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About my choice of content licenses

Matija pointed me at a post about use of CC-NC clause so I wanted to write a couple of notes about my choice of licenses for the two main contents that I actually maintain: this blog and Autotools Mythbuster . Both have the NonCommercial clause added. I have my reasons to do that, and the linked article does not really convince me.

First of all, the blog itself is on a quite restrictive license: BY-ND-NC, NoDerivatives; it means you can copy my posts as long as you attribute them to me, but you cannot do so for a profit, nor you can rework my content into something different. I think it should be mostly fair this way; the best you can think of is the rewriting of my how-tos and other technical articles into proper documentation, and in those cases I usually am the one doing the rewrite, so I can simply write away the ND for that. I don’t see the need to allow reworking of my rants, or of my personal posts.

Also, I find it quite fair that you cannot simply take my posts, even with attribution, push them together others in a personal Planet-like software, add a ton of advertisement units, and profit out of that. Or print my articles as they are in a journal or something and resell that. Without permission that is. The CC licenses are not “my way or the highway”, they only provide the default license of a content, I’m fine with just giving up some clauses if asked, not even nicely, just asked. And note that quoting me is part of the fair use doctrine and does not require abiding to the license per-se.

The other piece of content is the Autotools Mythbuster guide, which is more interesting, and more useful to reuse to write further tutorial and content. At the same time, though, I’d very much like that if anybody felt like publishing (for profit) articles with the use of that content, they’d be asking me about it first; and if somebody were to rework that content as a book, I’m not ashamed to say that I’d like a cut out of it.

Just to point one thing out, to quote the article:

Many bloggers and blog communities on the web use advertising as a way to recoup costs and generate income. Popular bloggers, from Andrew Sullivan to Markos Zúniga (Dailykos), have turned their hobbies into professions, but even smaller publications often use Google Ads to make some extra money. Other sites use small-scale subscription models to unlock additional features and content or disable advertising. Ask yourself if you really want to stop all these individuals from using your work.

I asked myself that and my answer is: “yes, I want to stop those individuals from using my work without asking first.” I don’t think it is pretending too much that if they are not given explicit permission they cannot reuse my content to make a profit out of it, even if they were fored to share it with the same terms (interestingly, the article insists that it’s nigh impossible to enforce NC compliance… but on the other hand repeats that using SA is “enough protection”… talk about mirror climbing).

I remember a few years ago reading about a movement to provide a “pineapple license” (I forgot the name of the thing, I think it had a ‘k’ in there, and that the pineapple was the logo of the license) that stated from one side what the CC license was to everyone, and from the other “screamed” that the author just wish to be contacted for special uses. That would be my preferred solution to be honest. I’m probably fine with reworking my content for many other uses, just ask me about it first, though, please.

What the rest of the article seems to talk about is the use of NC clauses in software and software distributions, making a straw man argument about “what if the kernel was NC-licensed”. I call that a straw man because all of the CCs are vastly unsuited for software, and are at most useful for artwork, documentation and the “ancillary” content of software packages.

It is obvious that a Linux company will be unable to make use of works that prohibit commercial use. But non-profit free software communities are equally adamant in rejecting -NC licenses. For example, the Debian Free Software Guidelines explicitly state: “The license of a Debian component may not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources.” Debian GNU/Linux is one of the most popular distributions of the open source Linux operating system.

So this shows that NC is unsuited for Debian.. and it’s vastly unsuited for Fedora as well; even the whole of Gentoo documentation is released as Attribution-ShareAlike by itself. But aren’t they now setting up double standards in the article? They actually go a long way to spell the good deeds of the GNU Free Documentation License, which … Debian finds unsuitable for main !

Finally, I’d like to point out one very important thing here: I’m talking about two main content projects that consists almost entirely of texts. While I can understand and agree pretty well with the idea of CC-BY-SA to be enough for other media (graphics, videos, sound, …) texts are a different thing. You can license the content as it’s written, but you cannot license the concepts or the ideas; and while making use of simply the concepts of graphic elements is very difficult and usually you’re just interested in using the content as-is, or rework it further from there, re-using the concept of a text without actually copy-pasting that text is definitely feasible.

Again, can we stop considering the world (and copyright issues) black-and-white? They definitely are not.

Comments 2
  1. It’s only reasonable to expect a tangible portion if somone profits by your work. That said I have often saved large chunks of money (once millions) for an employer and never recieved a bonus for it. At least you have legal recourse if the need arises with the proper license.Autotools has a merge request. I believe caching.xmli (sp?) you will find makes your points clearer now.This time I used emacs and git so hopefully no more whitespace horrors but I did have emacs ask me if I wanted to correct some xml errors. I remember editing 2 files. but there were several in the commit. *shrugs*Nothing that should take long to review when you have the spare time.But if I pull from your tree it says “up-to-date” *sigh* Still learning.

  2. If I recall correctly, part of the driver for CC licenses was specifically because the GPL {any version} isn’t really suitable for artwork, most documents and music. By the same token, it’s recognized that the CC license really isn’t suitable for programs. I use the CC myself for everything I write and my art.While both rely on copyright law, the ability to address which rights you’re reserving to yourself and which you’re freely permitting are important. I like CC with all it’s options just the way it is.

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