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A good sign: Blackboard.com bucks the trend and promotes a truly free license
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A good sign: Blackboard.com bucks the trend and promotes a truly free license

From QuestionCopyright.org. This is indeed very good use of a CC license that does not prohibit commercial use or derivative works (the NC and ND clauses) is fairly rare; rarer still is one that does not even require imposition of a similar license (copyleft, or the SA clause). The most open CC clause that is easy to use and (hopefully) enforceable is the CC-BY license, that requires only attribution but that permits derivative works and commercial uses, without imposing a restrictive share-alike provision (see my post Copyright is very sticky!). This is why I, C4SIF, and the Mises Institute use CC-BY where possible instead of the more restrictive CC-BY-SA. Glad people are moving in an increasingly open direction.

A good sign: Blackboard.com bucks the trend and promotes a truly free license.

by Karl Fogel on 19 Oct 2011

A very interesting announcement from Blackboard.com:

… Blackboard will now support publishing, sharing and consumption of open educational resources (OER) across its platforms. [...] Support for OER enables instructors to publish and share their courses under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) so that anyone can easily preview and download the course content in Blackboard and Common Cartridge formats…

What makes this big news is that these kinds of initiatives usually use one of the non-free Creative Commons licenses: one containing either no-derivatives (“ND”) or non-commercial (“NC”) clauses or both.  Instead, Blackboard.com bucked the trend and opted for full freedom: by offering CC-BY, they’re encouraging users to choose a truly Free Culture license.  Let’s hope others follow their fine example!

Kudos to Blackboard.com.  And congratulations to the educators and students who will now be able to share, translate, re-use, and transform educational materials for any purpose, without having to ask permission first.

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{ 18 comments… add one }

  • Crosbie Fitch October 23, 2011, 10:49 am

    Which is ‘freer’?

    1) A license that precludes copyright holders of derived works from applying their copyright’s constraints
    2) A license that permits copyright holders of derived works to apply their copyright’s constraints

    If I sell you manacles on condition you do not use them upon people against their will (as a slavery law might permit), is that less libertarian than if I made no such condition?

  • Stephan Kinsella October 23, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I’ve given my reasons for not liking SA or copyleft. As an example if a mainstream publisher wants to include an article from my journal Libertarian Papers, they are free to do so without any permission since we use CC-BY and all they need to do is include attribution, whcih they would do anyway.

    But with a CC-BY-SA license, they could not include the article because they are not going to attach SA to their book–so they would leave it out–or have to seek specific permission, which permission is being withheld by the author on threat of copyright, and which permission in any case would have to remove the SA restriction to permit the article to be included i the book. In other words SA is worse than BY because it would as a practical matter restrict the dissemination of our ideas, and it rests on a copyright threat.

    I don’t think it’s our duty as libertarians to go around trying to be busybodies and tell other people what to do in the face of a corrupt legal system, nor do I think SA or copyleft is a good idea. I am opposed to it.

  • Crosbie Fitch October 23, 2011, 12:35 pm

    [I think it's important for you to make that position clear - as few have come across it - compared to the copyleft GPL vs BSD position].

    This is why I think libertarian authors should not be seduced as software engineers were into thinking that copyleft licensing is sufficient (or ultimately suitable in general) if the objective is to restore liberty to the public (that bit of the public’s liberty that is suspended by the state granted privileges authors can’t help but be recipients of).

    Libertarian authors have to disavow copyright entirely, to assure their readers that any liberties they take with their published work will not result in litigation or threat against them (and copyright will not be transferred to another who would).

    The libertarian author can then implicitly ‘provide’ all laissez faire and copyleft licenses for all their works.

    After all, you wouldn’t want to deny Wikipedia the ability to publish your work simply because you would only provide a CC-BY license instead of a CC-SA one too.

    • Stephan Kinsella October 23, 2011, 12:51 pm

      Crosbie, you seem to have the right intuitions but you are often maddeningly vague. What do you mean “disavow copyright”–how is this done? There is no way to do this. The positive law does not provide such a way. Are you saying that it does?

      Look at the CC0 process on the creative commons site–it’s incomprehensible, complex, and unusable. The most one can do right now is CC-BY, IMO.

      as for your final statement–IMO Wikipedia is making a mistake with a SA model, but in any case: if I publish something SA it does not prevent a CCBY-SA site from reproducing it. It think.

  • Crosbie Fitch October 30, 2011, 5:51 am

    Stephan, I don’t believe anything I’ve said results from an intuition. It’s more a case of that which follows from the principle of natural rights.

    A disavowal of copyright doesn’t have to be recognised by the law to be effective.

    An author’s livelihood can greatly depend upon their reputation, and if an author, having disavowed copyright, changes their mind and uses copyright to threaten or sue another individual then this volte face would have major repercussions to the author (notwithstanding those to the victim that had relied upon the disavowal).

    And I don’t think the occassional ‘breach of disavowal’ would bring the whole idea of copyright disavowal into disrepute. I think people would expect that there will be the occasional rotten egg mercenary willing to sacrifice reputation for litigious gains or the bitter and twisted author who chooses copyright enabled vengeance against another.

    CC0 is indeed stupid, if not a further attempt to confuse people into lumping copyright together with natural rights (in order to insinuate that copyright is just as much a natural right). It’s all part of the ‘some rights reserved’ malarky. Rights (natural) cannot be reserved and so cannot be unreserved or waived. Only the rights annulled by the Statute of Anne (to be held by the privileged holder thereof) may need reservation if they are not to be enjoyed by the individuals born with them.

    As for Wikipedia, I doubt they are going to pursue people who republish excerpts laissez faire (without license or prohibition). I suspect they’ll reserve their efforts for those who actively attempt to ‘re-enclose’ copied material, e.g. derivative almanacs that prohibit copying. Even then, Wikipedia may only act to help defend those threatened or sued by the copyright holders of the latter. Time will tell as to whether CC-SA is a mistake. I don’t think it is.

    I suggest you dual license your work (if you want to maximise its republication by license-sensitive republishers), i.e. provide both a SA and non-SA license.

    • Stephan Kinsella October 30, 2011, 8:14 am

      A disavowal of copyright doesn’t have to be recognised by the law to be effective.

      An author’s livelihood can greatly depend upon their reputation, and if an author, having disavowed copyright, changes their mind and uses copyright to threaten or sue another individual then this volte face would have major repercussions to the author (notwithstanding those to the victim that had relied upon the disavowal).

      I agree with this, and so for example the approach taken by FEE for years before CC was great, and at least somewhat effective for the reasons you mentioned: “Permission to reprint granted without special request.” (see http://blog.mises.org/18393/leonard-read-on-copyright-and-the-role-of-ideas/)

      The problem is not eveyrone woudl be comfortable relying on this informal “disavowal.” A mainstream book publisher, a college professor following the university’s copyright guidelines, for example, will feel compelled to seek permission anywya. So it’s not effective, because some people realize informal “disavowals” are not sure to be legally effective. Yes, they may work an estoppel, but who knows?

      And I don’t think the occassional ‘breach of disavowal’ would bring the whole idea of copyright disavowal into disrepute. I think people would expect that there will be the occasional rotten egg mercenary willing to sacrifice reputation for litigious gains or the bitter and twisted author who chooses copyright enabled vengeance against another.

      But as I said, some publishers would not rely on it. THey would have to seek written permission. Maybe hte author would grant it. IF he’s still around. Orphan works problem might arise. Etc.

      CC0 is indeed stupid, if not a further attempt to confuse people into lumping copyright together with natural rights (in order to insinuate that copyright is just as much a natural right). It’s all part of the ‘some rights reserved’ malarky. Rights (natural) cannot be reserved and so cannot be unreserved or waived.

      Not sur what you are talking about here. But I triedCC0 and it’s complicated. Unlike CC-BY.

      As for Wikipedia, I doubt they are going to pursue people who republish excerpts laissez faire (without license or prohibition).

      Well that’s helpful legal advice, Crosbie. I’m sure that reassures people who are sticklers.

      I suggest you dual license your work (if you want to maximise its republication by license-sensitive republishers), i.e. provide both a SA and non-SA license.

      a -BY license is less restrictive than SA. It makes no sense to dual-license it and indeed that seems incoherent and schizophrenic to me. I hate -SA licenses.

      I could add a second comment, to the effect that I “disavow” copyright in addition to the CC-BY license grant, but to what purpose? I don’t have any reason to think there are any people out there that want to copy my stuff and strip my name off of it. Who would want to do this? If there are any such weirdos out there, let them ask me for permission to reprint my stuff anonymously.

      • Crosbie Fitch October 30, 2011, 10:24 am

        Bear in mind that even a CC license does not constitute a “You will not be sued for copyright infringement concerning this work” guarantee. It just means that someone who believes they hold some copyright to a particular work has provided a unilateral license to all comers.

        And this, if anything, underlines that it is only holders who can relinquish their privilege. A published work can never be entirely decontaminated from potential copyright claims. This is why I don’t think it’s licenses that should be provided per work (given claims , but disavowals that should be provided per (potentially copyright holding) cultural libertarian.

        Perhaps, if you don’t think disavowals are enough by themselves, it is possible that a cultural libertarian could provide a set of perpetual, unilateral licenses for all works they have published (past, present & future) to which they have ever held, or will ever hold, a copyright to. These would include the gamut of copyleft licences. These would perhaps appease republishers worried about potentially fickle disavowals.

        CC-BY is just another Lessigian distraction intended to confuse people into thinking attribution is a matter to be compelled by copyright (and thus ‘another justification’ to retain the reproduction monopoly).

        Creative Commons is a licensing toolset for those wishing to kid themselves they have the power to modulate their privilege (rather than simply sell it to a potent publisher). It’s a tool for people who believe they can wield copyright. It’s not been designed as a means by which people can neutralise copyright in all their works on principle. The GPL is far closer to such a purpose (restoring freedoms suspended by copyright – to the public).

        There is a gap in the market for a ‘copyright disavowal package’, e.g. Signification that I have disavowed copyright, Statement of disavowal, Set of perpetual licenses to all authored works not listed in exceptions, List of exceptions – well known works to which the author no longer has copyright and can no longer provide license to.

        • Stephan Kinsella October 30, 2011, 1:42 pm

          Bear in mind that even a CC license does not constitute a “You will not be sued for copyright infringement concerning this work” guarantee. It just means that someone who believes they hold some copyright to a particular work has provided a unilateral license to all comers.

          I’ll bear this useless advice “in mind”. The problem Crosbie is IP law. Not how people use it.

          And this, if anything, underlines that it is only holders who can relinquish their privilege. A published work can never be entirely decontaminated from potential copyright claims. This is why I don’t think it’s licenses that should be provided per work (given claims , but disavowals that should be provided per (potentially copyright holding) cultural libertarian.

          More confused California hippie nonsense. What the heck are you trying to say, Crosbie?

          Perhaps, if you don’t think disavowals are enough by themselves,

          “enough”, Crosbie, for what?

          it is possible that a cultural libertarian could provide a set of perpetual, unilateral licenses for all works they have published (past, present & future) to which they have ever held, or will ever hold, a copyright to. These would include the gamut of copyleft licences.

          And maybe Superman can really fly.

          These would perhaps appease republishers worried about potentially fickle disavowals.

          Or perhaps not. now what?

          CC-BY is just another Lessigian distraction intended to confuse people into thinking attribution is a matter to be compelled by copyright (and thus ‘another justification’ to retain the reproduction monopoly).

          No one knows what the eff you are talking about. No one knows what at “Lessigian distraction” is. Can you please be coherent? I guess not. You are a type of Canadian, after all, right? In the end?

          Creative Commons is a licensing toolset for those wishing to kid themselves they have the power to modulate their privilege (rather than simply sell it to a potent publisher). It’s a tool for people who believe they can wield copyright. It’s not been designed as a means by which people can neutralise copyright in all their works on principle. The GPL is far closer to such a purpose (restoring freedoms suspended by copyright – to the public).

          YOu are completely jabbering now. Why?

          • Crosbie Fitch October 30, 2011, 2:09 pm

            The problem is that copyright is an instrument of injustice, and a cultural pollutant that puts people in jeopardy.

            The obvious solution is to abolish copyright.

            Given that may be a while coming, licenses have been used to reduce the jeopardy that copyright puts people in.

            I suggest that it should be authors that relinquish copyright – from all their works. People should beware of which authors are would be copyright wielders, and which authors would throw the ring © into Mount Doom.

            We should be choosing enlightened authors, not inspecting each work and its licenses to see which of our liberties have been graciously permitted back to us and under what peculiar conditions.

          • Stephan Kinsella October 30, 2011, 6:56 pm

            Again: there is no way for an author to “reliinquish” a copyright any more than you can “relinquish” your right to claim welfare, social security, or state-backed student loans. How does one formally “relinquish” such things? What in the world are you talking about?

          • Crosbie Fitch October 31, 2011, 4:55 am

            One can effectively relinquish copyright by relinquishing its power, by disavowing it, and by providing a set of blanket copyleft/laissez-faire licenses to all one’s works (for those who would prefer license to disavowal).

            We will soon need to focus on enabling individuals to relinquish their privilege (effectively, until repeal) rather than the current focus of decontaminating specific works – which is pretty confused (thanks to CC) between copyright’s modulation and its neutralisation.

            We’ve got to find a means by which potential and actual copyright holders can declare that they reject copyright and will do all they can to prevent their fellow human beings from suffering its injustice.

          • Stephan Kinsella October 31, 2011, 1:37 pm

            One can effectively relinquish copyright by relinquishing its power, by disavowing it, and by providing a set of blanket copyleft/laissez-faire licenses to all one’s works (for those who would prefer license to disavowal).

            relinquishing? this is circular and nonsense. Disavowing? same thing.

            Providing CC license: yes. And CC-BY is the best one. copyleft uses copyright law to impose a host of restrictions on the user. CC-BY only requires that they give you attribution–something they would do anyway, so it’s not a real restriction.

            We will soon need to focus on enabling individuals to relinquish their privilege (effectively, until repeal) rather than the current focus of decontaminating specific works – which is pretty confused (thanks to CC) between copyright’s modulation and its neutralisation.

            CC-BY is not confusing.

            We’ve got to find a means by which potential and actual copyright holders can declare that they reject copyright and will do all they can to prevent their fellow human beings from suffering its injustice.”

            There is no means otehr than something like CC-BY since the state’s copyright statutes do not even let you opt-out.

          • Crosbie Fitch October 31, 2011, 1:59 pm

            Stephan, as to who is confused about ‘CC-BY’, we can only go by what we write, and you wrote:

            a -BY license is less restrictive than SA. It makes no sense to dual-license it and indeed that seems incoherent and schizophrenic to me. I hate -BY licenses.

            Given what you say elsewhere about CC-BY that seems confusing to me.

            If you read what I wrote, I criticise CC-BY in an earlier comment because it gives people the idea that attribution should be coerced by copyright (and thus justified copyright). But, in my last comment I don’t mention CC-BY. I criticise CC (as a suite of licenses that vary in their modulation of copyright) because they modulate instead of neutralise copyright – thus leaving people with the burden of reading the license to see what they are permitted to do – which is far worse than a laissez faire badge of some sort that tells people copyright is effectively neutralised and need not concern them (unless they are determined to be concerned about it).

            You evidently recognise and prefer a particular CC license, so perhaps you can offer an opinion as to whether you see any benefit in an author being able to disavow copyright?

            Could you disavow copyright (irrespective of whether it has any legal potency)?

          • Stephan Kinsella October 31, 2011, 2:28 pm

            Stephan, as to who is confused about ‘CC-BY’, we can only go by what we write, and you wrote:

            a -BY license is less restrictive than SA. It makes no sense to dual-license it and indeed that seems incoherent and schizophrenic to me. I hate -BY licenses.

            Typo. I meant I dislike -SA. I just fixed it.

            If you read what I wrote, I criticise CC-BY in an earlier comment because it gives people the idea that attribution should be coerced by copyright (and thus justified copyright).

            The state will not allow me to “disavow” the copyright. I have it no matter waht. To grant a license, for it to be enforceable–for me to be prevent me from changing my mind, so that readers and users can know they can rely on my licnse–there needs to be consideration. THe smallest and least unobtrusive restriction I can think of that you can impose, to ensure there is consideration, so that my license is binding on me (so that people can rely on), is -BY.

            But, in my last comment I don’t mention CC-BY. I criticise CC (as a suite of licenses that vary in their modulation of copyright) because they modulate instead of neutralise copyright

            There is no way CC could “neutalize” it. You can’t blame CC for this.

            – thus leaving people with the burden of reading the license to see what they are permitted to do – which is far worse than a laissez faire badge of some sort that tells people copyright is effectively neutralised and need not concern them (unless they are determined to be concerned about it).

            The state does not allow you to “neutralize” copyright. I think you are simply confused as to how the law works.

            You evidently recognise and prefer a particular CC license, so perhaps you can offer an opinion as to whether you see any benefit in an author being able to disavow copyright?

            The author is not permitted to disavow copyright anymore than you can make a blog post tomorrow “disavowing” your right to sue your employer for age discrimination and expect the employer to be able to rely on this or use this “disavowal” as a defense if you later decide to sue him for age discrimination.

            Could you disavow copyright (irrespective of whether it has any legal potency)?

            I don’t konw what you are asking.

          • Crosbie Fitch October 31, 2011, 2:49 pm

            You seem to think I’m suggesting the individual can ameliorate copyright-the-legislation, when it should be obvious I’m suggesting the individual can ameliorate copyright-their-privilege – by licensing it or disavowing it. Of course the individual cannot reverse the state’s grant, but they can neutralise the power of the privilege they’ve been granted – by licensing it or disavowing it.

            As I said right at the start “A disavowal of copyright doesn’t have to be recognised by the law to be effective”. The real power on this planet comes from the people, not the law. If you give people the facility to disavow copyright-their-privilege, then abolition of copyright-the-legislation may well follow as the numbers of the former mount up.

            If you cannot conceive of a future occasion when you might wish to sue another human being for copyright infringement then it seems to me you could disavow copyright.

          • Stephan Kinsella October 31, 2011, 3:26 pm

            You seem to think I’m suggesting the individual can ameliorate copyright-the-legislation, when it should be obvious I’m suggesting the individual can ameliorate copyright-their-privilege – by licensing it or disavowing it. Of course the individual cannot reverse the state’s grant, but they can neutralise the power of the privilege they’ve been granted – by licensing it or disavowing it.

            I don’t know what you are trying to say. You keep using words in your crankish and idiosyncratic scientistic way.

            As I said right at the start “A disavowal of copyright doesn’t have to be recognised by the law to be effective”. The real power on this planet comes from the people, not the law. If you give people the facility to disavow copyright-their-privilege, then abolition of copyright-the-legislation may well follow as the numbers of the former mount up.

            This is irrelevant. You cannot disavow copyright.

            If you cannot conceive of a future occasion when you might wish to sue another human being for copyright infringement then it seems to me you could disavow copyright.

            You have yet to clearly explain what you mean by this. Do you mean uttering words, like magical spells, “I hereby disavow copyright”? Okay, here goes: “I hereby disavow copyright.”

            There, did the universe budge?

          • Crosbie Fitch November 12, 2011, 10:54 am

            “I hereby disavow copyright.”

            Yup, I think the universe budged there. You are the first author I’ve come across who has disavowed copyright.

            However, I think ‘to disavow copyright’ is the description of the act, not the statement constituting it. We will have to work out what sort of actions, statements, licenses, covenants, etc. would constitute a disavowal of copyright.

  • Michael Castello November 1, 2011, 10:24 am

    I’m going to take the (perhaps ill-conceived) step of jumping into this discussion.

    Copyright “disavowal” or “neutralization” is an issue I’ve struggled with myself for years. Stephan is correct in pointing out that, at least in the US, it’s impossible to fully relinquish copyright. It’s applied immediately any time we produce any sort of work. Given that, the best thing we can do is find a way of saying, “I reserve none of copyright’s so-called rights.”

    At least in my experience this has been ridiculously hard. I dislike CC on principle because many of those licenses attempt very specific instructions on what someone can or cannot do with the work, to a greater extent than copyright’s blanket “No” statement.

    I want to say, “Here is what I have produced, do with it as you will.” I think smart people will naturally provide attribution or include me in for-profit ventures, and if they don’t, what can I really do? I have no legal resources to compel them to attribute me or to share their profits with me even if I did claim my legal copyright.

    Right now I think my favorite “license” is Nina Paley’s “Please copy and share” on every page.

CC0
To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.