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Wikia and Sony Playing Licensing Mind Tricks

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the thanks-for-the-help dept.

Sony 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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Nothing is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118327)

Any site claiming so is lying. The owners want mindshare and eyeballs, i.e. you. You are the ultimate product despite whatever you may believe about a site. The owners how to get a large enough audience to get noticed by a bigger player, who them will come in and buy the business. The owners leave to live a happy wealthy life, the users, bitch and moan as normal.

Re:Nothing is free (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118457)

Not quite true - there are some people out there with genuinely altruistic motivations. It's just that the West has managed to make a religion out of selfishness, so they're few and far between, and often lambasted.

Re:Nothing is free (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118581)

Not quite true - there are some people out there with genuinely altruistic motivations. It's just that the West has managed to make a religion out of selfishness, so they're few and far between, and often lambasted.

Well, you could argue that some people do altruistic acts because it rewards them with a good feeling, similar to how others feel good about amassing money or power or being desired, so ultimately egoistic motivation. The trick is to have a culture and organization of society that makes the best out of peoples different egoistic motivations.

Re:Nothing is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118787)

Not quite true - there are some people out there with genuinely altruistic motivations. It's just that the West has managed to make a religion out of selfishness, so they're few and far between, and often lambasted.

Well, you could argue that some people do altruistic acts because it rewards them with a good feeling, so ultimately egoistic motivation.

...thus validating the grandparent's point.

Re:Nothing is free (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 6 months ago | (#47120445)

You always get that in the first 5 minutes of an economics course (to theoretically cover their ass), and then the rest of course is about money. They don't really have any way to verify, measure, or make predictions based on that piece of dogma.

Re:Nothing is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122489)

I don't think that's true. I often do altruistic stuff for reasons other than greed (to the extent that pride in doing good can be considered greedy) and I think most people do too. I think I do it basically because I've been socially conditioned to. I do stuff because it's The Right Thing To Do. And people who make a significant sacrifice to do good--sacrifice your life to save another, sacrifice your career prospects to be honest, whatever--typically do not get a net benefit of good feeling to make up for it. They do it because they want to be a good person and do the right thing.

Re:Nothing is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122899)

I don't think that's true. I often do altruistic stuff for reasons other than greed (to the extent that pride in doing good can be considered greedy) and I think most people do too. I think I do it basically because I've been socially conditioned to. I do stuff because it's The Right Thing To Do. And people who make a significant sacrifice to do good--sacrifice your life to save another, sacrifice your career prospects to be honest, whatever--typically do not get a net benefit of good feeling to make up for it. They do it because they want to be a good person and do the right thing.

And you hate wanting to be a good person and doing the right thing?

Distinction without a difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122635)

A brain that rewards itself with a "good feeling" whenever it takes actions that benefit others without an overt reciprocal benefit is, by any useful definition, an "altruistic brain."

Saying "you get a good feeling and therefore you are selfish," is silly, since there is a clear difference between a "selfish" person who exploits the poor and a "selfish" (sic) person who gives generously to the poor.

Re:Distinction without a difference (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122855)

A brain that rewards itself with a "good feeling" whenever it takes actions that benefit others without an overt reciprocal benefit is, by any useful definition, an "altruistic brain."

Saying "you get a good feeling and therefore you are selfish," is silly, since there is a clear difference between a "selfish" person who exploits the poor and a "selfish" (sic) person who gives generously to the poor.

I didn't call it selfish, I called it an ultimately egoistic motivation. And there clearly is a reciprocal benefit, if you tear yourself lose from the materialistic focus. And there are lots of egoistic motivations that guide our behavior that have nothing to do with exploiting the poor. Fx. to be liked, to be well respected, to be desired, to be looked up to, etc.

Re:Nothing is free (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 6 months ago | (#47118641)

Not quite true - there are some people out there with genuinely altruistic motivations. It's just that the West has managed to make a religion out of selfishness, so they're few and far between, and often lambasted.

All hail Dollah!

anything that's not nailed down securly enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118719)

remember that TacoSnotter JonKatz? You know, the guy that scraped slashdot for comments and wrote a book about the Voices from the Hellmouth thread?

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2000 Andover.Net.

FUCK THAT GUY.

Re:anything that's not nailed down securly enough (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 6 months ago | (#47119237)

lol, yeah, I remember him. I also remember doing jaeger shots at the geek compound with Eric "Surprised by Wealth" Raymond. IIRC, that night he was surprised by tacosnotting. I haven't vomitted that hard, before or since.

Re:anything that's not nailed down securly enough (1)

Rakarra (112805) | about 6 months ago | (#47122565)

Ok, I may regret wanting to know this, but... just what is "tacosnotting?"

Sony make.bereave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119967)

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/a/img834/5919/2omn.png

Re:Nothing is free (3, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 6 months ago | (#47120275)

Ah yes, blame "the West". Of course the East has been a bastion of wisdom, equality and selfless generosity for a long time now. The South did not fare so well, being too busy being sold off by the West into slavery, which the West invented of course.

Or maybe selfishness is just human nature and a thing of all times.

Re:Nothing is free (2)

Zalbik (308903) | about 6 months ago | (#47120721)

Ha, I'm Canadian! We in the North laugh at your petty squabbles and selfish greed!

I wonder if it'll stop snowing soon?

Re:Nothing is free (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#47119889)

Any site claiming so is lying. The owners want mindshare and eyeballs, i.e. you. You are the ultimate product despite whatever you may believe about a site. The owners how to get a large enough audience to get noticed by a bigger player, who them will come in and buy the business. The owners leave to live a happy wealthy life, the users, bitch and moan as normal.

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.

and no, I'm not going to provide a link. I'd prefer to be able to continue to rant on Slashdot with pseudo-anonymity :-D

Copyright by default (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47120359)

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.

Re:Copyright by default (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47124209)

I think what @Charliemopps is looking for is CC0 :

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. See Other Information below.

From https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ [creativecommons.org]

Re:Nothing is free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47123379)

legally speaking (in the US) if you have not applied any license to your published work that it remains "copyright [your name] [date of publication] all rights reserved" which means they are in fact not free to copy or redistribute it in part of in whole for any purpose other than legally protected fair use.

Um, what? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118357)

I know Jimbo is a vile, leeching Objectivist ex-pornographer who has created the worst popular web site on the Internet, but he's not influential enough to be above the law. The copyright belongs to the authors, and nobody else can change the license.

Re: Um, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118659)

That "a" is not accidental. Pretty sure Wikia != wikimedia.

Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Risks (2)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 6 months ago | (#47118373)

1. IANAL, and, while I'm quite familiar with a lot of copyright issues, I can't venture an expert opinion about whether the license conversions would actually stand up to a lawsuit.

2. That being said, if you're creating and editing content on someone else's website, you've got to face the risk that the content might end up being used in ways of which you don't approve.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47118415)

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:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (3, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | about 6 months ago | (#47118635)

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

...this phrase describes basically every business model, ever.

not really (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 6 months ago | (#47119235)

Even now it's possible to just make a good product, treat your employees right, and sell it for a fair price.

Some personal examples in the woodworking tools category: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Veritas Tools.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (4, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#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?

Mod parent up (sigh) (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 6 months ago | (#47121989)

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?

These are some very good points; you should at least get an account so that they start at a Score of +1 or +2 instead of 0, and are more likely to be seen.

Re:Mod parent up (sigh) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122459)

(GP here) I posted AC because I didn't want to undo other mods I'd made in this discussion. I generally consider my mods more valuable than my comments, so if no one sees it because it's a 0-rated AC, so be it. I generally browse at -1 so I see everything. I wouldn't have posted at all, but I didn't see these issues raised elsewhere in this thread, and some of them I'm not sure I've seen raised anywhere. I don't usually sign AC posts, because it's essentially meaningless.

-almitydave

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47120895)

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".

Well, an EULA is a contract. Courts have upheld that the terms of an EULA can be changed arbitrarily by the ones who issued it.

Since you've already agreed to the changes they make in the future, you're hosed.

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.

Give them time, they're trying. The *AAs would like nothing better than mandatory payment by everybody on the off beat chance they ever see or hear anything.

I'm not advocating it, or saying I agree with it. But retroactively changing the TOS and license for a web site ... well, there's already precedent.

Trust me, I don't disagree with you. But, the reality is, it's more or less already happening, and the courts have pretty much upheld it.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47120207)

Goes back to being selfish, the people who started these sites may never have had the best intentions in mind to begin with, or they did however once they saw the potential to make money from it, it corrupted their morals/principles.

I really didn't read the linked story, but I do not see a problem with this, Wikia doesn't run itself, you have expenses that need to be paid in order to keep it going besides donations and people willfully and freely supporting the site by donating their time to add/edit articles. If the money is going into the site itself I do not see a problem with this, however if the people in charge of the site are pocketing the money or acting similar to book publishers then I see a problem with it.

Having said that if that is the case then this submitted article is just really sensationalism by someone who fails to see the bigger picture, keeping a site going, without clogging it with bought-&-paid for articles, or annoying worthless advertising.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 6 months ago | (#47121937)

I wasn't aware of TV Tropes' attempt to change the licensing terms a couple of years back. Had I known, I would already have had a contemptious view of them (since *my* first thought too was that "you can't simply (legally) relicense CC content under new terms unless the contributors agree or you make it clear"- and, as the article writer pointed out, no such terms were presented or agreed to by me when adding edits.)

Even so, I was already unimpressed with a trick I caught them using a couple of months or so back. I noticed that they had added small, square pictures containing links to other articles at the bottom of some pages. Nice, you might think, but mixed in with these pictorial links (alternating in a checkerboard pattern) were links to external sites, i.e. adverts.

What made this morally dubious was that the advertising links and internal article links were of very similar style, both image and caption-wise, and it was quite clear that they were being intermingled with the intent of looking like links to TV Tropes articles and getting people to click on them.

Not in the same ballpark as their attempt to re-appropriate (i.e. steal) people's work for their own use only, but still an indicator of how sleazy the people who run this apparently friendly site are.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | about 6 months ago | (#47118673)

That being said, if you're creating and editing content on someone else's website, you've got to face the risk that the content might end up being used in ways of which you don't approve.

You can always host stuff on your own website. Even then someone might use your content, and you're out of luck because they can pay their lawyers indefinitely and you're just a guy with a website.

Re:Creating Content on Someone Else's Site Has Ris (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47124433)

1. IANAL, and, while I'm quite familiar with a lot of copyright issues, I can't venture an expert opinion about whether the license conversions would actually stand up to a lawsuit.

2. That being said, if you're creating and editing content on someone else's website, you've got to face the risk that the content might end up being used in ways of which you don't approve.

1. It wouldn't, the terms under which you created the content would stand. New content if you continued contributing would be under the new terms but your old content cannot have the terms changed retroactively.

The problem here is that enforcing such requires time, money, and lawyers. Guess who just partnered up with a big corporate giant to ensure they have more of that than you?

2. In theory if the content is used in ways which you do not approve of or have not agreed to (keeping in mind you 'agreed' to the ToS by posting the content in all likely hood) you can demand its removal. Remember copyright is default, you don't have to file for it, you own your comments/posts.

I say in theory because this brings us right back to time, money, and lawyers.

Copyright owners (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 6 months ago | (#47118385)

So what do the actual copyright owners say?
The people who put stuff on those sites under a CC-BY-NC license?

Re:Copyright owners (0)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#47118427)

they licensed their content to be used as the website sees fit with no hope of compensation

Re:Copyright owners (2)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47118545)

No, they didn't. The license to use content "as the website sees fit" was included way after the content was created.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#47118573)

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

Re:Copyright owners (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47118599)

There always is.

"I have altered our deal. Pray I don't alter it further."

Pray I don't alter it ANY further (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47120067)

Farewell Sony

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/a/img834/5919/2omn.png

Re:Pray I don't alter it ANY further (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 months ago | (#47120839)

Farewell Sony

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/... [imageshack.us]

Hmmm, which of these 3 did you mean?

bereave
[bih-reev]
verb (used with object), bereaved or bereft, bereaving.
1. to deprive and make desolate, especially by death (usually followed by of ): Illness bereaved them of their mother.
2. to deprive ruthlessly or by force (usually followed by of ): The war bereaved them of their home.
3. Obsolete. to take away by violence.

Quite frankly, with Sony, any of those is a viable option.

Re:Copyright owners (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Assignment of copyright (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47118805)

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.

Re:Assignment of copyright (1)

Jiro (131519) | about 6 months ago | (#47119177)

In the US, a copyright assignment is not valid unless done in writing. (Google up copyright assignment writing, for instance http://www.copyrightcodex.com/... [copyrightcodex.com] ). So either tvtropes is clueless, or that doesn't mean what you think it means.

Re:Assignment of copyright (4, Informative)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47119323)

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:Assignment of copyright (1)

Rakarra (112805) | about 6 months ago | (#47122629)

Is there an article available that details this? wikiindex is pretty vague; I'd be interested in finding out just what pages were censored and if there's discussion about it on tvtropes.

Re:Assignment of copyright (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47119575)

In the US, a copyright assignment is not valid unless done in writing.

True, but now I want to see how copyright law determines whether "an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent." I take "in writing" to refer to being "fixed in a tangible medium", such as anything stored in the server's access log or a user properties table. And if clicking something amounting to "I agree to these terms" on the get known page doesn't constitute "signed", this would open up a can of worms under the CFAA.

Re:Assignment of copyright (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47120925)

Clicking something amounting to "I agree to these terms" may very well be legally binding, but it didn't happen in those sites. They were careless enough not to provide such wording either in their post forms nor their Terms of Use.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 6 months ago | (#47119633)

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

How would that be possible? Only the copyright holder can change the license under which their copyrighted works can be used. Now this site seems to have added terms to their site that claim "by using our site, you give up any restriction that your content cannot be used for commercial uses". That has at least big, big problems. First obviously copyrighted works by people using the site at some point in the past, but not anymore. Using such content is obvious copyright infringement since the copyright holder never waived their rights. Second, adding terms that restrict the rights of third parties. If _my_ content is on that site, then I most certainly did not agree that you can require _others_ who look at _my_ content to waive their rights. Third, copyright has strong legal protection. There can be statutory damages up to $150,000 per copied work.

Re:Copyright owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118585)

That is an assumption. Being licensed under CC-BY-NC means that someone else than the author can have uploaded the content to the website.
Part of the CC-BY-NC license also gives you permission to create derivatives with the same license.
The website was given the right to redistribute the content under one license. Distributing it under another is a copyright violation. It is not a gray zone or even close. The rules that applies are exactly the same as those that prevents me from taking GCC, stripping the license and redistributing it under another license. (Be it BSD or a completely proprietary license.)
That I through the GNU license not only were allowed to host the source on my webpage but also had the obligation to provide the source in some way doesn't mean that I have the right to change the license.
The content creator cannot prevent their work from being uploaded to Wikia. It is Wikias obligation to remove any work that doesn't fit their requirement.

Re:Copyright owners (3, Interesting)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Copyright owners (3, Informative)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47118575)

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 (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 6 months ago | (#47118789)

Per your sig I understand you're probably better informed than I am on these matters.

I do wonder though whether or not you are correct in this case.

Let's say I've got a piece of software and I decide to publish that under the GPL.

Somebody sends me a piece of code to include in the software.

I add it, and release it, still under the GPL. Then later on, I decide to release the code under, say, the BSD license - including the bit that was contributed by Somebody.

Whether or not I can do so depends on what license that Somebody gave me when they handed me the code. While it might seem obvious that they contributed to something that's under the GPL license and should therefore also be GPL, 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.

At least, that's my understanding. So my questions would be: 1. what license did authors actually give Wikia for their contributed content (explicitly or implicitly), 2. does the license of the greater work at that time trump the license on the contribution and 3. why?

This has come up in the linux kernel (3, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:This has come up in the linux kernel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119587)

I guess the trick here would be that the site collecting and offering material has asked its contributors under which license it should distribute the content on that web site. Not under which license the contributors give the content to the site.

And as long as the site itself offers the content under the desired license, what it does otherwise with it may be left more to its own devices.

A shitty thing to do, but this will need serious lawyering to crack.

Re:This has come up in the linux kernel (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 6 months ago | (#47119779)

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

+1; the Linux kernel was not the only high-profile real-life case of a FOSS project doing just that. I'm actually surprised GP apparently didn't knew of that; it received ample coverage on this very site.

Re:Copyright owners (3, Informative)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47119433)

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.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 6 months ago | (#47119965)

if Somebody gave you the code only under the original GPL

That's the part that I'm wondering about, though.

Did Somebody actually give me code under the GPL - or did they just... give me code? At which point, should one assume it is just a gift (which you can do with as you please), that it was implied that it would be under the GPL because the project it's intended for is under the GPL, or that in fact I couldn't do anything with that code other than as stipulated in any particular communication surrounding that code contribution; e.g. if it's sent by e-mail and the e-mail only says "try this, I think it speeds things up about 20%" - does that mean I should only try it, or that I'm free to include it in the distribution and put the GPL license on it, etc.?

Thus why I said in GGGP(?) post that it should be made explicitly clear what license it's being contributed under - rather than any implied licensing - and I have no idea if Wiki had/has any such clauses.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47120073)

Did you get that in writing? If not, don't treat it as a gift. If you include it in the GPL code without explicit permission, you may taint the whole project. In fact, many people contribute to FLOSS and Open Knowledge projects with the explicit expectation that it won't be relicensed, and we refrain from contributing to such projects without those guarantees - so yes, there's a strong expectation that contributing to a GPL project is done under GPL terms and no others. The GPL was explicitly designed with that goal in mind.

You're not the copyright owner of content you didn't write, period. And if you didn't write it you can't relicense it without written permission. The FSF requests that contributors assign them their copyrights because of this very reason.

Re:Copyright owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47120373)

Did Somebody actually give me code under the GPL - or did they just... give me code?

If someone copies a snippet of code from GCC and tells you that it is licensed under BSD then you are still required to remove that code when you find out about the real license.
Compare with a scenario where some unknown dude claims that he has the copyright on all music in the world and tells the dudes running piratebay that they can redistribute it as they see fit.

Copyright law is a complete clusterfuck but it is not that unclear. Wikia got the permission to use something for non-commercial purposes. Now that they want to use it commercially that license is revoked and they will have to ask all content producers for permission again.
It isn't practical for them and might not even be feasible. That is their problem and they should have thought about that to begin with. Screwing over the content producers aren't a legal option that they have.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about 6 months ago | (#47123307)

If they just sent you code with no license whatsoever, what they actually gave you is All Rights Reserved, and you may not use it at all. Period. There is no concept of "gift" in copyright.

Re:Copyright owners (0)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 6 months ago | (#47119853)

That's interesting. There is a difference between emailing the code to the maintainer and having them put it into the repository, versus getting check-in privileges and updating the repository yourself. Doing it through a web interface makes it very ambiguous though. I could see arguments both ways.

Ultimately, it just needs to be stated clearly which model the site is using so people know what they are getting into.

Re:Copyright owners (1)

jp10558 (748604) | about 6 months ago | (#47120985)

As far as I can tell, unless you have a copyright assignment from the person who wrote the copyrighted material, there is no reason to think you would have ownership of the copyrighted material. This is why many companies that operate in such a model make you go through a process to become a contributer.

Just e-mailing something to someone doesn't assign them copyright, and I think that sort of thing was decided long ago with mailing manuscripts.

The web interface still is the same. In no case has anyone been able to argue they didn't infringe copyright (of a song etc) based on *the method they received the copyrighted material* - otherwise it would seem to me that bittorrent of a version of a song would not infringe as you didn't have a contract or license appended to the CD (if the CD is old enough)...

Remember, you don't need a copyright notice to get copyright protection now (though you used to, in which case your argument probably would be correct, unless the poster added a copyright notice).

In the case of an ambiguous web interface, I think you need to consider the logic like this:

1) I have received copyrighted content, and no explicit license or assignment.
2) What can I do with this? I personally can view it, but I can't make copies, nor can I distribute it. So I can't put it up on a website I own. This is standard basic copyright law. I don't think anyone disagrees about this.
3) However, my website is providing hosting with the results licensed CC-BY-SA, which is a license that does allow me to share and distribute the copyrighted material. It seems likely that the copyrighted material was posted on my site utilizing that license, especially as much of it is derivative of the existing CC-BY-SA license.

I don't see any way to get to copyright assignment that would hold up in court. I have my doubts that #3 really holds up - the content should be explicitly licensed by the contributor. For it to actually work, it should be, as you say, part of the site contract entered into for edit access - like Slashdot has comments owned by the poster.

Re:Copyright owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119567)

They don't have reason to complain other than moral grounds? That's the only reason that really matters when it comes down to it.

CC-BY-NC are excluded (5, Informative)

szumo (618551) | about 6 months ago | (#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:CC-BY-NC are excluded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118617)

Small correction: not 'disclaimer', it is actually more of a 'claimer'. Perhaps the best expression would be 'full disclosure'.

Re:CC-BY-NC are excluded (1)

HideyoshiJP (1392619) | about 6 months ago | (#47119091)

Get your information and "first hand knowledge" out of my rage thread. I just finished sharpening my pitchfork and everything...

Re:CC-BY-NC are excluded (2)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47119103)

However, the "Commercial Use Waiver" still allows Wikia any form of commercial use for any derivative work.

There was in the Forum [memory-alpha.org] a proposal to change the wording and "make it clear that the scope and purpose of the waiver is for the placement of ads", however that clarification never arrived to the LIcensing page. What happened to those good intentions?

NC Stupid, Relicencing Simply Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118455)

CC NC restriction is stupid, because it is really ambiguous and it's hard to say what "non-commercially" means; in fact, most interesting non-personal uses qualify as "commercial", including non-profit uses, public media, any personal blog that might carry adsense etc. If one says "NC", you imagine things like evil people putting your content to a shiny book and making tons of money on that, but in reality it makes the work difficult to incorporate or remix in much anything.

That said, relicencing without the consent of contributors is simply illegal, and if you care enough, sue. Relicencing is hard work, and in the context of open source software, people tend to be rather careful; relicencing VLC or OSM was an interesting, read up on that. But in principle, it is doable (at the cost of dropping some fringe content). An imperfect best-effort solution to show you at least try to do it properly: run per-word blame on current revisions; ignore users with only tiny coverage (small contributions aren't covered by copyright, roughly speaking); harrass the large contributors to relicence until you have 80% coverage, then redact the rest and call it a day. Of course, the "harrassing" part may take months, but that's life.

If you want to be future-proof, ask your users during registration about licence of their work. Default on something very permissive like CC-0 (they may not care if it's small stuff) / CC-BY and let them opt in to declare they release it only under CC-BY-SA or (at worst) CC-BY*-NC. You can still publicly serve the compiled wiki content under CC-BY-SA, that doesn't conflict with the fact that the guys are licencing it as CC-0 / CC-BY to *you*. But if in the future you decide you need to change the licence, you'll have the headroom to do it easily.

Re:NC Stupid, Relicencing Simply Illegal (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 6 months ago | (#47118627)

Or include a copyright assignment in the fine print on the submission terms - if you own the copyright on contributions then you can do whatever you want, contributor wishes be damned. I really hope that isn't what happened here.

It looks like an assignment (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47118827)

"By contributing content to this site, whether text or images, you grant TV Tropes irrevocable ownership of said content, with all rights surrendered" in the welcome page [tvtropes.org] looks an awful lot like an assignment of copyright.

Re:It looks like an assignment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119181)

RTFA. That line was added after the fact.

It probably is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118493)

The problem is that many people don't understand the impact that license changes can have on content and how it is used. This can happen both with large wikis, and with smaller ones. For instance, I started the Wikia page for the game Spelunky, back when it was still a freeware PC game. It started out as just me and one or two other people writing all of the content. I pretty much stopped editing it when the console version of the game was released because I did not have a compatible console at the time.

When I started the Wikia page, I wasn't thinking about what my content (or forks thereof) would be licensed under. I mostly just wanted to make a central repository for information about the game. I haven't read the CC-BY-SA license, nor have I read CC-BY-NC, because I didn't believe there would be any danger of someone using the wiki for commercial reasons due to Spelunky being a freeware game.

Would I prefer my content remain free and sharealike? Yes. Can I do anything about Wikia getting kickbacks from Sony to display content I wrote on a TV? Probably not, and in any case it'd be unethical since I didn't write 100% of the content even on the Wikia I started.

Re:It probably is. (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 6 months ago | (#47118727)

Unless you transferred copyright you absolutely can - if you licensed content under the CC-BY-NC then only *you* can change the license terms, and Wikia is acting illegally if it uses your content in a commercial setting. You don't have *exclusive* rights to collaborative content, but unless they strip out *everything* you contributed they can't relicense without your permission. That's one of the reasons that Linux, for example, is firmly committed to GPLv2 - Linus stripped out the "or any later version" relicensing option, and now there's so many poorly documented contributors that there's no way they could track all of them down to get permission to relicense, so it's GPLv2 forever.

Of course you'd probably have to sue, or at least present a credible threat of such, to get Wikia back in line, and that's liable to be expensive, but that's what class-actions are for - after all it's not just your content they're stealing, it's *everyone* who contributed under -NC terms, and they're no doubt counting on collective apathy to get away with it.

FUCK Sony with a rusty meathook. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118507)

After the Sony root kit fiasco and the way Sony left users of the Cli Palm OS devices high and dry with NO warning,
Sony deserves no business from anyone who would like to call himself an informed tech person.

FUCK SONY.

And if you spend any money with Sony after what Sony has done, fuck YOU.

Why "clear commercial use"? (4, Interesting)

mattdm (1931) | about 6 months ago | (#47118515)

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.

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47118647)

You can bet Sony will be advertising as hell this feature in their Smart TVs marketing campaigns. Last time I checked selling TVs was a commercial activity.

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 6 months ago | (#47118829)

For a change, I need to agree with Sony (and you) on this one. Whether or not this infringes on "NC" really depends on exactly what they've done with it.

Do they simply display it in a browser-like interface, while preserving the essential webpageyness of the content? If so, I'd call that no more "noncommercial" than using Internet Explorer on Windows to visit Wikia directly. If, however, they've completely butchered the content to fit their marketing department's retarded whims and removed any traces of attribution in the process, that clearly goes well beyond grey area.

We've already accepted that every TV will eventually function as a more-or-less fully capable streaming media center; we also need to accept the implications of that on exactly the present issue. If device-X has a web browser, does device-X need a special license to view any webpage not explicitly marked as free-for-all? And if so, why doesn't MSIE need the same license? What if the TV runs Win8 and actually displays the content in MSIE?

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47119197)

It depends on whether they plan to use this feature to sell more TVs.

Merely allowing the site to be accessed through the product features is not commercial by itself, but if the links are included by default in a prominent place (and we know they will), that counts as product placement and branding; and it can definitely be considered a commercial purpose - people pay money to that kind of placement.

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (1)

mattdm (1931) | about 6 months ago | (#47119929)

It depends on whether they plan to use this feature to sell more TVs.

Merely allowing the site to be accessed through the product features is not commercial by itself, but if the links are included by default in a prominent place (and we know they will), that counts as product placement and branding; and it can definitely be considered a commercial purpose - people pay money to that kind of placement.

I'm not saying that this interpretation is necessarily wrong, but... it's quite wide in scope. It seems like you are saying that not only would hosting NC content on a site with ads be disallowed, but that merely prominently linking to such content from a site with ads would be disallowed, as would any advertising for any commercial software or hardware which implied that NC content could be accessed.

Furthermore, the suggestion that if some people sometimes pay for a particular activity, then all instances of that activity must be commercial in nature -- wow, now that has some implications!

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47120151)

I didn't suggest that activities activities which are sometimes done for money are always commercial.

I meant that activities for promoting commercial products should always be considered commercial (even if the promotion itself is not paid), as they're always intended to produce a sale; which is different.

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#47120015)

If it's "Non-commercial" then why is there an agreement?

I suspect that, if Sony was going to use the site, they realize most people will never update their TVs, so they had to have some assurances that the site and its format, API, etc... would remain the same. Why would wikia agree to that? Oh sure Sony, out of the kindness of our hearts we'll maintain this in-perpetuity for you! No... Sony's giving them money to maintain the site in the certain way. It's clearly commercial.

Re:Why "clear commercial use"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119819)

I agree, "non-commercial" is silly, whether it's a policy allowing you to run "non-commercial servers" on your last mile internet connection, a cheaper "non-commercial" license for a ridiculously expensive software tool like Mathematica or Synplicity or Solaris, or a wiki license. I bet the creative commons got infected with the idea by watching asshole companies try to play games with "non-commercial," but it's still silly.

Mind tricks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118615)

These are not the licenses you're looking for. Move along

Re:Mind tricks (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47118867)

Yeah, I was aiming for that as the "from" department. You can't trust editors, but you can always trust the Anonymous Coward for lame jokes ;-)

Yet another greedy site tries to steal user's work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47118671)

This comes up every now and then, some site decides it wants to own all user posted content and changes their terms of service to pave the way for them to sell it. This invariably causes a massive backlash amongst the users which usually forces the site to back off from most of it's IP grab. Instagram did this right after being gobbled up by Facebook and resulted in a class-action lawsuit being filed by people wanting their copyrights back (they did the whole retroactive ownership thing too). I didn't hear what the outcome was so assume the case is still being litigated.

Generally I don't think any kind of retroactive claim of ownership will stand up in court.

Interesting Development (1)

Davidlogann2 (3670697) | about 6 months ago | (#47118691)

Now that the wiki and Sony partnership is formed think of the benefits copywriters will gain from the feature of TV commercials included for their content. Furthermore their reach is also going to expand dramatically if the Tv Commercial part becomes successful on a grand scale. But not everything just as planned Lets see what happens.

Because At The End Of The Day (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 6 months ago | (#47118763)

That BMW looks pretty nice and hosting free shit for free doesn't pay for a BMW. I wish these companies would be more honest about it when they finally do decide to fuck everyone over, though. Really, how hard is it to say "Yeah, we decided we wanted a BMW"? Or "Yeah, our CEO needs a fifth house." or "We're firing all those guys because our CEO is planning to cash out a fuck-ton of stock options this year and wants three million dollars instead of two." Since no one has any privacy anymore anyway, they may as well be honest about their reasons. It's not like we won't find out a couple months later anyway.

Re:Because At The End Of The Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47123149)

When you grow up you find it is not the size of the car that count, but the size of your yacht.

Don't use Wikia. Plain and simple. (1)

Chas (5144) | about 6 months ago | (#47118795)

You're putting stuff on THEIR systems. So you're supposedly going to trust them?

They can't even keep their stupid adware system malware free on a month-by-month basis. And you think that's an ACCIDENT?

To quote The Rainmaker: (1)

Assmasher (456699) | about 6 months ago | (#47118837)

"...playing the odds that the insured would not consult an attorney."

People who don't own their own businesses or aren't involved in the higher levels of a corporation don't realize that much of business behavior is defined by the expectation of the likelihood of being sued.

Of course they can't legally just retroactively f*** everyone over, but who is going to stop them when they're likely privately indemnified by SONY.

That's just one of the negatives of capitalism - most people try to get away with everything they can. A modified form of consequentialism.

Simple solution (1)

spacepimp (664856) | about 6 months ago | (#47118943)

Delete your wiki edits/comments, so they cannot claim ownership of what you wrote.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119461)

Hey, brainiac, "your" wiki edits/comments are licensed under CC-BY-SA, you can't just "delete them", you licensed them.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119009)

Displaying content on a tv doesn't make it commercial you fucking retards.

Re:Huh? (1)

TuringTest (533084) | about 6 months ago | (#47119523)

No, but advertising that feature does. You anonymous coward.

I've added a clause to my browser (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119099)

Iv'e added a retroactive clause to my browser the supersedes the Wikia and Tropes copyright claims that says I own all the content I create through that browser and do not surrender any copyright when I add content to a wiki, wikia, message board, facebook or any other website.

Re:I've added a clause to my browser (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47119663)

Iv'e added a retroactive clause to my browser the supersedes the Wikia and Tropes copyright claims that says I own all the content I create through that browser and do not surrender any copyright when I add content to a wiki, wikia, message board, facebook or any other website.

See, you may actually have found the solution to the problem. If you put that in your User Agent, it will be recorded in their server logs, and they can't claim that it can't be applied retroactively without invalidating their own terms.

Wikia is evil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47122449)

Migrating a wiki to your server? Tough shit, Wikia won't let you delete the one they're hosting.
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