I'll try to avoid the finer details here and get to the substance of the
problem. Some organizations want to apply licensing terms that allow
"educational" and "informational" use of their content. They profess
allow "commercial" use. However, they also want to prevent
"advertisement" and "political" use.
Framing the issue this way assumes that these categories are distinct.
That assumption is misleading and, especially in the context of our
philosophical commitments on licensing issues, not one we can operate
with. Their concession to commercial use recognizes that education and
information can be commercial products. But what about, for example,
using this material to advertise an educational product? This is
territory where it isn't feasible to bless some approaches and cordon
off others, at least not without detailed agreements spelling out what
is and isn't permissible. Such things quickly become too complicated for
our own contributors, to say nothing of anyone downstream who wants to
And that's only the first stage of blurring the attempted distinction.
As any political operative would say, at least for public consumption,
everything they put out *is* informational. They claim to believe that
if voters had all the facts, they would all reach the same conclusion
and support this position or that candidate. It's not negative
campaigning, it's making sure people have all the information they need
about your opponent.
As for the differences between information and advertising, it's much
the same thing. Most marketing (think of the worst corporate article on
Wikipedia you've ever wanted to delete) still aims to be informational,
even though it's coming at you from a slanted and perhaps distorted
perspective. Perhaps some of you may not be familiar with the term
"infomercial", which is I guess rather American, but that phenomenon
illustrates the problem quite well. Considering that the second half is
from commercial, with a meaning equivalent to advertisement, according
to this philosophy such use should be allowed and not allowed at the
I think much of the problem is a sense that dedicating something to the
public domain means abandoning the ability to defend it against abuse.
But the kind of abuse contemplated is less a matter for copyright and
licensing. Trademark law has been mentioned, and that might work in some
situations. But really these kinds of problems are, or ought to be,
covered by moral rights. Fundamentally, the situation these
organizations want to prevent is use to imply endorsement against their
wishes, whether that be commercial or political. To me, that's a moral
rights issue, and shouldn't need to involve licensing. To deal with the
problem, they should focus on the endorsement, not resort to other
categories instead that are poor proxies.
Regardless of how somebody licenses or releases their content, they
aren't supposed to lose their moral rights, as I understand it. Probably
some of the difficulty understanding each other here is because the US,
which has the strongest tradition of releasing content to the public
domain, has also been among the most resistant to the moral rights
concept. I could certainly support some changes and clarifications to
the law in this regard, preferably at a level of international
coordination. Perhaps that would make agencies in other countries
comfortable with releasing their material more freely. But for our
purposes in the meantime, I don't think accepting content with
additional restrictions like these gets us closer to our goals.