Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Has A Spanish Court Questioned The Legitimacy Of Creative Commons Licenses?

from the questions,-questions,-questions dept

Michael Geist points us to a story suggesting that a Spanish court isn't convinced Creative Commons licenses have any legal standing whatsoever. For those who don't know, Creative Commons is a relatively successful program that lets those who created content to put a different type of license on it than a typical copyright, which reserves all rights. Creative Commons licenses are designed to reserve just some rights, while making it clear how the content could be used by others, without having to first negotiate a licensing deal. When Creative Commons first launched four years ago, one of the big questions was what was to stop people from slapping CC licenses on content they didn't actually own. It turns out, for the most part, this hasn't been a problem. However, it does appear to be what happened in this case. A cafe in Spain put up signs claiming that they only played CC-licensed music in the cafe, and used this excuse to avoid paying the standard license that cafes and restaurants usually have to pay if they're playing any music. Unfortunately, the cafe lied, and was playing other music that was not actually covered by a Creative Commons license. For that, they lost the case. However, the judge went one step further in the decision, stating: "…it is worth to point out that the document presented by the defendants-appellants as a license for free use of music does not constitute anything other than a mere informative leaflet about its own content, lacking any form of signature, and therefore bereft of legal value whatsoever." The original blog post worries that this means no Creative Commons license is legitimate, but it depends on how you read that. You could, alternatively, read it as a recognition that in this particular case the license announcements were bogus, because they did not actually apply to the music being played, and really were no more than pamphlets. Unfortunately, though, it's not entirely clear what the judge actually meant, and by suggesting that without a signature they're not valid, certainly could open up lots of problems for anyone trying to make use of CC-licensed content in Spain.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2006 @ 7:35am

    The implications here are dangerous. Is this judge suggesting that he's not going to believe someone gave away their automatic copyright to their content unless there is a signed paper trail to back it up? After all, anyone can (and did in this case) just claim or slap on a creative commons license. Of course, that is just a case of simple deceit and fraud. A more difficult point would be if the judge lacked the imagination to fathom why anyone would want to just give away their rights in such a flimsy way. Unless he empathizes with the concept of creative commons, he may not see the quid pro quo. What economic benefit would there be to you giving away your stuff?

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