[GOAL] Re: CC-BY: derivatives and liability

Heather Morrison hgmorris at sfu.ca
Tue Aug 21 07:21:48 BST 2012

This post contains two separate issues, my apologies if this is a bit  

With respect to derivatives and liability, or more broadly,  
derivatives and responsibility: I do not think that gmail and privacy  
is a relevant analogy.

If you look up the Wikipedia article on pharmacology, you will see  
that the etymology of the word is "poison" in classic Greek; "drug" in  
modern Greek. The field encompasses both pharmacology and toxicology  
for a good reason; the difference between a drug and a poison is a  
dose. A derivative that adds or subtracts a number to a recommended  
dose could easily kill someone. Whether this results in legal action  
or not, it's worth avoiding. I don't know whether scholars in this  
area are comfortable with allowing derivatives or not. If they are  
not, I don't think it is appropriate to require them to allow  
derivatives. This is just one example - there could be many more, in  
medicine alone, where relying on information in a faulty derivative  
could have harmful effects in the real world. I don't know how  
frequently this might happen, or whether this would be a greater or a  
lesser problem than not allowing derivatives. My point is that no one  
else knows, either; so if a researcher thinks it is best not to allow  
derivatives, they should be allowed to specify this.

Wikipedia pharmacology article

Aside from the potential for harm, there are other valid scholarly  
reasons why researchers might not be keen on derivatives. In some  
areas of humanities and social sciences, changing wording could  
substantially change the meaning of a work. When derivatives are  
combined with attribution, a flawed derivative (in the eyes of the  
original author) could have a negative impact on the author's  
reputation, in a field where reputation is the key to getting and  
keeping a job. If an author is not comfortable with allowing  
derivatives, I don't think that they should be forced to do so.

Or to get back to google - perhaps a more appropriate analogy would  
involve requiring google to share its algorithms and let competitors  
create derivatives, for commercial purposes. That's an analogy that  
would work for me - not so sure about google.


Heather Morrison

On 20-Aug-12, at 2:22 PM, Eric F. Van de Velde wrote:

> Heather:
> This seems to me to be a case of being overly sensitive to problems  
> that might occur. This is a far-fetched scenario with an extremely  
> small probability of occurring. If it should occur, that is what the  
> judicial system is for. They can sort it out, based on real facts of  
> real cases. There is no need to figure out pre-emptive solutions to  
> imaginary problems.
> This blog by a law-professor on the early history of Gmail carries  
> an important lesson to keep in mind:
> http://www.volokh.com/2012/08/19/privacys-memory-lane-from-furor-to-fail-in-eight-years/
> --Eric.
> http://scitechsociety.blogspot.com
> Skype: efvandevelde -- Twitter: @evdvelde
> E-mail: eric.f.vandevelde at gmail.com
> On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM, Heather Morrison <hgmorris at sfu.ca>  
> wrote:
> Another question relating to policies requiring CC-BY licenses: will  
> policy-makers require waiver of liability in the case of derivatives?
> As an example of why this might be necessary: consider the scenario  
> of a research article in the area of pharmacology. Someone creates a  
> derivative - but makes a mistake on the dose. People die.
> Before we create and implement policies requiring that all scholars  
> make their works available for re-use, in my opinion it would be  
> wise to give considerable thought to whether there are good reasons  
> why scholars may not always want to (or be able to) allow  
> derivatives of their works.
> This just one example of a situation where allowing derivatives may  
> not be clearly beneficial. Others include situations where an author  
> is using someone else's work and the someone else does not allow  
> derivatives. It is often the case with book publishing that excerpts  
> are taken from various places with a variety of rights attached. In  
> this case, a policy requiring CC-BY places limitations on what an  
> author can use in their work.
> Note that I am in favor of libre OA, just convinced that this cannot  
> be achieved by universal adoption of one particular CC license.
> Heather Morrison, MLIS
> Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
> http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/
> The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
> http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com
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