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Announcing (and explaining) our new 2.0 licenses


Last night, after many months of gathering and processing great feedback from all of you, we turned on version 2.0 of the main Creative Commons licenses. The 2.0 licenses are very similar to the 1.0 licenses — in aim, in structure, and, by and large, in the text itself. We’ve included, however, a few key improvements, thanks to your input. A quick list of new features follows. All section numbers refer to the Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license. (Corresponding section numbers may vary across licenses.)

Attribution comes standard

Our web stats indicate that 97-98% of you choose Attribution, so we decided to drop Attribution as a choice from our license menu — it’s now standard. This reduces the number of licenses from eleven possible to six and makes the license selection user interface that much simpler. Important to remember: Attribution can always be disavowed upon licensor request, and pseudonymous and anonymous authorship are always options for a licensor, as before. If we see a huge uprising against the attribution-as-stock-feature, we’ll certainly consider bringing it back as an option.

Link-back attribution clarified

Version 1.0 licenses did not carry any requirements to add hyperlinks as attribution. Under the 2.0 licenses, a licensor may require that licensees, to fulfill their attribution requirement, provide a link back to the licensor’s work. Three conditions must be satisfied, though, before a licensee faces the linkback requirement: (1) linking back must be “reasonably practicable” — you can’t string me up for failing to link to a dead page, for example; (2) the licensor must specify a URL — if you don’t provide one specifically, I have no linkback obligation; (3) the link licensor provides must point to the copyright and licensing notice of the CC’d work — in other words, licensors who abuse the linkback as an engine for traffic to unrelated sites don’t enjoy linkback rights.

Synch rights clarified

The new licenses clarify when licensees may or may not synchronize musical CC’d works in timed-relation with a moving image. Basically, if a license allows derivatives, it allows the synching of music to video. If no derivs, no synching allowed. (See Section 1b.)

Other music-specific rights clarified

The default rules for music-related copyrights can be particularly complicated, and the 2.0 licenses go to greater length to clarify how various CC license options affect music rights. In a nutshell: If you pick the “noncommercial” provision, you retain the right to collect royalties from BMI, ASCAP, or the equivalent for performance royalties; from Harry Fox or the equivalent for mechanicals; and from SoundExchange or the equivalent for webcasting compulsories. If you allow commercial re-use, you waive the exclusive rights to collect these various revenue streams. This is not a departure from the policy embodied in the 1.0 licenses — these same results would be extrapolated by any reasonable interpretation. But 2.0 just makes it all clearer, and using the language of the profession. (See Sections 4e and 4f.) Note: This music-specific language marks the first time we’ve referred to any specific statutes in the generic CC licenses. This means that future iCommons licenses will have to do the same somewhat complicated mapping exercise for each respective jurisdiction.

Warranties? Up to licensors

Unlike the 1.0 licenses, the 2.0 licenses include language that makes clear that licensors’ disclaim warranties of title, merchantibility, fitness, etc. As readers of this blog know by now, the decision to drop warranties as a standard feature of the licenses was a source of much organizational soul-searching and analytical thinking for us. Ultimately we were swayed by a two key factors: (1) Our peers, most notably, Karl Lenz, Dan Bricklin, and MIT. (2) The realization that licensors could sell warranties to risk-averse, high-exposure licensees interested in the due diligence paper trial, thereby creating nice CC business model. (See the Prelinger Archive for a great example of this free/fee, as-is/warranty approach.) You can find extensive discussion of this issue in previous posts on this blog. (See Section 5.)

Share Alike Across Borders

Version 2.0 licenses that feature the Share Alike requirement now clarify that derivatives may be re-published under one of three types of licenses: (1) the exact same license as the original work; (2) a later version of the same license as the original work; (3) an iCommons license that contains the same license elements as the original work (e.g. BY-SA-NC, as defined in Section 1 of each license). The version 1.0 licenses required that derivative be published under the exact same license only. Our tweak means much better compatibility across future jurisdiction-specific licenses and, going forward, across versions. Less forking, more fun. (See Section 4b.)

Otherwise, Share Alike Means Share Alike

After much very strong and eloquent argument from our readers and supporters, and notwithstanding the increased flexibility of Share Alike in the iCommons context, we decided not to make the BY-NC-SA and plain BY-SA licenses compatible. If you take a work under BY-NC-SA 2.0 and make something new from it, for example, you can re-publish under BY-NC-SA Japan, or BY-NC-SA 7.4 (when that comes), but you cannot republish it under any other license or combine it with BY-SA content. Similarly, a derivative made from a work under BY-SA 2.0 may be published only under BY-SA 2.0, BY-SA (iCommons license), or BY-SA 9.1, but it can’t be mixed with BY-NC-SA or other noncommercial content and republished.

Nifty new Some Rights Reserved button

Check out the button at the bottom of this page. Wouldn’t that look good on your site? Time for an upgrade, cosmetic as well as legal?

Posted 25 May 2004