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UK IMC Copyleft

This page is for useful links and discussion on copyleft issues, with the aim being to form some kind of common UK policy. See also: ImcLegal#_Copyright_Copyleft_Issues and ImcLicense

There are 3 kinds of content on the UK site, features - the centre column articles, the open newswire - the list of postings in the right hand column on the front page and comments which can be added to features and newswire posts. Any change to the existing policy should consider how it applies to these 3 types of content and how the changes can be done in a way which doesn't introduce potential incompatibilities between different content on the site.

Current situation

The existing publishing page states that:

We consider, as a rule, that material contributed to this site free for non-profit re-use in the spirit of Copyleft. If you want to change that for your material posted, please give your conditions in the summary.

The RSS syndication feeds on the site contain this dc:rights statment:

Open Content License,

I thought that reference to the (defunct) Open Content License was mentioned elsewhere on the site also but I can't track this down -- does anyone else know more?


he publish page has not always had the above spirit of copyleft statment, in 2001 it said:

We consider, as a rule, that material contributed to this site is free for non-profit re-use.

The current text was adopted in 2003.

In 2001 the front page had this at the bottom:

(c) Independent Media Center. All content is free for reprint and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere, for non-commercial use, unless otherwise noted by author.

But this text was lost with the switch from the active codebase to the mir cms in 2003.


This issues has been discussed on imc-uk-process, these are some of the email threads, latest first:

  • December 2005 zcat asked: "we dont recognize copyright which is an evil peice of World Intellectual Property Organization legislation (amongst others) or do we?" and MrDemeanour followed this up saying: "Abolishing copyright while everything else costs money would mean the impoverishment of writers, musicians, filmmakers and programmers." and Chris responded to this: "I suspect that the possibility of abolishing copyright without also abolising money is about as likely as a world without borders wihout also getting rid of states... ;-)", see the thread for more contributions.

  • December 2004 Ana suggested a dada style option to allow users to "choose what cc (creative commons) license you want to "cover" your piece of work", Chris followed this up saying "I agree with this, however we should also consider if we would rather do what Italy does -- have one license for the whole site".


There are several options that should be considered, please add them here.


The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 license is used by IMC Italy. A license like this couldn't be applied to older stuff on the site, but it could for future material, perhaps with some text like this ([Day Month Year] to be changed to the date of the switch over):

somerights.gifAll content added prior to [Day Month Year] was done some on the basis that material contributed to this site free for non-profit re-use in the spirit of Copyleft. All content on this web site (including the newswire, features and comments) added from [Day Month Year] (including text, photographs, audio, video files and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

The three current latest versions of the CC SA that could be used are:

One potential problem that using the same license for all new material aviods is having some material on the site than can't be combined with other material on the site, for eample -- creating a Creative Commens licensed feature which included a photo from a GFDL newswire post wouldn't be allowed... See this article on license incompatibility for more some info on this: Copyleft Hits a Snag. A even bigger potential issue is if someone posted photos to the newswire under a Creative Commons license with a Non-Commercial clause and someone else posted some text under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license without a Non-Commercial clause -- these two newswire posts could not be then combined into a feature article without violiation of the licenses... This issue is considered in Remix Culture: Issues surrounding re-use in Creative Commons licenses.

Many people think that using a Creative Commons license that includes a no commercial use clause is a good idea, for example the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike and there was a discussion about this, in reference this this wiki, on imc-docs in August and September 2005. Some points from this discussion follow.

Chris said that he thought that "preventing commercial use would mean that publications such as the NYC's Indypendent wouldn't be able to use material from the wiki without getting premission for all the contributors to any article they wished to use." gdm replied to say: "i disagree with this interpretation: the indypendent (i believe) is a non-profit newspaper, not a commercial enterprise." Chris replied: "I'd consider anything that involves the exchange of money as commercial... fact that it doesn't make a profit isn't the key issue here -- The Times and The Guardian newspapers in the UK always make losses, the BBC is a not-for-profit organisation -- would you consider these to therefore be non-commercial?" This argument seems to have convinced gdm that the Non-Commercial clause is not a good idea.

MJ Ray raised some concerns with the Non-Commercial use clause on imc-tech in January 2006: "No picture under an anti-commercial licence can be used in free software and it hinders people who cannot fund distribution by other means. Does indymedia try to distribute information freely or put up a small obstacle to commerce, even if it hinders private non-profit exchanges? In general, I'd suggest encouraging public domain or pd-style licences (as mentioned, some countries don't let one put things into the pd before all rights expire)."

This issue has also been discussed on Creative Commons email lists and this email has a lot of practical example of edge cases: Use cases for NonCommercial license clause.

The Attribution-ShareAlike is the Creative Commons License closest to the sprit of copyleft / the GPL because it does allow commercial use, see Selling Free Software. {This looks odd... surely the CC-GPL is the closest to the GPL, as it is the GPL.}

See also learn more about Creative Commons Licenses.

CC licences are not free software licences, though.


You can use this popular free software licence for non-programs or even non-software

Public Domain

Many Indymedia web sites that run Dada, for example IMC Scotland now have Public Domain as a default value for posts and they also have the option to select other terms, specifically several Creative Commons Licenses. This has the potential to create big incompatability problems if anyone wants to combine posts under different licenses into a feature.

There is a good argument in favour of the public domain on the Infoanarchy Wiki, see also the Wikipedia page on public domain.

Public domain is now however not without issues as pabs pointed out on imc-tech: "I read somewhere (probly on debian-legal) that the "public domain" isn't available everywhere - in some countries, apparently copyright holders can't get rid of certain aspects of their copyright. Apparently for that reason the CC public domain dedication "licence" is recommended, or at other times MIT/BSD." Txopi confirmed that this is an issue in Spain: "That's the case of Spain. An author can't legally give something to the public domain. The laws protect the atribution and you can't remove it, although if you want it.".

Would we want to enable people to put up stuff that is not public domain or under a Creative Commons Share Alike or Non-Commercial use license?

This is how Dada lets the user select their re-use terms:


Demo form


Public domain allows the maxium reuse of material.

[PD Info]

[By-Sa Info]

[By-Nc-Sa Info]


Explicitly grants permission for any act usually restricted by copyright. Seems to be a popular alternative in the UK to the public domain, used on things like training sheets. Possibly friendlier to areas with no concept of public domain.

MIT/X11 and revised BSD

Simple free software copyright licences which require redistributors to keep the copyright notice, so ensure attribution of relevant past authors.

-- GarconDuMonde - 04 Apr 2004

Topic revision: r16 - 10 Jan 2006, ChrisC
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