Creative Commons seeks opinions on first overhaul of licences in five years

The Commons wants people to comment on a new draft of its core licences, which it hopes will turn out easier to understand, more flexible to use and more easily implemented around the world

The Creative Commons has invited comments on a new draft of its revised core licences, ahead of their finalisation at the end of the year.

Creative Commons (CC) licences provide an alternative to standard copyright for those who want to encourage others to freely share their work, under certain conditions. Version 3.0 has been in place for five years now, and the Commons is trying to boost uptake by making the licences more flexible, more easily internationalised and easier to understand.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons is consulting on version 4.0 of its licences.

The second draft of version 4.0 was published on Wednesday, and it will stay open for consultation for a month or so. It will be followed by a (hopefully) final draft in October, and finalisation is intended for November or December.

One of the key changes being made is in the way CC-protected content must be attributed to the creator, and the way in which the license conditions are displayed.

The restrictiveness of the rules in version 3.0 has been a focus of criticism, and the Commons is trying to make version 4.0 more flexible while still protecting the creator's rights. For example, the draft eliminates the requirement for the person sharing the licensor's work to display the title of the work and retain copyright notices — although they will still be encouraged to do so.

"In this spirit, we specifically encourage their retention by explicitly permitting licensees to use those notices to comply with any or all attribution requirements when they contain any or all of the required information," the team said. "We hope this encourages licensors to consolidate attribution and marking information in a central location."

Going international

Internationalisation is another major issue. The CC licences are supposed to operate alongside standard copyright, but copyright laws differ from country to country. Right now, this means 'porting' the CC licences to fit each country's laws.

Porting is unlikely to become unnecessary with version 4.0, but the Commons is still trying to make the core licences more internationalised — a step it says is critical for the "continued maintenance and improvement of the licences". Part of this is simply making the language of the licences easier to understand. Another is incorporating WIPO Copyright Treaty language into the definition of the word 'share'.

"We also continue to incorporate changes to account for differences depending on jurisdiction," the team said. "For example, we have included a provision allowing licensors to disclaim liabilities differently from the standard terms or to provide warranties, which accommodates differences in consumer laws worldwide and supports licensors who care (deeply) that their liabilities are limited and warranties are disclaimed in the manner they find most suitable."

Database rights

The new version also aims to license database rights on the same terms and conditions as copyright. Database rights are similar to copyright, except they reward the creator for the effort of compiling a database, rather than for creativity. The Commons is about as keen on database rights as it is on copyright, which is to say it is trying to avoid promoting either.

"As noted from the start of the 4.0 process, we have chosen to license database rights on the same terms and conditions as copyright," the team said. "We feel this is the best way to ensure that database rights are not a barrier to would-be licensors seeking to exercise those rights, or to those using of CC-licensed works, who might otherwise need to ask for separate permission to use the work as intended."