Improving the CC Legal User Interface
Mike Linksvayer, May 29th, 2011
Last month at the New and Emerging Legal Infrastructures Conference I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on Interface Design for Legal Systems. See my presentation on slideshare or as a pdf.
This led to some reflection upon and discussion of Creative Commons’ “Legal User Interfaces” (LUIs). Each of the “layers” (the legalcode or license itself, the “human-readable deed” explanation of the license, and a “machine-readable” description of the license) of CC licenses serve both as user interfaces and opportunities to build upon to create further user interfaces, as are CC license buttons, the license chooser, and search. I focused on the deeds, which probably most transparently serve as LUIs, and as they are highly visual and subject to obvious critique, make for good presentation and discussion material.
this bug for the action) improvements to the deeds based on feedback we’ve gotten or frequently give that are in hindsight pretty obvious:After the conference, my colleagues Diane Peters, Alex Roberts, and Chris Webber made two (or three, depending on how one counts; see
- Under the “You are free:” heading, “to make commercial use of the work” had been dropped in late 2006 from deeds for licenses without the NonCommercial (NC) condition in preparation for adding “share” and “remix” icons (a “commercial use” icon would have constituted icon overload and pushed important conditions further down the page). While the absence of NC on such licenses is telling, bringing a call-out of commercial use permission back to the deeds seems appropriate given occasional criticism that some associate CC only with NC use.
- Speaking of icon overload, one thing I often notice when someone has an idea along the lines of “CC for X” (where X is most frequently related to privacy) is a tendency to invent a whole bunch of icons to represent a complex space. But lots of icons means most won’t be widely recognized and many won’t be intuitive. It’s really hard to come up with an intuitive icon to represent often abstract concepts! This reflection made it easy to drop the “share” and “remix” icons (keeping the text) from CC deeds while adding commercial use text (see above). Now the only icons on CC deeds are for license conditions, which are reinforced by their presence on CC license buttons on millions of web pages and that the concepts they represent are reflected in CC license names.
- Occasionally someone will complain about the mere existence of CC deeds, as it is the licenses that have legal force, or a softer version, that the deeds may provide a useful overview, but people should really read the licenses (example). Such criticism has always been swamped by appreciation of the value of the quick “human readable” explanation that the deeds provide. Still, we realized a very simple change would put the full licenses more front and center for anyone who wants to read them in full (please do; more CC expertise in the world is of great help) — move the notice “This is a human-readable summary of the Legal Code (the full license).” from the bottom to the top of CC deeds!
Initial reaction to these changes has been very positive, but we welcome criticism and suggestions for further improvement. One nice thing about these changes is that they did not require any new or changed text, thus creating no new work for translators. However, if you see anything that could be improved in your language, joining a CC translation team is a really valuable way to get involved.
Although we don’t usually post about small tweaks to the various CC layers and tools (again, all of which serve as LUIs and building blocks for further interfaces), we’re constantly on the lookout for improvements and have worked particularly on the With the understanding that: section of the deeds over the past year or so.
The ability to make such explanatory improvements as use cases, the law, and technology all change is indeed a benefit of having human readable deeds as an interface to our licenses (all of this also applies to CC0, our public domain dedication), which can only change when introducing a new version, which must be done very rarely. We’re building up to public discussion of just that, version 4.0, so now is a great time to critique, give feedback and make suggestions with respect to all aspects of CC tools.