Panlibus Blog

So why isn’t Creative Commons suitable for Software

When I first skimmed through Creative Commons a few months back my initial thought was ‘great, at last simple sensible licencing that seems to be getting lots of buy-in‘ and naturally assumed that it was as suitable for software as any other work. But as we all know skimming things, and assumptions can be dangerous. Nevertheless I was more than a little surprised when the penny dropped that Creative Commons is deemed appropriate licensing for practically any type of creative work except software.

Still life goes on, and even though I’d discounted it as a licensing approach for software, it is very relevant for information and data that can be accessed, distributed, and mixed by software and services that will constitute the Silkworm Platform.

Then OCLC’s Thom Hickey in his Blog Outgoing posted an entry on Open Source Software licenses to which Rikhei commented that Creative Commons might be worth a look in Thom’s search for appropriate licensing for OCLC Open Source software. Thom says in reference to the OSI approved Open Source license that OCLC drew up a couple of yers back “The closer I read it, the less I understand it, and most people that want to use our software come up with some questions, most of which are hard to answer

This prompted me to take another look at Creative Commons, and beyond their bland answer to the Can I use a Creative Commons license for software? FAQ.

I see from a thread on their mailing lists that the Debian Projet have also looked at this and although the have problems with their compatibility with CC’s NonComercial licenses they appear to be fairly close to the CC Attribution and Attribution-ShareAlike licenses.

Thom points out in his comments, that software is a bit different as you need to take in to account things like indemnification. That’s true but as the mixing of information becomes more widespread it will not be long before indemnification against the ramifications of the use of incorrect information will become an issue.

I still believe that it would not be that difficult to produce a software CC license option, and to quote Thom again It would be nice to have something like Creative Commons, so you could point to a ‘non-commercial with attribution license’ that everyone would understand. Thats the key, as most people don’t understand licensing.

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