Scripting News for 6/20/2007

Question about Creative Commons 

I like to ask technical questions here on Scripting News for a few reasons:

1. If I have the question, there are probably others who have it too. So everyone has a chance to learn.

2. We create an archived thread of knowledge on the subject for the search engines. I benefit from other groups that discuss things that I need to know, there’s nothing like practical answers to problems real people have.

3. It gives readers a chance to show off what they know, and gives me a chance to learn about the people who read this site. I am always impressed with the deep knowledge of these people, and their generosity, their willingness to help.

So with that in mind, I have a technical question about something that isn’t technology, but is something technologists are using, the Creative Commons.

Back in 2004, when the Creative Commons was very new, and I was working at Berkman Center which was one of the proponents of the Commons, it seemed natural to release the RSS 2.0 spec under one of the licenses. Subsequently, it became a common practice in spec-writing, for example when Microsoft released the SSE spec, they also used the Creative Commons.

It made sense to do so, because it follows in the precedent set by the IETF, the share-alike, for-attribution license, to this non-legal mind, is more or less the same license that the IETF has used for many years for its specs.

So the question is this — if there are disputes about a work that’s licensed under the Creative Commons, what are the mechanisms available to mediate or arbitrate such disputes? Perhaps such mediation is a service that one of the law schools, Stanford or Harvard, might provide? It seems that when a work is licensed under the CC, there should be some free help available to guide the use of the licensed material, since (I presume) one of the goals of the CC is to encourage creative people to be non-commercial with their works. If there’s no way to profit from the work, it seems unfair that it should cost money to enforce the terms of the license (however these days nothing about the legal system seems fair to me).

So this is a technical question addressed to lawyers who read Scripting News. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

Dan O’Shea is a lawyer who is interested in doing this work.

Creative Commons: “A Creative Commons license terminates automatically if someone uses your work contrary to the license terms.”

Italians want to know 

Paolo says they want to know what we think of them.

I was talking yesterday with my friend Mary Trigiani, who as you can tell by her last name, is of Italian descent. Her grandparents were born in the old country. I told her my impression, that for a country of such beauty, and a people so intelligent and friendly, and one that seems from the outsider’s point of view to run so well, they sure think very little of themselves!

I didn’t see any homeless people in Italy. There were some beggars, they were very aggressive, but they didn’t persist if you ignored them. But even they seemed to be taking reasonably good care of themselves.

And the cities are so fantastically beautiful. When Italians visit the United States, what must they think of us. We can’t even keep our streets clean. True, NY is doing much better, but we have a long way to go. And our food, it’s nothing compared to theirs. Honestly I don’t think I had ever really tasted fish until I had lunch with Marco and Paolo in Genova. You can ask them how I was gushing over the flavors and textures.

I go back to the advice I gave at the end of my trip. Let’s have an international blogger’s camp in rural Italy, off-season, a week retreat, where we talk about the world, in an expansive way. Let Italy be the first host. Then we go somewhere else, maybe South America, New Zealand, Korea. Let’s find what’s great about all our cultures, and learn from each other.

I think if Italians use the rest of us a mirror they might learn to appreciate what they have more than they do now. It’s a beautiful place. And the people are nice. What more could you ask for!

OJ’s confession on BitTorrent 

TorrentFreak: “In 2006 O.J Simpson announced he was releasing a book in which he would detail what would have happened, had he really committed the horrific murders of his ex-wife and her boyfriend in 1994. After public outrage, the book was shelved and 400,000 copies of the book were destroyed but now a digital version has been leaked to BitTorrent.”

12 responses to this post.

  1. Dave, the rural retreat is an excellent idea. Maybe every time bloggers get together, it can be off the beaten path — somewhere, perhaps off-season, where a gathering will help local businesses.

    And, while I’d love to claim first-generation status, my parents both were born here. However, Mom’s parents were from the old country, where they came from neighboring villages in northern Lombardy. But they met in Hoboken! Dad’s parents were born here but his grandparents came from the Veneto and Puglia. So we are one-quarter southern, which is where the hand gesture tendency was perfected. I consider myself lucky to have the ethnic heritage, especially because it was passed through a group of people who chose to become Americans and passed down the reasons for their decision along with rich cultural and family traditions.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Italy so much. It is a magical place.


  2. Dave, many parts of Italy are an absolute dump and are a disgrace. In particular Naples and the surrounding area. I think that that particular problem is prevelent all over the world.
    The Almafi coast is a beatiful coastline when viewed from the sea, however I don’t care for it much when viewed close up actually walking the streets!


  3. Dave requested that I post here…

    I’m an attorney/mediator/arbitrator very involved with Web 2.0 issues.

    It would be simple to set up an online med/arb process for Creative Commons disputes… what organization would like to sponsor this?

    Creative Commons? Maybe, but there is a possible conflict of interest here.

    Law Schools? Great places, but not known for entertaining new ideas… especially coming from the outside.

    Sponsors? That’s exactly what I’m trying to determine!

    If anyone would like to explore the possibilities, please feel free to join my social network, and continue the discussion in the Forum. Among other tools on the site, I have a blog dedicated to negotiation/mediation/arbitration issues there:

    I look forward to hearing from you!


  4. Dave, my theory about how italians consider themself and how the others consider us is simple: Italy has a lot of beautiful places, Italy it’s a great country for the occasional traveller.

    A beautiful holiday resort: but living, staying in Italy, that’s another story…

    If you live in Italy you have to come in terms with such a huge number of problems that makes you feel (with all due respect to Third World countries) living in a Third World country, compared with other european neighbours – and I’m talking about the diffusion of mis-management and corruption at any level of polical and industrial establishments, that keeps our country far behind the majority of other “(post)industrial powers” in terms of social services, tecnology, innovation and education system.

    That’s why people who visits our country think it’s a great place and people who live in this country have so little consideration about it.

    And yes, I’m an italian living in Italy, by the way…


  5. Posted by Chris on June 21, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Creative Commons is just a license governing use of copyrighted material. It has nothing to do with the substance contained in the document.

    You cannot use copyright to protect ideas, only expression. In practice, this means you cannot use copyright at all to protect something that is substantially ideas.

    Case law in every copyright casebook: A cereal company tried to prevent a competitor from copyring a back-of-the-package contest by claiming copyright on the contest rules. Ruling: Can’t be copyrighted.

    The guy who invented the roller derby tried to prevent competing promoters from producing competitions by writing a short story in which the rules were described: No go.

    The ideas underlying the RSS spec cannot be copyrighted (you could have tried patenting them, but it’s too late now). The law frowns on trying to end-run patent law using copyright law.

    The basic reason why specs and rules and the like cannot be copyrighted is that there are only a finite number of ways to “express” them using language. If you give person A a monopoly on expression #1, and person B a monopoly on expression #2, you eventually run out of ways to express it, and you end up with a monopoly of an idea, something copyright doesn’t allow. Copyright only protects expression.


  6. Posted by Chris on June 21, 2007 at 8:38 am

    To Dan O’Shea: Dave is not looking to mediate CC disputes. He’s looking to shut down Rogers Cadenhead and the RSS advisory committee’s changes to the RSS spec. In other words, he wants to freeze changes in the RSS spec by using the copyright he claims exists on the text of the spec. Sounds like something Microsoft might think of, if they didn’t have lawyers to tell them it won’t work.


  7. So this is a technical question addressed to lawyers who read Scripting News…

    Paging David Ardia!

    Count me in for Italy.


  8. Without intending to take a side, I’d like to state the following:

    Using the continued, widespread adoption of RSS 2.0 as evidence, I submit that the clarity of the spec by any party is no longer needed.

    There are technology people who want to evolve, clarify, rewrite and even evangelize the spec. There’s nothing that prevents someone from making a *derivative* of the work–you just can’t call it RSS 2.0. A greater service to the community at any level is to evangelize the concept and point to prior art for examples.



  9. The photo used in the post on Scripting News is CC-licensed by me. The license requires attribution, which is not made. I am also interested in this “free” legal process, so I may sue Dave Winer.


  10. Hi Rachel, first — no need to sue — I’ll take the excerot of the picture down in a few minutes.

    I don’t know if you saw that I linked to your original from the excerpt.

    Since the creative commons doesn’t say *how* to provide attribution, this is my best guess as to what’s appropriate.

    Sorry for (apparently) offending.


  11. Thanks Dave for what you say of us.


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