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Subject: Development of Creative Commons licenses

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  • From: Terry Hancock <hancock AT>
  • To: Discussion on the Creative Commons license drafts <cc-licenses AT>
  • Subject: Re: [cc-licenses] Founders as a module? was Re: Getting to Version 3.0
  • Date: Mon, 29 May 2006 11:58:08 +0000

Greg London wrote:

> Except that with the existing NC they are getting a certain amount
> of negativity from the community as well. I think it's a bit
> broken in that respect.

Ah, see, this IS political. Because "negativity" is your subjective
view of CC-NC. CC-NC is objectively a win-win license. authors give
up some of their rights that the public benefits from. The public may
then buy some of the authors works, which the author benefits from.

Actually, there is no "objective" here -- all statements here are
opinions and value judgements, hence they can't be 'facts',
hence there is no 'objective', only subjective opinions with lesser
or greater degrees of popularity.

That you don't LIKE it, is your subjectivness coming into it. It
isn't enough for you, apparently. So you don't like the license and
you don't like people who use it.

But it really IS win-win. Authors are giving up some of their legally
granted rights when they use CC-NC. The public benefits by that. And
the author benefits too.

The *objective* point is that I'm not the only one who feels this way
(indeed, there are quite a few people who feel quite a bit worse than
I do about it).

Anyway, I personally don't think CC-NC is 'evil', but I do think it is
deceptive (to both artists and fans -- both tend to misinterpret what
it allows or disallows in my experience). Furthermore, I think that
it forces the artist to decide between two systems where neither of
which (IMHO) is ideal: either he has to give up on license sales
entirely, or he has to give up on the commons entirely.

>> CC-NC is win-win.
> This I really disagree with: CC-NC is fundamentally broken -- it
> only legalizes what fans think they have a right to do anyway, and
> fails to create any strong sense of community. It doesn't feed the
> commons, so the commons doesn't feed it.

Fan fiction is against copyright, regardless of what fans think.
Enforcement of copyright against fan-fiction is left entirely to the
author, however, since the police don't go around arresting people
for fan fiction. Authors have to send cease and desist letters and
sue to force someone to take down their fan fiction, and most authors
know that such action is biting the hand that feed them, so they
don't pursue it.

CC-NC is a way to legally allow fan-fiction in a fundamentally
important way: it promises upfront that the author will not try to
shut down noncommercial uses, rather than having fans put energy into
creating some work, only to have the author come in after, decide
they don't like it, and force them to shut it down.

An artist could achieve the same effect by saying "I don't mind
fan fics" and skip the licensing.

And before you say "but that's not legally enforceable" or "but the
CC-NC markets the idea of doing that", please look up-thread to
where I made the exact same argument in my case.

So by the same arguments being made against me, the CC-NC
should just be dumped entirely, since the artist can easily
achieve the same effect with a "license grant" statement.

As for "feeding the commons", no, CC-NC doesn't do that.

But, as I try to keep saying, THE LICENSE DOESN"T FIX IT.

What do you call it when material becomes free-licensed, then?

If you want to feed the commons, find a piece of the commons that
needs feeding, find out why Bazaar methods won't work, FIX THAT, and
then find contributers who will feed the commons in a bazaar mode.

I rather thought that I was proposing to do that:

PROBLEM: Artists need to eat
SOLUTION: Let them charge for a limited time to raise funds for
a project that becomes copylefted

You are trying to fix a problem with yet another license when the
problem isn't in the license, it's in the project. The project is not
bazaar-compatible for some reason or another. Fix THAT.

So, let's review why we don't like "yet more licenses", shall we?

Licenses are incompatible, hence the commons becomes fragmented.

BUT -- the sunset license wouldn't have this effect: it would be
compatible with CC-By-NC, CC-By-NC-SA, CC-By-SA, and CC-By,
and would in fact REDUCE commons fragmentation by allowing
material to expire from NC to SA commons (in fact, becoming
dual-licensed, so that it remains in both NC and SA commonses).

> It also doesn't feed it's own distribution networks, Too many
> things count as "commercial use". And legal distribution,
> especially, becomes nearly impossible.

These are more complaints about CC-NC which tell me you'd like to
change CC-NC to allow for more commercial uses, which, in the end, is
simply more license twiddling, rather than fixing whatever is keeping
the works from being produced Bazaar style.

No. ANY non-commercial clause breaks the commons up. In fact,
yet another variation on NC would create "yet another" commons.

That is exactly the opposite of what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting
a practical way to bring already fragmented commonses back

What I would "like" is to make ALL NC material sunset in time (of course,
I will get my wish in 80 years, but I am unlikely to live that long). I
realize that this is not practicable, because artists who really wanted
perpetual NC would be extremely upset if CC suddenly changed
that on them (and the built-in upgrade clause makes that a consequence
if a later version of NC applied a mandatory or default sunset).

> The time-release to copyleft strategy is a tried-and-true technique
> with software, and limited terms have been built into the US
> copyright system from the beginning, so this doesn't seem like that
> revolutionary of an idea to me.

But there isn't a GPL-Sunset license, is there? my understanding of
people or companies who do time-release-to-copyleft simply start out
with all-rights-reserved and switch the older version to GNU-GPL at
some point. They don't have to commit the work to a sunset license up
front, they just switch the older version to GNU-GPL when the new
version comes out.

Which, I think, is why sunsetting won't work nearly as well in
non-software areas. software has releases, it has versions.

Here you answer you own question:

We don't need the legal sunset clause for software, because version
release schedules imply an obvious time to apply license changes to
the older version.

This is precisely why it makes sense to ask the artist to make
a decision about the sunset timing when they first license the
work. That way, it's a "set and forget" arrangement from the
artist's PoV -- much easier to maintain. It also provides greater
security to the person paying for the copy up front -- they *know*
that they are acquiring something which will become more
(use-) valuable later on.

But that doesn't translate to music or a book. There aren't
"versions" per se with bugs in the old versions fixed in the new
version. How does that work for a book? Have the floss version be
full of typoes and choppy text, and have the pay version be

So, you've never seen a "2nd Edition" then? Or a "cover" or "remix"?

The medium of writing and music doesn't lend itself to that so
easily. There are sites such are Red versus Blue that release video
shorts created from machinima, and subscribers can view the stuff
when it comes out for 10 bucks a month, and non-subscribers can view
it a week or two later at a lower resolution. But that doesn't
require a CC-Subscription license.

If sunsetting or subscribing or whatever business model works for a
site, it can be done with the basic licenses and simply having the
site do the switch when they are ready or have them set up the
subscription stuff up front. having a license doesn't add anything
other than more license complexity.

Yeah, and any site can write its own licenses without any input
from CC, too. This proves nothing. CC licenses serve as a
convenience and a standards recommendation -- they don't do
anything that can't be achieved by individual organizations.

Nevertheless, I still think CC license modules are useful.


Terry Hancock (hancock AT
Anansi Spaceworks

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