Is Creative Commons forever?
July 10, 2008 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible for cc-licensed content to be un-cc'ed? That is, relicensed under a more severe license. As far as I know, Creative Commons is forever, but I just wanted to make sure.
posted by Tlogmer to Law & Government (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What if I change my mind?
posted by the dief at 5:01 AM on July 10, 2008

Best answer: It depends whether you are the only author, a contributing author, or a recipient of the work. All choices affect the work from now onwards - there are not retroactive revocation privs...

Only author: You can choose to de-CC your work for the current and future versions. All previous version are still CC-licenced and if your current version is identical to the previous versions, it's pretty pointless.

Contributing author: Everyone must come to an agreement to revoke the CC-licensing. If someone doesn't agree, then the revocation fails or their work must be completely removed from the whole.

Recipient: Impossible to remove the CC-license from something you've received.
posted by unixrat at 6:10 AM on July 10, 2008

What the dief said. It makes sense. You can stop distributing it under CC. So that someone who obtains it from you, or your official channels, after you make the change presumably can't go on distributing it under CC*. But There could be millions of people out there who got your work previously who are under the assumption that it's under CC. You can't expect them to automatically know that you changed the license. So they can go on using it under CC. Also, they might not be distributing your work. They could be distributing derivatives that they've put their own efforts into. So even if you did notify them that you've changed your license, it would still be unfair to ask them to stop distributing something they've also contributed to.

*Of course they could easily claim that they got it from someone distributing it under CC.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:48 AM on July 10, 2008

I just got to thinking about the implications of switching from a more restrictive CC license to a less restrictive one. I guess it would be very far fetched for anyone to claim any damage has been done to them by such a change being made. I guess it'd be about the same as switching from traditional copyright to a CC license. There still is also the question of switching from a license that is more restrictive on point A, and less restrictive on point B to one that is less restrictive on point A and more on point B. It shouldn't really make any difference though. Just makes things more complicated for the original author really. Anyone obtaining the work really just has to pay attention to the license they obtained it under. That's all that can be reasonably expected.

Of course I should mention I am not a lawyer. I'm just having fun considering the implications of these scenarios. I could be wrong. Don't trust my judgment for legal purposes.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:57 AM on July 10, 2008

Because CC is a copyright license, it is not "forever"--if left alone, the work will still pass into the public domain eventually (assuming retroactive term extensions stop one day... I can hope).
posted by deeaytch at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2008

So, what if you licensed something with a strict, non-CC license and someone paid for it. Then, the very next day, you released it with a CC non-payment required license. It seems likely that you were thinking about releasing it as CC when you accepted the money. So, it seems as if the money was not accepted in completely food faith.

On the other hand, one could advertise "When I've collected $50000 for this work I will release it with a Creative Commons license. Until then, a license is $10." The last guy who paid you $10 would know they were paying when they potentially didn't need to, so maybe that mitigates the bad-faith idea.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 8:05 AM on July 10, 2008

This is a good question because I swear this has happens on Flickr. I use CC-licensed photos I find there to illustrate web posts for a radio show. I am conscientious about this, both in linking back and giving credit. Yet, sometimes when I go back to look at the photo it's now no longer CC licensed--and there's no record that it ever was, except my my say-so. How does one handle that? (This happened to a friend, too.)
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:17 AM on July 10, 2008

Take screencast to show they are CC at the time you decide to use them? Then you would have documentation at least.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2008

I had a similar issue to Mo in that I'd used a CC image from Flickr that the owner contacted me over; when I looked at the page it was then 'All rights reserved'. I contacted Flickr to ask if they had a history of licensing for a photo and how I should deal with this. They replied:
If an image creator is contacting you about an image of theirs you will need to work out with them a solution. We do not have records of what it was licensed as. It is possible for an image owner to change the license on an image, but you will need to work out the details with the owner.
So, in practice, you're able to change the licence and enforce it as long as no one can prove what it was previously licensed as. I don't think a screenshot would be good as it's easily alterable. Wikipedia use a bot / statement from a confirmed user to verify the licence of CC images taken from Flickr.
posted by JonB at 11:50 PM on July 10, 2008

There's a service called ImageStamper that's designed to solve precisely the problem JonB and others have noticed with Flickr images.

I haven't used it, but it got a plug from the CC people so I think it's worth looking into.

Part of the problem is how Flickr in particular handles licensing. They don't make it clear, and they don't show on their site, that past version of a photo may have had different licensing, and that a new license doesn't necessarily supersede an older one if the older one has already propagated out to users. The interface allows people to change the license whenever they'd like, and that I'm sure leads to lots of problems.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:18 PM on November 1, 2008

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