The next time I hear “we’ve licensed the specification under Creative Commons so anyone can implement the spec”, I’m going to scream at someone.1
To take a list from a Microsoft license I read yesterday, implementing a spec may require (among other things) licensing of “pending utility and design patent claims, copyrights, trade dress and trademark rights.” Putting a specification under a CC license gives you a copyright license to the text of the specification; it does not give license to the necessary trademarks, or to the patents, and depending on the license chosen, may not even give you the right to make a derivative work of the license (aka, the implementation.)
So, creative commons folks: could you please, please scream for me? Or better yet, work with SFLC to create a good license for specifications (since they aren’t happy with the OSP), and then ask people who’ve ‘cc licensed’ specifications to use that instead? KTHXBYE. :)
I said, poorly: “Putting a specification under a CC license… depending on the license chosen, may not even give you the right to make a derivative work of the license (aka, the implementation.)” This was confusing, because I deliberately cut out (in order to be brief) any discussion of what a derivative of the CC-licensed work would be.
What I should have said was something like:
“CC licenses, used this way, definitely give you a right to edit and redistribute and change the text of the specification. However, probably 99 out of 100 lawyers would tell you that a CC license on the spec does not actually say anything at all about whether or not you can implement the specification. The remaining 1 out of 100 lawyers would say that the license gives you permission because the implementation is a derivative of the specification. If that is the case, and the implementation is a derivative, then the CC license gave you the permissions to implement- but they come with the standard CC restrictions as well! So either way the licensor probably doesn’t get what they really wanted.”
- Yes, someone from MS did it today, but I don’t blame them- this is all confusing and they were trying hard to do the right thing. [↩]