Proto-lawyer, GNOME hacker and CC friend Luis Villa’s brief “CC-licensed specification” rant is correct:
[I]mplementing a spec may require (among other things) licensing of “pending utility and design patent claims, copyrights, trade dress and trademark rights.” Putting a specification under a CC license gives you a copyright license to the text of the specification; it does not give license to the necessary trademarks, or to the patents, and depending on the license chosen, may not even give you the right to make a derivative work [...]
Fortunately all such specifications I’m aware of are published under free CC licenses (or placed in the public domain) so that derivative works and commercial use are legal.
However, liberal copyright terms on the text of a specification are not sufficient (and strictly speaking, perhaps not even necessary) for a protocol (or format or similar) to permit independent implementation, interoperability, and extension, including by free and open source software.
Software patents may be the main legal barrier to such use. This is why patent grants often get the most thorough public vetting of any non-technical aspect of a new specification and why (for example) the debate over the W3C’s patent policy several years ago was so important.
There are also non-legal items that will often be more important for a protocol being “open” in practice than the protocol specification’s copyright license. For example, the very existence and publication of an unambiguous specification, and the availability of a reference implementation and test suite, preferably under a free and open source software license.
So what good is putting a specification under a liberal copyright license? Is it just about signaling good intentions? As valuable as such signaling may be, it can be abused. I would argue that it is primarily useful for facilitating ongoing collaboration on the specification itself, extensions of the specification, and instructional materials and other non-software works around the specification — in other words, precisely the works and activities impacted by the copyright status of the text.
This is what I intended to highlight in a recent post on IE8 and removing copyright barriers to collaboration with technology communities (emphasis added):
It’s cool that Microsoft not only released the specifications under liberal terms, but followed the lead of the relevant communities, ensuring that there are no copyright barriers to collaboration with those communities.
As the post explains, Microsoft released their specifications under the same liberal terms (one under CC BY-SA, another dedicated to the public domain) as related specifications have been released under by others. This simply (but importantly) means that in terms of copyright anyway, the relevant communities are free to fold the Microsoft specifications into their wikis and other materials for ongoing collaboration (and so are you).
My post did not explain (as it should have) that as above, there’s much more to making a protocol usable than just placing its specification under liberal copyright terms. Microsoft obviously realizes this, as at the same time they also offered a (patent related) Open Specifications Promise for the specifications in question — though whether the promise is good enough may be subject to debate — see further quotation of Luis below.
I briefly raised another reason to place a specification under a well-known liberal copyright license in a post about the Sitemaps Protocol: Creating a space where Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! can collaborate:
This is just a guess, but I imagine that agreeing to release the [Sitemaps protocol] under a CC license saved Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft many hours of legal haggling over copyright in the protocol. It is not a guess that this decision allows anyone, e.g., non-incumbent search engines, to publish and extend the protocol, without asking for permission from the incumbents.
In other words, using a public license (CC BY-SA in this case) for the specification solves one — even if just one — of what must be a laundry list of issues that must face such a collaboration, and that’s valuable. However, I should have been more clear that this enables anyone to publish and extend the protocol specification, at least insofar as copyright is concerned.
The most recent development concerning a significant specification under a CC license is also the most interesting so far, in that the parties involved seem to have made a effort to address all of the known barriers to uses of a protocol (whether they’ve succeeded is presumably an open question). Tim Vollmer beat me to blogging about OpenSocial, so I’ll expand a bit here.
The OpenSocial Foundation Intent Agreement covers copyright in the specification, a patent non-assertion covenant, a patent right in joint development, and a license to the OpenSocial trademark. There’s also a reference implementation under the Apache 2.0 license. Of course this appears to be just a proposal, and it is not clear to me whether non-members of the proposed foundation would have any patent or trademark rights with regard to the specification or implementations thereof. But at least they’re looking at all of the elements.
So, creative commons folks: could you please, please scream for me? Or better yet, work with SFLC to create a good license for specifications (since they aren’t happy with the OSP), and then ask people who’ve ‘cc licensed’ specifications to use that instead?
I suspect free CC licenses are reasonable licenses for specifications — for specification text, as far as that goes. But I agree we should talk about barriers other than copyright in the specification text whenever we talk or are approached about CC licenses and specifications.
We have been approached over the years about developing a license for protocols, specifications, standards, and the like, and would doubtless be happy to work with the Software Freedom Law Center and other parties to develop such a thing, whether it would take the form of a license or a “protocol” that included using liberal copyright terms and other aspects. In such an effort it would be important to consider interoperability with CC licenses, so that specification texts could easily be used in contexts like wikis and instructional materials.1 Comment »
Back in December, we blogged about Lingro, a project that aims “to create an on-line environment that allows anyone learning a language to quickly look up and learn the vocabulary most important to them”. Lingro pools the open-content community for their definitions (including CC BY-SA licensed user submissions), ingraining it in a cycle of sharing and reuse with future promise of dynamic growth.
Since then, Lingro has added CC BY-SA licensed, multi-lingual, dictionaries that prompt users with a list of words missing from a particular dictionary and let them enter translations. These dictionaries are also available in widget form, allowing webmasters to add Lingro functionality to their websites (users can add definitions without going to Lingro directly). In addition to this, Lingro has added translations of their site into French, Spanish, German, Italian and Polish, as well as a Swedish dictionary (which translates back and forth between all the other languages on Lingro). With these developments, Lingro continues to make amazing strides in fostering information sharing that has immense potential in relation to language education and cross-cultural communication.1 Comment »
FUSE! is a Thai creative platform that aims to connect filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and other creative individuals in one space while encouraging reuses of each other’s work. All content is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, making the sharing and reuse of these works not only encouraged but legally sound.
The best works are published in a quarterly publication (with DVD accompaniment) which is distributed to various bookstores and universities in Thailand, motivating content creators to showcase their works through FUSE as well as attracting others to go to the website and participate. In addition to this, FUSE holds monthly “Bar Camp style” meetups where creators showcase their various projects to one another, fostering off-line collaboration in tandem with the FUSE’s online presence.1 Comment »
Jamglue are up to their old tricks, this time holding a “Best of Jamglue” contest to find the best rappers in their community. While the due-date to enter has passed, voting continues until this Sunday (3/30) so get over there, listen to some CC BY licensed entries, and get voting!
You can read more about Jamglue in our Featured Commoner interview.Comments Off
We are pleased to announce a brand new Press Kit page. Based on user requests and feedback, we have completely redesigned it to make it easier for you to find and use specific CC graphics.
As before, all graphics are available in various formats for any purpose, including large format transparent PNGs — which work well in presentations. The page also features direct links to vector versions of our icons and license buttons, and are recommended for use in videos and printed works.Comments Off
Great news from the OLPC project – 8.5 GB worth of sound library samples have been donated to the project by the Berklee College of Music, Berklee Music Synthesis alumni (including electronic musician BT and the international Csound Developer community), M-Audio, Digidesign, and the Open Path Music group! The samples are being released under a CC BY license and while they are intended for (and facilitated by) the OLPC project, they are available publicly, making this a a huge contribution not only to the OLPC but also to those looking for free, high quality, samples in general.
You can check out all the samples on the OLPC wiki as well as see a breakdown of the OLPC’s music making capabilities over at Create Digital Music. The OLPC is paving a new road for contemporary music education with this announcement and it will be absolutely fascinating to see how these samples are put to use by their intended practitioners. From OLPC:
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“One Laptop per Child has inspired musicians to donate their sound collections to the children of the world,” said Dr. Richard Boulanger, professor of music synthesis at the Berklee College of Music and the organizer of the Berklee collection being donated to OLPC. “By providing extraordinary access to the resources to play, mix, transform, imitate and create sounds, sound effects, music and audio art works, this donation will enable children with XO laptops to learn about music and sound, and to learn about themselves and their world. This collection will inspire and promote incredible music-making on the XO laptop and will invigorate the creative audio work of all computer musicians.”
Yesterday Google, MySpace, and newest partner Yahoo! announced the formation of the OpenSocial Foundation, a non-profit organization that works “to ensure the neutrality and longevity of OpenSocial as an open, community-governed specification for building social applications across the web.” From the press release:
The foundation will provide transparency and operational guidelines around technology, documentation, intellectual property, and other issues related to the evolution of the OpenSocial platform, while also ensuring all stakeholders share influence over its future direction.
OpenSocial defines a common API (application programming interface) for social applications across multiple websites. OpenSocial helps developers avoid reinventing the wheel by “providing common ‘plumbing’ that lets social applications run on many different websites without requiring duplicate work from either developers or the websites.”
Read the OpenSocial Foundation press release here.Comments Off
Each member of the winning team will receive an iPod shuffle loaded with Creative Commons music! Second and third place teams will win copies of “Wikipedia, The Missing Manual” donated by O’Reilly.
All photos will be uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons for inclusion into Wikipedia articles about NYC that need photos. We’ve got hundreds of locations, sites, and things to document for Wikipedia and it should be a really fun day.
The event will be held Friday, March 28 (April 4 is rain date). See the announcement here.1 Comment »
Good Crew, a pop-rock band from Japan, have released the vocal tracks for all the songs from their new album, Nippon Husky, under a CC BY-NC-SA license. While this in itself is great news (we always love to hear about people using licenses!) this is especially noteworthy in that Good Crew are signed to Columbia Music Entertainment in Japan (and got said recording contract through user voting), making this the first major label release in Japan to use CC licenses.
Good Crew will be holding a remix contest using the tracks from now until May 10th (get the tracks here), with Good Crew choosing their two favorite remixes for prize winnings. The Grand Prize winner will receive a Sanyo Xacti with the second place winner (and the Special Humor Award) recieving a $100 Amazon Gift card. From ejovi:
OtoRevo has created a lot of first. OtoRevo and Columbia Music Entertainment were the first label to sign a major artist (Good Crew) exclusively from user voting. Now we have done another first, we are the first major label to release tracks from a major release under Creative Commons.
You can download the mp3 vocal tracks from Good Crew’s album on the OtoRevo website.
We are releasing the vocal tracks for anyone to remix and mashup. The most interesting remixer will win a Xacti camera. Unfortunately the page is in Japanese, but downloading and listening to the tracks is pretty simple. I love Kuroki-san’s voice (lead singer). The name of the album is Nippon Ha:Ski. When you hear her voice you will know why.
Even if you don’t want to remix, download and listen to the tracks. Of course if you like it, you might like the album!
If you or someone you know has had their photographs reused in an intriguing way, please send the story and corresponding photograph to melissa AT creativecommons DOT org. This is super significant in helping us explain to the larger community why CC is important for photographers. We have a short time frame and any help from those in the CC community is greatly appreciated!3 Comments »