[cc-licenses] SA Section 2(a)(5) uncontroversial

Gregory Maxwell gmaxwell at gmail.com
Tue Sep 17 03:03:38 EDT 2013

On Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 9:33 PM, Parker Higgins <parkerhiggins at gmail.com> wrote:
> There is a change in d4 to the ShareAlike clause that as I read it, allows
> downstream users to refer only to the "Adapter's license," and not the sum
> of licenses for the works in the Adapted Material.

Let's walk through an example. Say the GPLv3 is declared a "compatible
license", in accordance with ShareAlike intent (4)— a desirable
outcome even though it may not come to pass.

Alice writes a CC-BY-SA-4 scientific paper documenting signal
processing algorithms, and Alice patents the heck out of these
algorithms and plans on restricting their use to profit from them

Bob writes a piece of GPLv3 multimedia software and distributes it.

Mallory creates an adapted version of Bob's software integrating the
formulas, code, equations, and tables from Alice's CC-BY-SA-4 work,
and sells the result to Carol.

By virtue of the new draft text, Carol automatically receives an offer
from "[Alice] to exercise the **Licensed Rights** in the [Mallory's
version] subject to the terms and conditions of [The GPLv3]".  Mallory
is also in conformance with the GPLv3 because while there are patent
rights, they are not Mallory's, and the GPLv3 patent claim allows
authors to add third party patented material.

The goal of the term was, presumably, for Carol to be able to ignore
the "license stack", happy that she received all terns under a single
license (the GPLv3), and thus only has to worry about one license.

There is one of two problems here, depending on exactly how **Licensed
Rights** works:

Either when Alice granted a license to Mallory's version subject to
the terms and conditions of the GPLv3 Alice also released her
essential patent claims according to section 11 of GPLv3.  Or Alice
did not—which I believe is the most honest reading of the text—because
"Licensed rights" is limited only to the things which were already
permitted by CC-By-SA-4. In which case the stack is not eliminated,
and Carol must be aware of and consider the implications of the
CC-By-SA-4 components, because the GPLv3 (and almost any conceivable
other license) grants additional / non-identical rights from
CC-By-SA-4 which are not granted by this flow-through.

[The explicit waver of patents arguably makes CC-*-4 the least free
licenses, in practice, that a scientific or engineering work could be
published under. Even the BSD licenses have the argument of an implied
patent license. For useful works, patents undermine the heart and
purpose of the free culture definition, and I hope creative commons
will encourage the authors of these works to at least use two/three
clause BSD for these works instead of CC-By]

Separately, while talking about "compatible licenses"— if it really
does apply to them— other licenses have their own versioning and
maintenance cycle. If it is permitted for an adapted work to
"eliminate" the stack and actually switch to a license under other
stewardship, even if I accept the axiom that all future Creative
Commons CC-By-SA licenses would uphold the principles, another steward
is not bound to Creative Commons Sharealike Intent obligations and
could violate any one of them in future versions permitted by the text
of their own license. (And, indeed, couldn't even be faulted for not
behaving faithfully to them!)

If the re-licensing does not inherit (that is, if you're not allowed
to take Foo License 2.0 adapted material and relicense it under Foo
License 3.0, for example, as permitted by Foo License 2.0) then the
stack is, again, not actually eliminated— the grant of a Foo license
isn't a regular one, it would be one filtered by additional missing
permissions.  This problem of change of control and inability to
enforce the committed invariants does not happen in the stacking case.
(Or even a non-stacking case, so long as it only permitted relicensing
under new versions of CC-By-SA—though per my other message, I do not
think this is correct or wise.)


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