This post was half written when Eden Legal saw Fred Wilson’s post on “his” creative commons licence (looks like Creative Commons with a few extra tweaks). Why don’t we do the same with ours?
Like most legal advisers we are very cautious with copyright of our website content. On the other hand, we do want others to be able to share the information we provide. And we won’t ever charge for access to it. But we don’t think that Creative Commons is appropriate for what we do.
Creative Commons licenses are something of a half-way solution between full copyright and open sourcing – rights owners retain the copyrights, but certain actions that would normally be their exclusive right are automatically and irrevocably granted to all-comers without the need for permission each time or for any royalty payment or license fee (hence the concept “some rights reserved”). There are six main licences using a combination of: (i) accreditation (all Creative Commons licenses require this); (ii) commercial or non-commercial (rights owners may either draw the line at commercial use or perhaps don’t care if the accreditation is more important to them); (iii) derivative works or no derivative works (whether remixes, mashups etc. are allowed); and finally (iv) share-alike or not (e.g. must republished works be licensed on the same basis – if so they couldn’t be “closed-sourced” by the republisher claiming copyright in the derivative works; instead they would have to be licensed on the same CC terms – this is a similar concept to “copyleft”).
Clearly, the look and feel of our website is not something we want others to copy. And the content of other pages is very individual to us. So those aren’t part of the discussion.
But might blog posts (and their accompanying pictures) be different? The only Creative Commons licence that we could really use would be “BY-NC-ND”. We would react “badly” to our articles being passed off as someone else’s (so accreditation), being changed (selective quotations can be troublesome and legal articles probably don’t really lend themselves to remixing), or use them to make a profit (non-commercial). On this last point, where would advertising funded sites or publications fit in? I expect we would say yes to appropriate ones. But not to someone reselling what we write and publish. This is a particular difficulty with Creative Commons licensing as “commercial use” covers so many possibilities (see the discussion here).
At least in the EU, we can’t stop framing and embedding of our content. And the authors have moral rights that they may assert in order to prevent inappropriate use. We really respect and appreciate the work done by Creative Commons in promoting free culture and the system seems very beneficial for artists, photographers, musicians and others wanting wide exposure of their works; or perhaps for software which benefits from being built upon by others and ensuring that later improvements are widely available (though there are other licences more tailored for this); and some legal systems don’t permit “fair use” or “fair dealing” in copyright works. But for our words on the page we think we’ll continue to handle this on a case by case basis. So if you have an idea or proposal please just ask. But for now you we still want you to ask.