W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webed@w3.org > November 2011

Re: Licensing: feedback wanted

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2011 12:17:54 -0500
Message-ID: <4ED66542.2020402@w3.org>
To: Chris Mills <cmills@opera.com>
CC: "Richard D. Worth" <rdworth@gmail.com>, Karl Dubost <karld@opera.com>, public-webed@w3.org
Hi, folks-

On 11/30/11 11:15 AM, Chris Mills wrote:
> On 30 Nov 2011, at 15:50, Richard D. Worth wrote:
>> On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 9:16 AM, Chris Mills <cmills@opera.com
>> <mailto:cmills@opera.com>> wrote:
>>     On 30 Nov 2011, at 13:35, Richard D. Worth wrote:
>>>     On Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 8:18 AM, Karl Dubost <karld@opera.com
>>>     <mailto:karld@opera.com>> wrote:
>>>         Le 30 nov. 2011 à 07:36, Chris Mills a écrit :
>>>         > shall we go with by-sa. or just by? I think by-sa is best,
>>>         as I worry what would happen to our material if we didn't
>>>         include SA. We want the material and any evolution of it to
>>>         be open, surely?
>>>         We have a very similar case here. We want the content to be
>>>         widespread by people and reused be it in a commercial context
>>>         and/or an open context. As long as the source stays open,
>>>         people have always the possibility to use it. It's why I'm in
>>>         favor of CC-BY
>>>     If we were authoring all the content ourselves, I think I could
>>>     be in complete agreement, as CC-BY is most analogous to a
>>>     permissive code license, such as MIT or BSD, which have shown to
>>>     permit sufficient adoption and use (surely due in large part to
>>>     their simplicity) amongst all the most popular JavaScript
>>>     libraries for example (the software I'm most familiar with
>>>     writing and licensing).
>>>     However, deciding to license our content CC-BY would preclude us
>>>     from using any content from MDN, as just one example. Is that
>>>     worth it? I'm not sure it is.
>>     This is not necessarily the case - a licensor can waive certain
>>     license conditions if they see fit. And we are intending to talk
>>     to the different content holders about using their content on the
>>     site, rather than just using it and not telling them. This needed
>>     for etiquette and goodwill to be maintained.
>> Great!
>>     Of course, we could perhaps go with CC-BY-SA but then state
>>     clearly in the license material that if you want to use our
>>     material in a commercial project of some kind but don't want to
>>     put it under the same license, then contact us and we will review
>>     your particular case - if we approve then we will waive the -SA-
>>     condition?
>> We'd only be in a position to grant such a waiver if we had lined up
>> waivers from the above content holders. If we go through that effort,
>> I'd be just as happy having our license be CC-By from the start, but
>> if there were an overwhelming majority that wanted CC-By-SA as the
>> default and CC-By as an exception, I agree, this is a good way forward.
> Thanks for your further feedback. I think this is going to be the
> problem in the end with this kind of solution - constantly worrying
> about whether we have all the permissions we need to make sure waivers
> and changes dynamically.
> I think I am still leaning towards CC-BY, as long as it doesn't create
> problems with accepting content from our major contributors (eg MDN,
> hopefully)

Strong +1 to everything that Karl said, for exactly the reasons he said it.

Big +1 to Richard's comments on having a very liberal license on the 
code samples, for maximum reusability, and to having a clear page 
explaining the licensing to contributors and consumers, along with the 
rationale for this licensing.  I will write this page, and solicit 
comments and changes from all of you.

Just to amplify this a bit, I think the license is just as important as 
the quality and breadth of the content itself.  Our chief goal is to 
spread high-quality content, improve skills, and encourage best 
practices to as wide an audience as possible, and if there is any 
confusion at all in the mind of someone who might reuse the content 
(teachers, students, administrators, lawyers, managers, whomever), then 
that may be enough to perniciously hamper the spread of the content.  If 
the content were under a share-alike (CC-BY-SA) license, then there 
would be ambiguity in whether our content could be reused and combined 
with other content, and so our content wouldn't be used.

In addition, removing ambiguity in the minds of contributors is equally 
important.  We want to set expectations correctly, to prevent any ill 
will when the content is used in ways even we didn't expect.  We also 
want to incent and reward contributions, thus the attribution; 
attribution is important also to consumers, so they know who to thank 
and to blame (that is, so they can be aware of possible bias).  Simply 
having CC-BY isn't enough, though... we will need a clearly-stated 
policy on precisely how reusers need to provide the attribution at a 
fine level of granularity, and for a variety of media (printed material, 
websites, etc.); I will also do this, and we can revise it incrementally.

Further, I believe that having a clear, unambiguous, permissive license 
from the very start is more important than any content or source of 
content, no matter how high-quality it is.  So, should there be a 
problem in bringing over content from MDN or any other source, I would 
like to err on the side of making content from scratch rather than 
introduce ambiguity about how the content can be used and reused.  We 
have over 60 participants in this group, and I've heard from several W3C 
Working Group participants that they are also interested in 
contributing, so I think it will be less work for us to build up new 
material than to deal with the fallout from less-permissively licensed 

To be clear, I put value (financial and societal) on the effort put 
forward by individuals and organizations in making content that meets 
the needs of an intended audience, and I think people are wholly 
entitled to charge for their content; I buy lots of books on 
programming, design, information visualization, typography, and so on. 
I don't think all content needs to be free.  I simply think that all the 
content on *this* project needs to be free (which is not to say 
unrewarded... attribution has exchange value too).  That may even take 
the form of commissioned articles, if we find a way to fund that.  So, 
with no offense intended to writers who feel they need to be directly 
compensated for their work, I think there are plenty of other venues for 
that to happen in, and I look forward to contributions of those who are 
willing to agree for their work to be used under the CC-BY license (or 
public domain for code).


-Doug Schepers
W3C Developer Relations
Project Coordinator, SVG, WebApps, Touch Events, and Audio WGs
Received on Wednesday, 30 November 2011 17:18:10 UTC

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