Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, November 18, 2005

Interoperability of OA licenses

The OAI standard makes OA repositories interoperable for metadata harvesting. But that's not the only important kind of OA interoperability. What if different bits of OA content are licensed under different OA-friendly licenses and you want to combine them in a new work? It turns out that they may not be legally interoperable. Creative Commons is trying to solve this problem. Excerpt from the CC blog:
[T]here is...[a] pressing interoperability issue that arises in the context of content licensed under a Creative Commons license and content licensed under other "free" licenses. As many of these licenses are now crafted, there is no way for creativity to be shared among these licenses, even if the underlying freedoms guaranteed by the licenses are the same. Thus, for example, Wikipedia is licensed under the Free Software Foundationís GFDL. That license essentially enables the same freedoms as the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license; but you canít take content from Wikipedia and mix it with BY-SA photos from Flickr because the licenses donít permit interoperability. Even though the underlying freedoms are the same, the legal codes make the content non-interoperability. We want to fix this problem. Over the next few months, Creative Commons will be announcing a project to facilitate the federation of free licenses. Our aim is to make the legal code of those licenses interoperable. We will be working with as many representatives from the free culture movement as we can to build this federation of free licenses. We will appreciate your advice and feedback as we do that.

Many have talked about dual-licensing as a solution to the interoperability problem. That is a good first step, but it raises obvious problem that has been eloquently discussed on our cc-licenses list ó namely, that whichever license you take content under, any derivatives that you make must then stay under that license. To solve that problem, and to begin this discussion of license interoperability, Creative Commons seeks comment on proposed amendments to Creative Commons licenses that contain a ShareAlike license element. These amendments would enable dual licensing of derivatives. By proposing (and hopefully effecting) the amendments posted here, Creative Commons hopes to enable interoperability between "free" content licenses, encourage dual licensing of open content projects and avoid the depletion those projects by barring the return of derivatives to that project. Again, this is not a long term solution. But while we begin the process of discussion to find that long term solution, we believe this will help many important free culture projects achieve a limited interoperability immediately....Please circulate your comments to and participate in the debate on the cc-licenses list.