[cc-licenses] How much "agreement" is needed about the meaning of a license?

John Hendrik Weitzmann jhweitzmann at mx.uni-saarland.de
Tue Sep 15 11:45:48 EDT 2009


regarding agreement math is IMHO not all. If a misunderstanding about 
terms is actually established, the different jurisdictions have some 
ways to resolve that in court. Some have statute law on that, some have 
"reasonable bystander" tests. I'm not sure how relevant the survey 
results are for the latter, but they might be to some extent.


Gregory Maxwell schrieb:
> Regarding http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17127
> I don't know that "strong agreement on the commerciality of certain
> use cases" is very well supported by the NC survey data.
> There are a couple of different data points which suggest that
> agreement on the meaning of the license itself, or on the meaning of
> "non-commercial", is on the order of 90% at best. (For example,
> agreement on 'making money' as a criterion, the statement that the
> license text matches their expectations, or the number of users who
> changed their definition after the survey.)
> While 90% is surely a significant supermajority, licenses can cause
> harm if they do not result in a very clear understanding. Even a few
> hours of attorney time can easily outweigh the benefit gained by using
> a work and statutory damages start at hundreds of dollars. Because of
> magnitude of the harm when there is a misunderstanding is non-trivial
> I think the potential for misunderstanding must be very low for a
> license to achieve its intended purpose.
> Consider this kind of overwhelming majority: 90% think X, 10% think
> !X. 18% of random pairings of creators and users will have conflicting
> understandings of what the license means, or almost 1 in 5.
> Even if an author is in the 90% majority—if that author has only 7
> users, there is a 52% chance of at least one misunderstanding. With 29
> users there is a 95% chance, and with 44 users there is a 99% chance.
> If the author is in the minority, a 99% chance of having a
> misunderstanding over allowable uses happens with only two users.
> If an author only expects to have 7 users, why not just consider each
> case on its own merits and permit uses individually? If an author
> isn't concerned about license violations why don't they use the most
> permissive licenses? Most authors reported that they have been
> contacted. I am frequently contacted requesting permission for
> activities which are unequivocally permitted by the licenses I use.
> With only 90% agreeing on a particular criterion… I can only guess
> that there aren't masses of disputes because people don't enforce,
> even when they don't agree. People tolerate the 'misuse', or they are
> not paying attention; sometimes they give up publishing. Nice guys
> don't sue (or issue takedowns). But ifone off negotiations and "nice
> guys don't sue" are what really keeps the system working, why bother
> having a public license?
> It would have been nice if the survey had some calibration points: do
> people understand and agree on what CC-BY and CC-BY-ND require?  I
> strongly believe that they do, at least after minimal exposure to
> those licenses, but I have no data. The only disagreement I've seen
> for CC-BY is confusion created by the 'human readable' "must attribute
> the work in the manner specified by the author" being understood
> literally by authors instead of as "must attribute the work in the
> manner specified in the license text", resulting in claims of license
> violation because attribution was not provided in 40pt blinking text.
> Though "anecdote" isn't a synonym for "data", so I really don't know.
> (And… it's hard to tell from experience because most problems are
> created by people completely ignoring their copyright-related
> obligations)
> At some level of disagreement about the meaning of a license, using it
> will do more harm than good by inspiring disagreements. Where is that
> threshold?
> As far as I can tell, personal use is by far more popular than than
> other forms (i.e. remix, verbatim redistribution of someone else's
> work); while this doesn't appear to be addressed directly in the
> survey, most respondents classified themselves primarily as users.
> Wouldn't a "private, personal use only + contact me for other options"
> cover the overwhelming majority of the need for NC, while closing off
> many opportunities for misunderstanding?
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