March 27, 2003

Limited Time CC License

Copyfight blogs a Larry Lessig speech at the Internet Law Program. Lessig mentions the "Founders' Copyright" license model (protect for 14 years), and a new "eFounders'" model for software (protect for 3 years).

I would like to propose reversing this idea:

Have a Creative Commons (CC) license. Add a restriction, like "until end of 2005", that date being freely chosen by the author. Have the default copyright protection come back after that date. Name that license model "Limited Time CC License".

This would give authors an added incentive to release works under a CC license: If the work is in wide circulation at the date the CC license expires, people might be ready to pay for new copies. So releasing under a "Limited Time CC License" would keep the author's chance to make money under the default system if the work turns out to get a lot of attention. If not, then the author might choose a perpetual CC license, knowing now that there is no commercial value to the work anyway. Authors would be able to test the economic value of their works before giving away "some rights", and to use the "Limited Time CC License" as a promotion tool.

That idea is the reverse of the "Founders' Copyright". The "Founders' Copyright" keeps the default system for a fixed term. The "Limited Time CC License" overrides the default system for a fixed term.

And, by the way: I would like to propose a slight change. Don't call it "Founders' Copyright". Call it "Founders Copyright" instead. There are many people who are unable to get the difference right between Founder's and Founders'. And many others who don't care. So the present term will invite mistakes all over the place, even in the CC blog (January 6):

(You'll recall that the O'Reilly folks recently adopted our Founder's Copyright, under which they'll release certain copyrights into the public domain after 14 years, with an option to renew for another 14 -- just as the Framers' of the U.S. Constitution would have had it.)

Two mistakes in one sentence: Founder's and Framers' are both wrong. Copyfight also got it wrong, writing "Founder's". Don't invite this kind of mistake. If possible, I would stick with the easier term "Founders Copyright", meaning "Copyright related to the Founders". Not "Founders' Copyright", meaning "Copyright of the Founders".

While English is not my first language, I have read Strunk and White. So I care about this. If you don't, feel free to ignore my concern.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at March 27, 2003 10:07 AM | TrackBack
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