[cc-licenses] CC homepage

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Wed Apr 25 21:03:13 EDT 2007

For the record, I do not quite share Greg London's vehemence on this
issue, however, he's not wrong...  :-)

James Grimmelmann wrote:
> This is what most people reading the CC homepage would understand
> "freedoms" to mean in the sentence you quoted: the ability to act in
> specific ways without restraint.

Were the CC licenses to be worded specifically as "freedoms granted
beyond fair use", rather than "rights retained relative to public
domain", this argument might make more sense.

As it is, it is a conceptual double negative, and thus unnecessarily

In fact, I think it'd be an intriguing idea to reword the licenses (or
their names, anyway) in terms of freedoms granted rather than rights
retained. This is especially sensible if you intend to change the
presentation to use the word "freedom", e.g.:

1) The Freedom to share copies of the work  (all the main CC licenses)
2) The Freedom to modify the work (all non-ND, now "D" for "derivative")
3) The Freedom to use the work commercially (all non-NC, now "C" for
4) The Freedom to reduce the freedom of the work (all non-SA, now "H"
for "hijackable" :-) )
5) The Freedom not to credit the author of the work (no v2.0+ CC
licenses? now "P" for "plagiarizable" :-P )

So, now my favorite licenses are the "Derivable-Commercializable" or
"CC-DC" and the "Derivable-Commercializable-Hijackable" "CC-DCH".

(I'm sure the above could be refined in various ways :-D )

I remember wondering about this when I first encountered CC a few years
ago. I found it confusing, because, given that All Rights Reserved is
the baseline for copyright rights retained in the absence of a license
text, it seemed very confusing to read licenses worded in terms of what
they forbid.

It isn't even strictly true that the licenses are described from the
Public Domain baseline, because, for example, none of them mention the
restriction against TPM distribution. Instead, they are described by how
they miss some ill-defined meta-license that isn't actually offered or
described by CC.

Of course, that would mean changing a lot more of the website!

> The word also has many emotional resonances, in part because of its many
> other meanings.

It is very important to realize that the "many" meanings of "freedom"
are actually pretty closely related. It always means "lacking some
restrictions". Used without a qualifier, it means "lacking any
significant restrictions", where "significant" is clearly in the
judgement of the speaker.

Even the FSF habit of dissing the "zero cost" meaning of "free" is
pretty disingenuous, since it does indeed refer to "freedom". For anyone
who's ever been poor, it should be personally obvious that "cost" is
indeed a significant restriction, and I feel pretty defensive every time
someone makes that snarky comment about "talking about freedom, not
cost". Zero per-copy cost IS a significant freedom, whether it's the
most important or not.

Much as I dislike the billing of NC and ND licenses as "free", they do
at least share this particular "freedom", and it is not insignificant.

When a speaker knowingly violates the assumptions of his listeners,
however, he intends to deceive, whether or not he is technically lying.

So who are the listeners and what are their assumptions?

However, there is absolutely no question that the usage on the CC page
definitely is worded oppositely from the way the actual license
selection process is designed, and that is at least confusing.


Terry Hancock (hancock at AnansiSpaceworks.com)
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.AnansiSpaceworks.com

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