March 13, 2007  ·  Lessig

Educause has published a nice short piece about Creative Commons licenses. Of particular interest to me is question 5 — “What are the downsides?” While I agree there are boundaries to clarify about noncommercial licensing (and more about that soon), I’m not as convinced that there is any ambiguity about the scope of the “share alike” provision. The example considered is of a BY-SA photo included in a report. Does the whole report have to be BY-SA? My view is no — including a picture is not a derivative work of the picture. Some have suggested we expand BY-SA to reach beyond derivative works. We’ll be talking about that more soon on the CC list. Meanwhile, I’m grateful to see such good work devoted to explaining our work.

  • Alan De Smet

    “Does the whole report have to be BY-SA? My view is no – including a picture is not a derivative work of the picture.”

    Oof. As someone who has chosen the SA limitation for some of my works, I find that surprising. Apparentlythose works are freer than I intended. It’s not a big deal for me, but my intention was not to allow others to directly include my works unmodified in a bigger work without them sharing the resulting bigger work. Similarly, when looking for images for a presentation I did last year, I specifically avoided works with the SA limitation since I didn’t have the rights to release the entire presentation under a CC license. By your reading I was unnecessarily restricting myself; given the goals of CC, users being unnecessarily cautious of SA works seems like a bad thing.

    I’m curious where you draw the line? Does Jonathon Coulton’s excellent “flickr” video count as derivative as he’s presenting the images unmodified? (Well sort of unmodified; he zooms in and out on them.) The license’s discussion about synchronizing music seems to suggest yes. What if I took BY-SA images for my report and did simple modifications to them (cropping them, say). What much now be shared under an SA license? The report, or just the modified image.

    That I had such radically different view of what SA meant suggests that Educause is right and perhaps this is an area that needs further consideration.

  • Jess Austin

    I had the same reaction as Alan. I have heard SA compared to the GPL before, and I thought that was a point in CC’s favor. Virality is a good thing. If the SA provision doesn’t provide this, then freedom-minded creators may avoid CC altogether.

  • Jess Austin

    After reading the report, I would suggest handling the problem it identifies the same way that the GPL does. Don’t address the use (the report says “incorporation”, but I think that’s what it means) of materials. Among verbs, “use” is less vague than perhaps only “do” and “have”. Instead, address the distribution of materials: a private powerpoint performance is not distribution, but if any viewer retains handouts that contain a BY-SA picture, those handouts are also BY-SA.

    I hope this is what you meant, under the assumption that a powerpoint presentation is not distributed. I would have thought all this had been covered before, but this post at least raises the possibility that it hasn’t been.