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User:JWSchmidt/Blog/3 March 2007

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Free media files
User:Chrismo made a comment in About this sound this Wikio discussion  (Help with ogg audio play) that finally got me to read some of the Creative Commons licenses. Chrismo mentioned the idea that there is flexibility in how to re-license content that is originally licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Previously, I had only read the summary pages such as this. I have long held the view that the intent of free content licenses is to allow content creators to make their work available for re-use and I have never been much impressed with claims that different licenses with the same intent are not compatible. The "share alike" concept includes the idea that content might be placed under one copyleft license and then later placed under a "similar license" if the intent of the new license is the same. As far as I can tell, the GFDL and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license have the same intent.


I am particularly impressed by statements such as, "The above applies to the Work as incorporated in a Collective Work, but this does not require the Collective Work apart from the Work itself to be made subject to the terms of this License." (see) I understand this to mean that something like

can be placed under the GFDL, even if parts of the collective/derivative work were originally under a Creative Commons license.


It is the intention of the GFDL that "derivative works of the document must themselves be free" to re-use (see). The GFDL was crafted before the Creative Commons licenses, so it does not have much to say about other copyleft licenses. However, the text of the GFDL does talk about GFDL material that is combined with other content and it says, "the copyright resulting from the compilation is not used to limit the legal rights of the compilation's users beyond what the individual works permit. When the Document is included in an aggregate, this License does not apply to the other works in the aggregate which are not themselves derivative works of the Document". I understand this to mean that something like

can be placed into a derivative work licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, even if parts of the collective/derivative work were originally under the GFDL.

Promote Progress
Ultimately, copyright law is supposed to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts. If someone asserts that they want their content made available for re-use, that is the important thing. As I read the terms of the copyleft licenses, anything, including legal mumbo-jumbo that stands in the way of progress for content sharing and creation, has no legal authority to block the intent of the licenses, the copyright holder's intent that the content be available to be shared. All the legal mumbo-jumbo is in the licenses as tools to be used against anyone who tries to put limits on re-use of the content.

Many people want their work to be attributed to them. In the internet, where many people use pseudonyms, a chain of hypertext links back to the original source of content and mention of the "name" of the copyright holder seems the conventional way to give attribution. When there many "authors", just the link to the source is often provided. This same method (hypertext linking) is used to associate media files with the text of copyleft licenses.

I also find this language of interest: "If You create a Collective Work, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Collective Work any reference to such Licensor or the Original Author, as requested." (see) I guess it is possible that I could make a derivative work that is so offensive to an original content creator that a demand would be made to not mention the offended copyright holder in an attribution statement. Placing attribution statements on a wiki makes it easy for offended contributors to keep their "name" from being associated with a derivative work.

Related licensing issueEdit

June 4. There is a three-month-old thread about the Creative Commons 3.0 versions of CC licenses at Wikimedia Commons (also see this Creative Commons 3.0 email thread). Is the Creative Commons licenses version 3.0 Attribution-ShareAlike license not a "free license"? There are many statements being made about what is and is not "free" (see also). The version 3.0 Creative Commons licenses contain statements about moral rights. "Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights". I do not see how any license could claim to restrict an author's moral rights. The license also says "Your fair dealing and other rights are in no way affected by the above." Fair dealing provides one example of sets of rules in particular countries that influence how works can by copied and re-used and "moral rights" are another. The basic idea is that various countries have rules for how an author's work can and cannot be used by others. I accept the idea that a free content license aims to promote copying and re-use, so such a license should not add any restrictions that are not already found in law. Does the Creative Commons 3.0 language add new restrictions on copying, re-use or modification of works that are not already found in law?

A. "Except as otherwise agreed in writing by the Licensor or as may be otherwise permitted by applicable law, if You Reproduce, Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work either by itself or as part of any Adaptations or Collections, You must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor or reputation. Licensor agrees that in those jurisdictions (e.g. Japan), in which any exercise of the right granted in Section 3(b) of this License (the right to make Adaptations) would be deemed to be a distortion, mutilation, modification or other derogatory action prejudicial to the Original Author's honor and reputation, the Licensor will waive or not assert, as appropriate, this Section, to the fullest extent permitted by the applicable national law, to enable You to reasonably exercise Your right under Section 3(b) of this License (right to make Adaptations) but not otherwise. (source)

The claim has been made that this CC version 3.0 language creates a new "contract" that adds new restrictions. The counter claim is that this language only makes explicit what was implicit previously: that no license protects people from laws (laws about copyright, "fair dealing", "moral rights", etc) that already exist. The free content definition says that a "free license" must protect, B "The freedom to distribute derivative works: In order to give everyone the ability to improve upon a work, the license must not limit the freedom to distribute a modified version (or, for physical works, a work somehow derived from the original), regardless of the intent and purpose of such modifications." It is interesting that this explicitly states that the intent of this "essential freedom" is that derivative works "improve upon a work". At the same time, it says modifications should be allowed, "regardless of the intent and purpose of such modifications". However, it seems clear that some modifications of a work could be produced with the intent of doing harm. Laws that protect "moral rights" seem designed to prevent harm, and it is hard to see why anyone would want to interpret a free license as license to do harm. In short, a "free license" cannot really be about giving license to modify a work in any conceivable way. The license cannot give people the right to do what breaks the law.

In A, above, it is talking about situations where you "Reproduce, Distribute or Publicly Perform" a work. As far as I can tell (based on this), it is not clear how moral rights should apply to a situation where an author has explicitly granted the right to modify their work. Is a modified work a new work or is a modified work always just a reproduction, distribution or performance of the original work? I think there is a distinction between distributing a mutilated copy and creating a new work. In B, the discussion is about "derivative works", which is not really the same issue as reproducing, distributing or performing and existing work. Freedom to "redistribute copies" is part of the definition of a free license, but that definition says nothing about situations where the copies are used in a way that damages the original author. The definition of free licenses has an associated page for Permissible restrictions and it is is hard to see why there is not an explicit statement saying that a free license cannot free people from existing laws that govern how creative works are used by others. The existing free content definition seems incomplete and self-contradictory, but it is being used in an attempt to define certain licenses as being non-free.

Continuing discussion at Some thoughts on CC 3.0. Jimbo suggests that the version 3.0 licenses, "explicitly acknowledge that they say nothing at all about moral rights". And he added that "licenses which take note of local laws that can not be affected by a license" cannot make such licenses less free than licenses which ignore the matter of existing laws.