[Foundation-l] Requirements for a strong copyleft license

Gavin Baker gavin at gavinbaker.com
Sun Dec 2 19:04:16 UTC 2007

Hash: SHA1

> From: "Brianna Laugher" <brianna.laugher at gmail.com>
> On 02/12/2007, Gregory Maxwell <gmaxwell at gmail.com> wrote:
>> If a visual artist doesn't want copyleft for images they should just
>> use CC-BY (or better, 'PD').
>> The purpose of copyleft is to help expand the pool of free content
>> with a tit-for-tat mechanism.  'Weak copyleft'  simply isn't
>> interesting in terms of its ability to achieve this goal.
> Is "weak copyleft" not comparable to the LGPL? LGPL appears to have a
> place; why not "weak copyleft"?
>> The question of "does anyone here want a weak copyleft license" is
>> just the far more interesting one...
>> I do not believe there is any point to having a copyleft license for
>> media which isn't strong.  Does anyone here disagree?
> At the risk of being stoned... yeah.
> I just don't consider an article that uses a photograph of mine as
> illustration to be a a derivative of my work.
> I don't want an article, blog or book author to have to license their
> whole text under CC-BY-SA just because they use my image.
> HOWEVER, I do want them to be obliged to make explicit the license of
> my work, that is offer it to others under the same conditions. My
> work, not theirs. That is how I think "weak copyleft" differs from
> CC-BY or PD.

Actually, this *is* how CC BY works. The requirements of CC BY include
both attribution of authorship (including a linkback) and notification
of the license.

This is similar to the BSD software licenses: derivatives don't have to
be similarly licensed, but they still have to attribute the BSD-licensed
code and inform users that it's available under the BSD license.

Quoting the license summary:

> Under the following conditions:
> Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by
> the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they
> endorse you or your use of the work).
> For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the
> license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to
> this web page.

For the avoidance of doubt: I'm not making any substantive claim here,
just correcting an inaccurate statement.

> So "weak copyleft", if we are talking about the same thing, suits me well.

AFAICT, the term "weak copyleft" seems to have a specific origin in
software libraries that allow linking without requiring the linked
program to be similarly licensed. Whether or not this is analogous to
the "embedding" of media in another work (as in an image on a page of
text) is probably a matter of opinion. It might be best to leave the
phrase aside and focus on the specific issue of use in context. Quoting
a recent email:

> [Similar use cases] are an article in a magazine, a song on a CD or
> in a radio show, and a TV show on a TV channel. At which point would
> the requirement of a free context stop?

It's arguable that none of these uses invokes the derivative right, so
their "context" (what would be called "the derivative" if it was, in
fact, derived) has no requirement to be similarly licensed. Assuming
this is the case, then the question becomes: in which use cases, even if
the use is not derivative, do we want to require the context of the use
to be similarly licensed? Even this wordy language is rather imprecise,
but I think it's closer to the issue than wondering about "strong" vs.
"weak" copyleft.

(FWIW, although CC licenses have previously been passed to downstream
users through the right of modification, I think it is worth considering
tying this to some different right. Not necessarily that we *should* do
so, but that we should consider it. I see a parallel in the new AGPL
license, where the license had previously been passed to downstream
users through the distribution of the software, but is now also tied to
the accessing of the software over a network. To me, this says that the
important thing is to pass the freedoms to downstream users, and which
uses we tie that to is simply the means and not an end in itself. That's
not an argument for writing new requirements willy-nilly into licenses
- -- we should carefully consider the impact of the mechanisms we choose
- -- but just that we shouldn't fail to consider new means to the same end
simply because we've always done it this way.)

> regards,
> Brianna

- --
Gavin Baker
gavin at gavinbaker.com
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