Creative Common Copyright Notice in Standalones

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Sat Jan 8 10:51:59 EST 2011

David Bovill wrote:

> On 8 January 2011 00:17, Richard Gaskin wrote:
>> There are scenarios for meaningful sharing that aren't addressed by
>> GLP-compatible licenses, so while it would be desirable if there were fewer
>> licenses in the world, the diversity of needs seems to require equally
>> diverse terms to describe them.
> Richard, could you be more specific - apart from the lack of a
> "non-commercial" option you can get with CC, I have not come across any
> scenarios that you can't address using GPL-compatible licenses. If you could
> give an example it would be real useful to me, as it is a main focus of my
> work - thanks :)

Short answer:

For some projects it may be desirable, or even necessary, to prevent 

Long answer:

Writing code requires the most valuable non-renewable resource on the 
planet: time.

Time always carries a cost.  At a minimum, a developer must eat, keep a 
roof over their head, and keep the electricity flowing into their 
machine while they write.

Recognizing that even free code requires a material cost to produce, 
open source can be seen as a rich man's game: because the software is 
given away, the money to pay for it must come from some other source.

Many FOSS advocates argue that compensation for code can come from 
support and training services.  But that position overlooks the 
counterproductive nature of such revenue streams:  they disincentivise 

If you give software away for free and seek compensation for your 
expenses incurred while making it through support and training, you have 
no incentive to enhance the product's usability.

On the contrary, if you were to achieve the ideal of making a software 
so good that requires no support or training, ironically you risk 
killing the project because you'd no longer be able to afford to work on it.

So the uability-minded developer has four alternatives:

1. An egalitarian model, in which those who derive material benefit from 
a project contribute materially to the project equally.  This is more or 
less how most proprietary commercial products support themselves, with 
licensing fees.

2. Draw from retained earnings acquired from other directly-compensated 
work.  This is the "rich man", the man who has made enough money to 
enjoy the leisure of working thousands of hours for free.

3. Find a sponsor who has a strategic reason for compensating you.  Here 
the "rich man" is the sponsor, like IBM pouring millions into Linux 
development because it provides them leverage against Microsoft.  This 
not at all altruism, but of solid business value (see Spolsky's 
"Strategy Letter V: Commoditize Your Compliments").

4. Find either direct compensation through advertising on the project's 
home page, or through strategic value for yourself by using the project 
to enhance the positioning of your consultancy.

This last option requires that you prevent forking:

Imagine that you spend a thousand hours making a truly useful product, 
and decide to share it under the GPL.

You spend another hundred hours building an attractive and usable home 
page for it, and use your best marketing experience to evangelizing it 
so it can be as useful to as many people as possible.

You're able to justify this all of this expense because you believe that 
you can either drive enough traffic to your site to earn the money need 
to support the project through advertising, or because the traffic will 
provide opportunities to grow your consulting business.

Like IBM with Linux, you've found your own strategic benefit to giving 
away code, a way of having the project pay for itself without requiring 
license fees.

But suppose, as often happens in life, your need to keep a roof over 
your head means that you need to take a break from the project shortly 
after launch.  So while you've just provided tremendous value to the 
community, for at least a couple months you simply aren't wealthy enough 
to keep giving it your primary focus, and need to spend some time 
earning money through other means before you'll have accrued enough to 
be able to afford to resume enhancing the project.

In the meantime, I recognize the value of what you've done and would 
like to have the same value at my own site.

So rather than contribute new features to the code base hosted at your 
site, I simply fork the project and host it at my own.

To justify this to the community, I might spend as much as 50 hours 
adding a new feature or two to your work, just enough to make it 
worthwhile for the traffic to come to my site instead of yours.

So you spent 1100 hours building a project from scratch and making a 
name for it, and I get most of the benefit of that work for a fraction 
of the effort.

Had you chosen a Creative Commons license instead of GPL, you would have 
been able to share your work just as broadly to as many people as 
before, but you would also have had the option of requiring that any 
additions to the code base be contributed to the main project, rather 
than allowing forked derivatives.

This way a project can grow from the same scope of contributions, but it 
keeps the motivating value where most of the expense was incurred, with 
the original developer.

If I wanted to contribute to your project I can submit enhancements, and 
you could reward such contributions with acknowledgment and links back 
to my site.

If that wasn't sufficient to motivate me, I still have the freedom to 
spend my own 1100 hours making my own code base.

I recognize that this scenario doesn't apply to all FOSS projects, and 
for those it doesn't there are plenty of license options to choose from.

But unless you've either acquired enough spare cash to be able to work 
without pay, or find a corporate or governmental sponsor with both their 
own deep pockets and a strategic reason to dip into them to pay you, 
there is a need for a license that allows a project to be a single 
entity, unforkable.

Some purists may feel otherwise, and all are entitled to their own 
opinions and to pursue their own projects as they see fit.

But all code incurs material expense to produce, and that expense must 
be covered for a project to be viable.

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  LiveCode training and consulting:
  Webzine for LiveCode developers:
  LiveCode Journal blog:

More information about the Use-livecode mailing list