[cc-licenses] derivatives and source

Christopher Allan Webber cwebber at creativecommons.org
Fri Apr 6 15:29:04 EDT 2012

Hi Adam,

I agree that in many ways source requirements in CC licenses would be
great (at least in CC BY-SA).  However, I think it's also very complex,
and thus unlikely to be implementable in 4.0, or maybe really ever
appropriate in the legalcode of CC licenses.

In software we have a clear definition for what is and isn't source
code, and modifiability of software isn't really possible without
source.  It's not as true with content, which is more of a gradient.

Your example of open textbooks is a good example of when not providing
the "source" files is problematic.  However, I can't imagine ways to
make all the following situations equal:

 - So, the Blender Foundation releases Elephants Dream, and let's assume
   it's under a CC licenses that does include a source requirement.
   They do release all the source files.
   - Someone makes a remix from the .blend files.  Are they obligated to
     release the source files?
   - Someone makes a remix from the fully rendered film, a music video
     or something.  In this case, they never even touched the original
     .blend files at all, may have not even encountered them.  Are they
     obligated to release gigabytes of source materials that they never
     even touched in making their remix?
 - If I release a PNG, should I have to release my accompanying GIMP or
   Photoshop files?  Those are the optimal verisons, but what if I
   didn't keep them?  What also if someone makes a remix... do they also
   have to distribute my original .xcf files?

I agree that it's unfortunate that we can have something where someone
can claim to be an open publshing org and etc and actually not release
things in a way that's actually easy for people to make derivatives
from.  But as far as I can tell it's simply too hard to draft legalcode
that's not incredibly hard to comply with for many cases of users, or
which ends up being so vague that it ends up being basically useless or
completely ignored.


 - Chris

adam <adam at xs4all.nl> writes:

> hi,
> With the new licenses is it possible to ask for the source to be 
> provided in works that are licensed to allow derivatives? I know this 
> issue mainly from the field of books. Now that open publishing (etc) is 
> gaining enormous popularity I see more and more 'open books' made 
> available in PDF only or mobi only formats etc.
> GPL requires source as a pre-condition for 3 of its 4 freedoms I believe 
> and I think that is for good reason. Derivatives require source. Without 
> source derivatives are not realistic possibilities and PDF or other 
> releases are nothing more than a 'mechanical' form of copyright protection.
> I would actually like to see a source requirement in ND as well since it 
> is impossible to transcode/transform into other formats sometimes 
> without it. I am guessing that would be a less popular position however.
> I also understand source doesnt apply to all media equally. However a 
> 'where applicable the source must be provided in a standardised and 
> reusable format' would help matters a lot...
> adam
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