I’m so glad you asked, because this means I get to talk about the wonderful and fabulous brainchild of the folks over at creativecommons.org.

The short answer: creative commons licenses are supposed to be used intact and unchanged. Namely: you’re free to use a (cc) license, but you have to leave it as is–you can’t change the conditions and things that are attached to it.

This is, I suspect, for several reasons, the most significant of which is the signaling effect of the licenses. The licenses as they are, have simple terms and clear-cut conditions. After about 5 minutes on the (cc) website and a quick read through the simple explanation of the licenses, you can gather, at a glance, what the license is releasing and what rights are being reserved. The icons are simple and easy to follow, once you’ve checked the blurbs. If everyone who used one tweaked or changed it, this would dilute that signaling power, and the associations that (cc) is trying to connect with the licenses. So: no changes.

And therefore: no (cc) license. I’m basically offering the equivalent of an “attribution, non-commercial, no derivs” license, which releases the right to copy, but reserves all other rights around the work (so you can’t use it for commercial purposes and can’t make derivative works like films etc., without talking to me and reaching a separate agreement, first).

But as mentioned, I’m changing the license, because I’m saying, on the one hand, you can copy the work all you want, and on the other, that as a condition: 1) of my letting you download the work without paying; and 2) of your turning to the first page and starting to read the book; I’m asking that you pay me if you read it and like it, (or if you feel that creative works have some value and you therefore want to pay for it).

So it’s no longer a simple release–it’s something else. I suspect the “condition” is totally unenforceable, from a legal perspective. How would I prove it? And is it even a valid condition to place upon something? I don’t know that it is. But I don’t intend to enforce it–to try to prove that you actually liked it, but then didn’t pay for it. Again: honour system.

So, anyway, because it’s not a simple release of the right to copy, and there are some conditions I’m placing on it, I figure it would be misleading and possible contrary to the conditions of use of the (cc) licenses themselves, as I understand them, to release the book under one of them.

I will, at some point, do a post on (cc), however, because I think the licenses are rather brilliant–but at the same time, I suspect that, rather than creating the impetus for change and reform of the current system (as, I suspect, many of the minds behind the licenses hoped), they might actually reinforce the status quo. But that is a discussion for another post, on another day…

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