drafting how

Since I wrote this page, and the General Arts Licence, Creative Commons have produced a selection of licences, one of which satisfies most of the criticisms noted below. Since their licence is cleaner than the General Arts Licence, and their drafting team included legal experts, I’ve decided to switch all my copyleft material on this site (apart from software still subject to GNU’s General Public Licence) to that licence—see this site’s © Notice for details. The rest of this section is out of date, and offered for historical interest only.

I’d like to have reused someone else’s licence for copylefting my work, but unfortunately none of the licences I’ve found (on the net) are suitable.

  • The Free Arts Licence requires the full licence to the attached to the original work—impractical with a short poem—and requires disputes to be resolved under French law (of which I’m too ignorant to dare accept).
  • The Open Publication Licence is academically orientated, seems to assume that it’s only possible to produce physical copies on paper or CD–ROM, and permits original authors to prevent modification—read my poem poetry :: Copyleft to understand why I dislike that.
  • The Design Science Licence seems intended for designs for physical objects rather than the arts, and requires the distributors to include a written offer to permit individuals to obtain copies of the original work at cost; I believe the charge for distribution should be determined by the distributor, whether by good intent, as a commercial activity, or whatever.
  • The Open Content Licence requires the licence to be included with the original work, and seems restrictive on fees.

To me, the most comprehensive licence is the GNU Free Documentation Licence (the ‘GFDL’) but that ignores a number of important issues which are also ignored by the licences above. Although I’m not a legal expert, as readers of my poetry will know, I feel I have little choice but to draft a ‘General Arts Licence’, based on the GFDL. The changes are intended to address:

  • The GFDL refers to publisher, but other art forms have more holders of rights than just a publisher: for example, a recording may have lyricist, songwriter, performer, engineer, publisher and label, all of whom have rights. So I’ve introduced the term Holders Of Rights, to cover them.
  • The GFDL refers to translation into other languages, but not translations into another medium. For example, a poem is translated into another medium if it’s set to music. It has been argued, with some justification, that setting a poem is actually creating a new work of art. To prevent any possible confusion over such cases, I’ve added explicit clauses stating that translation a work into another medium is a modification in terms of the licence.
  • The item subject to the copyleft licence is the art, and not its representation, although the representation cannot be subject to additional restrictions. This means that someone copying, for example, a book of photographs cannot change the photographs but can adapt the volume to fit their house style without making a modification, so far as the licence is concerned.
  • Many artworks are not represented on computer, and their essence has nothing to do with technology. Even though technology can be used to make artwork very easy to copy for distribution, the nature of the technology is irrelevant to the art, so the licence should not depend on any specific technology.
  • Certain artworks, such a painting, a performance or cuisine, cannot be perfectly copied. You can copy an oil painting, but you can’t get a perfect copy. You do the performance again, or follow the recipe again, but the results are not the same. Thus the licence cannot require a copiable (transparent) version of a work to be made available, although it can encourage it.
  • A complication is that some artistic media do not have front or back covers, or even bits of paper, so I’ve added a paragraph to deal with the issue of a separate booklet to contain the licence, the texts, and suggested a component list.
  • I’ve used original English spelling throughout, to ensure consistency should I add words which turn out to be spelt differently elsewhere.
  • Finally, because this is no longer the GFDL, I’ve called it the GAL, and changed references as appropriate.

I’m not convinced by the various different types of sections and fixed texts, but I’ve left them in because I understand they were included to make works published using the GFDL commercially viable.

I’ve had significant difficulty finding a copyright lawyer with whom to discuss this licence. None of my legal contacts seem to know any, nor even know of any. So, for the time being, I’ve been forced to produce a draft myself, based on the GFDL. You can explore it here. I’d welcome feedback.

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