2003 April

On Warranties

Glenn Otis Brown, April 30th, 2003

Dan Bricklin of Satn.org recently posted some thoughtful concerns about the Creative Commons licenses, in particular their common warranty clause.

Dan’s concerns take two forms: (1) Creative Commons should do more to alert licensors to the details of our warranty provision; (2) the warranty provision is too strong for the average copyright holder — that is, it makes the licensor promise too much about the legal legitimacy of the work he or she wants to license.

(I’ll start, as I often do, by cautioning that what follows isn’t legal advice. It’s an explanation of our form licenses and the policies that led us to draft them as they are.)

Point number one is well taken. After a fresh look over the site and our Commons Deed, I think we could explain the warranty provision in a more “human-readable” way. We’ll work on it — thanks for bringing it up.

I think point number two — that the warranty provision is too strong — deserves a little more discussion.

Dan says, “The Creative Commons licenses say, in effect, ‘After checking, I guarantee no one will sue you if you copy my work, with some restrictions.'”

But the licenses aren’t quite so extreme, and the “with some restrictions” part matters. Look at the text (Section 5a):

“Licensor represents and warrants that, to the best of Licensor’s knowledge after reasonable inquiry . . . Licensor has secured all rights in the Work necessary to grant the license rights . . . “

The key word is “reasonable.” It limits liability. When our licenses were still in draft, they contained no such qualifier. After many of you wrote in concerned about that, we made it more lenient by adding the “reasonableness” clause.

I agree with Dan that using Creative Commons licenses is serious business, and I would encourage any potential licensor to think hard about what he or she is doing (and yes, if in need of individual, context-specific advice, to consult a lawyer). But I think that our warranty clause helps people take licensing seriously. When you consider that (1) anyone in the world may use our licenses (2) at no charge, a reasonable promise about the source of a work seems like a small price to pay — especially to all those licensees out there. Someone has to carry the risk, and just because someone’s a “casual” weblogger doesn’t mean that his or her readers should bear it. Right?

That said, I’m happy to have more discussion on the subject. I’m open-minded.


New books under a Creative Commons license

Matt Haughey, April 28th, 2003

John Sundman, author of the books “Acts of the Apostles” and “Cheap Complex Devices” has recently applied a Creative Commons license to his works. The full text of the books are available for download from his site.

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Creative Commons Releases Hundreds of Titles Under its Founders Copyright

Neeru Paharia, April 23rd, 2003

Creative Commons announced today the release of several hundred titles under its Founders’ Copyright. The Silicon Valley nonprofit also opened the Founders’ Copyright submission process to the public via its website.

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Syndic8’s news feeds

Matt Haughey, April 21st, 2003

Syndic8, a central repository for syndicated news feeds, has recently started tracking the use of Creative Commons licenses in feeds. They’ve got a growing list here.

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Syllabus Magazine

Press Robot, April 16th, 2003

Academic Digital Rights: A Walk on the Creative Commons,” by Glenn Otis Brown

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Austin Chronicle

Press Robot, April 16th, 2003

Snippets From SXSW Interactive 2003,” by Michael May

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Austin Chronicle

Press Robot, April 16th, 2003

Plays Well With Others,” by Michael May

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What independent music slump?

Matt Haughey, April 14th, 2003

The Christian Science Monitor recently published an article focusing on independent labels and musicians. While recording industry album sales were down 11% overall in 2002, some independent outfits saw sales increases of 50 to 100 percent, all while eschewing mainstream radio play.

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Creative Commons RSS in Manila

Matt Haughey, April 14th, 2003

While there have been a couple generic (1, 2) RSS implementations of Creative Commons licensing in the past, Dave Winer today added support in the Manila software package.

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Downward Facing Blog

Glenn Otis Brown, April 7th, 2003

Bikram Choudhury, “creator” of a popular type of yoga, is now
claiming a copyright
in the style and demanding royalties.

No word yet whether the estates of the authors of the Upanishads — or for that matter, the entire subcontinent — will counter-sue.

See a lively and amusing discussion on Metafilter.

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