The Copyright Theme

I thought I would take my new Wordform theme out for a spin, let you all see what it looks like. It’s a work in progress, so it may not show correctly in all browsers.

I was inspired by the look at Corante’s Between Lawyers. Well, actually more than inspired — this look is almost a direct copy of the existing layout and style sheet from the site.

I got the inspiration for the new theme when the good folks at Between Lawyers were debating whether to include a Creative Commons license at their site. When they did, they added the license into the page with the addition of a note that Unless otherwise expressly stated, all material included in this weblog and its archives is licensed under a Creative Commons License. I looked to see if there was a copyright notice for the stylesheet and look, but couldn’t find anything within the page. I then assumed that since other copyright information wasn’t provided that abrogated my ‘borrowing’ of the look, it was fine to go ahead.

According to the license they have I must attribute this design to them (done), not use it in a commercial work (done), and not build upon or derive any work from it. This latter part is tricky because what does ‘build upon’ and ‘derive’ mean in the context of a style sheet? I assumed it means use the original stylesheet settings, which I have done — actually copying the original from Corante. Now whether me creating a new theme on the Corante stylesheet is ‘building upon’ the site’s look is a different story.

In the end I decided that I wasn’t building upon so much as redistributing the look, very similar to copying text from the site and republishing it in various weblogs. In this regard, then, I feel I am complying with the letter of the law. As for complying with the spirit of the law–hard to say: I’m not a lawyer, don’t play one on TV, and only have my judgment to go by in interpreting the license.

I will admit, though, that this was a lesson to me in the uses of CC licenses and how they are attached to specific items. Right now, most CC licenses are just plunked into a web page without any regard to precision–which, considering the nature of a CC license, always stuck me as a little odd.

My own use of CC licenses is much more restrictive. For instance, I add CC licenses for each specific component of the page I want to license, whether it is an image or the text of a post. Since I have full support for complex rich metadata in my weblogging tool, and don’t have to worry about adding multiple blocks of RDF/XML to my web pages, I can add as many license blocks as I want for each. To make it simple to discover the CC licensed objects, I even provide an alternative view of my metadata, called My World of Freebies that lists out the items per entry that are licensed.

Instead of RDF, I could have used microformats, and just added a “rel” tag pointing to the license to each item (image or text block)–this is what the Creative Commons folks are suggesting. However, without understanding what “rel” means in this context (after all, we have seen the “rel” attribute used for “nofollow”, as well as “tag” for Technorati tags) and ensuring that we all share a consistent understanding of how it is used, it’s use is still very imprecise.

I had planned on calling the new theme “Corante”, but decided that a better name would be the “Copyright Theme”. My thanks to Corante, though, for giving it to me.

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