the lyric was authored by Alice and Bob. 
And when Bob released a part of Alice's poem under 3.0 Generic, 
Alice gained the new right to terminate her licensee based on 4.f. 

==Case 2: ==

Drothy writes a script, releases it under CC-BY 2.5 Generic. 
Edward makes it a short story, and releases it under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic. 
Fred makes it a controversial political treatise which he releases under 
CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic. 

And suppose that Drothy's reputation is damaged by the controversial 
political treatise. 

Is it possible for Drothy, whose script is under CC-BY 2.5 
Generic, to terminate Fred's licensee status based on 4.f. of 
CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic? 

I think the answer is no. Drothy, whose work is under CC-BY 2.5, 
never became one of the Original Authors in Edward's short story. 
Drothy's script is still available under CC-BY 2.5 and nothing else. 
Fred is free to use script under CC-BY 2.5 and release it CC-BY-SA 3.0, 
but again, it does not mean any part of Drothy's work is under CC-BY-SA 3.0. 

==Case 3: ==

George writes a short story - releases it under CC-BY 2.0 Generic. 
Helen makes it an illustrated story - releases under CC-BY-SA 3.0 Generic. 
Ian makes it a mini cartoon series - under CC-BY-SA 3.0 US. 
Jane makes it into an animated motion picture - under CC-BY-SA 3.0 US. 

If Jane's animated motion picture harms reputation of George, Helen, and Ian, 
who can possibly terminate Jane's license? Nobody? Helen? George and Helen? 

I suppose Ian's cartoon is entirely in SA 3.0 US, except for the part 
which is attributable to George, which remains under CC-BY 2.0 Generic. 

Neither SA 3.0 US nor BY 2.0 Generic has the dishonoring termination clause. 

However, if George's license was CC-BY 3.0, George can terminate Jane's 
license. Also, if Ian's license was CC-BY-SA 2.0 UK/AU/JP/or some other, 
dishonoring either Helen or Ian's reputation would result in termination. 
This is because those 2.0 licenses have some clause protecting Original 
Authors' reputation. 

3) How to identify the names of the Original Author

Names of the Original Authors are supplied as credits somewhere in the 
licensed Work. The primary task, then, is to find where the credits are 
given. But as I illustrated above, it seems that only some change of 
licenses make it a requirement for a licensee to protect Original 
Authors' reputation. 

Given the complexity, it might make more sense to just consider 
everyone's reputation anyway. That might be a good way. I am not 
sure if absence of clause prohibiting dishonoring Original Author 
could be taken as a permission. In such a case, I wonder, a licensee 
might still face a liability while license may not necessarily be terminated. 

But another big factor is a mistake in upstream attribution. 
If some of the previous creators have incorrectly understood 
the license terms, they might supply less names than they 
should. It is perhaps quite important to check if that is the 
case, and make necessary corrections. Mistake in proper attribution 
it seems, is still a license violation and a ground for terminating 
the liense. 

The warranty disclaimer in the license might have an 
effect of not offering any guarantee that the Original Authors 
are correctly identified in the Work a licensee is going to use. 


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