Thursday, February 21, 2013

What is your License?

As far as I can tell, a license is two things:

1. What you are allowing other people to do with your intellectual property.
2. What you expect in return for that allowance.

I challenge you to ignore law and tradition and come up with your own language for your license. This will establish your moral stance, allowing you to move to the practical with a clear guiding principle.

Here is mine, still working on it though.

Draft license #4:

Use this audio and visual information for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

Draft license #5:

Please use this audio and visual material for any purpose. Loudon Stearns requests only credit.

As you go through this process you will find that there really aren't many variables, and Creative Commons has done a wonderful job of creating a "complete" set of licenses. You could consider both of the licenses I have placed here to be the Creative Commons Attribution license. But, I feel they have a different tone and honestly I think they convey the meaning of the CC attribution license better. Most people I introduce to CC licenses do not know what "attribution" means. So, using it in the license name is problematic.

Language conveys more than meaning, it is also conveys emotion and intent. Draft license 4 and 5 are not very different, they have the same meaning, but I believe they convey different emotion and intent.

Starting the license with "please" sets up a level of civility, which I think is the real fundamental aspect of a license in the first place. "Please" also implies that I desire the material to be used further, which is true. #4 seems to say that I am OK with the material being used in another way, it seems apathetic toward the media. #5 also encourages further usage by calling the licensed media "material." Material, in common usage, is a building block, it is something used to create other things, which is exactly how I would like all my artwork to be considered.

In the end I understand the need for a legally binding and legally tested license, but the limit with that is it is meaning without emotion or intent. I will still place a "legal" license on my artistic output(the CC Attribution license) but in addition I will add my paraphrased version that conveys my desire and sets a specific tone.

So, I guess I have two challenges for you. Write your own license and come up with the CC license to use along with it.


  1. Great suggestions about licensing here. I love what you say about "civility" and "please" as indicating desire....

    And it's also good to know that I've been invited to use your music in anything I make! (now I just have to find time to make stuff.....)

  2. Hello Loudon, thanks to improve the license in that unique and human way. I am from Spain, and I looking for media resources to create a education project. The general idea is to teach teacher how to use computers and audiovisual hardware to become better educators. One of the skill required are sound and also translating and dubbing, so I'm thinking in use your course (maybe the first week to check first) and create a set of spanish captions and audio track.
    I love coursera and I prefer to reference to the original course instead of uploading to a new server. Would you be interested in share with me the original lessons files and in return I send you the spanish tracks?
    Send me a mail at any time and we talk about how can we colaborate.
    My best regards and thanks for your brilliant work.

    Alfonso Generoso