David Wiley’s talk at GLS got me feeling a little guilty about the lack of copyright license on this blog. Not, to be sure, about the terms that the blog was therefore licensed under but about the fact that the terms were implicit in the first place. Copyright law is horribly flawed these days, with works remaining under copyright far longer than is useful “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” (indeed, it’s not even clear if copyright lasts “for limited Times” at all these days), and orphan works are a serious problem. So the last thing I want to do is to go with that default by inertia: if I really think that other people shouldn’t copy what I’ve written for seventy years after I die, the least I can do is to explicitly say so somewhere.
So: I should pick a copyright license. But which one? Wiley talked about how licenses allowing further modification were useful to him and the schools that he worked with; as somebody who has been hanging out with free software types for a couple of decades, I would be leaning that way anyways. The Creative Commons folks have by far the most mindshare in that area, so I went over to their license chooser and poked around a bit.
Ultimately, though, I didn’t go with any of the licenses that the chooser generates. The chooser asks questions about under what conditions you don’t want people sharing your work; and I couldn’t think of any reason to prevent sharing at all. The truth of the matter is that I have a hard time imagining anybody wanting to use what I’ve written here under situations that aren’t covered by fair use; but, in the unlikely situation that they did, I don’t see how I would be hurt by their doing so. Also, watching how free software has progressed over the last couple of decades has changed my opinions: I certainly respect the GPL, for example, but I’ve seen enough situations where it discourages contribution and use of software licensed under it that I wouldn’t use it for a software project I was starting.
I ended up going with the license with the simplest intent possible: the Creative Commons Zero license, which is an attempt to put this blog into the public domain. I won’t promise to use it for everything I write in the future—I can imagine writing something longer-form where I would find additional protections valuable, for example—but I don’t see a downside for it here.
So: if you want to shamelessly rip me off, have at it! I wouldn’t mind an e-mail if you do so, but you’d be completely within your rights to not even do that, and that’s okay.
And, to my blog readers who are writing blogs of their own: please consider placing a license on your blog. I wouldn’t recommend that everybody use as permissive a license as I have, but I hope that you’ll consider using a license that allows some amount of redistribution and even modification, for the reasons that Wiley gave in his talk. (The various Creative Commons licenses give a wide range of options to that end.) If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, that’s fine, too: indeed, if you, unlike me, are in a position where you’d actually lose something from others redistributing your works, I salute you! But the question of how you’d like others to be able to use your writings is, given the defaults presented by current copyright laws, an important one.
This post has not been revised since publication.