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It used to be simpler

It used to be simpler

Posted Dec 16, 2012 18:44 UTC (Sun) by tialaramex (subscriber, #21167)
In reply to: It used to be simpler by epa
Parent article: Fontana: What open source licensing could learn from Creative Commons (Opensource.com)

Long before Netscape even /existed/ you could find (particularly in the BSDs and Linux distros) a host of almost-but-not-quite-BSD licenses.

Someone asks if they can distribute useful program A, their superiors foolishly run the proposed BSD license by the lawyers, and the lawyers agree /but/ they want a small tweak to the wording and of course Berkeley must be replaced by Foo Corp all throughout.

So now you have the Foo Corp license, which is almost but not quite exactly the same as a BSD license, but with different branding. Only Program A is under this license, but every product which includes A has to paste in the whole verbiage written by Foo Corp's lawyers in case it matters. Already we're off to a bad start.

However sometimes the lawyers "tweak" is not so insignificant after all. If someone did a bad job of explaining what the terms are supposed to achieve we may find (as has happened with various useful BSD components) that the lawyers thought the idea was to keep the OS free but somehow make the individual program still non-free when separated. Or they thought it was supposed to be free on the Internet, but non-free when shipped on physical media. Or any number of other crazy restrictions that serve no-one but inconvenience everyone.

The FSF's "Don't change the license text" rule is a good rule. Forced to choose between "Yes" and "No" the company lawyers will often reluctantly say "Yes". If you let them choose "Change the license" that's what they will pick every time.


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It used to be simpler

Posted Dec 16, 2012 18:56 UTC (Sun) by tialaramex (subscriber, #21167) [Link]

Oh, and the main reason this hasn't tripped up CC is that most contributors into the creative commons AFAICT are individuals who never ran the idea past a lawyer, rather than corporations or corporate employees acting for their employer. I think if you had the likes of Fox and Disney creating to this commons you'd see a Fox Commons and Disney Commons license that each introduced subtle differences on the advice of their lawyers.

The reduced insight has a downside too, CC is far more likely to result in a withdrawal of consent, because the people putting CC licenses on their work have often not really considered what that really means. That is: if you re-purpose a piece of CC-BY art in a way that its creator doesn't like it is not at all unlikely that they will declare that they never intended to allow you to do that, and although you could win a legal battle if you wanted to pay for the lawyers you will probably lose the moral argument and suffer damage to your reputation accordingly.

It used to be simpler

Posted Dec 18, 2012 13:53 UTC (Tue) by rfontana (guest, #52677) [Link]

most contributors into the creative commons AFAICT are individuals who never ran the idea past a lawyer, rather than corporations or corporate employees acting for their employer. I think if you had the likes of Fox and Disney creating to this commons you'd see a Fox Commons and Disney Commons license that each introduced subtle differences on the advice of their lawyers
Maybe, though I think your comment understates the degree of success I see Creative Commons having achieved in the corporate and governmental realms. When thinking about what to write about on opensource.com to commemorate the 10th anniversary of CC, I thought of talking about Red Hat's path from very limited use of Creative Commons (typically the non-free ones) to fairly extensive use of CC BY-SA for some purposes (much project and product documentation, and much of the opensource.com website content, being good examples).


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