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posted by n1 on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:16PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-more-fun-when-you-write-the-rules dept.

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 popular wikis? Do Creative Commons licenses hold any weight for community websites?

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TV Tropes Relicensed its Content - Without Permit 40 comments

In the beginning, pop culture wiki TV Tropes licensed its content with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license for free content.

When Google pulled out its AdSense revenue because of... let's call it NSFW fan fiction, TV Tropes changed its guidelines to forbid tropes about mature content. In response to this move, two forks were eventually created. The admins disliked this move so much that they changed its license notice to the Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike version, despite their site not having requested copyright rights from their users. Only later they added a clause to their Terms of use page requiring all contributors to grant the site irrevocable, exclusive ownership of their edits.

I suppose the morale of the story is, if you contributed to TV Tropes before summer 2012, you should know they're distributing your content under a license that you didn't give them permission to use.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:35PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:35PM (#48840)

    I expected this would come from the "these-are-not-the-licenses-you're-looking-for" department.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by aristarchus on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:54PM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:54PM (#48912) Journal

      Close, but it should be the "Pray I do not alter it further" department! Suddenly am having trouble . . . breathing. . . .ow!

      Seriously, changing a license without the copyright owners consent sounds like, um, theft, maybe even piracy! And maybe even Space Piracy. (Rebel scum!)

      --
      Die Republikkkanische Partei isst die weissvolken partei.
  • (Score: 1) by middlemen on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:37PM

    by middlemen (504) on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:37PM (#48841) Homepage

    Is there a way to tag stories that are available on slashdot as well as here ? That would be useful to judge what to spend time on.

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:51PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:51PM (#48847) Journal

      You could tag them on Slashdot with a "Soylent" tag. As far as I know there's no tagging possible here on Soylent (probably that feature got added later than the latest published Slashcode version).

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by dbot on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:57PM

      by dbot (1811) on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:57PM (#48851) Journal

      That would be pretty detrimental to what people are trying to do here, I would think.

      I haven't gone back, and don't intend to. Would love to have your(any/all) discussion take place here exclusively.

      If you're choosing to use /., that's fine, but to promote people to go elsewhere is counter productive.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Angry Jesus on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:03PM

      by Angry Jesus (182) on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:03PM (#48856)

      How would it be useful? So you see the same story at another site after you've already read it. If you can't tell by the first couple of sentences of the summary then you didn't spend much time on it the first time you saw it.

      I see the same stories on a bunch of different sites. Since I've been submitting here it's been a real eye-opener about how much of an echo-chamber these nerd-news sites are.

      Trying to define soylent in terms of slashdot just makes soylent irrelevant.

      • (Score: 2) by kebes on Sunday June 01 2014, @02:18PM

        by kebes (1505) on Sunday June 01 2014, @02:18PM (#49907)

        it's been a real eye-opener about how much of an echo-chamber these nerd-news sites are.

        I don't think this is peculiar to nerd-news sites; it's a very general phenomenon, applicable to news sites generally, or even more generally to all human communication.

        If you think about the vast number of humans on Earth, and the correspondingly vast number of things that happen in any given day, the fact that different news sources end up discussing the same event shows that they are being highly selective in what they report. Only a tiny subset of 'potentially shareable information' gets promulgated: either being "reported on" by news agencies, or "going viral", or "becoming gossip", or whatever.

        This is mostly because of human nature: we have limited mental capacities (and so can't handle a barrage of information), our minds prefer simple narratives (so we like to dwell on a story/event until we think we understand it), there are bandwagon effects (others are talking about it so it must be important, I want to be part of the group and 'in the know'), etc. Then there is a tension between our innate desire for familiarity and novelty, which sets the timescale over which events go from being widely spread/discussed, to being forgotten. Mass-media and the Internet then act as multipliers: yielding highly exaggerated versions of inherent human gossiping.

        It's perhaps sad how capricious human information-sharing is. The inherent selectivity of how we accumulate, share, and store information means it is never a statistically-valid sampling of reality; which leads to the emergence of well-known errors when people assume that this information is robust.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:56AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:56AM (#49045)

      RIP old slashdot. Fuck current slashdot.

  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:55PM

    by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 29 2014, @05:55PM (#48850) Journal

    IANAL, but I'm absolutely convinced that this is against the law unless all Wiki contributors agreed (or the material of those who didn't agree was removed). So probably all it would take to stop this is some contributor(s) to sue.

    --
    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:28PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:28PM (#48863) Journal

      You would think so, especially the retro-active part.

      I'm going to take a SECOND read of NCommander's Manifesto [soylentnews.org] and, more importantly, the Bylaws [soylentnews.org] to see if anything is in there to put a stop to this kind of license presto-chango nonsense in SoylentNews's future.

      Ideally this would be in the Articles of Incorporation, which in most states can't be changed without re-filing, rather than the Bylaws which can be changed internally. The rules under which we submit content, and the licenses used, should be as immutable as possible.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by NCommander on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:55PM

        by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <mcasadevall@soylentnews.org> on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:55PM (#48914) Homepage Journal

        It's not in the manifesto, but its going to get added; I didn't think I'd have to put something in saying we wouldn't do something illegal, but given TVTropes and now this, I think I rather have it in black and white. We've discussed the possibility of relicensing site content to a CC license, but the plan was it would never be retroactive and we'd put a break in the database to mark what is/isn't licensed what (something of a larger change). We might provide the user functionality to re-license old stuff under the new license, but it would not be automatic.

        The *sole* exception I could see to this is license upgrades (i.e. CC-BY-SA 3.0 -> 4.0 which helped w/ international usage of content)), but with the exception of the (L)GPL, I'm unaware of any license that says that this is an automatic right. Once I have had a chance to sleep on it, I'll get some wording worked up, and likely an article about it (we've got some slated to go out with the site upgrade planned for this weekend, so I might just attach it there).

        Not sure how'd we'd put something like that in the Articles of Incorporation, though putting it in the bylaws is an option (we're almost at the point to hire a lawyer, the staff have been going through the draft bylaws, and I've been checking every resource I have available to make sure there isn't anything obvious in what is likely a futile attempt to keep costs down).

        Strictly speaking, this shit is illegal (retroactive relicensing) unless something else allows them to, but the copyright holder has to drag the infringer to court to make it count. Will be interesting to see if some users of wikia decide to make an issue about it; this could easily go to SCOTUS (I'd bet money there is a lawyer somewhere that would defend something like this pro-bono).

        --
        Still always moving
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @07:50PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @07:50PM (#49271)

          OpenStreetMap changed their license in 2012.

          If the original contributors could not be contacted or did not agree then eventually their data was removed from the new database before the license change took effect. The implementation plan shows the care they took in the transition and I think it worked out well. There were noticeable holes in the data but at least in my case, I was motivated to go fill in where needed.

          http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Open_Data_Licen se/Implementation_Plan [openstreetmap.org]

          The overall view: http://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/License/About_Th e_License_Change [osmfoundation.org]

    • (Score: 1) by citizenr on Thursday May 29 2014, @10:36PM

      by citizenr (2737) on Thursday May 29 2014, @10:36PM (#48941)

      Of course it is.

      Good luck suing Sony tho :D

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @02:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @02:01AM (#48978)

      Didn't stop this happening at tvtropes.com

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @07:00AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @07:00AM (#49048)

      A run-of-the-mill copyright violation.

  • (Score: 2) by skullz on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:15PM

    by skullz (2532) on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:15PM (#48859)

    Commercialized, bad! Changing licencing terms, bad! HULK SMASH!

    Okay, with that out of the way on the surface this sounds like a good deal for the communities. Someone has to pay for those servers and if your content could actually be linked to something relevant about it I would be stoked, especially if it could remove those video ads.

    It would be interesting to see how freely generated user content meshes with Corp Culture (and this *is* Sony we are talking about) when Corp starts asking Wikia to police and filter "objectionable content". Then you will really know that they have sold out.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Thursday May 29 2014, @07:27PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday May 29 2014, @07:27PM (#48886)

      Okay, with that out of the way on the surface this sounds like a good deal for the communities.

      Why yes, taking somebody else's work without paying for it is generally a good deal for whichever organization is doing the taking!

      Now it could be that contributors either (a) don't care enough to make a stink, or (b) agree that ad revenue is best spent on servers and the like. But that's not something the organization legally has a right to unilaterally decide, since they were licensed the content created by the contributors under a particular set of terms, and those terms did not include an "we can change it at any time if we feel like it" clause.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 2) by skullz on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:55PM

        by skullz (2532) on Thursday May 29 2014, @08:55PM (#48913)

        So far it is wiki entries about games, tv shows, and other entertainment. Meaning summary articles, lore, etc. Not exactly what I would call original content. This looks like something Sony will provide so that as you are watching your show you can fire up the tablet (the infamous 'Second Screen') and have the Wikia content sorted and filtered for you based on what you are watching.

        Sounds exactly like what the Wikia contributes wanted in the first place.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Angry Jesus on Thursday May 29 2014, @11:13PM

          by Angry Jesus (182) on Thursday May 29 2014, @11:13PM (#48958)

          The irony of Sony - one of the largest media companies in the world - getting to decide which content is worthy of legal protection and which is not seems to be lost on you.

  • (Score: 2) by GlennC on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:40PM

    by GlennC (3656) on Thursday May 29 2014, @06:40PM (#48867)

    There are two main considerations concerning how favorable your licensing is:

    1. The amount of money you or your organization has.

    2. The quality and/or quantity of your legal representation.

    --
    Sorry folks...the world is bigger and more varied than you want it to be. Deal with it.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:58AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30 2014, @06:58AM (#49047)

    never forget, never forgive

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/sony_rootkit [wikipedia.org]