[cc-licenses] Serial Numbers and clarification of terms

Mike Linksvayer ml at creativecommons.org
Mon Dec 26 17:22:42 EST 2011

On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 10:10 AM, Michael Lewis <mclewis at yahoo.com> wrote:
> 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.

https://creativecommons.net/r/2/ is the registry entry for my blog, for example.

We don't hand out a "serial #" but that'd be trivial.

Overall, "digital copyright registries" have an at best underwhelming
history. Over the past few years we've sometimes had a "register" or
"catalog" your work option on the license chooser results page, but
have removed it as it never resulted in a mass of registrations, but
did result in a mass of confused inquiries.

SafeCreative seems to be the most successful pure play in the space.
RegisteredCommons was early and still exists, and was fairly well
known at launch among the CC community, but very few works are
registered after many years. A number of services claiming to be
digital copyright registries look rather scammy. Much more interesting
and successful are things that don't primarily intend to be
registries, but are useful (or even problematic) as such as a side
effect of some other objective. The materials at
are dated, but I don't think there has been nearly as much progress as
people with high expectations from registries would've hoped, and my
slides/presentation are still a decent conceptual overview of the
space, if I may say so.


Regarding 4.0, I don't think any considerations for registration (or
provenance more broadly, beyond the license notice and attribution
conditions) should be built into the licenses, but of course specific
proposals are welcome.

One can imagine CC licenses more perfectly mirroring the usual set of
copyright reform proposals. More limited duration and expanded and
more certain exceptions and limitations have both already been
discussed on this list recently. Formalities are certainly another one
of those.

> 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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