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Creative Commons update and steps forward

So, as most people here know, we've been contacted by Creative Commons
to "work out" the issues over their licenses.

I got email from Lawrence Lessig this week that their new general
counsel, Mia Garlick, has been reviewing the debian-legal summary and
will have a response for us by 8 April. We'd like to have a telephone
conference between Debian representatives and Creative Commons to
discuss our problems, their responses, and see where we go from there.

The DPL has tapped me to be the "Debian official" for this process. The
following people have agreed to participate as part of a "Debian
workgroup" for the discussions:

      * Don Armstrong
      * Matthew Garrett
      * Branden Robinson
      * Benjamin "Mako" Hill
      * Evan "Me" Prodromou

The following people have been proposed but haven't given a definitive
yes or no:

      * MJ Ray
      * Andrew Suffield

I'd like to hear from them before the end of the week, please. Also, I'd
like to hear from Marco that this group is sufficiently balanced for his
tastes. It's a bit too big for an efficient meeting, but I think all the
people asked are necessary.

Goals and Criteria

My goal for this workgroup is to make works licensed under Attribution
or Attribution-ShareAlike licenses acceptable for inclusion in Debian. A
secondary but less optimal goal would be to clarify definitively that
Creative Commons does not intend work available under these licenses to
be free.

As far as I can see, approving these CC licenses would require:

      * ...written clarifications for ambiguous terms in the licenses,
        e.g., some statement saying that "any reference" in the
        revocation clause is specifically for authorship credit and not
        other references.
      * ...changes to the license itself to make these terms more clear.

I'm not confident that external clarification for all of our objections
would be sufficient to make works under the 2.0 licenses DFSG-free.
There are some objections that are not based on unclear terms; for
example, distributing DRM'd works in parallel with cleartext version
does not seem acceptable under any interpretation of the current
license. I definitely think license text changes would be optimal for
all of the recommendations, if possible.

I think we could come to a conclusion that the licenses are decisively
_not_ free if:

      * CC says that, yes, they mean "any reference" in the revocation
      * CC says that parallel distribution of DRM'd and cleartext works
        is not acceptable (possible), or that other access-controlled,
        encrypted or private distribution is unacceptable (less likely).
      * CC says that the trademark restrictions are binding on licensor
        and licensee.

There may be other sticking points that would ensure that these licenses
are not free, and will not be.

Finally, I think it's possible that CC leaves some terms undefined, and
that we reject or approve the licenses regardless. I'd prefer that that
didn't happen, though.

Steps Forward

Here's what I think our steps forward should be:

     1. Review the summary document and get to a final version before 8
        April. I would like to make sure that we have our story straight
        amongst ourselves before conveying it to others. In particular,
        I'd like to have signoff from the members of the workgroup on
        the summary and the above goals.
     2. Review the Creative Commons response when it's available.
     3. In a telephone conference, explain the summary, give context,
        and make suggestions for making the licenses acceptable for
     4. Based on clarifications and/or modifications that result from
        these discussions, re-evaluate the 2.0 licenses and/or evaluate
        modified 2.x or 3.x licenses when they become available. 

Comments or suggestions welcome.

As a final note, I'd like to make the point that opportunities like this
don't come along often. We have the chance now to make CC-licensed works
available in Debian, or at least make it clear that such works
definitely should _not_ be available in Debian.

Anyone here can easily sabotage this effort. If you get this discussion
off-track so we don't keep our eyes on our goals, we will fail. 

If there is something I can do to get your buy-in on this process and
keep it going, let me know so I can do it. If there's _nothing_ I can do
and you're going to stand in the way no matter what, please let me know
now so we all stop wasting our time.

Thanks to everyone who's participated so far. Let's hope this work has
some fruitful results.


Evan Prodromou <evan@debian.org>

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