Update to CC’s Policy on Legal Code Corrections

Diane PetersSarah Pearson

Creative Commons is changing its legal code correction policy for official translations of the Version 4.0 licenses and the CC0 public domain dedication. In order to maintain the integrity of our firm commitment to honor official translations as legal equivalents of the original English 4.0 version and the original English CC0 1.0, CC will correct published official translations when any type of error is identified. 

Creative Commons is committed to maintaining canonical, stable, and unchanged versions of the legal code of its licenses and public domain tools. This policy applies to every legal tool stewarded by CC, including ported versions of the licenses, which are versions adapted both to the particular local language and law of a given jurisdiction, as well as deprecated tools, such as the Developing Nations and Sampling licenses. When errors to those legal tools have been identified, they have either resulted in new versions of the tools or been documented as minor errors on the Legal Code errata page.

Creative Commons has made the decision to adapt this policy with respect to official translations of the 4.0 licenses and CC0 1.0. By way of background, starting with the release of the Version 4.0 license suite in 2013*, CC ceased porting its legal tools because it was no longer necessary given the internationalization efforts surrounding 4.0. We instead committed to creating official linguistic translations of the original English version, without making any adjustments based on local law. While respecting the international reach of CC licenses, English was the language in which CC worked with its global community to negotiate and finalize terms of the 4.0 license suite (as well as our public domain tools), and so, as a community, we must recognize English as the original for purposes of official translation. That said, CC and our community are committed to the idea that all official translations are legal equivalents much like official instruments of the United Nations are negotiated, translated, and treated as equivalents. In other words, CC’s official translations are not separate licenses.This background is useful to understanding why Creative Commons has made the decision to adapt its policy for official translations. 

To be clear, CC’s legal code correction policy will remain the same for Version 3.0 and prior versions of the licenses, including ports. The policy will also remain unchanged for the Version 4.0 English legal code and the CC0 English legal code. For those, CC will continue to maintain static versions of the legal code, even when errors are identified. All such corrections will be cited in a footer on the relevant legal code and publicly documented in full on the Legal Code errata page.

To date, after six years of overseeing the publication of official translations of 4.0 and CC0, CC has identified only one official translation with known material errors. Upon discovery, this translation was immediately hidden from public view with the consent of the translation team in order to avoid confusion by reusers. CC will be publishing corrected versions of that translation pursuant to this modified policy and process shortly. In response to these errors, CC has also revisited its legal code translation policy and processes to increase quality control and documentation.

We remain committed to ensuring the integrity of our legal code for licensors and licensees, and we believe this modified policy best accomplishes these goals. Please direct any questions to legal@creativecommons.org.

* This policy change was made, in part, as a result of the structure of the Version 4.0 licenses, which are designed to take effect according to applicable copyright law wherever the licensed work is used. Given this international design and operation, it is no longer necessary to adapt the legal code to the laws of particular jurisdictions. CC0 has never been ported, only officially translated.