May 19, 2003

Creative Commons Confusion

Joi Ito has stepped up to defend Creative Commons in the warranty issue. There was some discussion on his blog, as well as at Mayhem & Chaos Blog.

I decided to take down the Creative Commons licenses I had used for my blog and books since I thought Creative Commons would not move on this issue. That might have been premature. It seems now that they will start discussing the question seriously.

And actually I noticed in the meantime that even right now Creative Commons is far from insisting on the warranty. There is some very simple proof for that.

Actually Creative Commons is disclaiming the warranty for themselves.

That's right. At the same time Glenn Otis Brown told people that "the idea of removing any type of warranty whatsoever isn't compatible with our goals" Creative Commons did exactly that for their own website.

Their "policies" page says

"Creative Commons Licensing
Except where noted otherwise, all content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons license. We do not assert a copyright in the text of our licenses. Modified versions of our licenses, however, should not be labeled as 'Creative Commons.'

and then continues with


This website provides general information about legal topics but it does not provide individual legal advice. Creative Commons Corporation is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. Using this website or sending us email does not create an attorney-client relationship. Creative Commons provides this information on an 'as-is' basis. Creative Commons makes no warranties regarding the information provided on this website, and disclaims liability for damages resulting from its use. (emphasis added)

So if removing any type of warranty is incompatible with Creative Commons goals, why do they do exactly that with their disclaimer?

This is confusing. Of course it is good news that Creative Commons seems to appreciate the need for disclaiming warranties when providing content free of charge after all. At least as far as they themselves would be at the receiving end of lawsuits based on such a warranty.

But those who still rely on the default version of the licenses won't be able to enjoy the same relief from the warranty liability that Creative Commons claims for themselves.

There does seem to be some need for more discussion of the issue to clarify the Creative Commons position. If that position is that those warranties really are necessary for the goals of Creative Commons, there needs to be an adequate warning. Right now the FAQ gives license users the impression that there is no cost associated with using a CC license, while in fact they have to pay the "small price" of the warranty liability to licensees.

Update May 20:

Creative Commons reacted to the post above and changed the disclaimer on the "policies" page.

With the changed wording they want to clarify that the disclaimer applies only to the "general legal information" provided on the website.

This means: They have two sets of policies. One for "general legal information" and one for everything else on the website.

"General legal information" is content of the site and as such licensed under the Creative Commons license. And it is object of the disclaimer at the same time.

So for "general legal information", it seems to be still open to question if the warranties of the license or the disclaimer on the policies page apply.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at May 19, 2003 10:15 AM | TrackBack
Post a comment