[coreboot] Coreboot wiki: what license is the content under?

Sam Kuper sam.kuper at uclmail.net
Fri Mar 31 23:38:55 CEST 2017

On 31/03/2017, David Hendricks <david.hendricks at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 10:20 AM, Sam Kuper <sam.kuper at uclmail.net> wrote:
>> Also, to further address Patrick's point above about marketing
>> material: it is important that the provenance of information about
>> Coreboot can be established. This is a reputational matter. That means
>> it is important that people should not legally be able to misrepresent
>> Coreboot contributors' views, etc,
> Both CC-BY and CC-BY-SA have "no endorsement" clauses

Yes, but because CC BY imposes no restrictions on *second*-derivative
works, it is powerless to prevent such works from claiming endorsement
(or, indeed, to prevent them from claiming whatever they please).[2]

> and the source
> of derived materials will still be easily traced back to coreboot.org
> (or archive.org or wherever).

Not necessarily, and especially not if no attributions are included
(which, again, could well be the case with second-derivative works if
the wiki used CC BY licensing instead of CC BY-SA).

>> or claim Coreboot contributors'
>> work as their own.
> Both BY and BY-SA licenses require attribution.

Yes, but again, because first derivatives of CC BY works are not
required to share alike, second-derivatives of CC BY works are not
necessarily required to provide attribution.

>> [1] How so? Because a licensee who creates a derivative work of a CC
>> BY-licensed work can license that derivative under terms (e.g. CC-0)
>> that would allow *their* licensees do potentially misattribute or
>> otherwise create reputational risk without fear of breaching licensing
>> terms.
> Section 3.A.4 of the BY license covers that: "If You Share Adapted
> Material You produce, the Adapter's License You apply must not prevent
> recipients of the Adapted Material from complying with this Public
> License."
> So distributing a derived work with a different license does not
> nullify the original terms.

I believe you have misinterpreted that clause. Specifically, you have,
I think, mistakenly interpreted "must not prevent recipients of the
Adapted Material from complying" as meaning "must require recipients
of the Adapted Material to comply".


[2] For purely illustrative purposes, suppose the original work
comprised "Foo Bar Baz Quux." (That is obviously too short and
unoriginal to be copyrightable, but this is just an illustration, so
replace it, in your imagination, with a substantial and convincing
copyrightable work.) Suppose it is copyright Alice, and Alice
publishes it under CC BY 3.0 on an obscure, low-traffic wiki, hoping
to capture the public's imagination and gain support for her cause.

Suppose Bob, in good faith, creates a legitimate derivative work
comprising "Fol Bal Bal Quul." Bob publishes this in an obscure,
offline newsletter, under a CC-0 license, noting in a footer that it
is an adaptation of Alice's CC BY 3.0 work, and providing the URL to
the original. He sends a copy to Alice.

Mallory, a malfeasor, spots Bob's newsletter in a cafe. She smells
opportunity. She creates a derivative of Bob's piece, comprising "Quul
Bal Bal Fol." Mallory publishes this under her own name, claiming
authorship (as she is entitled to do, under CC-0). It is extremely
successful, and Mallory is widely given credit, even though in truth
Mallory could never have come up with it by herself. This is extremely
hurtful to Alice, because she finds the message "Quul Bal Bal Fol"
extremely distasteful, and it means nothing like "Foo Bar Baz Quux",
even though she can see that it was ultimately based upon her original
work. Unfortunately, it is too late: Mallory has captured the public's
imagination. Almost everyone who might originally have been interested
in Alice's message are instead distracted by Mallory's vision. Whole
businesses put their weight behind "Quul Bal Bal Fol", even though it
is deeply inferior to "Foo Bar Baz Quux", because they never heard
about "Foo Bar Baz Quux". Mallory earns a fortune from "Quul Bal Bal
Fol". People searching the web for "Quul Bal Bal Fol" never find "Foo
Bar Baz Quux" in their search results, because it is just different
enough to rank poorly compared to all the publicity received by "Quul
Bal Bal Fol". And because Mallory's work was legitimately derived from
Bob's CC-0 work, Alice cannot readily sue Mallory for a breach of
license, and has, essentially, no sure recourse whatsoever.

(Replace "Alice" with "Coreboot" in the above, and you can, I hope,
see why I dislike the idea of Coreboot adopting a CC BY license.)

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