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Wikia and Sony Playing Licensing Mind Tricks 108

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 gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:07AM (#47118415) Homepage

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

    Lots of people created the content in CCDB, and then the organization took it private and said "ours now".

    Sooner or later, it seems like every entity which relies on other people to make their content decide that they now own it and can make it closed.

    It's a great business model, but it pretty much screws over the people who actually built your product.

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

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:14AM (#47118489)

    I think there's a bit of confusion with these sites that I agree should be cleared up.

    It's not that the authors are licensing the content to the service under the CC-BY-NC license - more often than not, they're just giving the content to the service with no strings attached whatsoever.

    The service then applies a CC-BY-NC license to that content for third parties to make use of, but that doesn't mean the service can't change the license around at a later time.

    Because authors just gave the content away freely and willingly (albeit perhaps not knowingly, in terms of the extent), they don't really have grounds for complaint other than moral grounds.

  • by mattdm ( 1931 ) on Thursday May 29, 2014 @09:18AM (#47118515) Homepage

    This is exactly the problem with "NC". To you, this is "clear commercial use". Is it because a big company is involved? Two companies? We assume money is changing hands, but... maybe it's not. The license says "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation". What if the money goes towards "supporting the community"? What exactly is "commercial advantage" in this context? I'd have to ask a lawyer, and... unless I was paying them to advise on a specific case, I doubt they'd actually give a straight answer.

    Overall, "noncommercial" licenses are problematic and should be avoided. I understand the intention, but it's hard to make a license that actually gets there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2014 @12:49PM (#47120707)

    Your post raises some interesting questions I don't see addressed elsewhere in this thread:

    Every user-content-driven site presumably has terms of service which dictate how your contributions can be used. For example, let's say you upload a picture to be used on a UserContentEncyclopedia.com article and you specify the license. UserContentEncyclopedia.com then changes their ToS to say anyone who contributes content to UserContentEncyclopedia.com henceforth or in the past grants them a waiver to use it for commercial purposes, regardless of the terms of the license originally granted.

    1. If the ToS also says, "your use of this site signifies your acceptance of these terms", how do you signify that you don't accept? Never visit the site again?
    2. If you never "use" the site again, will UserContentEncyclopedia.com realize this, and refrain from using your past contributions commercially since you haven't signified acceptance of the terms? Or will UserContentEncyclopedia.com assume that the continued presence of your past contributions constitutes "use"?
    3. Does any site with ToS actually keep track of which registered users have accepted updated ToS?
    4. Have ToS clauses such as (1) ever been tested in court, and judged to form the basis of a legally binding contract?
    5. What if I don't accept the implied contract that merely visiting a website constitutes acceptance of its ToS?
    6. Could someone use the reasoning in (5) to claim they don't accept the implied contract that signing their name on a physical paper contract constitutes acceptance of the terms therein?

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