[OSGeo-Edu] Re: Varying CC licenses, can it be done?

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Fri Jul 30 08:10:14 EDT 2010

Hi Simon,

Please send the emails to the edu list so others may also benefit/join
in the discussion. I am on that list, so I will get the emails.

On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 12:59 AM, Simon Cropper
<scropper at botanicusaustralia.com.au> wrote:
> Puneet,
> I have been told you are heavily into CC. Are you able to clarify the
> following issue as I can't find anything on the website.

I work *with* Creative Commons, which is not the same as work *for*
Creative Commons, so, I guess that could be construed as being
"heavily into CC." Yes, I inclined positively toward CC, and toward
CC0 in particular. That said, please don't take my advice as either
legal advice or as CC's stance. I am not a CC staff person, and I am
not their official spokesperson. More than anything, I am not a
lawyer. Finally, I am only familiar with the US law, which is likely
considerably different from the laws in your country.

When in doubt, and especially if it matters so much to you, consult a
lawyer who knows your situation, and most importantly, your
jurisdiction. A mailing list is a poor source of legal advice.

> Is it possible or practical to vary CC licenses?
> I have a GIS data supplier that is almost at the stage of releasing some
> geospatial data under CC but they are specifying that it should only be used
> for educational purposes.
> I know your stance about CC0 but if I manage to get the data on CC-BY or CC-
> BY-NC with this condition I will be lucky.
> Any suggestions or can you point me to an alternative more applicable licence
> type.

In my view, CC licenses are so popular because of two reasons: One,
for the precise reason that it is possible to customize them; and two,
because they are universally recognized.

That said, you have a finite number of choices provided by Creative
Commons, so you are stuck with those choices. And, as far as I can
tell, "use only for educational purposes" is not one of the choices.
And, no, as far as I know, you can't change the CC licenses beyond the
choices already provided.

You are under no obligation to use CC licenses. In fact, you can cook
up your own "General Botanicus License" if you so want. A license is
simply a statement of what someone can do with your content. I
personally do not know of a license applicable to your needs, but your
lawyer should. You could possibly even take a CC license as a template
to create your own license, but before you embark down that path, do
find out if that is allowed. I would be surprised if the CC licenses
themselves are not CC's intellectual property, and might have legal
restrictions on how you can modify them. In any case, most
importantly, the resulting license would no longer be a CC license,
and you would have to make sure that it can't be confused or construed
as one.

Which brings me back to the second reason above why CC is popular. The
universal recognition of CC makes it easy for people to understand
each other. There are simply too many licenses out in the wild (see
http://www.punkish.org/Babel-of-Licenses). Everyone wants a license to
suit their own specific need or to scratch their own itch. This leads
to a lot of confusion. What does confusion do? It turns off the users.
How many users do even read licenses? In fact, since the licenses are
so confusing, either people don't give a rip about them, or turn away
from the product. CC brought order to this wild landscape, it
quietened the babel. By providing a handful of licenses, in human
readable, machine readable, and lawyer readable forms, it enables
everyone to understand what they licenses meant. By providing nice,
friendly icons, CC made the terms of the licenses easily recognizable
to even those averse to reading more than a couple of uppercase
letters. It is precisely this ease of use that made CC so popular.

By creating your own license, you will not be benefitting from CC's
instant, worldwide  recognizability, popularity and goodwill. So, do
think about that before heading down your own license path.

Also, give a thought to what "educational purposes" really means. If I
use your material to teach someone, does it matter to you that I
charge a $1000 a day to do the teaching? Or, just because I teach for
a living now suddenly bar me from using your educational material? How
do you define educational and how do you define non-commercial? Both
you and I will be losers in this game. I won't be able to use your
excellent content, and your excellent content will be underutilized.

Let me make it even worse. Say, I look at your "Botanicus-No
Derivatives-Non Commercial-No By Products" custom licensed material
and decide to not a give a rip about your license and go ahead and do
all the things you don't want me to do -- for example, create a
product that uses your material and sell it. What would you do then?
Will you send me a cease-and-desist letter? Will you come after me
with your expensive lawyers? Will it really be worth the hassle? It
might be, if a ton of money is involved, but, other than that -- it
just puts people in a position where they either get turned away from
using your work, or break your restrictive license conditions anyway.

My personal philosophy is to take the easy path -- unless my
livelihood depends on it, I want maximum and widespread use for my
work, and I don't want to involve lawyers because I can't afford them.
So, I either license my work under the least restrictive conditions,
or, better yet, waive all licenses to it. If I choose anything else,
such as ND/NC, etc., then I want to be very sure of the consequences.

Proceed with that knowledge.

> --
> Cheers Simon
>        Simon Cropper
>        Botanicus Australia Pty Ltd
>        PO Box 160 Sunshine 3020
>        P: 03 9311 5822. M: 041 830 3437
>        W: http://www.botanicusaustralia.com.au

Puneet Kishor http://www.punkish.org
Carbon Model http://carbonmodel.org
Charter Member, Open Source Geospatial Foundation http://www.osgeo.org
Science Commons Fellow, http://sciencecommons.org/about/whoweare/kishor
Nelson Institute, UW-Madison http://www.nelson.wisc.edu
Assertions are politics; backing up assertions with evidence is science

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