[open-science] Six issues with licensing

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Thu Dec 15 10:14:20 UTC 2011

On 14 December 2011 15:41, Puneet Kishor <punkish at eidesis.org> wrote:
> A lot of entangled issues arose in the thread started by Peter Murray-Rust instigated by Heather Morrison's blog post. I have tried to tease out six issues from that thread --
> 1. Whether or not CC should offer choices of licenses such as NC and ND?
> I believe yes, because they offer a valuable choice to potential users who would otherwise not consider CC at all.

The problem with this is the CC branding issue (and the very name:
"Commons" suggest all this stuff forms a commons when in fact it
doesn't. If CC were named Liberal License Choice or similar there
would be a less of an issue -- though the name wouldn't be as nice).
Specifically, to lots and lots of general users there is, nowadays,
just "CC" the "brand/general thing" not this or that specific license
(I can produce lots of examples of sites that, at least in there text,
just say something like "CC licensed" not "CC Attribution licensed
[1]). This means that many users are choosing "CC" not the license
and, for them, there isn't a great difference between NC-ND and BY as
they are all "CC". As such, restricting the options CC provides to,
say, only open licenses would have a big impact.

For more on this see:

[1]: as one example of this see the Pro Public data discussed in
http://thedatahub.org/dataset/us-gov-tarp where the statement is "this
is Creative Commons licensed". You have to click through to the source
license to discover this is NC-ND (despite their stated encouragement
of reuse!)

> 2. Whether or not I should personally use such licenses?
> That is a personal choice, and everyone should be free to make that choice. Personally, I don't like and use such licenses because... read on...
> 3. Do such licenses discourage downstream uptake?
> I don't have any scientific evidence of this but I believe they might. I choose to not use such licenses to avoid that possibility.
> 4. Do such licenses really enable us to enforce our personal desires/viewpoints on others?
> Again, no scientific evidence, but my guess is "no." On the other hand, this guess is applicable to all licenses. There is absolutely no guarantee that anyone will comply with any kind of license, and there is always the possibility that someone will be discouraged by any license one chooses.
> I simply don't have the resources (time, energy, motivation) to chase anyone who might have violated my licensing terms.

Sure but we have seen that once a field matures such enforcement does
happen and can be useful (I'm thinking here of GPL enforcement --
where the individual action problem has been solved in a standard
manner by clubbing together sharing that effort in a specific
organization such as the FSF).

> 5. Should I discourage other individuals from using such licenses?
> I believe this is a personal choice. I do choose to discourage other individuals from choosing such licenses because of my unscientific but reasonable beliefs #3 and 4 above.


> 6. Should I/we discourage other organizational entities from using such licenses?
> Ahhh... Finally something that can actually be debated. Again, based on my beliefs 3 and 4 above, I think collectively we should discourage organizations from choosing NC and ND licenses. Put another way, we should encourage organizations to choose BY or CC0. CC0 and BY increase interoperability between datasets by lowering the impedance to mixing data. CC0 is especially suited for data. BY for interpreted content may be the best in most situations as it gently conveys the author's desire to be attributed without carrying any other constraint.

I think for data we obviously should add to the list the PDDL, and
also IMO, ODC-By (http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/by/)

> I believe that encouraging people to do the right thing is more effective in the long run than trying to discourage them from doing the wrong thing. CC gives us the means for pursuing both options. I choose the former, but do understand that not everyone shares my reasoning.

Very well stated Puneet and thanks for this reasoned setting out of the options.


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