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Draft summary of Creative Commons 2.0 licenses (version 2)

Below is a second version of the summary of the Creative Commons 2.0 licenses. The main changes are:

* I've converted it to reST to make it easy to read in plain text and convert to HTML or what have you. * The summaries by license have been changed to four sections: by 2.0, by-sa 2.0, *-nd-*, and *-nc-*.
* Removed statements about licenses being non-free (thanks MJ Ray).
* Added note on anti-DRM clause.
* Added note on requesting removal of references and credits requirement.
* Added intro about Debian and debian-legal (for non-Debian readers).
* Added intro about Creative Commons and the license suite.
* Added recommendations for authors.
* Added recommendations for Creative Commons.
* Added links to pertinent documents.
* Other minor changes.

Comments and criticism welcome. I intend to add in Andrew Suffield's notes about providing parallel DRM'd and non-DRM'd versions of a work, and giving clearer recommendations.



debian-legal Summary of Creative Commons 2.0 Licenses

:Author: Evan Prodromou <evan@debian.org>
:Date: 21 Jul 2004
:Version: 2
:Contact: debian-legal mailing list <debian-legal@lists.debian.org>
:Copyright: This document is dedicated by the author to the public domain.

This document gives a summary of the opinion of debian-legal members on the
six licenses that make up the Creative Commons license suite.

About debian-legal

Debian [DEBIAN]_ is an operating system consisting entirely of Free
Software. Our definition of "Free Software" is specified in the Debian Free
Software Guidelines [DFSG]_.

debian-legal [LEGAL]_ is a mailing list whose members provide guidance for
the Debian project on, among other things, the acceptability of software and
other content for inclusion in the Debian operating system. This includes
comparing the license terms of packages against the DFSG to determine if the
packages are Free Software.

From time to time the debian-legal list provides a review of a well-known
software license to express a rough consensus opinion on whether software
released solely under the license would be Free Software. Although these
summaries are not binding, they do provide some basis for the Debian project
to make decisions about individual packages.

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons [CC]_ is an organization "devoted to expanding the range of
creative work available for others to build upon and share." The
organization has created a suite of licenses [LICENSES]_ that content
creators can use to specify certain rights that the public can exercise with
respect to a particular work. The licenses were released at the end of 2003;
there are already over 1 million works released under a Creative Commons

Although Creative Commons explicitly recommends that their licenses not be
used for programs [1]_, works licensed under the Creative Commons licenses are
still of interest to the Debian project. Debian includes documentation for
programs, and many programs included in Debian use digital data such as
images, video, or text, that are not normally considered "software".

The Creative Commons licenses are based on a common framework, but have a
varied number of license elements that can be included to grant or revoke
particular rights. Because of the similarity between the licenses, this
document covers all six licenses.

License summaries

Attribution 2.0

debian-legal contributors think that works licensed solely under the
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license [BY]_ are not free
according to the DFSG and should not be included in Debian.

We see the following problems with the license.

Removing References

Section 4a of the license states, in part,

    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.
Per DFSG 3, any licensor should be allowed to make and distribute modified
versions of a work. The above clause allows a licensor to prohibit modified
versions that mention them or reference them.

For example, an author who made a novel available under an Attribution 2.0
license could give notice to disallow an annotated version that mentions the
author by name or simply as "the author".

A more specific example for Debian would be a programmer who creates
documentation licensed under Attribution 2.0. He could require that
references in derived versions to design or implementation decisions he made
for the program be removed.

In addition, Section 4b of the license requires that the author's name,
copyright notices, and some other information be included in derivative
works, "if supplied".

It's unclear whether the creator of a derivative work can comply with the
requirement to remove references and also comply with the requirement to
give attribution. It's not specified that a licensee who has been asked to
remove references to the licensor has the requirements of attribution

If a request to remove references can make it impossible for licensees to
comply with section 4b, and thus makes it impossible for them make
derivative works (DFSG 3) or collective works (DFSG 1), the work is not free.

Any Other Comparable Authorship Credit

Section 4b describes the requirements for crediting the Licensor for his or
her work. It states, in part:

    Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; 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.

There are several ambiguous or vague terms in this clause.

"any other"
    This can mean "some other" or "all other". The first would mean that
    authorship must be credited somewhere, and particularly where other
    credit goes. The second would mean that authorship must be credited
    everywhere that authors are credited.

"comparable authorship credit"
    This could mean either "credit for comparable authorship" or "comparable
    credit for authorship". The first interpretation would allow crediting
    an author with all other authors who have made similar contributions.
    The second would require crediting the author where any author is
    credited, even if the level of contribution is not comparable.

A licensee cannot exercise the rights granted in the license if they can't
meet these requirements. For this reason, the most pessimistic
interpretation of the requirements must be used. This would require
attribution for the licensor everywhere that authorship credit is given,
even if that credit is inaccurate, and even if the licensor's contribution
is not comparable to others. Some examples:

* If a work is a collection of essays by different authors, with authorship
  credit given in the chapter titles, the Licensor's name would have to be
  listed for each chapter title, even if they did not contribute to it.

* For an encyclopedia with a large number of authors, all authors would be
  listed at every point of authorship notice: on the spine, on the front and
  back covers, on the title page.

* If Alice writes her autobiography, and includes lyrics from Bob's song in
  one chapter, she must give him credit for the entire work: "The
  Autobiography of Alice, by Alice and Bob", or even The Autobiography of
  Alice and Bob.

Requiring inaccurate or excessive authorship credits is an unreasonable
restriction on distribution (DFSG 1) and making modified versions (DFSG 3).

Anti-DRM clause

Section 4a says, in part,

        You may not distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or
        publicly digitally perform the Work with any technological
        measures that control access or use of the Work in a manner
        inconsistent with the terms of this License Agreement.

It's not clear which if any "technological measures" would be consistent
with the terms of the license. Because of this vagueness, we have to take a
worst-case view and consider that there are *no* such measures that are

If this is the case, private distribution of the work would seem to be
forbidden. Along with obvious technological measures that control access,
such as a firewall on a LAN or a virtual private network (VPN), distributing
using encryption (such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)) would appear to be

DFSG 1 requires that works be freely redistributable, both publicly and
privately. Disallowing private distribution appears to be incompatible with
that goal.

Trademark Restrictions

The only version of the license available from Creative Commons is a Web
page that includes the following text:

    Except for the limited purpose of indicating to the public that the Work
    is licensed under the CCPL, neither party will use the trademark
    "Creative Commons" or any related trademark or logo of Creative Commons
    without the prior written consent of Creative Commons.

These restrictions make excessive demands on both licensor and licensee, and
abridge their fair use rights to the Creative Commons trademarks. This puts
an excessive burden on the licensee and effectively prevents redistribution
(DFSG 1) and modification (DFSG 3). In addition, it violates DFSG 9,
"License Must Not Contaminate Other Software", since it prohibits fair use
of the trademark even in works unrelated to the current one.

Note that the HTML source code for the Web page includes a comment that the
trademark restrictions are "NOT A PART OF THE LICENSE". In a graphical Web
browser, the text for the trademark restrictions are visually distinct from
the license text. Creative Commons representatives have stated that the
trademark restrictions are not part of the license. Finally, the same block
of text states, "Creative Commons is not a party to this License, [...]".

However, debian-legal feels that the visual distinctions are not
sufficiently clear to indicate that the trademark restrictions are not part
of the license, and some instances of the license found in the wild include
the trademark restrictions. The relation of the trademark restrictions to
the license proper is sufficiently ambiguous to make it difficult for
licensees to comply.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

debian-legal contributors think that works licensed solely under the
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 [BY-SA]_ are not free according to the DFSG and
should not be included in Debian.

The Attribution-ShareAlike has the same problems as the Attribution 2.0

NoDerivs licenses

debian-legal contributors think that works licensed solely under licenses
with the NoDerivs license element are not free according to the DFSG
and should not be included in Debian. These licenses include:

* the Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 license [BY-ND]_
* the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license [BY-NC-ND]_

These licenses have the same problems as the Attribution 2.0 license. In
addition, there is no grant of rights to make derivative works, which is
required by DFSG 3.

NonCommercial licenses

debian-legal contributors think that works licensed solely under licenses
with the NonCommercial license element are not free according to the DFSG
and should not be included in Debian.  These licenses include:

* Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license
* Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 license [BY-NC]_
* Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license [BY-NC-SA]_

These licenses have the same problems as the Attribution 2.0 license. In
addition, Section 4b (Section 4c in the by-nc-sa 2.0) says:

    You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above
    in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward
    commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.

This is incompatible with DFSG 6, "No Discrimination Against Fields of
Endeavor", which includes discrimination against businesses. It's also
incompatible with DFSG 1, which requires that licensees be allowed to sell
copies of the work.

Recommendations for Authors

debian-legal contributors recommend that authors who wish to create works
compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines should not use any of
the licenses in the Creative Commons license suite.

Authors who use or are planning to use a Creative Commons license that
includes the NonCommercial or NoDerivs license elements should understand
that these restrictions are incompatible with Free Software.

Authors who use or are planning to use the Attribution 2.0 license should
consider a similar Free Software license such as a BSD- or MIT-style license
[BSD]_, [MIT]_.

Authors who use or are planning to use the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0
license should consider a similar Free Software license such as the General
Public License [GPL]_.

Recommendations for Creative Commons

debian-legal contributors believe that problems with the Creative Commons
licenses that include the NoDerivs or NonCommercial license elements cannot
be fixed without changing the apparent purpose of the licenses.

The Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike licenses, however, seem to be
intended to make works Free in a way compatible with the DFSG. For this
reason, we make the following suggestions for future versions of the
Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike licenses that, barring other changes,
should make the licenses compatible with the DFSG.

1. *Limit scope of requests to remove references*. The intention of the
   clause for removing references to a licensor seems to be that
   _authorship_credits_ should be removed. This should be specified, rather
   than "any reference".

2. *Waive attribution after request to remove references*. It should be made
   explicit that if the Licensor requires that references to them be removed,
   this excuses the licensee from the requirements for attribution.

3. *Allow access-controlled private distribution*. The anti-DRM clause
   should be changed to make it clear that the licensee can't prevent others
   receiving the work from exercising the same rights that the licensee has.

4. *Allow distribution of rights-restricted copies of works if unrestricted
   copies are also made available.*

5. *Require "credit for comparable authorship".* This makes it clear that
   the Licensor should be credited in proportion to their contribution,
   rather than equally to all other authors.

6. *Specify "other credit".* Licensors should receive _some_ credit, but
   adding their name wherever _any_ credit is made is excessive and

Note that new versions will be evaluated on their own, and problems
introduced in the new version or that weren't covered in this summary may
still make the licenses incompatible with the DFSG. In other words, these
suggestions come with no guarantees.


.. [DEBIAN] http://www.debian.org/
.. [DFSG]   http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines
.. [LEGAL]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/
.. [CC]	    http://creativecommons.org/
.. [LICENSES] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/
.. [1]	    http://creativecommons.org/faq#faq_entry_3646
.. [BY]	    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
.. [BY-ND]  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
.. [BY-NC-ND] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
.. [BY-NC]  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
.. [BY-NC-SA] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
.. [BY-SA]  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
.. [BSD] http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.php
.. [MIT] http://www.opensource.org/licenses/mit-license.php
.. [GPL] http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html


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