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Wikia and Sony Playing Licensing Mind Tricks 108

Posted by timothy
from the thanks-for-the-help dept.
TuringTest (533084) writes "Popular culture website Wikia originally hosted its user-contributed content under a free, sharealike Commercial Commons license (CC-BY-SA). At least as soon as 2003, some specific wikis decided to use the non-commercial CC-BY-NC license instead: hey, this license supposedly protects the authors, and anyone is free to choose how they want to license their work anyway, right? However, in late 2012 Wikia added to its License terms of service a retroactive clause for all its non-commercial content, granting Wikia an exclusive right to use this content in commercial contexts, effectively making all CC-BY-NC content dual-licensed. And today, Wikia is publicizing a partnership with Sony to display Wikia content on Smart TVs, a clear commercial use. A similar event happened at TV Tropes when the site owners single-handedly changed the site's copyright notice from ShareAlike to the incompatible NonCommercial, without notifying nor requesting consent from its contributors. Is this the ultimate fate of all wikis? Do Creative Commons licenses hold any weight for community websites?"
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Wikia and Sony Playing Licensing Mind Tricks

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  • by szumo (618551) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:07AM (#47118419)
    CC-BY-NC licensed Wiki's are not included in content presented by Sony apps (only CC-BY-SA ones are). Disclaimer: I used to work for Wikia on this project so have first hand info about this.
  • Re:Copyright owners (Score:4, Informative)

    by TuringTest (533084) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:27AM (#47118575) Journal

    Wrong. Since the website doesn't have permission under copyright law to use the content, the only thing that allows Wikia to publish content they didn't create is the license under which editors have given them such permission. Users *are* licensing the content to the service under the CC-BY-NC license - they're contributing to a derivative work published under that license, so the combined work must be under the license per the terms of the CC.

    So the "willingly giving" of content was provided under a very specific license, which is the reason why many users bother to contribute at all. Not honoring the license is not only morally wrong, it's also illegal.

  • Re:Copyright owners (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:45AM (#47118747)

    and i bet there was a clause in the original license saying they can change it any time they want

    RTFA, [wikia.com] the CC license explicitly forbids doing that:

    No term or provision of this License shall be deemed waived and no breach consented to unless such waiver or consent shall be in writing and signed by the party to be charged with such waiver or consent.
    This License constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to the Work licensed here. There are no understandings, agreements or representations with respect to the Work not specified here. Licensor shall not be bound by any additional provisions that may appear in any communication from You. This License may not be modified without the mutual written agreement of the Licensor and You.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @08:51AM (#47118805) Homepage Journal
    This applies only if contributors provide their contributions under the License. TV Tropes Foundation now claims that contributors provide provide their contributions not under the License but instead under assignment of copyright: "By contributing content to this site, whether text or images, you grant TV Tropes irrevocable ownership of said content, with all rights surrendered" except for fair use. So TV Tropes Foundation becomes the copyright owner, and it licenses your edits back to you under the License.
  • by Chirs (87576) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:44AM (#47119289)

    And the legal opinion there was that to switch licenses would require the approval of every copyright holder.

    By contributing to the codebase they did not actually assign you copyright...so each contributor holds copyright in the portion that they actually wrote.

  • by TuringTest (533084) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:49AM (#47119323) Journal

    TV Tropes Foundation NOW claims that contributors provide provide their contributions not under the License but instead under assignment of copyright

    It does it now, but it didn't do it then. That's the core of the matter at both Wikia and TV Tropes. The large majority of both websites was only contributed to them under a Creative Commons license.

    So either tvtropes is clueless,

    TV Tropes is clueless. They made the license change because they discovered that someone had created a (partial) fork [wikiindex.org], and were outraged when they learned that they couldn't legally put it down. Since then, another fork has been created [wikiindex.org] containing the complete content of the last version released unambiguously as CC-BY-SA in summer 2012, including all the content that was censored because of Google Ads. It's a fascinating story, really.

  • Re:Copyright owners (Score:4, Informative)

    by TuringTest (533084) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:58AM (#47119433) Journal

    You'd better as hell request an explicit permission to distribute the code from any contributor to your code base, and clarify in the post forms the conditions under which any contribution can be used.

    what they actually did was contribute to a codebase - a codebase under my control, and one that I can slap any which license on that I like.

    Utterly wrong. Under copyright laws, you can only relicense content that you created, or for which you've been given explicit ownership permissions; if Somebody gave you the code only under the original GPL and didn't assign copyright to you, in order to relicense the code you must first remove any such contribution, so that the result only contains the parts you wrote - otherwise, you'll break their copyright.

    This is what is going on in both wikis - the only license under which they published their work at first was the CC-BY-SA (or CC-BY-NC for some Wikias), which is the reason for the sites becoming popular in the first place as many users wouldn't bother to contribute under more restrictive licenses; and neither site requested ownership rights until recently.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @10:11AM (#47119597)

    More or less the same thing happened with Gracenote as I recall.

    However, that doesn't really address any of the issues that GP raised.

    IANAL either, but generally speaking, a "licensing agreement" is a contract. And again generally speaking, one is not allowed to change the terms of a contract and make them "retroactive". At least not without the consent of all parties involved. If you did, it would no longer meet the very definition of "contract".

    I mean, just think about it. Could your cable company say "We're going to make you a 'retroactive' customer and charge you for all past years as well"??? Of course not.

  • Copyright by default (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 29, 2014 @11:21AM (#47120359) Homepage Journal

    My sites free. I pay to host it. Anyones free to go there, download my content. I've no intention of ever applying ANY license to any of it. You can even use it for commercial purposes if you like. I don't care. If you want to be nice you should throw in an attribution though.

    If you don't apply an explicit license, standard copyright applies, and that is "all rights reserved, no copying allowed beyond fair use." I'd recommend applying the CC-BY license [creativecommons.org] or the GNU All-Permissive License [gnu.org] to your pages.

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