[Foundation-l] What's wrong with CC-BY-SA?

Robert Rohde rarohde at gmail.com
Sun Dec 2 10:13:29 UTC 2007

On Dec 2, 2007 12:59 AM, Florence Devouard <Anthere9 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>  Robert Rohde wrote:
> > On Dec 1, 2007 3:32 PM, Erik Moeller <erik at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> >
> >> On 12/2/07, David Gerard <dgerard at gmail.com> wrote:
> >>> Greg will of course correct me if I'm wrong - but I suspect the
> >>> problem is that lots of people want CC-by-sa because it's easier to
> >>> reuse stuff ... but that GFDL makes it hard to reuse stuff is
> >>> considered a *feature* by many, e.g. photographers who license work as
> >>> GFDL but also sell it privately. That is: the thing that makes GFDL a
> >>> pain in the backside for a wiki is precisely why they like it, and
> >>> they want it to stay a pain in the backside for that reason.
> >> Worst possible reason to like a license, ever. :-)
> >>
> >> Let's make a strong copyleft license that appeals to photographers.
> >>
> >>
> >
> > In my opinion, that is only possible if the copyleft provisions
> > unambiguously transfer to text written to accompany the image.  Anything
> > less, is little better than CC-BY.  Most people that use photographs do
> so
> > for the purposes of illustration rather than for the purposes of making
> > derivative images.  Hence copyleft provisions that apply only derivative
> > images, and not to the text being illustrated, are intrinsically weak
> and of
> > little impact.
> >
> > -Robert A. Rohde
> Is not the liberal use of Wikicommons to host images (which can be
> embedded in dozen of text pages afterwards) a bit inconsistant with this
> concern anyway ?
Yes, it is inconsistent, but that reflects a problem with Commons.  There is
nothing wrong with creating a free image repository, but using that
repository to mix copyleft licensing is potentially problematic since these
versions of "free" are arguably incompatible.

Wikipedia doesn't allow the inclusion of CC-SA text, but does allow CC-SA
images under a theory that images and text can be understood as "seperate
and independent" elements of a collection rather than part of single,
unified article.  Frankly, I think doing so relies on a strange
interpretation of the plain language of the licenses.  To put it bluntly, I
think mixing CC-SA images in GFDL Wikipedia articles is already a copyright

However, as far as I know, no copyright holder has ever complained about
this mixing, and in the absence of a real ruling of law there is enough
ambiguity that one can at least argue the issue.  At a philosophical level,
most people willing to license CC-BY-SA probably won't mind image use in
Wikipedia, but we really ought to ensure compatibility in law and not just
compatibility in spirit.

I assume that addressing the dubious compatibility between the two major
avenues of copyleft is a central goal associated with the recent Foundation
Resolution and the efforts underlying it.

-Robert A. Rohde

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