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CCD CopyWrite Explained


The CCD CopyWrite distribution and use license is not merely a Free/Libre/Open Source Software license.  While software licensed CCD CopyWrite does indeed fit the definitions for free and open source software as set forth by the Free Software Foundation, GNU Project, and Open Source Initiative, its applicability goes beyond that.  It is a complete FLOW license whose intent is to provide maximum freedom of use and distribution to anyone possessing a licensed work.

FLOW: Unified "Free/Libre/Open Works" Licensing

What is needed is not a collection of open source software licenses and various types of free content licenses, each for a different type of copyrightable work.  Instead, what we need is a single, unified FLOW license that can cover the full range of copyrightable works, without requiring artificial division of works into categories of content such as software, documentation, and music.  In addition to facilitating production of multimedia derivative works that might combine all three of these types of works and others besides, rather than hindering them by separating them legally through disparate licensing, this can also potentially simplify the legal landscape for developers of copyrightable works of all types.

Perhaps more importantly, a license whose terms must be applicable across all content types must necessarily focus on the most important aspect of copyrightable works: that which differentiates them legally and tangibly from everything else but is common across all copyrightable works.  Such a unified license is thus both pragmatically and philosophically more appropriate to its purpose within a larger context than can be addressed on an ad-hoc, case-by-case, work-by-work, license-by-license basis.

Addressing Problems Of Existing Licenses

GPL: The GNU General Public License mostly conforms to the definitions of Copyleft and Free Software, as well as conforming to the Open Source Definition, but it does not in fact effectively promote intellectual liberty.  The FLOSS development community at large has become accustomed to Richard Stallman's explanations of his supposed philosophy of software freedom and the General Public License he spawned and nurtured, and is prone to assume that the espoused philosophical statements and license are in some way related, guaranteeing the freedom for noncorporate developers and software users to do what they will with the software that comes into their possession.  Unfortunately, that is not entirely the case.

Clauses of the GPL v2 impose unrealistic restrictions on developers and grass-roots FLOSS distribution projects — unrealistic, at least, if one expects them to be feasible, easily accomplished, and pursued with a community spirit independent of corporate and other strong organizational backing.  Notable amongst these clauses are Sections 3 and 6.  They are further reinforced by even stronger legal language in Section 10 of the proposed GPL v3 (as of this writing, 2006).  The implications are pretty clear: if you don't have the ability to ensure reliable, redundant methods for ensuring source code availability support for three years beyond the availability of distributed binaries, you are not in a legal position to offer open source software in binary formats for free distribution.  This means, among other things, that if you give away a Linux installation CD, you could be violating the terms of the GPL.  The Software Liberation Front provides one such perspective on the theory and practice of the GPL and the Free Software Foundation that promotes it.

BSD: BSD-style licenses, such as the BSD License itself and the MIT License, suffer a different problem: they are not perceived to be strongly Copyleft licenses.  While recent analyses of the BSD license itself suggest the BSD License is strongly heritable after all, it is still generally thought that certain types of derivative works can be created under licenses that do not provide the same protections for redistributors, users, and contributing developers, essentially taking forks of BSD licensed code (for instance) out of the pool of Free/Libre/Open Source Software.  Regardless of the heritability characteristics of these licenses, however, they have in common with the GPL an inapplicability across various types of media: they are specifically confined to the realm of software.

Creative Commons: There are a number of Creative Commons licenses that come within spitting distance of the technical effects of the terms of the CCD CopyWrite license.  They all fail in some technical regard, however, in addition to the fact that the obtuse, dense legal language of them imposes unnecessary complexity on licensing terms and contributes to both potential misinterpretations and opportunity for special case loopholes.

The CCD CopyWrite License Itself

CCD CopyWrite is a Copyfree, unified Free/Libre/Open Works license suitable for software licensing purposes that encourages free use and distribution of licensed content without legal encumbrances that require unreasonable technical support conditions of distributors.  The intention is to maintain a license of simple enough phrasing to be comprehensible in its legal ramifications to the layperson, to reinforce the importance of honest and proper attribution for creative works, and to indemnify distributors and developers of licensed materials against all comers in the legal realm of copyright infringement litigation to free their minds to be inspired to create.

The CCD CopyWrite license has been described as a potentially self-propagating "protected public domain", approximating conditions of the public domain with the exception that it also behaves a bit like a roach motel: what goes in(to the license) doesn't come out.  Because of its strong heritability, CCD CopyWrite is not GPL compatible.  GPL compatibility is defined by the Free Software Foundation to indicate software whose licensing terms allows it to be included in GPL software projects and thus distributed under the GPL.  In other words, to be GPL compatible, the CCD CopyWrite license would have to lose the "protected" part of its "protected public domain" terms.