1. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000

    Copyright Copyleft questions (Creative Commons)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Commandante Lemming, Dec 29, 2015.

    So, last year I did some actual creative writing in a crowdsourced universe I helped build in a text-based wiki-roleplaying game. At the time it was a diversion, a little bit of playing around while I gave my main project a rest (actually that's what it still is). I figured that like anything based out of an online game, it probably wasn't going to go very far.

    Problem....the writing group freaking loved it. Like several of them tried to talk me into abandoning my main project and focussing on it. That's not going to happen, but I digress...

    The point is that the world works as a fictional universe REALLY well.

    And that's potentially bad because the original game, including the parts I wrote, are under a Creative Commons license like everything else on Wikia. So, in theory, I can write in the world all I want and publish content based on it - but since it's copylefted I can't copyRIGHT it. Which could be a problem submitting any stories loosely based in that reality to publications that copyright their material.

    So, the question then becomes how to handle content that I wrote, but which I wrote as submissions to a copylefted game that I wasn't originally planning to use for actual fiction. How different would I have to make the world before I can plausibly have something pitchable? The high concept would hold water even if I change a bunch of stuff, but certain things would have to stay roughly the same to work properly.
     
  2. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    There are many different versions of the Creative Commons Licence. What you can do with the work you created depends a lot on what specific version of the CC licence applies to the work you used in yours. It is possible to copyright material and sell it if (e.g.) the work is under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence - all you woud have to do is credit the original author(s). If it's under a non-commercial share-a-like licence then possibly you cannot.

    One option is the fifty shades of grey method - simply remove the copyrighted bits to leave something that is 100 yours.
     
  3. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    The page at present is under a CC-BY-SA license

    http://www.wikia.com/Licensing

    Wikias Using the CC-BY-SA license

    To grow the commons of free knowledge and free culture, all users editing or otherwise contributing to wikias that use the CC BY-SA license agree to grant broad permissions to the general public to re-distribute and re-use their contributions freely for any purpose, including commercial use, in accordance with the CC BY-SA license. Such use is allowed where attribution is given and the same freedom to re-use and re-distribute applies to any derivative works of the contributions.

    By editing or otherwise contributing to a wikia that uses the CC BY-SA license, you agree to license any text you change or contribute under the CC BY-SA license.
     
  4. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    So there are some limitations there - and I'm not sure I would even be able to assert copyright over the pieces of the text I created myself.

    So the question then becomes, if I can't actually use the the worldbuilding info from here, how far do I have to go away from it before it's not copyleft infringement?

    The pieces I wrote dealt with an alt-history civilization founded by the Selk'nam Native American culture at the tip of South America. So if I change the surrounding history but still have a Selk'nam civilization that looks roughly similar - is that infringing? My main character's name is Praxedes - named after another Praxedes who was a queen in the alt-history - is that infringement? She's named Praxedes because Praxedes is a ridiculously common name in that timeline - so is the idea the Praxedes is a common name infringement? If Queen Praxedes ends up in Scotland instead of Wales where she went in the game - is that still infringement because it's an obvious ripoff with minor changes?
    Don't worry about answering all of those rhetorical questions - I'm just brain-vomiting. :superconfused:

    If I ever write anything serious in the universe I may just try to figure out who hold the license and see if I can get them to release the page into the public domain....I really don't think they'd care. But then I'd have to figure out who holds the license on a page with like 40 contributors.

    Oh well, write first, ask questions later. :write::p
     
  5. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    I am not a lawyer. But, my understanding is that if the licence is BY-SA, then you can use your material for commercial purposes. However, so can anyone else.

    You own the copyright for your contributions, but they are released to the public under the CC licence. (That's what the SA bit says.)

    If you want a publisher to publish your work, then the licencing may be a problem as they won't have exclusivity. It shouldn't stop you self-publishing, however. But, see the disclaimer at the start of this post.
     
    BayView likes this.
  6. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,586
    Likes Received:
    5,073
    I'm with @DefinitelyMaybe, right up to the part where I'm not a lawyer, either.

    But it seems to me as if you can use these ideas any way you want to. And I can't see why the work you produce later, the work that wouldn't be posted on the wiki, wouldn't be copyrightable.

    So it's kind of like you'd be drawing from a public domain idea - say, vampires. Nobody has a copyright on vampires, so anyone can use them for anything. But once you write something about vampires, that new writing is copyrighted, for itself. It doesn't affect the use of vampires by others, but any new stuff you add would be copyrighted.

    (Bearing in mind, of course, that ideas cannot be copyrighted, only the expression of those ideas. As I understand it.)
     
    Commandante Lemming likes this.
  7. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    I don't see why you can't use the content you created and do whatever you want with it. You just can't stop others using the content you created and disseminated under the license. So, while you can write in the world using the elements of the world that you created and arguably not be subject to the terms of the creative commons license yourself, anyone else can write using the elements that you created for the world as well. The difference is the other person would be bound by the creative commons license. If you incorporate other people's creations into your work, then you're bound by the license too.
     
    BayView likes this.
  8. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    I think it depends on [1] whether there are settings and characters that the OP has used in their own work. The law concerning characters is tricky, and depends on which country's laws

    It also depends on whether [2] the OP's work can be seen as a derivative work of the CC licenced work. Again it's complicated, and depends on which country's laws we are looking at.

    I mentioned further up that it may be possible to extract the OP's original contributions and remove and replace the copyrighted bits. However, it's hard to say to what degree that is possible without knowing both the original material and what the OP has created.
     
  9. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    If the OP is using all of his own source material, then he/she shouldn't be subject to the license and so it wouldn't matter if it is a derivative work. A license agreement binds licensees, and you're not a licensee with respect to your own original creation (unless you've assigned the rights away and licensed them back, I suppose). I think the real concern here is incorporating other people's work, and the fact that anyone else can start using the OP's own contributions (or derivatives thereof) based on the license.
     
  10. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    The questions is whether the OP is using copyrighted material created by others. And whether the OP's work is a derivative work of something created by others.

    If the OP extracts only his own material, discarding anything (e.g. characters and settings) created by others, then that shouldn't be a problem. However, if characters, settings, and other factors created by others are used in the OP's work, then there may be a problem.
     
  11. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Yep.
     
  12. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Strictly speaking, it would be derivative and it must be CC-by-SA. While you could make some changes and attempt to pull your own material out, repackage and modify them, if you tried to copyright the resulting product, there could be a legal issue.

    If you release to CC-by-SA or Public Domain then it cannot be ratcheted up in protections later on. It is a one-way road for legal purposes. Though you probably will not have much issues if you are cautious, but if it becomes a "the big thing" expect those whose work was included or modified may suddenly have an opinion.
     
  13. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    In the US, whether or not a work infringes or not depends to an extent on whether the new work is 'transformative'. Does it tell a new story rather than retelling someone else's. There is quite a bit of discussion of this in relation to fan fiction. E.g. https://www.standoutbooks.com/fan-fiction-legal/
     
  14. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Have to be careful with that. Whether a work is transformative is one of four fair use factors in the U.S., and none of the factors themselves are necessarily dispositive. In other words, a work can be fair use without being transformative, and it can be transformative and still not be fair use (thought that is a very strong factor). Ultimately, it comes down to a judge or jury to make the determination.

    I'd be careful about the idea that "telling a new story" necessarily makes a work transformative. An author found that out the hard way when he published a book telling the story of the OJ Simpson trial in a manner that mimicked Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that NOT to be transformative, though there is no doubt he was telling a completely new and different story from Cat in the Hat.
     
  15. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    Yes, it's a very complicated situation, and far from clear as to where the bar is. The courts do seem to come down on the side of the author given what the law is reported to contain. E.g. the case where someone wrote a book with a 76 year old Holden Cauldfield. It was judged to infringe copyright, though it's hard to imagine how it could be any more transformative. The link in my previous post goes into that.
     
  16. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    Wow. This blew up. I think I got the answers I need, but for those who want details:

    The page in question is a text-based wiki-role-playing game called Principia Moderni II. My submissions were uploaded to the page but I don't hold the copyleft on the page itself because I'm not the originator of the game.

    The point of the game was that each player picked a nation of the world starting in 1420 and wrote one year of history every day. I came in late (1680s), so all the big nations were taken and I grabbed a tribe in the most isolated location on the map - the Selk'nam at the far South tip of South America - and gradually built them up using a lot of worldbuilding trickery.

    However, because all of my content referenced and played off of the other players' content, their events all ended up in my time line. So I can't really extract the Selk'nam history from the larger world in which it exists even if I deleted my own postings.

    The actual STORY I started is a worm's eye view from a grad student in the history department of the Royal Selk'nam University in the year 2014 (the game ended in the 1940s). But the entire point of using the world for a work of fiction was to look at the way we conceptualize ourselves and grapple the morality with our own history (using the implications of a crazy fake history built by gamers - the Selk'nam had to do a lot of morally questionable things to accelerate their development and survive the colonial era, so it's an open question as to whether their great heroes are good people or bad people.)

    So that's way more than you need to know - but I think the base answer is that the Selk'nam as I built them are copylefted and as such not usable in submissions to a publisher. But I'll keep tinkering with it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  17. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Yep, the Caulfield case is another good example (EDIT: although, wasn't the conclusion that the 76 year old Caulfield was basically the same character. In other words, he wasn't transformed because he hadn't really changed?). To me, the Cat in the Hat/OJ Simpson work is transformative, but the 9th Circuit added some additional considerations to what the Supreme Court set out in Campbell, so you never know where the judge/jury is going to come out. In the Cat in the Hat case, both the lower court and the court of appeals found infringement. I don't like the decisions.

    Another issue, which isn't a legal issue per se, is that you have to remember the cost of fighting these sorts of things. Not as pertinent in this thread, but with respect to Fair Use generally. If you publish a work under the assumption that it is Fair Use and a content owner comes after you, it could cost you half a million dollars to go all the way through trial to win your case :/
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  18. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Whether you delete your postings or not, your original contributions should remain yours, although you have a bunch of licensees or potential licensees running around who can use it. There's no problem reusing your original contributions. But, as you said, extricating them from the material provided by others could be problematic. If you could isolate your bits and create a new history around them that works just as well, then you could move forward with it.
     
  19. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    Yeah, I'll see what I can extract - or if I can find a way to change out the names.
    Honestly if people have rights to their own entries, all I'd REALLY need is to get some permissions off the two or three people whose narratives surfaced the most in my own, and change the rest. (Heck, if I ever did sell the thing, I'd happily cut them in on royalties - I'd just need to actually know who they are. :p)
     
  20. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    You keep using "Copyleft" as if you cannot distinguish the difference in Creative Commons... The work would be under CC-by-SA which is a licensing system.
     
  21. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Yes, provided that you remember that an author is not bound by the terms of the license with respect to his or her own original creations distributed under the license. Only others (i.e. licensees) are so bound.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  22. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Incorrect. The license is unable to be changed or revoked once it has been released.

    I know your intentions were good, but the license is very clear about this. If I release something with CC-by-SA (and I have done this hundreds of times) then I cannot retroactively take it away. Even though I am the author, that genie is out of the bottle and anyone who abides by the licensee (without breaching it) may continue to work within the policy. In this particular instance, even though Lemming wrote the previously created material, since it was released under CC-by-SA, not even Lemming can change it now.
     
  23. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    You shouldn't be giving legal advice online. People who don't know better may believe your statements, and it doesn't appear that you understand the subject matter very well.

    The creator of the content is not a "licensee" and not subject to the terms of the license. They're not bound by it with respect to the use of their own content. The text of the license itself even says that it applies to those exercising rights provided under the license, which the creator is not doing. This is basic law. As the creator and copyright holder you are not a licensee, you're the licensor. Again, you can look at the plain text of the license and see that as the licensor you're the one granting rights to others.

    Has nothing to do with the license being changed or revoked. As I noted above, once it is out there the OP won't be able to stop other people from using the work released under the license. But the OP is not a licensee of his own work and not bound by the grant of license. There is absolutely no transfer of copyright under the license, and the terms are non-exclusive (which, by nature of the license, they have to be), so the content creator is free to do whatever he likes irrespective of the license, he just can't stop licensees operating under the license.

    All of the above being a more long-winded version of saying the exact same thing I've already said, and which is correct.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,929
    Likes Received:
    5,463
    I read that license as saying that what you contributed to the wiki is forever usable by others, but not as saying that non-wiki works are "contaminated" by the wiki license just because they use some material from the wiki.

    But you absolutely need to consult a lawyer.
     
  25. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,051
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    That's right. You can pull out your own original material and do whatever you want with it, including registering the copyright etc. You can then build on it. The new original material not released under the permissive license isn't available to others. You can then register that material, use it as you like, or even license it under more restrictive license terms (along with the original material if you like) and go from there. The only material open to others is what has been released under the original license, but since that license doesn't hamper your ability to use the material however you want, the only thing you have to worry about is whether or not the extent of the work released under the CC license is enough to make your end product of limited value.
     

Share This Page