[cc-licenses] Time limited CC licenses for version 4.0?

Mike Linksvayer ml at creativecommons.org
Wed Dec 21 19:28:44 EST 2011

On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 10:20 AM, Gregor Hagedorn
<g.m.hagedorn at gmail.com> wrote:
> Mike Linksvayer's hinted on the reluctance to introduce new CC
> licenses. The primary argument is, however, license compatibility, so
> I wonder to which extent this applies to time-limited licences. This
> may have been discussed before, but I would like to raise it
> nevertheless, even if only to refresh arguments.
> I see (and have published on, see
> http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.150.2189 ) the problems of the NC
> license. The problems are not just philosophical, they are a lot about
> legal risks and potential consequences.
> However, I do see the need for licenses with "intermediate protection".
> My personal preference would be to make the the NC license even more
> strict, thus clarifying the current disadvantages ambiguity (many
> licensors are willing to give generously, but licensees are unable to
> take it, risk management requires them to choose the most conservative
> interpretation), but counter that by making it ONLY available in time
> limited versions, like:
> NC2013
> NC2020
> NC2025
> where the number indicates the year in which the NC license will be
> voided, reverting the licences to one without the NC clause.
> In addition, the license text might specify that the maximum duration
> of an NC license is 25 years, even if a later years has been
> accidentially named. This probably needs legal scrutiny as to its
> validity though.

I can't provide legal scrutiny, but here are some other thoughts.

Licenses that offer more freedom after some amount of time are at
least in theory interesting. As some have argued that all CC licenses
ought to model a baseline of fair use/exceptions&limitations globally
one could argue that they ought model some more socially desirable
copyright duration by making works effectively public domain after
whatever that duration ought be.

I know you're proposing something more narrow only with respect to NC
licenses. At least one compatibility problem would probably be
created: pre-3.0 NC licenses would be donor incompatible with 4.0 NC
licenses, the former having no time-till-NC-dropped, thus being more
restrictive. But if one considers NC only as a compatibility problem,
then perhaps one wouldn't care about intra-NC compatibility, and
dropping NC after a time would be a net win. I'm probably missing
other issues.

My main concerns are probably the cost of added complexity (not an
impossible hurdle; some proposals I'm interested in add complexity)
and lack of rationale as to why 4.0 time-limited-NC licenses would be
well used (both in the sense of not pushing away NC licensors, and
even if one doesn't care about those, not pulling away non-NC

Many entities are in a position to make a credible commitment to more
permissions at some date without such feature being built into CC NC
licenses. I don't know any such practice. Is there?

The closest thing I can think of isn't very close -- a software
company that offered the latest realease of its software under its own
NC license, with older releases offered under the GPL when superseded
by a new release (approximately yearly). They stopped doing that in
2006, switching to GPL for current releases, which I found interesting
http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/2006/06/07/ghostscript-free-now/ given
their practice was widely known among people following open source
business stuff, and never copied as far as I know.

A small somewhat related example comes from very early in CC's
history. We made a big announcement about a "Founder's Copyright"
which would cause (otherwise not licensed) works to be available under
CC BY after 14 or 28 years. For years it was fairly prominently linked
on the site, and AFAIK we never got a single completely legitimate and
not totally confused inquiry about it. The implementation may have
been too complex, but still, zero is indicative.

There's also a very general critique of the usefulness of mechanisms
that free a work after a large number of years that flows directly
from one of the general critiques of really long copyright -- the net
present value of works in the distant future is small, so restriction
into the far future provides negligible incentive -- and so does
freeing works in the distant future provide negligible social benefit
relative to freeing works today. Why encourage people to share with
relatively negligible social benefit? Of course making the maximum
number of years until a work is put under free terms small addresses

In sum, I find the idea interesting in theory, I'd guess there's a
high hurdle for demonstrating that it would likely be beneficial
enough to include in 4.0, and welcome attempts to do so. The most
convincing attempt would be to immediately get some major NC <= 3.0
licensors to make independent commitments to dropping NC after some
short number of years. :)


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