Code v2.0 and the CC-Wiki license

The wikification of Code has launched. To all the insanely insightful souls who’ve criticized and extended the book, welcome.

Creative Commons
has also taken this opportunity to launch a beta version of a newly branded tweak of an old license — the CC-Wiki license. We’ve been talking to wiki developers for some time now. They’ve been looking for a license that was (1) share alike, but (2) required attribution back to the wiki, rather than to the individual contributors to the wiki. We realized that could be achieved with a very slight change to our existing Attribution-ShareAlike license: rather than requiring attribution back to the copyright holder, require attribution back to either the copyright holder or a designated entity.

So we’ve made that slight modification to the attribution clause in this beta version, and used it for this wiki. But we won’t release the license generally till we’ve had the ordinary time for discussion. Click here to join a discussion about the license, and any further changes people think we should make.

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30 Responses to Code v2.0 and the CC-Wiki license

  1. Rob Myers says:

    Great news about “Code”.

    Regarding the cc-wiki license, I fear that this is niche license proliferation.

    License proliferation is bad. A wiki-specific license is such a bad idea that Britannica should sponsor it (suggest it to them and watch their faces light up like a TV company executive told that CC licenses don’t effect moral rights). Wikis face quite a challenge in non-“fair use” jurisdictions, ghettoising their content will just add to their problems.

    I admire the dynamic spirit that this is proposed in, and an inter-wiki license seems like a good idea, but it’s called the FDL, and a “credit the organisation not the individual” license is a dangerous thing to create (and probably breaks the Right Of Paternity). Because it’s going to get used for many non-wiki megalomaniac’s projects, and it breaks the social contract of wiki contribution anyway.

    An authorship assignment or licensing toolkit would be more constructive.

    (Incidentally, I’m against the Creative Archive license as well, it’s basically CC-BY-SA with a definition of NonCommercial that, taken literally, wouldn’t allow schools to use CA content).

  2. Lessig says:

    one important point that Rob’s helpful comment suggests I’ve not made clear: CC-Wiki would be a new brand, not a new license. It is simply Attribution-ShareAlike — at least if we version the “Attribution” clause to include the option of specifying some one other than the author as entitled to attribution.

  3. This change to the “Attribution” element is a very good idea. I would rather that this be billed simply as an upgrade to the license (e.g. from 2.0 to 2.1) rather than as a separate “Wiki” license. It creates exactly the confusion which which Rob is concerned, and further, like the “Sampling” brand, it gives people an unduly narrow sense of what it might be used for.

    I, for example, would prefer to use this license without the ShareAlike element — just a plain Attribution to a designated entity — and wish the publicity on this new idea emphasized that you could use this tweak without also setting ShareAlike. I’m also thinking of a very un-wiki-like context: it’s actually a very good way to get the citation information correct for academic journals.

  4. James Day says:

    That license looks extremely unhelpful to the productive development of wikis. Why on earth would it be desirable to strip creators of their moral rights? It’s the sort of thing Creative Commons should be objecting to, not encouraging.

    This based on my experience with Wikipedia. Those there who are interested in removing attibution for individuals tend to be those least interested in encouraging free distribution of works and most interested in restricting the abilities of creators to license their works as they wish (including things like joint CC-SA and GFDL licensing).

    Part of the problem here is the lack of consent in such licensing – a site license tends to be a take it or leave it proposition. What that means is that licenses like this encourage forking, by making it harder to work together in one place. Instead those with differring views end up forced to compete, weakening the commons. Much better to find ways to work together.

    Taking it out of the generally productive Wikipedia environment for the moment, consider the practical effect of the use of such a license by movie studios or record labels. There the license would presumably be used to ensure that ONLY the studio or label was attributed for the work, with no way to track the original author and no way to get any other licenses or permissions, regardless of how good or useful the purpose for those desired licenses was.

    Today, at Wikipedia, what prevents locking up that content is the article history and GFDL history requirements, which provide a way to contact the authors. Yes, those requirements are at times inconvenient. Particularly as I think of what I need to suggest us buying in the way of database server capacity to maintain the required records. But they are essential.

    Rather than a complete removal of the author attribution, and accompanying removal of the rights of authors, what’s useful is simply a provision allowing linking to get to that information. While it’s not part of the GFDL and doesn’t comply with it, Wikipedia contributors generally accept that linking as being sufficient and useful.

    The risk of the linking approach is that the history, and with it the evidence of the existence of the license, can be deleted at any time by the primary hosting location for the work. Still, that’s considerably better than allowing the primary hosting location not to keep the information at all, with the associated risk that it may then simply treat the work as its own property, not something it’s hosting in trust for those building the work.

    For those reasons, I think that this substantially undermines the usefullness of the CC-SA license, if incorporated in it. Certainly, I’d be inclined to recommend against using any wiki site with such a license.

  5. lessig says:

    So these are useful helpful comments, but best posted in the discussion space for the license. But two specific reactions to the comments above:

    (1) James, assuming we go with this, this is a modification of the attribution element in any license. If gives an additional attribution option — meaningless for most, but perhaps useful for some. When/if that happens, no problem in the world with someone building their own license for a Wiki, either Attribution-SA, or just attribution.

    (2) Re moral rights: we’re not trying to “strip” anyone of moral rights. Indeed, we don’t do moral rights. But for a wiki community that wants its content used in a way that references the wiki, rather than a string of authors, this is a device for doing it. It can’t work standing alone — the Wiki has got to enable this in its TOS. And that enablement will determine to what extent authors’ moral rights are affected.

  6. Craig Hubley says:

    The cc-wiki license seems like a very bad idea. Why does it make sense to bifurcate a license just because some bad technology doesn’t properly track attribution? It would be simple enough to modify the standard CC-by, CC-by-sa and CC-by-sa-nc for how contributions via different technologies are handled – if necessary in a technology-dependent schedule which is assumed based on which technology is actually used to receive and republish the work(s) involved.

    Furthermore this seems to drastically shift the power balance to the initial place where the work shows up, rather than to the author. By shifting the “required attribution back to the wiki, rather than to the individual contributors to the wiki”, it actually means that the OWNER of the DOMAIN NAME is in full charge – amplifying the power of the bizarre WIPO / ICANN regime of domain names and even such clowns as NEW.NET. Is this really the right group of people to be heavily reinforcing, giving new rights to? The powers of domain name holders are arbitrary enough, and there is not one wiki out there which has implemented any kind of real democracy in how it is operated: even Wikipedia, possibly the most advanced, still has a board dominated by the initial founders, who retain a “dictator for life” majority position on its Board.

    Appropriate terms of use for a CC-based wiki would:

    1. Distinguish between the rights granted to the wiki/publisher by the author, and rights granted to the public by the wiki/publisher

    2. Permit ONLY those rights granted to the wiki/publisher that are NOT granted to the public to be retained by “the wiki itself” as publisher (remember a “wiki” is NOT a legal entity, it is a medium only – there are factions, collaborating pairs and trios and larger groups, and sometimes substantial political opposition groups in any large public wiki). For example LIving Platform recognizes individual works as CC-by and any joint works are redistributed as CC-by-nc-sa (though they could also be redistributed via CC-by-sa or GFDL since it’s quite easy to satisfy the CC-by and these licenses as well).

    3. Require reasonable journalistic and academic conventions to be followed in attributing comments – if something is edited from an exclusive work of one person to a joint work, then, it can be rewritten as a third person article quoting both persons, even if those two are the authors. This convention is very common on well run wikis. Also it is completely wrong to assume that “the wiki” can reliably track “who people are”. There’s a lot of collective and alleged identity on most wikis – sock puppets, troll names, impersonation, names that look like ordinary people, and all that. Make it clear in the license that the effort administrators must go through, to validate “who wrote what”, is limited, and make it simple to require that contributors use a real-name-login or type their name in a field with a valid email address if they want credit. Else clicking “Save” should relieve the publisher of obligations.

    4. As noted above, make explicit mention of technology limits and which modes of contribution (e.g. logins with real names) qualify for attribution, and how the “top 5” contributors are to be defined – this for compatibility with the popular GFDL license.

    5. Where the original work or author no longer uses a wiki but maintains the work elsewhere, that should be the location that is published, NOT the one where the work was originally seen. In case of disputes between authors and publishers, this puts the power with the authors, where it obviously belongs.

    So “rather than requiring attribution back to the copyright holder, require attribution back to either the copyright holder or a designated entity”, which will inevitably be the “owned” domain, is an entirely wrongheaded solution. It dilutes the rights of authors for the convenience and sloppiness and control of technologists and publishers. Why put up with that?

    It’s easy enough for code to do most of the attribution work, if someone actually WANTS attribution. And it’s easy to modify the standard CC-by, CC-by-sa and CC-by-nc-sa, to deal explicitly with GFDL republication, technological limits, attempts to fool the editorial effort, and multiple identities or alleged identities or collective identities. Creating a technology specific license seems like entirely the wrong idea:

    When the work is written, you don’t KNOW if it will be wiki’d. Obviously Code is just one such example.

  7. Craig Hubley says:

    The so-called “discussion space for the license” apparently does not exist or does not work – where is it? Why didn’t you link it? Why isn’t it a simple wiki talk page? It’s absurd to use blogs or mailing lists or other non-wiki methods to discuss a wiki license! seems to have very serious deficiencies in how it solicits feedback. Not as bad as the totally useless opaque SourceForge, which is incomprehensible even to experts in development, but, still VERY bad. NOT what you should be relying on for important feedback on important licenses. The discussion should be at Creative Commons’ own mediawiki at instead.

  8. Shaun says:

    I find this is a great idea. The largest problem however I find is the divide between the GFDL (Gnu Free Document License) and the CC licenses.

    There is an article on Metalicensing that would allow for the CC and GFDL to be combined since the license indicates that the work must be able to be released under each. More information on newsforge here:

    And the author’s homepage which also has an article (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 copyright) here:

    Meta licensing will probably be used more to try and bridge the gap as more copyright licenses are created.

  9. I agree with John Mark Ockerbloom about releasing the first edition of Code as a PDF file (as Free Culture has been released) for future reference.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to get Code for free. Beside the reasons mentioned by John, I think that releasing the first edition as a PDF file would have two main benefits. More people would be able to read it, so that some will be willing to help with the second edition and others will be willing to buy the second edition to read the book.

    Please, consider this option to increase the spread of the project and the book.

  10. Lori says:

    What do you think of those such as Cody Brocious & PyMusic, trying to allow people who use OS systems such as Linux to bypass the DRM on iTunes yet pay for the music downloads?

  11. KirbyMeister says:

    James Day – good point. However, the problem with having to cite _all_ the authors is exactly that. Imagine if upwards of 50 people worked on a CodeV2 page, and we had to cite it. I am not aware of an MLA format for wikis. Try citing a 50-author wiki page, and then you’ll understand that citing EVERY author gets a little too unwieldy.

  12. anonymous (Re: KirbyMeister) says:

    to: KirbyMeister – The GNU Free Documentation License allows you to cite only “the five top contributors”, and there are some discussions about including a similar clause in CC-by-* as part of “Debian Free Software Guidelines” compliance (see the “Points raised on debian-legal” thread on cc-licenses). This issue is much discussed at Wikipedia, whose exported XML currently does not track who the “top 5” are. There are lots of people who want a solution to this, however the cc-wiki license just isn’t one.

  13. Consider a clarification of commercial gain, in the creative commons license, with the words direct and/or indirect.

    • Does a song used in a (gratis) advertisement qualify as commercial gain?
    • A quote used in the shopping cart section of a website?
    • A picture on your desk at work?

    I believe that you can encourage commercial adoption of the Creative Commons License, if you make a variant, which allows traditional copyright to sunset into the Creative Commons, after the book goes out of print, or, say 5 years pass.

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