brief “CC-licensed specification” rant

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. :)

Clarification later: 

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.”

  1. 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. []