An update to SE content licensing, and thoughts on possible future license updates

I just saw that on SE there is an update on the licensing. Since that may affect the content import (and also gives official dates for the license change), I thought I put up a pointer here.

@ArtOfCode: Does the license on imported content on conform to the rules outlined in that post? I expect it does, but a double-check would be reassuring.

At the same time, I noticed that the terms on don’t include the option to switch to a later version of the license when one comes out. Maybe such an option should be considered (so we don’t end up in the same licensing mess that SE got in).

The simplest solution would be to add an “or later” clause to the licensing, similar to how it is usually done on GPLed software. Another possibility would be to add the right to relicense to a later version of the license to the terms and conditions.

Of course, whatever we do should be carefully worded to not allow unilateral switching to a different license (including a different Creative Commons license) other than a newer version of the very same license.

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I can see that might also be a problem. This means that anyone posting content can’t know what license in the future might be applied to that content.

But what is a minor change versus a “different license”. Any change makes it different.

The license is a contract between you and someone else. What you are basically suggesting is a contract that allows the other party to change the terms any time they like.

Since we are not the Creative Commons organisation, nor have any influence on them, we wouldn’t be able to change the terms any time we like. With the ToS solution, for things to go bad there would have to happen two things: First, the Creative Commons organization going bad, and putting out a license that subverts the rules out there, and second, us going bad and adopting that new license. Note that if CC goes bad while we don’t, we can simply not adopt that license (and in addition, we can change the ToS to no longer allow us to change the license; ToS changes that restrict us more are always possible, as they don’t violate the previous ToS).

If you are too afraid of CC going bad, the ToS could even contain the condition that a new version of the license can only be adopted if it doesn’t fundamentally change the rights on the contributions.

But the key point is that the new versions of the license are made by a third party (namely CC) which we don’t have any influence on, but which can be reasonably trusted to not do anything bad with it.

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