licensing

How and How NOT to Re-License your Work for Free Culture

The last week has been terrific for "Lunatics". We've cleared the licenses on almost all of the music -- and certainly the most important pieces. However, for a moment, I want to focus on the little problem with the one minute of music we probably won't get to use, and the right and wrong way to relicense your art if you are ever in that situation.

Free Culture Pitfall: Bait-and-Switch Free Licensing

Last year, as I was checking the licensing and attribution on the tracks in my soundtrack library for Lunatics, I came across a bizarre and rather disturbing practice: bait and switch licensing as a ploy to sell music. This is a truly weird idea, if you understand what a free-license means, and it's deeply unethical, but here's what I think is going on: the artist (or more likely, some intermediary, such as a small record label) gets the idea of using a "free" loss-leader to try to draw people into buying a commercial/proprietary album.

Confusion and Complexity: High time to prune the Creative Commons licenses?

In a recent blog, Nina Paley, the animator behind the free-licensed animated film, "Sita Sings the Blues", complained of the enormous confusion caused by poor differentiation of the Creative Commons licenses. In particular, there's a great deal of confusion over the difference between "NonCommercial" and "ShareAlike" licenses. Maybe the Creative Commons licensing system is still too complex? I'd suggest that only three licenses are really needed: "Attribution" (CC By), "ShareAlike" (CC By-SA), and "NonCommercial" (CC By-NC), and that the others are essentially deadweight that's holding the movement back.

Choosing and Using Free Licenses for Software, Hardware, and Aesthetic works

What is this "Free Culture" thing? What is "Free Software"? And how do I get my work out there? If you're looking to participate in the "Commons", you'll need to get comfortable with the idea of free, public licenses and how to use them for your works. This won't be hard at all, especially with this short guide, but there are different traditions that have sprung up around different kinds of works.

Interview: Nina Paley (author of "Sita Sings the Blues" and the two "Minute Meme" animations)

In lieu of today's regular column, I've decided to present an edited transcript of a very informative interview of Nina Paley by Thomas Gideon of "The Commandline Podcast." Paley has been doing a lot of interviews since her free-licensed release of "Sita Sings the Blues" and her subsequent work with QuestionCopyright.org (specifically her two "Minute Meme" animations: "Copying Is Not Theft" and "All Creative Work is Derivative") -- reading them all would be quite a bit of work. But this interview is possibly the best -- covering all of the major issues she's been talking about in what I thought was a very insightful way. So: kudos to Nina Paley and to her interviewer, Thomas Gideon, and I hope you find this text version interesting.

Implementing a sensible copyright: "FLOW-IT"

It can be hard to get paid for producing free-licensed works. Software represents a niche where a lot of exceptions can be found, but for aesthetic works, the problem is severe. This has spurred a lot of innovative ideas for better incentive systems. Along the way, though, the most obvious and simple solution has mostly been overlooked: just re-implement the traditional limited copyright idea in a way that makes sense for the 21st century. Here's a simple solution that I call "FLOW-IT" for "Free Licensing Of Works -- In Time," which simply leverages existing Creative Commons licensing to do the job.

Rule #1: Hold On Loosely

In the proprietary production world, what matters about a copyright is who owns it. In the free production world, however, who owns a copyright is relatively unimportant. What matters is what license it is offered under. There is a very simple rule of thumb about the best license to use: use a "free, copyleft license". Such licenses provide the ideal balance of freedom versus limitations, and projects that use them are overwhelmingly more successful than ones that don't.

On-line applications "just work"; why worry about the freedom of the licence?

An increasing number of computer users are turning to online applications instead of ones on their desktop. It started with webmail and has moved to productivity/office tools. With the emergence of online applications that have no desktop equivalent, and mobile devices that are browsers in your pocket, things are looking up. But what about free software? If the software we are using is not run on the computer on our desk/lap/hand what does the licence matter? For some time now I've been reading predictions where the browser will be the computer. Does this future have space for free software?

Why I choose copyleft for my projects

Terry Hancock seemed to raise a few hackles when he presented case recently that "copyleft has no impact on project activity?!)". I'm not certain why, because it seemed he was just asking a question really (you'll note the question mark). In that piece he mentions the reasons developers choose a copyleft licence. As a -- somewhat small-time -- developer of free software this topic interests me. Terry made a few statements about why developers choose a copyleft licence as did Tony Mobily in his editorial for issue 20. So let me tell you why this developer chose (and continues to choose) a copyleft licence?

Copyleft has no impact on project activity?!

Recently, I collected some data from Sourceforge, hoping to find evidence for the importance of copyleft. But I found something surprising: although there's plenty of evidence that many developers believe in the power of copyleft, the one measure I could derive of how much copyleft actually works showed that copyleft made no difference whatsoever! If true, this means a lot of free software's social theory is wrong and many things will have to be re-thought.

Impossible Thing #3: Free Arts

A new conventional wisdom began to spring up around free software, led in part by theorists like Eric Raymond, who were interested in the economics of free software production. Much of this thought centered around service-based and other ancillary sales for supporting free software. Based on this kind of thinking, it's fairly easy to imagine extending free licensing ideas to utilitarian works. But what about aesthetic works? The Creative Commons was established in 2002, largely to solve the kinds of licensing problems that aesthetic works might encounter, and it has been remarkably successful, pushing the envelope of even this newer wave of thought. Today, Creative Commons licensed works number in at least the tens of millions. And more than a quarter of those are using the "Attribution" or "Attribution-ShareAlike" free licenses.

Impossible thing #3: Free art and the Creative Commons culture

A new conventional wisdom began to spring up around free software, led in part by theorists like Eric Raymond, who were interested in the economics of free software production. Much of this thought centered around service-based and other ancillary sales for supporting free software. Based on this kind of thinking, it's fairly easy to imagine extending free licensing ideas to utilitarian works. But what about aesthetic works? The Creative Commons was established in 2002, largely to solve the kinds of licensing problems that aesthetic works might encounter, and it has been remarkably successful, pushing the envelope of even this newer wave of thought. Today, Creative Commons licensed works number in at least the tens of millions. And more than a quarter of those are using the free "Attribution" or "Attribution-ShareAlike" licenses.

An open proposal for Microsoft open source certification

Microsoft. Open-Source Certification. This is not an April Fools, apparently. According to various news feeds (this was brought to my attention from PCWorld, but YMMV as these stories are periodic) they will be submitting some of their "shared source" licenses to the OSI. This is genuinely fantastic news, as after years of FUDing us around, they finally admit that Open Source exists, is a good thing, non-cancerous, and something with which they want to get involved. It's also very flattering, because since they're submitting to the OSI it tells us that they acknowledge the term "Open Source" (and by its implication "Free Software") and that its definition is vested and controlled. By someone else.

But now they've built the bridge, they need to know how to cross it. There's a cultural divide that has been fostered through the years. So listen up Microsoft, this is your next step in allowing shared source to become compatible with FOSS licenses and - more importantly - its inherent ideals!

Sharing medical software: FOSS licensing in medicine

How does License Proliferation effect medical software and what can we do about it? How to choose a license for your medical software project? What are the implications for the medical FOSS community of various software licenses? This is intended to be a complete guide to free and open source software licensing for medical software. Please comment on how I can make it better.

Sharing medical software: FOSS licensing in medicine

MP3: nothing to do with piracy. Really.

Mylatest blog entry began with this paragraph:

Messing with MP3 files is, for some people, a synonym for illegal use of copyrighted music. Well, actually it's not.

The reason I wrote that incipit remained unclear to many, that didn't seeany link between this first phrase and the rest of the article. I therefore decided towrite a few blog entries on the subject. This time I'll talk about theMP3 format in itself.

Copyright, bad faith, and software licensing

Robin Miller recently published a story on Newsforge about "Stan"[1], as an example of a situation that demonstrates proprietary software is a danger to business continuity. I found this story interesting since I think Mr. Miller came close to correctly identifying a core issue, which is that the proprietary software business model as it exists today both facilitates and encourages vendors to act in bad faith. However, it did not need to have been this way, and really comes down to misuse of licensing along with some deliberate abuse and exploitation of existing commercial law.

Graphic icons

There are a lot of important and exciting discussions currently taking place around issues concerning the ownership of ideas. The thoughts and the accompanying practices surrounding the subject have been formed through a diverse range of alliances, interests and motivations. The arguments are becoming increasingly polarised into distinct methods and approaches that already challenge and govern, not only our lives and working practices, but also, our ability to communicate.

A law for free software

Free software, also known as open source, libre software, FOSS, FLOSS and even LOSS, relies on traditional software legal protection, with a twist. Semantics aside (I will describe all the above as “free software”), the tradition at law is that free software is copyrighted, like most other software, and is not released, unbridled, to the public domain. Authorial or ownership rights can be asserted as with any bit of proprietary software.

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