Creative Commons and the Freedom Definition

Creative Common Seal for Free Cultural Works

Yesterday witnessed the most important step forward for the Definition of Free Cultural Works (DFCW) since its adoption and endorsement by the Wikimedia Foundation a year ago.

Although I might have wished things otherwise, Creative Commons is not a social movement fighting for essential freedom or the essential freedoms at the core of the DFCW in particular. From the movement’s perspective, CC is more like a law and advocacy firm that works for us — a very sympathetic one. CC writes, hosts, and supports a variety of licenses. Some are free. Some are not. Last year they took steps to explicitly limit the extent of restrictions they are willing to tolerate in their licenses.

Yet, while CC has resisted taking a stand in favor of the Definition of Free Cultural Works, they continue to produce some of the best free licenses, tools, and metadata available and they seem honestly interested in helping users interested in social movements based around these definitions organize more effectively.

In perhaps its most important move to date in this area, Creative Commons announced yesterday that it was placing a seal on each of its licenses that provide the essential freedoms laid out in the Definition of Free Cultural Works. The seal links to the definition over at In Creative Commons’ words:

This seal and approval signals an important delineation between less and more restrictive licenses, one that creators and users of content should be aware of.

A very practical reason users should be aware of these distinctions is that some important projects accept only freely (as defined) licensed or public domain content, in particular Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites, which use the Definition of Free Cultural Works in their licensing guidelines.

The seal is currently on two CC licenses that provide for essential freedom (Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike) and their public domain dedication. Thanks go to Erik Moeller at the Wikimedia Foundation and everyone at Creative Commons to helped make this happen.

8 Replies to “Creative Commons and the Freedom Definition”

  1. Mako:

    Congratulations! I have written to the cc-es list with the news. There have been several discussions about whether Creative Commons licenses are free, and I think this approach by CC to’s positions is a very good thing altogether.

  2. The Creative Commons are and have been essential to making licenses part of the discussion. By standardising licenses they have done more then pontificating about the need for all the Freedoms. It is exactly because of their licenses that a lot of clarity has come to be.

    It is relatively easy to understand the CC licenses while it is an uphill battle to explain that the GFDL is not intended for the many things it is used for. Also the FF has not been really interested in the all the other uses that it perceives as ancillary to their main work; the licenses for software and the documentation of software.

    I think it is not helpful that you do not recognise the CC for their contributions and portrait them as lawyers for hire, nice lawyers at that.

  3. Even CC-Attrib-ShareAlike is not as culturally free as it could be. It still permits the copyright holder to prosecute infringement unless attribution is given (a far too powerful a weapon for an easily correctible omission).

    The GPL, sensibly, does not have this.

    If any stipulation on attribution could be made in a CC licence it would be for any attribution to be accurate (thus not inaccurate by omission).

    However, just as with commerce, attributional inaccuracy (plagiarism, failure to credit) is a matter that should be kept separate from preserving the public’s liberty to make copies of the published works they’ve legitimately obtained.

    CC-SA is the closest licence CC has to one that restores the liberties one would enjoy in a free culture, but it isn’t as close as it could be.

    However, to a large extent this doesn’t matter, or rather, by the time we get to the point that large and powerful publishers are resorting to litigation through others’ failure to attribute their CC-SA derivatives, copyright will no longer be with us.

  4. Congratulations!

    The more I think about CC’s role, I think it has contributed two main things: standards for describing licenses, and a set of licenses described by those standards.  I wish two organizations existed: one that created the metadata and defined some example Free licenses, and another that provided a broader spectrum of licenses including both Free and non-free licenses.  Right now, I cannot advocate CC’s metadata without also providing some advertisement for their non-free licenses.

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