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cc-licenses - Re: [cc-licenses] CC vs GPL: how to ensure compatibility and compliance

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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] CC vs GPL: how to ensure compatibility and compliance
  • Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 21:45:16 -0500

Gregory Maxwell wrote:
> Of course.. then you run into cases where people have cc-nc-nd
> licensed the
> Even things like this are technically okay, they are violations of the
> spirit of the license and the likely intentions of the licenses. As
> such such actions should be avoided.. and may well be precluded by
> future editions of the GPL should practices like that become
> widespread.

I disagree strongly.

Many advocates of free software, including Richard Stallman, have
expressed the opinion that the "ethical compulsion" to make software
free is unique to computer programs (or perhaps more generally to
"things of utilitarian rather than aesthetic value", as I would
personally put it), and feel quite comfortable with the idea of
conventional copyright-monopoly-based selling of aesthetic content.

Some would argue that free content is "better", but not so strongly
indicated as for programs.

And of course, there are some -- notably some loud voices in the Debian
project -- who do share your assessment that free content is an ethical
compulsion (or perhaps they only believe it is a prerequisite to be in
Debian -- a weaker statement).

Now, I haven't done a scientific survey, but my gut feeling based on
talking to software developers is that the *majority* opinion among
*developers* (who are the people who determine what license software
will be released under!) is the first one: that content licensing is and
should be unaffected by the license of the software.

If this were not so, there are a number of alarming consequences (which
have been mentioned before):

* You could not write free documents using Microsoft Word

* You could not write non-free documents using Writer
(i.e. the act of using a free software word processor would mean giving
up any copyright rights in documents you produce yourself)

* You could not compile a proprietary program using gcc.

* You couldn't compile a free software program with Microsoft Visual C++

* Logos designed in Inkscape couldn't be trademarked or sold under a
proprietary copyright license

and so on.

Very few people want these consequences.

Now it is true that game engine and game content boundaries can become
blurred. In the fuzzy areas, it may well be better to stick to matching
licenses. But in general, the "license of the data processed is not
affected by the license of the data processor, nor vice versa" rule is
awfully useful.

Note that the distinction here is not between types of data, but rather
the relationship between two works: For example, in the computer
program compilation case, the proprietary program being compiled by the
free compiler may itself be a compiler (exactly the same type of work as
the work processing it). So this is not the same as the "content is
dissimilar from code" argument; it's the "program data licensing is not
affected by the license of the program". It has been argued in the past
that such constraints would render the license "non-free", since it
would "discriminate against users or fields of endeavor".

The thing about delivering "free content" with "free software" is it can
be more easily distributed -- aggregate-compatible licensing is all that
is required. Assuming that Debian really does approve the CC-By and
CC-By-SA licenses (which I really hope they will), then this is an
acceptable combination to get a game (engine and content) included into
the Debian distribution. This is a big boost to distributing it, of course.

However, there are plenty of examples of "shareware" or "non-free" games
which are based on free engines. Sometimes the developers create a free
engine with the specific intent of basing non-free games on it (thus
defraying engine development and testing costs as well as training a
pool of potential future game developer/designers). I think most
developers consider this a good situation, though of course, most want
free games to also exist.


Terry Hancock (hancock AT
Anansi Spaceworks

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