Is Putting Change.gov Under Creative Commons Really A Big Deal?

from the help-me,-I'm-missing-something... dept

There's been plenty of attention paid to the news that the website for President-Elect Obama's transition team, Change.gov has been placed under a Creative Commons license, allowing others to make use of the content with attribution. However, I'm a bit hard pressed to see how this actually is a big deal. The whole thing is made a bit odd by the fact that federal government content is not covered by copyright, so anything that comes out of the White House is in the public domain. But, apparently since Obama has not yet been inaugurated, the campaign can still claim copyright on the content. But, why would they? Rather than going with a CC license, why not go all the way and put the content in the public domain? After all, in two months, all such content will be in the public domain anyway? It seems a little odd, counterproductive and unnecessary to add more restrictions to the content than there will be once Obama is actually in office. If the Obama team really wanted to do something meaningful concerning the content on the site, they could follow the advice of Tim O'Reilly and go beyond just putting the content in the public domain and also add revision control, thereby committing to alerting people to any changes to the content. Now, that would be an impressive change.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    It only makes sense if they had lots of people asking for permission to use the content and they wanted to avoid having to individually give permission to each and everyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Wesha, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 1:30pm

    I don't know about you, but to me, it delivers the message that the future president at least KNOWS what the hell Creative Commons IS, and that's a rather important message to me. I hate old farts who can't tell Kazaa from kazoo.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    They want to control the content

    Obama has already shown he will not tolerate people that don't agree with him. http://www.drudgereport.com/flashopp.htm He is a socialist by nature so his first inclination is always going to be to control what the media says about him. I could site over 100 examples of this in the campaign but really Techdirt readers already know this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Re: They want to control the content

    Not to say that this hasn't been done before.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Fred Benenson, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 1:43pm

    User generated content and CC

    Good question Mike.

    Putting aside the issue of whether Obama's transition 501(c)4 corporation is entitled to copyright protection, the CC license choice matters for another reason: the general public should have the right to use the work created by citizens that is submitted to the site.

    Because Change.gov now requires that all work be licensed under CC's Attribtuion license, it clears the way for the government and other citizens to build upon it without complications.

    Instead of creating an onerous one-off Terms of Service forcing users to abdicate exclusive rights to their content, Change.gov simply drew a line in the sand (as Wikipedia and other free culture communities do) and ask users to agree to letting their work be free.

    This policy also avoids asking thousands of citizens to relinquish all control over their work to the public domain.


    Fred Benenson
    Outreach Manager, Creative Commons

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 2:49pm

    Credit where credit is due

    Does the pre-campaign information become Public Domain when he takes the whitehouse, or does only any future information become public domain?

    I would speculate that the reason they went with CC is that a lot of the people who contributed want their name to get out there, so allowing the use of their work with attribution helps them, by making their name more recognizable. So in 4 years, when its time for another campaign, they can get a job easier with one of the lead dogs.

    "Look at me. I helped put Obama in the white house. I can do the same for you."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    meoip, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    Tax

    You mean I have some right to use what my tax dollars paid for? outstanding!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    Re:

    Im with you Wesha. its pretty cool that he, or is team, knows what the heck CC is. that says something in itself.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Charles (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 3:57pm

    Attribution No Derivatives

    To me, I'm thinking that they're smart if they do "Attribution No Derivatives". It makes sure that noone will twist their words, therefore defacing them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Mark Murphy, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    I'm Surprised You Even Have To Ask The Question

    Some of the "restrictions" you mention are pretty damn important for private citizens, such as "5. Representations, Warranties and Disclaimer" and "6. Limitation on Liability".

    Nobody of sound mind and body should be putting anything in the public domain unless they are somehow covered against liability for doing so. Our society is too litigious, and while stock warranty disclaimers are fairly thin as a defense, they're better than nothing.

    Given that, the CC-Attribution license has the fewest restrictions of any of the CC licenses, and it's probably better to use a CC license than to whip up yet another license.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 6:32pm

    Re: They want to control the content

    drudgereport - now there is a shining example of unbiased reporting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 6:50pm

    Re: I'm Surprised You Even Have To Ask The Question

    Some of the "restrictions" you mention are pretty damn important for private citizens, such as "5. Representations, Warranties and Disclaimer" and "6. Limitation on Liability".

    Nobody of sound mind and body should be putting anything in the public domain unless they are somehow covered against liability for doing so. Our society is too litigious, and while stock warranty disclaimers are fairly thin as a defense, they're better than nothing.


    What an incredibly sad statement.

    No offense, but to me that's the death of the entire reason for public domain works, to claim that putting stuff in the public domain leads to liability. I sincerely hope the world never actually reaches such a ridiculous point. That would truly be a sad state of affairs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Dave, Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 1:07am

    Clarification

    According to Wikipedia, "[US Government] works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law". Presumably this means that works produced by the US government are still protected by copyright in other countries. Placing Change.gov under a CC license would mean other people around the world are able to use it as well, not just Americans.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    John (profile), Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Copyrighted by Default

    As mentioned much of the material was not originally created by the federal government. Thus by default under current US copyright law it is copyrighted by default. Applying a CC license to the material simply means that there can be no argument about anyone being able to use the materials. No arguments about what is or isn't fair use, etc.

    What this really all means, as mentioned by others, is that there is someone in or working for the new administration that "gets it" when it comes to the modern internet world and economy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 10:42am

    Re: They want to control the content

    do you have any idea what the creative commons is?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Mark Murphy, Dec 3rd, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: I'm Surprised You Even Have To Ask The Question

    to claim that putting stuff in the public domain leads to liability


    More accurately, failing to disclaim liability leaves you less protected than if you do disclaim liability. Since public domain offers no means of disclaiming liability (AFAIK), public domain is a riskier proposition than choosing a liberal license that contains warranty disclaimers.

    I have had multiple "intellectual property" attorneys tell me as much with respect to public domain software -- you are better served using a liberal license that contains the warranty disclaimer. It won't harm use of the software, and you have at least some measure of protection against liability suits. While I can see greater odds of liability suits with "active" written works like software than ordinary prose, the principle still holds.

    If you feel that CC-Attribution is still too restrictive, I encourage you to work with the Creative Commons to cook up a warranty-disclaimer-only license.

    I sincerely hope the world never actually reaches such a ridiculous point. That would truly be a sad state of affairs.


    Um, we've been there since the invention of copyright and liability. All that's changed are the odds and impacts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This