Friday, 19 October 2007

Copyright Notice

Even if you're one of the three people who have found my blog already (I do need to advertise it a bit more), you probably haven't seen the copyright notice at the bottom of the page. I mean, who reads copyright notices anyway?

Well, if you've clicked on the Groklaw link in my "Nice Links" list, you will realise that issues of copyright are actually important in today's world, especially on Internet, and that's why I've decided to put on a clear copyright license here, even though there's not much in terms of contents yet. And because I find strict copyright too restrictive, I've chosen to release my articles under a Creative Commons license.

However, after reading a few articles from the Technology Law Culture blog (specifically this one and that one), I realised that different people might have a different interpretation of the license I chose for my blog. In order to reduce ambiguity, I decided to add an explanation of my intentions here. If you wish to use some of the work I have published on this blog, and are unsure of what you are allowed to do with it, please refer to this article. If you are still unsure, just send me a message and ask for explicit permission. I don't bite anyway!

So let's just look at the copyright notice line by line, and I will explain what I exactly mean with each line:

  • The very first line: Columns of the Christophoronomicon © Copyright 2007 Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets, is the actual copyright notice. Note that under the Berne Convention, it is unnecessary. Copyright is automatic and needn't be indicated. However, there's no harm in being precise, and it's practical to have my name on every page so people know who to attribute my articles to.
  • The second line: Comments are owned by the individual posters qualifies the first line, so that it doesn't look as if I'm claiming copyright on other people's words on this blog. It also means the following license does not apply to comments: as I don't own them, I have no right to decide how they might be distributed.
  • The third line is the meat of the notice, with a Creative Commons image (which links to the simplified text of the copyright license I chose) followed by the text: Unless otherwise specified, articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Netherlands License. The link goes to a page with a simple description of what the different aspects of the license mean. It's in Dutch, but you can change the language to English. Here is a run-down of what I meant when choosing this license:
    • Unless otherwise specified: this little qualifier just means that the license here applies to all articles on this blog and their contents (images, videos, etc.), unless I write otherwise in an article. So don't go assuming that absolutely all my articles are published under the same license. This is only true if I don't put a specific notice in an article (which may happen for instance if I show an image I don't own but I got permission to reproduce).
    • Creative Commons: by putting my articles under a Creative Commons license, I allow anyone to copy, distribute, display and perform what I write, as long as they agree to a few conditions.
    • Attribution: the first condition is that I receive credit for my work. In practice, that means that if you use my work, you need to refer to me by name, and add a URL to the article you used on my blog (put it in the references if you're writing a book, make the link clickable if you're on the Web).
    • Non-commercial: this is a more complex condition, as different people have different ideas of what commercial use means. My personal interpretation of it (which is the one I expect people to follow, as it is my work we are talking about) is: if you are a non-commercial entity (i.e. a private person or a a non-profit organisation) and you are not using my work with a money-making goal in mind (e.g. in a book you intend to sell with a profit, or in an advertisement campaign to sell something), the license gives you enough permission already to copy and distribute my work. Note that I don't consider using my articles on an ad-supported site to be commercial use of my work, as long as it's a personal site or the site of a non-profit organisation. In any other case (e.g. if you are a commercial entity, like a company, or an individual acting on behalf of a company, or if you want to make money using my work), the license does not automatically authorise you to copy or redistribute my work. That does not mean that I explicitly forbid it. It just means that you have to ask me for an explicit permission. You can do that via the comments, or per e-mail via my profile.
    • No Derivative Works: this condition means that you may not alter my articles without my explicit permission. You are allowed to quote them, or copy and redistribute them in full, but you may not make changes (except what is needed to reproduce them on a different medium, like a book for instance), unless you ask me first and I give you permission.
    • Netherlands: this means that my work falls under the Dutch Copyright Law regime. It has a few consequences you might want to be aware of. First, Dutch Copyright Law, like European Copyright Law in general, doesn't have a concept of fair use. Instead, it has a few additional laws that allow things like quoting (for a purpose of commentary or analysis) and back-up copies. But it's usually more restricted than the American concept of fair use. Of course, this doesn't have much influence here, as the license I chose grants you more rights than what fair use normally does anyway. Second, Dutch Copyright Law has a concept of author's moral rights. This means that if you use my work to slander me, or reproduce it in a manner that distorts its purpose or mutilates it, I may revoke the license I gave you to copy and distribute my work, even if you otherwise obeyed the conditions of this license. Of course, we are all civilised people here, so I don't think this will ever come into play.
  • The final line is just a link back to this article, so that people can always refer to my own words when looking at copying and reproducing my work.

OK, I understand this all looks very heavy-handed, and a bit useless given what this blog has been containing so far. But I'm pretty sure it'll become handy in the future. As we say in French: Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir (I'll leave the translation to you as an exercise. Who said legal documents couldn't be educational?).

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