Thoughts On Licensing

Involved Pages

Prior to change

After change

Thought - Shall we standardize capitalization for general information pages? Ray

Yes, I think we should. I prefer "Title Case" for these kinds of pages. I think Wikipedia uses "Sentence case". TedErnst

Preamble

We've known for a while that we'd like to do a free document license, but had trouble picking one. Here's our current thinking:

  1. We'd like other projects to use the AboutUs data in new an interesting ways and have compatibility with as much of the "free content" world as possible. So we're thinking that people should be able to take content from our site under one of two licenses (user may chose):
    1. Creative Commons by-sa 3.0
    2. GFDL
  2. When people add content to our site, they will see the following message:
    1. You own the content you create. You may use it however and wherever you want to.
    2. By uploading or creating content here, you are gifting AboutUs with the permission to use the content however and wherever we want to as well. This is important so that we can easily share the content with others who are working to build the commons.
    3. You should also feel warmly welcomed to upload content that is public domain, falls under fair use, or that was intended to be shared by its creator(s). Thank you for respecting the wishes of content creators and not adding material they wouldn't want shared.
  3. We also intend to make complete dumps of the data files available to anyone who wishes to download it.


User Comments and Thoughts

This would be a great feature to the site and it's potential users. Especially those if there could be some opentools to link to the 'live/changing' data.

Apparently mediawiki is planning to make it easy to export pages so it should be possible to create extensions or wiki feeds on the Wikipedia/Wikinfo model
  1. In the spirit of supporting the community yet also supporting the company, is there a way to add value added or more enhanced data access or compatability so that businesses that are 'for profit' can utilize more specialized subsections of the data in a way that can generate revenues. It would be best if this was an automated or self service approach.
  2. In the same line of thinking, are there any sites that could be 'partners' and pipe data in? Could there be a tool or way that someone could do this without a formal relationship? a two-way pipe?
The raw data is redistributable, period, that's essential to open content, but most businesses won't want it in that form. The opportunity is massaging it into forms that are useful to business. No formal relationship is ever required just to move data around, to even require a conversation with a human being would seriously violate open content rules and norms. However, humans can provide services like certifications and fact check and so on.

Idea for Notice on Edit

The Copyright Owner (you) hereby grants to the AboutUs Inc. the nonexclusive worldwide right and license to reproduce, edit, copy, publish, and distribute the material(s) identified in the edit summar, in any and all media (including but not limited to electronic, print, video, audio, and any other technology now known or that may be developed in the future), and to authorize others to do the same under the Creative Commons by-sa 3 or the GFDL.

Might be better to say, "and to authorize others to do the same under the Creative Commons by-sa 3.0, the GFDL 1.2, or other similar licenses that both guarantee share-alike access to all future derived works, and contain provisions to credit authors and editors."
That establishes the intent clearly, and it allows obviously for future share-alike licenses like by-sa 5.0, GFDL 1.6, and whatever else might become standard in future.


A tougher issue on which terms the user grants license to AboutUs Inc. and other open content users. Writing "the nonexclusive worldwide right and license to reproduce, edit, copy, publish, and distribute the material(s) identified in the edit summar, in any and all media (including but not limited to electronic, print, video, audio, and any other technology now known or that may be developed in the future)," in a short blurb just is not as likely to hold up, nor as likely to be legally robust everywhere, as using some standard license like the CC-by to characterize the terms on which AboutUs Inc. uses the material.
Another (very serious) problem is that the Copyright Owner expects the CC-by-sa or GFDL to apply, but those licenses have specific provisions requiring acknowledging ownership, and there's no guarantee that this information will be (a) accurately preserved by AboutUs and (b) adequately represented to the other CC-by-sa and GFDL users. This creates a small but real liability problem for AboutUs, which could have guaranteed at the time of edit to retain this information, and could have obtained a waiver at that time for any failures or omissions that later make it difficult or impossible to accredit the share-alike material. This is one of those cases where retaining the right to screw up is dangerous: better to make clear to everyone who handles the material that standard obligations apply and spell out exactly the lengths that AboutUs will go to, and not go to, to stay compliant.
So first defer to some other license rather than put a three-liner up there. For instance, have the Owner grant to AboutUs Inc. the rights listed under some specific CC license, like CC-by, so that AboutUs Inc. has both the obligation and the excuse to keep the authorship information around. That way, the rights of the author are very clear and robust since they're stated in a standard license, CC-by, and the rights of the company are more likely to hold up. If nothing else the promise of credit constitutes compensation and this is more likely to hold up as a contract. Also any problems with wrong or offensive or stolen content will clearly be traceable back to the contributor, not AboutUs Inc., since the contributor data is still around. Making clear the intent to gather and retain any authorship data that is available to the company should satisfy any problems with privacy law, anywhere. [see note] CC-by protections obviously do not apply to persons who don't reveal any identity at all, so they can be considered waived in return for privacy (important! no outing, lots of people have reasons to contribute quietly) and redistribution rights under CC-by-sa/GFDL, the author accepting credit as "anonymous trolls" or whatever. Pseudonyms as always are a problem but they're someone else's problem if the author names remain the authorship log. A good reason to do this is in case of a buyout, you want to be sure that the new owner(s) of aboutus.org don't have the right to do something so dumb (like throw away all authorship data and start to try to sue people for using things they themselves authored) it destroys the credibility of the whole project and generate lots of hostile fork projects. Same as Wikipedia could have toasted itself by flagrantly defying the GFDL. So with both of those changes the notice would read:
The Copyright Owner (you) hereby grants to the AboutUs Inc., under the terms of Creative Commons CC-by 3 license, the nonexclusive worldwide right and license to reproduce, edit, copy, publish, and distribute the material(s) identified in the edit summary, in any and all media (including but not limited to electronic, print, video, audio, and any other technology now known or that may be developed in the future), and to authorize others to do the same under the Creative Commons by-sa 3 or the GFDL, or other similar licenses that both guarantee share-alike access to all future derived works, and contain provisions to credit authors and editors. If you aren't logged in with real User:Firstname_Lastname then please also read our disclaimer on attributing anonymous persons and pseudonyms.
which would read:
Anonymous contribution or pseudonymous contribution will be understood as waiving the right to credit in favour of privacy and accepting rights under CC-by-sa 3 and GFDL as a user rather than under CC-by as author - the author will be credited as anonymous trolls. Where an honest effort is made to correct or acknowledge authorship of anonymous or pseudonymous material, AboutUs will make reasonable effort to correct records and assign attributions so as to remain in accord with the CC-by, GFDL, and CC-by-sa 3 or other standard open content license terms and norms. However, by releasing this material without using a user name in the standard form User:Firstname_Lastname with a valid email, or in the exact form in which your name appears or would appear as a Wikipedia title, the author releases AboutUs Inc. from any claims of liability for failure of attribution. In case of dispute, standard journalistic practices for verifying sources will be followed.
That's a really good analysis and suggestion. Thank you! Digesting now ... - Ray | talk (Click "talk" to leave me a message)
We gave this idea quite a bit of thought and while an excellent suggestion, we felt that it was more important to convey our message in very simple and understandable text. Thanks again for the contribution of mindpower -- Ray

Comments

Okay, non-commercial was taken out; but, wasn't the original purpose to be able to change this license when let's say a better one came up? I think that is why I was trying to put it in other words than just putting it under the terms of GFDL and CC-by-sa.

About the listing of ownership, while quite a few ways we do things around here will have to be changed, I think in a general sense it should be quiet easy to do with history. --Simon | talk 09:08, 12 March 2007 (PDT)

Licensing Must Haves

  • ability to license, distribute, perform, sell, sub-license, modify.

Licensing Must Nots

  • restrictions that make it difficult to change direction of the site.
If the raw data is redistributable at any time via archives (or better wiki feeds to other services), then, the direction can change instantly, and others can fill the niche or need that aboutus.org serves now.


[note] This follows the model the Green Party of Canada used in their very successful Living Platform project [1]. Saul Boettcher and Craig Hubley wrote it, and Larry Lessig himself pronounced it 'cool'. The reason for the User:Firstname_Lastname convention is that Wikipedia uses it for article titles and it's easy to find people if they use exactly that form and those conventions. It's very easy to search on people's real names and find them and the articles about them when you include the underscore. It becomes problematic as soon as spaces get in there, because everything on the web will have spaces between your first and your last name...