Idea: Creative Source Licenses

Since the firestorm over RSS and copyright in January, I’ve been
talking to a lot of people — those who publish blogs and mainstream
media, those who aggregate online sources, those who worry over these
things in the legal profession — about the strange place we find
ourselves as an online community.  There’s still a lack of clarity
about what publishers — bloggers, mainstream media, or whomever is
offering an RSS, Atom, OPML, or other XML-based feed of creative
content — allow other people to do with their copyrighted
material.  Meanwhile, creativity abounds and aggregation moves
forward at a blistering pace.

What I think I’ve heard
is that every blogger expects that other people will, at a minimum, be
able to render your works in an aggregator for personal
use, or else they would not be offering an XML feed.  Virtually everyone has seemed to think that the
rendering a limited portion of your feed and its headline, for
commercial or non-commercial use, so long as there’s a link back to your site from the
aggregator, is OK.  Some people have also stated that full rendering of
your feed for any purpose, so long as there’s attribution and a link
back, is also fine.  (Separately, a lot of people would like to be
paid for usage in a commercial context if full-text is used.) 

Others have noticed that Creative Commons licenses, (of which I am an
ENORMOUS fan), which are wonderful, are not quite ideal for usage in
the RSS context.  Fair enough.  But CC licenses would plainly be the starting point, since so much amazing work has gone into drafting them.

So, as a next step, I think the most sensible thing to do is to
establish a set of common licenses, based on the Creative Commons
model, that set out the following five options, expressed in
human-readable and lawyer-readable (as a first step) and
machine-readable (as a second step).  Here are five options, in human-readable form:


Option 1: Full-text republication, with attribution and link-back:

I
consent to the republication of the copyrighted works that I publish
via my source, whether alone or repurposed with other sources in a
derivative work, with no restriction on how much of the feed is
rendered
or how it is used, so long as republication involves attribution to me
and a link from the aggregator back to the primary page where my source
is
published by me.


Option 2: Truncated-text republication, with attribution and link-back:

I consent to the republication of the copyrighted works that I publish
via my source, whether alone or repurposed with other sources in a
derivative work, so long as only 200 words or fewer are included in
what
is rendered and so long as republication involves attribution to me and
a link from the aggregator back to the primary page where my source is
published by me.  (This option would presumably be the one that
Susan Mernit suggested in the last go-round.)

Option 3: Personal aggregation only: I consent to the republication of
the copyrighted works that I publish via my source, but only for
strictly personal, non-commercial use.


Option 4: No aggregation except with permission:
I do not consent to
the use of my source for any purpose, except with prior written
permission or as required by law.


Option 5: No restriction:
I place no restriction on the use of my source for any purpose.

Of course, these licenses would be grounded in your full copyright as
the starting point.  And even if you choose one of these licenses,
you’d still be able to enable someone to republish your work, whether
or not in exchange for compensation.

Are there other perspectives that would need a standard license?

These five license options would themselves be published under Creative
Commons licenses.  A publisher of a source could also register
their source and their license preference in a simple online database,
to which re-publishers could refer in order to determine the intention
of the publisher of the work (you).  A publisher of a source would
also be encouraged to place a notation in the feed itself and on the
blog or other web page where it is ordinarily rendered to state this
preference clearly. 

(Disclaimer: as always, on matters related to RSS and copyright, I should note that I am actively involved in TopTenSources
and other entities that have an interest in the outcome of this
discussion.  TopTenSources renders truncated RSS feeds and offers
the chance for those included in Top10 lists to opt-out at any
time.  My full Disclosures page is here.
)