A Case That Might Test Creative Commons’ Validity

Glyn Moody has a brief post up at Enterprise World UK that sets up why such a case is important, both in the realm of open media and free software/open source. There have been precious few legal cases, in the US or elsewhere, that really pin down the validity of licenses that either add conditions to copyright or utilize a contract to enforce conditions on use and sharing.

He points out this case as possible digging into the question specifically for the Creative Commons suite of licenses.

A lawsuit filed this past week in the Northern District of Illinois includes a claim that the defendant violated the terms of a Creative Commons license covering the plaintiff’s copyrighted works. GateHouse Media publishes a slew of local newspapers, including the Rockford Register Star in Rockford, Illinois. The Register Star provides premium online content to its subscribers, and makes that content available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Eric Steuer, creative director at CC, wrote in with a comment. His view is that the small number of case is actually evidence that the Creative Commons licenses are well drafted. Complaints often arise when the intent and obligations under a license are misunderstood, so the notion holds some water.

I suspect there may be a self reinforcing effect, here, that those likely to agree on a CC license mediate sharing are the least likely to be bad actors with regards to the license terms. Regardless, I think there is a good answer here to the all too often asked question of whether CC licenses are valid. Even though it hasn’t been frequently tested in court, the odds are in your favor that if you take the time to parse the human readable deed, you are unlikely to make a mistake that could put you on the wrong end of a license complaint.

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