Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creative Commons, noncommercial and formats

Following is a contribution of mine to the Creative Commons 4.0 discussion.  For more of the discussion, see the cc-licenses list.

Maciej Pendolski's point about differing rights depending on the format is an important one. This is not simply a matter of physical formats, but could also have applications in the digital world.

For example, the Journal of Medical Internet Research has a model where the html copy is free, but there is a charge to download the PDF.

Flatworldknowledge has an innovative approach to textbooks. All books can be read free online, while specific formats are available for purchase. This includes print (in either black and white or colour), audiobooks, PDF to print it yourself, or ebooks (for ebook readers - the web-based version is free). Details at:

There are likely many permutations of what types of formats might be available for free and which ones the creators wish to reserve rights for, and this is likely to continue to evolve over the next few years.  For this reason, I think that it may not be possible to write this into a standard license.

This, to me, is another good reason to provide a larger text box for "more permissions", so that people can write what they mean by using a particular license. Perhaps CC could provide a link to some sample language for common types of extra permissions language that people might wish to include?

Another thought is that as the commons evolves, our thoughts about what can be permitted may well evolve, too. What I am hearing is that there is a tendency for people to start out granting more limited rights, then move to greater permissions over time. For this reason, I think it would be optimal to provide a means for people to revisit or update their licenses. I don't know what is involved technically, so thoughts on this are appreciated.


Heather Morrison, MLIS
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics