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"Creative Commons Attribution" as Open Source Licence ?


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Hi all,

I looked into various open source licenses. There are, roughly speaking, two categories of open source licenses:

  • Permissive licenses (MIT, Apache 2.0, BSD, ...), which permit recipients of the code to do whatever they please, under some minor conditions like e.g. providing a copy the original license with their derived work.
  • "Copyleft" licenses, most notably GPL. They require that derivative works are published under the same license, so recipients of the code cannot publish a closed source derivative of the original work.

Then there are "licenses" that declare a piece of work to be public domain, so that anyone can do everything and does not even need to credit the authors (such as Unlicense or CC0).

Now, I am looking for a permissive license which permits recipients to do anything they please as long as they credit the authors for the original work, without going through the hassle of providing a copy of the original license.
Essentially something like https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

But I haven't seen CC-BY being used for code, so I thought there might be a good reason why it isn't? Any thoughts or experiences? Thanks in advance

Edited by kliepatsch
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I think there are specific types of situations where "provide a link" might be ambiguous whether the link is in the source or, somehow, in the program itself. With a command line utility, that is easy enough by giving a -by command line switch, but with a device driver or similar, it might be tricky.

The dedicated programming open source licenses are explicit about where any attribution goes.

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I would think that a license like that, (that is, one that makes you credit the author but not copy the license) kind of defeats the purpose, wouldn't it?  Because let's say someone derives from your work and credits you but doesn't copy your license.  Then someone else can derive from their work, but since there was no license, they don't credit the author.  Then it can spread from there, with no credit to the author being given.  I think the copying of the license kind of needs to happen, for it to have any effectiveness.

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2 minutes ago, Ender said:

I would think that a license like that, (that is, one that makes you credit the author but not copy the license) kind of defeats the purpose, wouldn't it?  Because let's say someone derives from your work and credits you but doesn't copy your license.  Then someone else can derive from their work, but since there was no license, they don't credit the author.  Then it can spread from there, with no credit to the author being given.  I think the copying of the license kind of needs to happen, for it to have any effectiveness.

Seems logical to me. The 2-clause BSD license couldn't be much simpler (or shorter).

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To be honest, I wish CC had existed way back when I was putting content out on that new fangled World Wide Web. I made and published quite a few maps/mods for games like the original Doom series and Command & Conquer (through Red Alert 2), and C&C Renegade, and I always included a license that I wrote myself. I'm not even sure it would have been legally binding to be honest.

Basically saying you can use, distribute, and alter my work in any way you wish, as long as you:

  • Credit the original author (me).
  • Amend the change-log section of the license to reflect the changes you made and to credit yourself for those changes.
  • Do not alter or remove the license identifier I hid in each map, if found.
  • Include the amended license and change-log when redistributing.

Of course, I have no idea if anyone followed those rules, save for two instances. No way to really track that back then. I really only included it in the off chance any of my content made it into any mass distributed collections, something that used to be very common for games like those back then. Those instances I am talking about were one of my C&C RA2 maps made it into a collection that was shared online many moons ago, and the creator of that collection followed my license. The other was for work I did on a Renegade map set we ran on a popular Renegade server, in that case I knew the server owners and they happily honored my simple license request.

So I think any CC license that covers whatever you want to protect in one form or another should be good. Like I said, I am not familiar with much outside of the very common GPL.

Basically, my long winded way of saying, I'm not sure. If for some reason you can't find what you want through CC, maybe you can do one up yourself, or if they allow you to edit one to fit your specific needs? The problem is, I have NO idea if self made licenses are legally binding. I am most definitely NOT a lawyer, I can only speak to my past experiences.

Edited by Strider
Added my OLD examples.
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5 hours ago, Strider said:

The problem is, I have NO idea if self made licenses are legally binding. I am most definitely NOT a lawyer, I can only speak to my past experiences.

I am not a lawyer either, but as I see it: A license written by an organization (GPL), a company (Microsoft), a lawyer (that you contracted with to get something you like), or you as an individual may or may not be legally binding or valid. That depends on the jurisdiction attempting to wrangle with the question if it ever comes up.

If a license is violated in the opinion of someone, they can take it to court to determine if there was in fact a violation. The court might find in favor of either party based on the circumstances. In a different jurisdiction, they might rule another way.

It's a very tricky thing. And the hardest part is not finding a license you like. It is what you do after discovery of a violation. Do you contact them? If they refuse to honor the terms, do you take them to court? Enforcing a license can be a very expensive proposition.

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Of course, self made licenses are legally binding. Remember that Copyright is "all rights reserved" by default, and a license grants permission. 

CC-BY isn't used for software, because software has separate expressions for source code and executable code. Since the binary distribution and source distribution are often licensed separately, different licenses are needed for each. 

Having said that.... If I read your intentions right, the BSD 3-clause license is basically what you want. In short: people can re-use, modify, and distribute your work, as long as they give you credit. 

 

For the most part, a Copyright notice needs to cover

  1. Who created a work
  2. How downstream users may use or distribute the work
  3. Whether modifications are allowed
  4. A disclaimer of warranty and liability. 

It's important to note who created the work, as I see a lot of FOSS programs out there without any way to contact the author. That makes it impossible to do certain things, and if the work has no Copyright notice attached, you can't even legally copy it. So at the very least, put in your name and a stable e-mail address. (I've had the same GMail address since 2005, so I consider that stable enough.)

I think that covers everything I'd be worried about. I'm not a lawyer, so of course take this as the free suggestion that it is. Especially the "no liability" part.  😉

Here are some links to FOSS licenses that may also help:

https://opensource.org/licenses/BSD-3-Clause

https://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

https://unlicense.org/

 

I'd at least look at the text of the Apache and BSD licenses, then decide whehter to simply use one 

Edited by TomXP411
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