[cc-licenses] Proposal: Derivatives-Only (DO)

David Chart bydosa at davidchart.com
Wed Dec 28 02:58:08 EST 2011

I have a suspicion that a proposal for a completely new clause in CC 4.0 will meet with resistance, so I want to start with a bit of background, and then explain the reasons for the proposal in detail.

I'm coming from a background in table-top roleplaying games (like Dungeons & Dragons). I have, in fact, written a very small amount for Dungeons and Dragons, but by main activities have been in writing and then line editing the 5th edition of Ars Magica. I've also written, and been paid for writing, quite a lot of material released under an open license, the Open Game License. Some of that material has been reused by other people, and one reuser was nice enough to send me a free PDF of the adaptation. (For people who know the background, they revised something I wrote for 3.0 for use with Pathfinder.) I've also written and published a whole novel under BY-NC-ND, and some of my readers gave me money. (That's at http://www.davidchart.com/Tamao/ )

So, this proposal is based on actual experience of using open licenses in a commercial context.

Derivatives-Only (DO) would allow others to produce derivatives of the work, but not to distribute the work itself in any form. Simple translations to a new format would not count as derivatives, as for ND. Translations into foreign languages or other media (audiobooks, films) are debatable, but my initial thought is that they wouldn't count. However, sequels or prequels to a novel would be derivatives, and thus permitted. For RPGs, scenarios, setting books, rules expansions, and even thorough new editions would be permitted. In fiction, it would allow fanfiction. It would permit sampling of music, the use of film clips, and so on.

However, the original work would still be covered by the normal copyright restrictions, so the creator could sell it with a monopoly.

In the RPG business, a lot of companies have a policy that amounts to BY-NC-DO; it's our policy for Ars Magica, for example. It would be nice to have legalese that was standard. Similarly, BY-DO-SA would be a very appealing license for an RPG. Other people strengthen the game with their creations, and sell them to support themselves while doing it, but you can use their ideas in your new products, and people cannot legally distribute your products for free. If it existed, and I had enough free time to finish the RPG I'm working on, I would use it. BY-SA makes me much more nervous about the chances of making any money off the project.

Obviously, DO is a restriction. However, it's a restriction that preserves a very important part of the commons; the ability to create derivative works is central on the artistic side. Furthermore, for artworks (broadly construed) it makes sense in a way that it doesn't for software. Pemberley Hall does not have to use substantial sections of Pride and Prejudice.

That's the practical side. From the philosophical side, I would say that all the existing CC licenses assume that you do not make your living from selling your creative work. It is possible to make it work (as noted, I have), but it makes things a lot harder. DO would allow people to contribute ideas to the commons, while also allowing them to sell their creations, rather than having to wave collection tins, or make special editions, or go on concert tours (doesn't really work for books).

As evidence for the proposition that there is demand for such a license, I present fanfiction.net

The downside, of course, is the need to write legalese that defines derivatives in the right way. It is harder than defining no-derivs, I accept. It's also possible that this is legal under current law, but it's really, really, really unclear (and different in different jurisdictions; IANAL, but I have had to deal with the legal issues here).

So, I'm proposing this because it's the CC clause that I wish existed, and would use if it did, so I'd be really happy if it appeared in 4.0.
David Chart

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