Content licensing changes you should be aware of

To preface this, let me be very clear that the changes I’m implementing should be nothing but positive for our authors. I wouldn’t make a negative change without consulting you all first, but this is something that I feel is necessary to protect our authors’ works on the site.

Today, I’ve made an important change to the site to update the current Creative Commons license used for all content published on Protagonize to a slightly more restrictive license. You may or may not have noticed when using the site that all content was previously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. What I’ve done, after consulting with our moderators and trading emails with the (super helpful!) folks over at Creative Commons, is to switch the license that we currently use for all content on the site to the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

What does this mean to our authors? Well, I’ve updated the FAQ to explain the new license in layman’s terms (the full legalese is available here), but here it is again, with the new section highlighted:

  • Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
  • Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
  • Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work.

As you can see, I’ve added a non-commercial use clause to the license we use. Why have I made this change, you ask? Well, this is entirely to protect our authors from what I consider potentially unscrupulous use of their works on other sites. If it doesn’t go against our prior license directly, it definitely goes against it in spirit. I won’t go into detail regarding the specific reasons behind the change (feel free to contact me if you’re really curious), but suffice it to say that the moderators are aware of why I’m doing this, and it’s definitely in the best interest of our members.

Note: If you’re looking to learn more about Creative Commons licensing when it comes to self-publishing and writing online, I’d encourage you to read this article. It’s quite helpful in explaining the basic concepts: Creative Commons: What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know

To complement this change, I’ve had to make a few modifications / enhancements to the Protagonize Terms of Use. Please be sure to take a look through the updated portions, particularly sections 7 and 8. The terminology is pretty standard, effectively giving Protagonize.com and related services (hosted on Protagonize) the right to display and/or excerpt your published works on the site, no matter what the license. What this does is provide Protagonize with an exception to the global non-commercial license and allows the site to display content you may have flagged as non-commercially licensed, and still continue to operate as a business. Since the site displays advertising, has subscriptions, etc., I felt it was necessary to clarify this fact in a way that would both protect our members and still allow the site to operate commercially. As I mentioned, this is quite standard with any site that utilizes Creative Commons licensing yet still hosts content (be it images, text, video, etc.)

On top of the global licensing change, there are a couple of other additions coming to the site that will allow for our authors to directly set licenses on their work. I’ll be implementing these changes on the site this week and will post another entry on our blog once they’re in place. To give you an idea of what they’re all about, they’ll allow our authors to select an explicit license for all of their works on the site, as well as a default license on their profile that will apply to all new works. Existing works will inherit the new global license, but can be changed to anything you want once the option to set licenses explicitly is enable. I’m hoping this will allow the site to appeal to a wider range of authors while giving you all a little more peace of mind over how your content is being used.

If you have any questions or concerns about these changes, please comment here, or feel free to contact me directly. I’m confident that these license modifications will be to the benefit of all Protagonize authors, but I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about the changes.

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11 Responses to Content licensing changes you should be aware of

  1. Eloo says:

    Most excellent news.

  2. AshLynne says:

    Wait, does that mean we can basically use anything anyone’s written as long as we’re not going to sell it? I’m slightly confused.

    Ash x

  3. Nick says:

    @AshLynne Well, technically, yes, but that assumes that they give you proper attribution (i.e. credit to the original author and a link back to the work) and that the work is re-posted under the same license. This is the license the site has operated under since launching (it’s in the footer on every page of the site, and in the Terms of Use you agreed to when you signed up).

    The addition I’m describing here prevents anyone from re-posting content for commercial gain, which was possible before. Now, it isn’t, so it protects our authors from commercial exploitation by unscrupulous third parties.

    If anything isn’t clear about that, please let me know.

  4. Delorfinde says:

    So does that mean if someone liked your piece of work they could nick it for their GCSE coursework? I guess that could have happened before, I just never thought about it.

    (If you don’t know, being Canadian and that, GCSEs are exams you take when you’re 15 or 16 at English secondary schools. Just to clear that one up!)

  5. Nick says:

    @delorfinde Well, they would have had to have put your name on it in order to actually follow the directions of the license, which would make the whole plagiarism thing moot.

    If they actually were to steal your work without crediting you, that’s pretty much unavoidable online, unfortunately.

  6. Delorfinde says:

    Grr, evil people :D I was telling my English teacher about Protag and she was saying it sounded interesting – and then she said, but you posted your work up there! What if someone nicks it?

    And I hadn’t thought of that. I felt a bit silly.

  7. Kaiyuga says:

    Well, logically, if people try to steal it on the internet, you have the time stamp on the file. I always save my work in Microsoft Word just to make sure there’s a time stamp on it in case I DO come across someone trying to plagiarize my work.

    • Nick says:

      @Kaiyuga Exactly — also, the posts on Protagonize are also visibly timestamped, so you can always point back to your posts here for reference, if someone decides to plagiarize it.

  8. FogCat says:

    Very good!
    -Fogs

  9. Lee says:

    Thanks much for keeping us informed about the changes…I actually found out about Protag through a tweet from @creativecommons.

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