BoingBoing and Licenses


Today I was thrilled to see that Cory Doctorow (who among other things wrote one of my favourite Sci-fi novels [1]) copied one of my blog posts on to [2].

Then I reviewed the licence conditions (which had previously been contained in the About Page and is now a post on my documents blog [3]) and discovered that I had not permitted such use!

In the second part of this post (not included in the RSS feed) I have the old and new license conditions for my blog content. My plan is that my document blog [4] will have the current version of such documents while this blog will have every iteration along the way.

The new version of my license explicitly permits BoingBoing to do what they want with my content. I don’t have any objection to what Cory did, and I would have been rather unhappy if he had sent me an email saying “I wanted to feature your post on BoingBoing but sorry you miss out because of your license”. But his procedure does not work well.

Now I am wondering, how do I construct a license agreement that permits my content to be used by big popular sites that give my blog new readers and my ideas a wider audience while denying the content to sploggers who just want to use my patterns of words for google hits? How do I permit my content to be used by people who contribute as much to the community as Cory but deny it to talentless people who want to exploit my work while contributing nothing to the world? How can I ensure that people who want to reference my work can learn about the licence conditions (the About Page apparently doesn’t work)? These are serious questions and I invite suggestions as to how to solve them.

The fact that I have forgiven Cory for not abiding by my license and granted him permission to do the same thing again whenever he wishes is not the ideal solution. For authors to find people who copy their work and respond with forgiveness or DMCA take-down notices according to who does the copying and the reason for it is a losing game and a distraction from the work of creating the useful content.

I understand the BoingBoing situation, they deliver summaries and copies of blog posts rapidly and frequently. Discovering conditions of use and asking for clarification from the authors (which may take days or weeks) would really affect the process. Also anyone who reads my blog would probably realise that I want to have such posts copied on sites such as BoingBoing.

Old License:
The contents of this blog is licensed under a non-commercial share-alike license. This means (among other things) that you may not put my content on a web page that contains Google AdWords or any other similar advertising.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

New License:
The contents of my blogs (unless otherwise noted) are licensed under a non-commercial share-alike license. This means (among other things) that you may not put my content on a web page that contains Google AdWords or any other similar advertising.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

As an exception to this I permit to copy my posts. I may make exceptions for some other sites on request.


5 thoughts on “BoingBoing and Licenses”

  1. Russell,

    I am a faithful reader, and I was the one who sent the link to your post to BoingBoing. It’s true that I quoted most of the post (at least the “meat” of it), but it was not a verbatim copy: I selected a nugget, wrote some copy around it, including the part where I attributed your name, wrote a different headline (which Cory modified himself afterwards).

    Thus, it’s quite likely that this usage falls within fair use in the USA, and I think it’s under fair dealing in Australia too, (but I am not a lawyer and etc; I just try to know what the law is so I follow it).

    I am a Melbournian now: maybe I will say hello at a LUV meeting sometime soon…

  2. etbe says:

    Javier: I believe that a precedent was set where quoting a single sentence was not considered fair use. It depends on the importance of the quote.

    The most important part of my post was quoted entirely, I don’t believe that this is fair use (one of the criteria is no more than one section – four numbered sections doesn’t count). Under Australian fair-dealing laws it seems that the limit of one “chapter” or 10% of the work is not met.

    As I said it’s a use that I desire and I changed the license to permit such things. But the license that I had at the time you quoted it did not permit such things.

    If you have any suggestions as to how to improve things and avoid such confusion in future then please let me know.

    Thanks for forwarding the link, I really appreciate it! But I couldn’t in good conscience let this matter slip after my recent actions in sending out DMCA take-down notices to sploggers.

  3. I understand your point of view, but I still think the post would stand under “review and criticism” terms… this is academic, and more to the point: even if the law really says this post could not be copied this way, then it would be an unfair law.

    You don’t quite admit to that unfairness by changing the license by hand a posteriori, but maybe I could try and convince you. You did it because you really want this type of linking, but even if you didn’t (imagine I copy this comment of yours and put it up as purported evidence of some wrongdoing of yours) I should still be allowed to. Copyright can be a form of censorship, and micromanaging of what can be quoted and what can’t by copyright owners is censorship by means of hassle.

    Not that I like sploggers, far from that. On the “10% rule” I would argue that spidering your whole site and putting ads on it as many sploggers do is a rotten thing to do (and probably illegal under Australian law), but this particular snippet is much, much less than 10% of your whole blog, which is what sploggers would be putting up.

    Also, would you consider me a copyright infringer if I translated your list of conditions into Spanish (a derivative work!”) and put them up somewhere on my HTTP server so I could link them from my SMTP server? (in fact I am seriously thinking of doing it, I too hate made-up legal semi-threats in .sigs). I am not asking whether I would have your permission, but whether you would consider that actionable if I did it without your permission.

  4. etbe says:

    Javier: I agree that copyright can be a form of censorship and would like to see the copyright laws changed such that all work can be used for a mandated price. The US constitution says “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” so anything that does not promote the progress of science and arts should not be permitted IMHO. A group that claims to be a religion has a history of using copyright to censor publication of their “religious technology”.

    There are reasons for allowing copying for review etc, and if it was evidence of some wrong-doing then I believe that would strengthen a case for copying it – but for a blog post that would only apply if the original was taken down.

    Sploggers typically don’t copy the entire blog. I have not found evidence of a single splogger copying more than 10% of my site (although there were a few who would have eventually reached 10% if I hadn’t stopped them first). Many sploggers have just copied one or two posts.

    Translation without permission is not a clear issue (I recommend that you not translate posts from major magazine sites). But fortunately for you I thought of that some months ago and put the above page on my site. Since then I decided not to mirror the translations (although I reserve the right to do so). If you personally want to put a translation of my Email EULA post on a site with Google advertising then I grant you permission to do so (I’m still considering what I will do in regard to other people wanting to do the same).

  5. I think that you are better off identifying sites by type, not explicitly naming them. It doesn’t scale. What about Digg? It’s not currently allowed by your licence, but I suspect you’d prefer the attention it could offer you…

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