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Re: Creative Commons Attribution license element

<posted & mailed>

Evan Prodromou wrote:

>>>>>> "NN" == Nathanael Nerode <neroden@twcny.rr.com> writes:
>     NN> Actually, I think most of clause 4b is fine; it's only one
>     NN> little bit of it which is troublesome.
> Thanks for your close attention. This is really helpful.
>     4b> to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource
>     4b> Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated
>     4b> with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright
>     4b> notice or licensing information for the Work;
>     NN> Well, I think this is barely free, though it's a little silly.
> It's probably less silly in light of the mechanism Creative Commons
> suggests for embedding license info into artifacts with tight space
> for metadata:
>         http://creativecommons.org/technology/embedding
> For file formats like MP3/ID3, there's only so much space for rights
> info. So, CC recommends storing an URL to the full info.
> One thing that bothers me, though, is how this becomes 'barely
> free'. I realize that it may be *annoying* or *stupid*, but how is it
> *non-free*? I understand how *excessive* conditions on modifications
> may make something non-free, but requiring that a verbatim URL be
> included with the Work doesn't seem excessive to me.

What I meant was simply that many similar, but slightly different,
requirements would be non-free.  The requirement as is is certainly free. 
By 'barely free' I guess I was sloppily trying to discourage people from
taking it, making a stronger requirement loosely based on it, and then
saying "But you said the CC clause was free; why isn't this one?"

Requiring that an arbitrary verbatim URI be "conveyed" with any derived work
is potentially non-free, depending on how arbitrary the URI is.  A work
derivative of a large number of works could end up having to carry absurd
numbers of arbitrary URIs with it.

Luckily, this only requires that it be conveyed if the URI refers to the
copyright notice or licensing information for the work; and only "to the
extent reasonably practicable"; so it's free.

> I also am having a problem with understanding how putting limits on
> the modification of metadata (info about the Work) makes something
> non-free.

Well, there are at least two different issues wrapped up in this (possibly
more).  Requiring that unmodified metadata be carried around is *not* the
same as restricting the creation of modified metadata.

Requiring that unmodified metadata be carried around alongside derived works
is generally fine IMO *if* the metadata is accurate, really is metadata,
and is otherwise not legally problematic.  Many licenses have been very
sloppy about this, requiring text to be carried around which will not be
accurate for reasonable derived works, or which is wholly irrelevant to
some reasonable derived works.

If the creation of certain types of modified metadata is restricted, the
metadata may itself be non-free.  The question then becomes (a) whether is
is, and (b) how much, if any, non-free metadata is an acceptable load for a
free work.

> This seems to be standard issue with most free licenses (you 
> have to keep copyright notices,
When interpreted to include only accurate copyright notices, this is free.

> you have to distribute the license 
> with the work,
The correct license for the work?  This is free.

> you have to keep a change history,
This is one of those where it depends on exactly how the requirement is
written.  "You must note your changes"?  Free.  "You must reproduce an
unmodified, and potentially inaccurate and irrelevant, copy of the upstream
ChangeLog?" Not free.

> yadda yadda). I see  
> where restrictions on the content (can't change function names, can't
> change the ending of the short story) are non-free, but I'm not sure I
> grok why metadata "invariance" is.
> I really need some help getting this straight in my head. What am I
> missing, here?

Hope what I said above helps at least clarify thos issues a little.

Now on to the actual nub of the problem at hand.

>     4b> provided, however, that in the case of a Derivative Work or
>     4b> Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any
>     4b> other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at
>     4b> least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.
>     NN> *This* is the problem clause.  It's unclear to most of us
>     NN> exactly what "any other comparable authorship credit" means.
> Yes, I see that. Is it "credit for comparable authorship", or "comparable
> credit for authorship"? A failure of the appositive!

> The "any other ..." part is kind of difficult, too. Does it mean "some
> other ..." (credit has to be somewhere), or "every other ..." (anytime
> there's credit, this one has to be there, too)?

>     NN> With this ambiguity, the "at least as prominent" requirement
>     NN> is then a potential interpretation nightmare.  Suppose, for a
>     NN> silly and extreme example, you wanted to use a huge hunk of
>     NN> material under this license in a version of ReiserFS, so that
>     NN> the code under this license needed a "comparable authorship
>     NN> credit" to Reiser's.  Would that mean that the credit would
>     NN> have to appear in the FS name, so as to be in the same
>     NN> location and at least as prominent as Reiser's credit?  Yeech.
> Yeech, yes. Possibly a more appropriate example would be when I
> include an Attribution-licensed quote from you (beyond the extent of
> fair use) in my book, "The Autobiography of Evan Prodromou". Would I
> have to change the title to "The Autobiography of Evan Prodromou and
> Nathanael Nerode"?

Indeed.  If this *is* the requirement, it seems self-evidently non-free.
Surely this isn't supposed to be the requirement.... or is it?.... see, we
can't really be sure!

> Again, though, I wonder about the non-free aspects of this. Clumsy and
> inaccurate, yes. Non-free...? Would it be non-free because it's not
> possible for the licensee to comply because the license is vague?

Yes, in a word.  If it's impossible for the licensee to know whether s/he's
in compliance or not, it's not in any real sense "free" for the licensee.  

If we can't tell what a license means, we interpret it in the most
restrictive manner which seems reasonable.  (Unless we have clarification
from the copyright holders as to their interpretation, of course.) 
Otherwise, the copyright holder could just say "You misinterpreted the
license; I meant it in a more restrictive manner," and poof, the work turns
out to be non-free.

I hope this bit can be fixed, because I don't *think* that Creative Commons
intended the very restrictive interpretation.  (Altough I'm not sure.)

And the trademark bit:
>     NN> This isn't supposed to be an actual part of the license,
>     NN> according to the source code for the web page; this should be
>     NN> fixed so that this is clear when *viewing* the web page (it is
>     NN> *not* clear now).  That doesn't require changing the license.
>     NN> It does require someone at Creative Commons noticing and
>     NN> dealing with the issue.  :-P
> Probably something as simple as:
>     "Creative Commons", the Creative Commons logo, and the Some Rights
>     Reserved logo are trademarks of Creative Commons. Their use is
>     restricted by Creative Commons <trademark policy> to the extent of
>     applicable law.
> ...would work better.

So true.  :-)

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