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Re: Scope of Creative Commons ShareAlike licensing for game assets

Nils Dagsson Moskopp <nils@dieweltistgarnichtso.net> writes:

> in the past, I have asked visual novel authors if they would release
> their games under a free software license, to make them suitable for
> inclusion in Debian. Visual novels can be classified as mixed-media
> interactive fiction, featuring mostly static graphics, text, music.

Thank you for working to ensure the freedom of Debian recipients.

> To me, one of the most common problems with visual novel licensing
> seems to be that many authors choose a Creative Commons license which
> features Attribution, ShareAlike (copyleft), and NonCommercial (no
> commercial use allowed), in short CC BY-NC-SA.

The folks at Question Copyright have an article aimed at producers of
artistic works, encouraging use of only the freedom-preserving clauses,
calling the result “CC Pro” <URL:http://questioncopyright.org/cc-pro>.

You might find it helpful to use that article, and the specific
arguments in it, when conversing with authors of artistic work.

> Developers often point to the music they used for the reason behind
> that and claim that the scope of the Creative Commons ShareAlike
> licensing requires that code must also be licensed CC BY-NC-SA, thus
> definitely non-free according to DFSG and FSF criteria.

This would be a question of whether one (part of the) work constitutes a
“derived work” of the prior one. If a jurisdiction would rule that the
answer is affirmative, then yes, the derived work must comply with the
license conditions of the prior work.

> I sincerely doubt that a game must necessarily be considered an
> adaption of its background music – since usually, game and music are
> very loosely coupled and one can turn off or replace the music without
> any breackage.

Copyright law frequently is enforced in a manner contrary to common
sense. I wouldn't want to ignore the possibility merely because the
outcome seems absurd.

> AFAIK, it has long been the stance of both the Free Software
> Foundation and Creative Commons, that functional data (code) and
> non-functional data (assets) do not necessarily interact with each
> other license-wise:

“Do not necessarily interacy” is a different claim from “do not in any
case interact”.

Regardless, all of Debian – whether code or not, documentation or not,
music or graphic image or database or otherwise – is equally subject to
the Debian Free Software Guidelines. If any work comes with restrictions
contrary to those guidelines, it should not be in Debian.

> I hereby want to ask the debian-legal experts regarding the scope of
> Creative Commons ShareAlike licensing. Must a visual novel using CC
> BY-NC-SA licensed background music be considered an adaption of the
> background music and therefore have code licensed under CC BY-NC-SA?
> Or can such visual novels be considered mere aggregations of music and
> other content, with the game code being licensed under a free license?

The question, of whether they are “mere aggregation” or whether the
combined work consitutes derivation, is complex. Given current copyright
regimes, it can only be decided, IMO, on a case-by-case basis.

> Depending on the answer, it might be possible to package some visual
> novels in Debian without background music, if the developers license
> other, gameplay-wise necessary, assets under a free software license.

This sounds like a desirable outcome, I wish you good fortune in
achieving it.

 \       “Never use a long word when there's a commensurate diminutive |
  `\                                    available.” —Stan Kelly-Bootle |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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