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Re: Creative Commons Attribution license element

<posted & mailed>

Evan Prodromou wrote:
> Making our organization's ideas known to Creative Commons could have
> meant a better suite of licenses for the 2.0 release. Instead, the
> opportunity was missed. As far as I know, the above-mentioned analysis
> wasn't forwarded to Creative Commons before today.
How disturbing.  I think we thought it had been.

> But requiring attribution to the original author does not appear to me
> to be that kind of burden. In particular, the license makes it clear
> that you must "give the Original Author credit reasonable to the
> medium or means You are utilizing". A Licensor could not abuse this
> requirement by making Attribution impractical -- say, by providing a
> 5-terabyte name or title. Licensees are only required to give
> Attribution in a reasonable way.

Actually, I think most of clause 4b is fine; it's only one little bit of it
which is troublesome.  I will now analyze it carefully:

>From clause 4b:
>If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly
>digitally perform the Work or any Derivative Works or Collective Works, 
>You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work 
So far free.

>and give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means You
>are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable) of the
>Original Author if supplied; 
I think this is a reasonable and free requirement.  It's trivial and easy,
and amounts to nothing more than proper attribution.

>the title of the Work if supplied;
This is a stronger requirement, but I also think this is reasonable and a
free requirement.  This *does* correspond vaguely to requiring appropriate
references to prior work (as is done in scientific papers), unlike some
other things we've discusses.  Also, it's standard practice in the free
software community.

>to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if
>any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such
>URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the
Well, I think this is barely free, though it's a little silly.

>and in the case of a Derivative Work, a credit identifying the use of the
>Work in the Derivative Work (e.g., "French translation of the Work by
>Original Author," or "Screenplay based on original Work by Original
Likewise this is a reasonable and free requirement.

>Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner;
Great!  In other words, for Debian, we put it in the copyright file along
with all the other credits.  Or we put it in a CREDITS file or a
CONTRIBUTORS file or a NOTICES file.  Or next to the copyright notices in
the files.  Or whatever.  Except then there's this next clause....

>provided, however, that in the case of a Derivative Work or Collective
>Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable
>authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such
>other comparable authorship credit.

*This* is the problem clause.  It's unclear to most of us exactly what "any
other comparable authorship credit" means.  If it means "the credit given
to any other author who wrote approximately the same amount of the
material" -- then it might possibly be a free requirement, or it might not
(I'm not sure, since I haven't thought about it); but it's ceratinly an
ugly requirement.  If it means "the credit given to any other author of the
same work", it certainly isn't.  If it means something else, I have no

With this ambiguity, the "at least as prominent" requirement is then a
potential interpretation nightmare.  Suppose, for a silly and extreme
example, you wanted to use a huge hunk of material under this license in a
version of ReiserFS, so that the code under this license needed a
"comparable authorship credit" to Reiser's.  Would that mean that the
credit would have to appear in the FS name, so as to be in the same
location and at least as prominent as Reiser's credit?  Yeech.

"Prominent" credit requirements are the specific type of credit requirements
we've been objecting to.  They cause endless trouble in a way that ordinary
credit requirements do not.

This might be fixable with a clarification, or a lawyer's opinion on what
exactly it *means*, rather than a license change.

Evan wrote:
> 2) I agree with this one. The intention appears to be to allow
> copyright holders to avoid having their name used in advertisement, a
> la the BSD, but in an opt-out rather than opt-in fashion.
> However, as stated, it would indeed allow a license holder to prevent
> _any_ mention of themselves in derivative works. This could severely
> limit the licensee's freedom. An example would be an annotated version
> of a work that critiques the writer, or an autobiography that is
> revised to include critical comments or facts about the writer.
> It would probably be useful to modify the license to show that the
> licensor can revoke the Attribution requirements, but not prevent
> other mention of their name.

Right.  This is the deal-breaker clause, which absolutely must be fixed to
create a free license.
>From clause 4a:
> If You create a Collective Work, upon notice from any Licensor You must,
>to the extent practicable, remove from the Collective Work any reference
>to such Licensor or the Original Author, as requested. If You create a
>Derivative Work, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent
>practicable, remove from the Derivative Work any reference to such    
>Licensor or the Original Author, as requested.   

Evan wrote:
> 3) As for the trademark clause, I agree that the trademark requirement
> is burdensome.
This isn't supposed to be an actual part of the license, according to the
source code for the web page; this should be fixed so that this is clear
when *viewing* the web page (it is *not* clear now).  That doesn't require
changing the license.  It does require someone at Creative Commons noticing
and dealing with the issue.  :-P

> So, that's my feedback. I'd like to know what can be done to amend the
> analysis and re-open this license (as well as Attribution 2.0,
> ShareAlike 1.0, and Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 and 2.0) for
> consideration.
Changes and clarifications by Creative Commons, basically.

> On the Creative Commons side, I'd wonder what opportunity there is to
> get Debian's very tardy comments and critiques applied to new versions
> of the CC licenses.

I hope there is some.  My previous comments must have been going to the
wrong address or something.  You can forward this if you like.

I speak only for myself, of course, etc.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

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