25 June 2015
PlugnMake goes Creative Commons
We got it! PlugnMake is now licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC-BY-SA). Orienting ourselves among the sea of legal expressions wasn’t that easy but, eventually, we found what fit both our mission and our beliefs.
Licensing is a question that troubles whoever gets into creating contents, and it’s a big deal if you mean to make your work available on the web. If you just keep quiet, you simply agree with the traditional copyright system, and we didn’t want that. Our mission is all about sharing and collaborating.
We weren’t the first ones making this decision and we could learn from others’ experience but, still, the spontaneous dilemma was, “Ok, we welcome people who re-use and build upon our work, but we don’t want people to steal from us!”
All of you can only imagine the huge question marks hanging over our heads when the discussion finally came to a more significant point: “So, what’s the boundary between re-using and stealing when talking about the Internet?”
Given our cultural background in the matter of Intellectual Property, we saw an inherent contradiction in the usage of the Internet as a means for divulgation.
On the one hand, many authors and creators avail themselves of the incredible power of the web; on the other hand, consciously or unconsciously, they just feel safe within the “all rights reserved” rule.
So, moving back to the main point, we simply realized that, of course, stealing has to do with copyright violation, but the core problem is not to impede this – which would be pretty impossible on the web – but rather, to define authors’ rights according to one’s own need and willingness.
Siert Wijnia, CEO and co-founder at Ultimaker, said it all:
“I don’t have to bother about Intellectual Property. I’m being cloned anyway. I’m making a great product, it’s worth cloning.”
Although Siert Wijnia was talking about a physical product, that’s the same perspective from which we looked at Creative Commons: they don’t help us not to be robbed, but they give us the opportunity to choose which rights to reserve and which not.
How to choose the right CC license?
Having clarified our starting point, the rest just followed.
Creative Commons offer six blocks of licenses, which originate from the combination of several conditions for authors to allow or forbid certain uses: BY is a shortcut for “Attribution” and it characterizes each of the possible options within the CC set; ND stands for “No-derivs”; SA for “ShareAlike”; and NC stands for “Non-commercial”.
Once you have in mind your principles and the needs of your activity, choosing a license is as simple as answering these few questions:
• Do I want to share my work as long as users credit me?
• Do I want people to modify and build upon it?
• Do I want my work and its derivatives to remain as much available as the original?
• Do I want my work to be used also for commercial scopes?
Our answers were:
• Yes, of course!
• Yes, that’s the reason why we want to share!
• Yes, knowledge should be free and available to anybody. Plus, if also derivative works are shared under the same license, they will have an exponential diffusion.
• Maybe… We should think about that.
Commercial use: to allow it or not to allow it?
First of all, what usage can be defined as commercial? Apparently, this hasn’t got a precise answer yet. It certainly has to do with profit-generation, which is a very large field. In these terms, a blog featuring advertisement, or even a semi-private school wouldn’t be safe using content under a NC (non-commercial use only) clause.
This was also a Paul Klimpel’s strong argument in his publication, “Free knowledge based on Creative Commons licenses” (2012)[¹]. In this booklet, he just meant to sweep away a few common misconceptions about the several options offered by CC licenses.
Especially regarding the NC clause, he focuses on the fact that what can actually limit the accessibility to knowledge isn’t the commercial usage itself, but the restrictive copyright label that private actors and companies may apply on the work. Moreover, he states that:
“[…]the Share Alike module – as opposed to the NC module – does not have the negative effect to generally hinder the distribution of content (in blogs for example). Quite the opposite: Since because of Share Alike all edits are under a CC license, the edited version can be used afterwards not only by the editor, but by any third party.” [p.13]
He also mentions the famous case of Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows commercial use and has released its content under a CC-BY-SA license since 2009. Within these terms, company Directmedia, a publishing house, could produce and distribute German Wikipedia content in DVD.
The publication was a great success, and everyone had something to gain by that operation: users were offered one more channel to access that knowledge; Directmedia made a lot of profit and acknowledged Wikipedia through a substantial donation for helping make content usable and organized.
If Wikipedia had put a NC restriction in its license, all that wouldn’t have been possible.
This analysis really convinced us, and we couldn’t have explained it better.
Of course, reasoning about kind of activities other than ours may lead to different conclusions and, therefore, may land on different licenses. Yet, results arisen from the Creative Commons report “State of Commons” (2014)[²] are quite encouraging.
So, here we are: our CC-BY-SA is on, and we warmly invite all of you to share and build upon our material as we believe that this is the way to make knowledge evolve and to benefit as more people as possible.
 Dr. P. Klimpel – Publ.: Wikimedia Germany, iRights.info, CC DE – License: CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported – 2012.