[cc-licenses] Serial Numbers and clarification of terms

Michael Lewis mclewis at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 23 13:10:48 EST 2011

I've seen, and had offline, a lot of discussions about tweaks or clarifications that people want to make to the licenses, especially the -NC clause. I know that CC has tried to create a registry before, but there isn't much incentive for people to keep it up to date. 

But for people with unusual requirements, or the desire to share more openly in some cases than in others, a registry and serial number would be of immediate value. A serial # is easy to communicate, and a user would not have to visit someone's website to get the "license information". For example let's say someone marks their work CC-BY-NC / CC-L93-8D3-423. This second "CC license" would actually be a serial number, which is issued by CC and thus guaranteed to be unique. (Any number of formats could be considered for communicating the license number: I just chose one for the purpose of illustration. I think it would be important to retain the current nomenclature "BY-NC, BY-SA, etc. as a hint to potential users the baseline license). Any user can then look up this license on the CC website to get clarification on whether they can use the license for a specific purpose. The person who generated the serial number is responsible for making and keeping this
 information up-to-date, and could include such information as "how to contact the author", "non-commerical use clarification", and perhaps even a "Non-commercial expiry date" to allow the NC clause to expire, which some have been advocating here recently. In fact, on web-media, using hot-links to the license image would allow the license to change dynamically over time with little effort. Perhaps modifications to licenses 

Proliferation of licenses is of course a potential concern, but only really an issue when layers upon layers of licensed materials are used, since each use would have to reference the customized license of the material it builds upon. Having a centralized location for all this information, however, would make it easy, if not trivial, to cross-reference and include such sub-license information. Perhaps at some point certain works would run into issues of the license information being larger than the work itself, if many many works were used in a "de minimis" fashion, but even then a centralized license center would prevent the license from obscuring the work.

The point is to keep it simple and easy for the majority of cases, where the licenses are sufficient. When people have a specific issue, provide a centralized place for people to record and to find those exceptions they feel necessary to allow them to use a CC license.

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