mfioretti: public domain* + licensing*

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  1. The No-Derivatives option, frankly, is not very popular. People can tell it’s self-defeating.

    The Share-Alike option, on the other hand, is quite popular. And it’s the one that kept me using CC the longest. Even those of us who are OK with others using our content for commercial purposes find it repellent to think that those others could wall off their derived works from the commons, refusing to pass on the benefit they themselves had received. It’s such a compelling argument that the P2P Foundation is promoting a whole new license to prohibit exactly that. But, as discussed by Dave Wiley more than eight years ago, Share-Alike-licensed content can only be combined with other content with an identical CC license, which is very limiting—and that’s really just a subset of the general compatibility problems with CC-licensed content (updated various times and still complicated). This really defeats the purpose of the commons, as Wiley illustrates with another graphic. As the saying goes, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

    In essence, the problem is that Creative Commons allows people to grant others freedom, but with very specific and often mutually exclusive conditions. And that’s only sort of freedom. Does that mean people who use CC are evil, and that I’m boycotting their content? Certainly not. It simply means I find it simplest and most effective to use the public domain (with a fallback to CC0 in jurisdictions that don’t recognize the public domain) to build the commons.

    That leaves the question of free riders, meaning those who would copyright their derived works. At this point, I don’t believe that a further fragmentation of licenses that are complicated to apply and almost impossible to enforce will serve to both build the commons and prevent this problem. Of the two, my priority is the former, but I do still want to keep corporations from strip-mining the commons.

    One way might be to simply ignore them and keep doing our own thing. It’s important to remember that they cannot remove anything from the public domain, nor can they copyright an idea in the public domain itself, only a work derived from it. So, if future iterations of an idea in the public domain are better than those derived works, then the gamble of having produced them will not pay off. Similarly, if small workshops make and sell the products in short runs, not bothering to copyright them, large corporations simply won’t be able to compete. Copyrights take a minimum of three months to register, and that’s enough time for P2P production to move on to something better. In fact, the threat of a copyright might actually spur innovation.

    Another consideration is that corporations creating derived works doesn’t have to result from content being in the public domain or in the commons. They repeat each others’ ideas all the time, in spite of trademarks and copyrights. It’s the idea that attracts attention, not how it’s licensed.
    Voting 0
  2. Free software is built on a paradox. In order to give freedom to users, free software licences use something that takes away freedom – copyright, which is an intellectual monopoly based on limiting people's freedom to share, not enlarging it. That was a brilliant hack when Richard Stallman first came up with it in 1985, with the GNU Emacs General Public Licence, but maybe now it's time to move on.

    There are signs of that happening already. Eighteen months ago, people started noting the decline of copyleft licences in favour of more "permissive" ones like Apache and BSD. More recently, the rise of GitHub has attracted attention, and the fact that increasingly people have stopped specifying licences there (which is somewhat problematic).

    I don't think this declining use of copyleft licences is a sign of failure – on the contrary. As I wrote in my previous column, free software has essentially won, taking over most key computing sectors. Similarly, the move to "permissive" licences has only been possible because of the success of copyleft: the ideas behind collaborative creation and contributing back to a project are now so pervasive that we don't require "strong" copyleft licences to enforce them – it's part of coders' mental DNA.
    Voting 0
  3. I realized a diagram including all the most important opendata licenses that are now available, and classifying them according to their legal effects (attribution and share-alike, attribution only, public domain). I hope this work can be useful to better understand the actual situation of database (open)licensing.
    Voting 0

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