Copyright and sharing of site sources
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pieterhpieterh wrote on 29 Sep 2009 15:28

This is a question that is going to come up sooner or later, so I'm going to raise it now.

What is the license on the Iron Giant template sites, and packages, and how does this affect applications that use these components?

Currently, the license is CC-BY-SA, meaning that all sites using these pieces must allow others to use them in the same way.

We are hitting several problems today:

  • Inconsistent licensing, due to lack of any rules
  • License infringements, due to lack of explanations

I'll present my own opinion and then we can discuss this. I think we need to take a proposal to the Community once we have it.

My own basic view is that open source is a desirable way of collaborating. I publish all my own works under share-alike licenses whenever it's feasible. The license becomes important when people are motivated to take without giving back. A share-alike license forces people who use my work, and make improvements, to share those improvements. It is a fair bargain, and one I demand as an author.

Now, within Wikidot we face the problem that a site combines both 'source code' and content, under a single license. The source code is essentially in _templates, _start pages, and include files. While it makes sense to enforce share-alike rules on the source code, it would be wrong to extend this to the content. So wrong that people would refuse to use such source code for fear of 'contamination'.

My suggestion is thus:

  • We keep the CC-SA-BY license on all works that we make collaboratively.
  • We define, explicitly, that normal content pages are not derived works, since they are mixed with templates at runtime by Wikidot, not by the site author
  • We define, explicitly, that hand-made modifications to _templates, _start pages, include files, themes, menus, or other components build by the Community are derived works and MUST be shared under the same license.

Now, how to enforce that sharing? I see a few ways:

  • Automatically I: the license for a page would be inherited with cloning and the source for a CC-BY-SA page is always visible, even when modified.
  • Automatically II: the Clone module would let anyone copy a site's source code (nav:, system:, and hidden pages) but not the content.
  • Manually: the onus is upon the site creator to publish his modified works, and this can be enforced by user demand.

There are other possibilities but they become more complex.

For example it is possible to mix open and commercial use. That is in fact already foreseen by the default Iron Giant legal policy which says that "all contributions to this site are licensed by you under the MIT License to anyone who wishes to use them, including the Operators". I took that verbatim from existing projects, but it now comes in handy.

It works thus: all contributions to the site are usable by all. Contributions are edits and additions. The original site (which is copyright Wikidot Inc.) becomes a mix of original work and contributions, and Wikidot can now license this site to anyone, under any license it wants.

Thus, a combination of enforced sharing together with opt-out for Pro users ('my site is not cloneable') might thus be a good way (and I'm always exploring that) of funding Wikidot.


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Contents license is not the same as source licence By Brunhilda 1 Comments 25 Jan 2010 17:50

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