Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Terms and conditions: copy and share with love

Updated June 26, 2017

Please copy and share with love

What does this mean? In brief, I have no interest in using intellectual property law to prevent anyone from using or re-using my work with intentions such as furthering the collective knowledge of humanity (truth with justice and compassion), protecting or restoring the environment or making the conditions of life of humanity better. That is what I mean by with love. If your motives in using my work are something other than love, such as making a profit for yourself or a corporation that you work for, subverting truth, justice, or compassion, then note that I reserve all rights under copyright. Please use attribution as appropriate. For example, if you use my work in an academic or journalist context, you need to acknowledge me as author in order to avoid plagiarism (and confusion).

An earlier statement on this general topic follows. As of June 26, 2017, copy and share with love prevails.

As of June 2, 2015, these are the terms and conditions for this blog:

All Rights Reserved except as indicated otherwise. Open sharing is something that I strongly believe in, and so I would like to encourage others to use my own work in noncommercial ways. Please note that when I have copied the works of other people, the copyright belongs to them, not me; I have no rights to grant to you. If you would like to copy my work, please go ahead and do so, but be sure to indicate that the portion of my work you have copied is under my copyright and attribute me and this blog:

© Heather Morrison, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics [insert URL to post]. All Rights Reserved.

I request that you let me know what you have done (a comment on this post is fine if you don't have my e-mail; if you're doing this just to communicate and don't want your comment made public, just let me know). You don't have to ask my permission first, but I would like to know if people are interested in re-using my work, and if so how (this is topic I am interested in), so I appreciate it if people do ask.

Note that you may have rights under fair dealing or fair use that go beyond the permissions I grant here. I encourage you to make full use of your fair dealing / fair use rights. Canada has a good fair dealing regime at the moment thanks to a series of 2012 Supreme Court decisions in favour of fair dealings. I strongly support the fair dealing rights as outlined by the Canadian Association of University Teachers.  If your country does not have fair use / fair dealing, advocacy for these rights would be a good idea. Note that when I have used the works of others in this blog, this is almost always making use of my fair dealing rights, e.g. to copy the portions of works of others in order to critique.

If you use CC licenses, you should note that when using the works of others you should check for license compatibility, and alert readers to the rights of third parties. Even when one CC licensed works is included in a second work with what appears to be exactly the same license, the Licensor (generally the copyright holder) for the upstream work is different and hence there are actually two different licenses (for example, the attribution and moral rights of the copied work remain with the original Licensor).

This is important to understand to minimize your legal risk in copying the work of others. More than 99% of my work has never been licensed for blanket downstream commercial uses, for example. If people use my work in their own works that are CC licensed without the NC element, they risk giving the impression that the copied work is available to others for commercial use. If someone downstream takes advantage of this commercial downstream use that I did not authorize and I decide to take legal action, the downstream user will probably drag the person or organization using an inappropriate CC license into court. This is appropriate because if your site or work is telling others that a work is available for commercial use downstream, then the downstream commercial user is acting in good faith and it is in fact you who are at fault.  I think the odds are very remote that I'd ever take anyone to court over a copyright claim; rather, I want to alert well-intentioned people to the risks that they are taking when including third party works in other works with broad liberal licenses.

Update June 3: in response to an anonymous question, in case this is relevant for anyone else:  if you are preparing a court case and believe that anything in this blog can be useful to support your case, of course you can do so. I appreciate your letting me know, but you don't have to ask permission. This is the kind of use that either is, or ought to be, covered by fair use / fair dealing. You have a right to whatever information can help you in a court case. You should indicate the copyright and where you got the information from.  This is more important in terms of presenting your case in the best possible light than protecting my copyright. If you present this work as expert evidence, you need to document where you got the information from, and why you think the author is an expert in this field. It might be helpful to refer to my work web page in this context. Whether your court case is intended to support a commercial argument for you is not relevant. The primary meaning of commercial rights with respect to copyright is selling the work. Ideas are not covered by copyright; for this reason, using the ideas in a copyrighted work does require commercial rights permissions.

From 2004 until June 1, 2015, this blog, or to be more accurate, my own work on this blog was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License. If you copied work during this time frame, this license cannot be revoked, however from June 2, 2015 on this blog is no longer licensed under CC. This includes works published previously if you are reading or copying after June 2nd. For those who did copy before this date, I have copied the human readable terms below for your convenience.

Why the change?

Here are my experiences with more than a decade of encouraging blanket re-use:

  • one instance of plagiarism (a chart copied from my blog without permission), obviously not intentional and corrected through education
  • one instance of a work copied from my blog to a venue that I want nothing to do with, with inaccurate and insulting attribution (modified somewhat with education)
  • one instance of friendly re-use of a work by a friend, technically illegal since it was a different license and I'm pretty sure my friend was just making a point about re-use. Nice, but not a good use of the time of my friend who is a brilliant scholar and has better things to do.
  • one person wanted to use one of my charts in a powerpoint, but the web version is not sufficient so had to request a higher quality image anyways
  • if there have been uses that would have convinced me this was a good idea, I don't know about them; that's a problem with blanket downstream rights for whoever
As a junior scholar, it is helpful to me to be able to prove that others consider my work worthwhile. That's why I would like you to tell me if you re-use my work; this is for my tenure dossier. 
 Creative Commons licensing now includes instructions on what is and isn't a free culture license. Apparently my choices are not free culture. This is technique some call deprecation (intended to push people towards the free culture licenses) that I think is more accurately called bullying or insulting.  This is one of the reasons I stopped voluntarily using CC licenses for new works some time ago.

Creative Commons has done some awesome work, and I still think it's great to have an option to indicate we want to share rather than automatic copyright. However, I am concerned that this approach actually encourages permissions culture, asking people to think about everything that we do as IP. My current thinking is that it would be better to advocate for strong fair use / fair dealing rights everywhere, push for shorter not longer copyright terms and eliminate automatic copyright. I might be back someday CC if I sense an atmosphere a bit more tolerant of the different choices about licensing people choose to make.

CC-BY-NC-SA terms for people who copied portions of my own works on or before June 1, 2105 follow. Note that where I have copied the works of others, the copyright remains theirs, not mine.

You are free to:

  • Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
  • The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.

Under the following terms:

  • AttributionYou must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • Non-Commercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
  • ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
  • No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.


  • You do not have to comply with the license for elements of the material in the public domain or where your use is permitted by an applicable exception or limitation.
  • No warranties are given. The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material.

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