19 November 2010

Creative Commons retiring the Public Domain dedication

bye bye PD

I strongly believe in not re-inventing the wheel, not only in the technical parts but also in licensing, this is why I use and promote Creative Commons licenses (despite their flaws) and this is why I supported using the Creative Commons definition of Public Domain for projects like the Open Clip Art Library. And it worked well for a while.Until Creative Commons was unhappy with the Public Domain dedication, probably not branded enough for their taste and for their need for attention, and "invented" a replacement, CC0, which was received not as warmly as they hoped.

Now we are at a new milestone: Creative Commons is retiring their Public Domain definition, they leave many of us, users of their licenses, in the dust, with only two options: embrace their new CC0 license or use a scary Public Domain Mark, plastered with "not recommended" disclaimers. Take the poison of your choice! That much for trust and continued services... I had better expectation from a community project.

Now projects like OCAL are at a crossroad, having to decide a way forward. People like me are also in trouble: I used the PD dedication quite a lot to share many resources, now I have to update some of my websites and not sure how... I can see two ways:
  • write my own dedication, as much as I hate re-inventing the wheel and writing one
  • use a more restrictive license, that will harm my users and the usefulness of the shared items
. There is one thing that is guaranteed I won't do: migrate to CC0... on top of the objections I had before, now I feel Creative Commons betrayed me. And for betrayal, there is no forgiveness.


  1. I don't understand your objection to CC0. I read back through several of your links.

    My understanding that the concept of "public domain" isn't legally sound in some countries, and CC0 is simply a way to create a "public domain" in those cases (as well as duplicate the actual public domain terms in those countries that DO have "public domain".)

    That seems quite reasonable to me.

    Is your objection solely that the term "Creative Commons" appears?

    In any case, I always enjoy your blog - keep it up!

  2. Public domain has a specific meaning in the USA, so here, you can't make something public domain just by saying that it is. More info: Why the Public Domain Isn't a License

  3. i carefully worded, never said "licensed as PD" but "PD dedication"

  4. "...you can't make something public domain just by saying that it is."

    This work is not copyrighted. It is the product of algorithmic, heuristic, and/or stochastic processes and is not a manifestation of creative expression. As such it does not qualify as a "work of authorship" under U.S. copyright law and consequently this work subsists in the public domain.


  5. Even if saying ‘This is PD’ isn’t legally sound, people have a common understanding of what it means to them. However the US sees PD, outsiders view it differently in that it can be a product of a person.
    I mostly am with Nicu here, the public understands CC0 less than they do of PD, and it will discourage re-use.

  6. nicu, I feel your pain. Licensing is such a nightmare, and CC is only a patch on the much larger problem that is copyright. Personally, I like the wtfpl - http://sam.zoy.org/wtfpl/ - you should consider it. :)


  7. @Emily: that's a nice one!
    The reason I embraced CC licenses (except CC0) is their user friendliness, I think is important for the user to recognize his rights from the start, not needing additional research, that's why I also support PD dedication, everybody has heard about it already.

  8. You can also use the WTFPL (http://sam.zoy.org/wtfpl/)