A few words about licenses

In the last couple of days I got two important informations related to free (and some not so free) licenses.


No one told me that it exists, again 😉

Affero General Public License addresses problem about which I was thinking for a long time. I even mentioned that problem without the knowledge that license for such purpose exists.

In the world of extensive usage of software on Internet servers, it is obvious that it is completely legal to trick GPL (and other free software licenses) terms and not to give contribution back to the community. I was thinking that GPL should deal with this issue in some future version. However, Affero GPL gave the solution in 2002.

GNU adopted this license and I suppose that we will have possibility to use it in the next year or two. Until that, I’ll switch to the first version of AGPL.

MediaWiki development, for example, should switch to GNU AGPL.

Try to avoid CC

I tried to realize what does NC (non-commercial) mean and I sent an email to CC-community mailing list. In brief, the only answer is that NC is not really NC and that anyone with enough money may trick NC conditions. The most notable examples are YouTube and Flickr.

If it is so with NC, my conclusion is that even contributions given under the conditions of SA (Share Alike) licenses are not safe. Actually, if they are not safe, it is the same as public domain. And if it is so, there is no sense to use it at all.  You may simply give your contribution to PD or you may choose some better license.

But, there are no better licenses for images and other non-documentation and non-software works. So, you should think what is the best way to publish your work if it is not software and it is not documentation.

If you need a license for documentation, please stay with GFDL. From version 2 it would be possible to switch to SFDL, which will be more useful.


~ by millosh on September 17, 2007.

8 Responses to “A few words about licenses”

  1. If you don’t have any _specific_ concerns regarding CC-BY-SA, please do not create fear, uncertainty and doubt. From my own study CC-BY-SA is a very sane and well internationalized license, much more manageable than GFDL 1.2.

  2. “In brief, mamalians are not really furred, and anyone with enough temperature can trick the furred condition. The most notable examples are dolphines and whales.

    If it is so with furred, my conclusion is that even animals with the right teething are not mamalians. Actually, if they are not mamals, they are the same than fishes. And if it is so, there is no sense to call them animals at all…”

    Now, read [[Fallacy]] and [[Category:Free_content_licenses]].

  3. Erik, I trust you, but I am very doubtful about CC. If NC may be used for making profit and ND has some extremely stupid consequences, I am personally very doubtful about possible tricks around SA conditions which may be found in the future, too.

    I didn’t make here any kind of fallacy. I didn’t say that BY-SA has the same problems as NC and ND have. I just said that it is not a safe field. And “safe” has a strong influence of “trust”.

  4. I’m not sure quite what you mean by that NC doesn’t mean NC. I presume that you mean that youtube and flickr are commercial and make money from hosting NC works? But each of these (I am sure, without checking) have in their terms of service that you (the creator of the work) grant them the right to display your work on their sites, which may include advertising etc. It’s not that the NC clause is meaningless, but that you are also granting them a separate license as a condition of being provided with the hosting service.

    If you had something else in mind, I’d very much like to hear it.

  5. I recognized two problems in relation to BY-NC and BY-NC-SA:

    1) Both of licenses grant to you the right to share works until you don’t make money. Even you are not making money you are not able to copy NC work from Picasa to Flickr. Both of the licenses are giving to you a permission to make derivate works. However, you are not able to make a derivate work from the Flickr image and put it to Picasa.

    Problem here is that no one is telling you such thing. Even it may stay somewhere inside of terms of use, all other places propagate that you *are* able to make derivate works without mentioning that you are not able to make such simple thing like downloading it from Flickr, modifying and uploading it to Picasa (or vice versa).

    2) Anyone who owns database of NC content (even like owners or the sites like, for example, wikihow.org is; it is important to mention here that up to the present they are not doing anything toward tricking NC conditions) is able to say that s/he is selling “database structure” while s/he is giving NC content for free.

    Both of those examples are:
    – Tricking NC conditions.
    – Making users responsible for something for which they are not responsible. Actually CC and providers like Yahoo and Google are responsible for misleading users.

    However, the full scale of different problems may be seen only by analyzing which collaborative projects are using NC licenses without confirming (or at worst, without any mentioning) that contributors are giving rights to the site owner to do whatever site owner wants with their NC content.

  6. There is one thing more. Please, take a look into the thread of my email. There are also a different theories which state that it is possible to make profit on different ways by using NC content.

  7. “I didn’t say that BY-SA has the same problems as NC and ND have. I just said that it is not a safe field.”
    This is, in fact, fallacy, or more precisely, FUD, as Erik points it.

    You say “NC may be used for making profit”. OK, obviously, the NC redaction is not very clear, confuse peoples and is not free as in speech. This is a subjective statement, but no real fallacy here.

    Then you conclude “SA (Share Alike) licenses are not safe” and “it is the same as public domain”. Here lies the fallacy.

    Summarizing, you use the assertion “this is not clear” to conclude “this other thing is not safe”. But there is no demonstration here, only fear, uncertainty and doubt.

    Its just like saying “my english teacher has made a mistake, so I can’t trust my mathematics courses”.

    Arguing is a hard science…

  8. First of all, all CC licenses are about copyright law and all CC licenses have been made by same persons. At least, I am sure that localization is done by same persons because I was participating in the process of localization for Serbia jurisdiction and I know who made localization in some other countries in the region. So, comparing it with English and mathematics teachers is very problematic. If different persons made, for example BY-SA and BY-SA-NC, please let me know, because it would be a good information for me.

    My mistake is that I didn’t make complete arguing inside of the text. And you are continuing with arguing that I made some kind of fallacy. I didn’t say that, for example, “if NC is not allowing you to share, then SA is not allowing you to share, too”. Of course that such conclusion would be a fallacy.

    I was talking about safeness and, as I told to you, there are a lot of trust in safeness. If I don’t believe that I am safe, I am not safe. Because a significant part of that — is an emotional category.

    But, I made a mistake because I didn’t explain the whole road to the conclusion that I don’t think that any CC license is safe.

    – BY is extremely simple license. I am almost sure that I am able to make one complex sentence which would be treated as BY license in any reasonable jurisdiction.

    – BY-SA is a good license (I trust to Erik).

    – BY-NC is a bad license because you are not able to share such work freely.

    – BY-ND has some very stupid consequences (like a problematic possibility to decode Theora encoded file and encode it in MPEG).

    – BY-NC-SA is an oxymoronic license because it explicitly says to that users are able to make derivate works, but it is not so possible in some real framework (i.e., if you want to make derivate work from some BY-NC-SA from Flickr, the only commercial provider where you are able to put the work back is Flickr).

    – BY-NC-ND merged bad sides of BY-NC and BY-ND.

    There are 6 licenses. There is no sense to talk about one of them (BY), so there are five of them more complex then one complex sentence.

    Even I trust to Erik’s analysis, there are four bad and one good license.

    If some organization with hundreds of lawyers made 4 bad and one good license, I don’t have any trust to such organization. Maybe their wishes are the best, but…

    So, I didn’t make conclusions based on unfounded accusations. My conclusions are based on 80% bad work. Because of that, assuming that Erik made a very good analysis of contemporary situation, I am completely able to say that I am afraid of:

    – Erik didn’t make analysis of some possible problems which are unpredictable and which may be very possible according to 80% of bad done job.
    – Any future version of CC-BY-SA may have serious problems. Again, according to 80% of bad done job.

    And I am not doing FUD because I have a problem now, too. While I don’t care for texts (there are FDL and SFDL in the near future), personally, I am not able to suggest any license to some artist. Keep in mind that I have done a lot of propagation of CC licenses in Serbia; that I organized a lot of work in relation to CC localization; including that I was a “formal lead” of CC localization (while I was the president of WM Serbia). And that I wouldn’t do so if I don’t like *the*idea*.

    Also, I am talking this on my blog and my blog is not so public place for loudly spreading FUD. There are much better places for spreading FUD. This blog is read almost exclusively by Wikimedians who are in general well introduced in all of problems related to licenses. Also, I am talking about problems related to CC licenses on CC list, not on some other list.

    I said that I don’t trust to CC work because they have a big percent of bad done work. My intention is not to stay on that position, but to try to make attention to people who are able to do something to change the situation. And I think that I succeed in that (at least, Erik is a person who is able to do something).

    And at the end, it is much better to hear a problem from insider then from outsider.

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