Licencing Primer for Developers & Designers

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Licencing Primer for Developers & Designers

Post by absalom » Sun Dec 04, 2005 2:44 am

There are many licences avaialble in the open source bazaar. Some afford greater responsibility than others. Some allow commercial implementation. Others do not. Some allow commercial resale. Others do not. The two types primarily seen within the Joomla bazaar are the GNU/GPL licence and some form of Creative Commons licence.

Various clients around the world, in my travels, have also mistaken that removal of licencing and publishing code for a template will not affect the licencing of that template. To clarify this situation, if you remove the licence from a template, you violate that licence.

Firstly, lets look at the GPL:
The GNU General Public License is a Free Software license. Like any Free Software license, it grants to you the four following freedoms:

    * The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
    * The freedom to study how the program works and adapt it to your needs.
    * The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
    * The freedom to improve the program and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits.

You may exercise the freedoms specified here provided that you comply with the express conditions of this license. The principal conditions are:

    * You must conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy distributed an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty and keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of the GNU General Public License along with the Program. Any translation of the GNU General Public License must be accompanied by the GNU General Public License.
    * If you modify your copy or copies of the program or any portion of it, or develop a program based upon it, you may distribute the resulting work provided you do so under the GNU General Public License. Any translation of the GNU General Public License must be accompanied by the GNU General Public License.
    * If you copy or distribute the program, you must accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code or with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to furnish the complete corresponding machine-readable source code.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. The copyright for the design/template remains with the original owner, regardless of how the GPL allows distribution of that work.

Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above. Fair use doesn't include removing copyright and claiming other people's work as your own. This is where comments by the Mambo Foundation in regards removal of advertising and attribution looks to be questionable, and a copyright nightmare just waiting to happen.

The above was taken from with some additional comments to stave off the pirates who might seek to misinterpet the GPL as simply every "freedom" that they can think of.

As you can see, GPL allows commercial work to benefit of the code involved, as a due result of the freedoms given to it. It also doesn't allow a change in copyright simply because you or your business distributes a GPL work. Copyright and distribution are two different things, and this is clearly shown in the wording of the GPL - the GPL allows "free" distribution of a work, but not "free" copyright revision. Copyright must always remain with the author of the work.

Now we come to the interesting part, Creative Commons:

The Creative Commons designs/code used by the Joomla and Mambo community tend to focus on one specific type. This licence is the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, which most of my CSS designs are licenced under.

This licence gives you the following freedoms:
    * to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
    * to make derivative works

Under the following conditions:

    * Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
    * Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
    * Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.
Taken from

As you can see, it significantly differs from GPL in that it does not licence the end product/code/design for commercial work. I've also had to deal with clients using both my work and YTW's work in removal of the licencing code itself. In regards to what non-commercial means, here is the relevant section lifted out of the licence itself:

"You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in this license in any manner (except as described immediately below) that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation"

Commercial advantage begins at making some commercial transaction. This may be resale (which is considered piracy under the terms by which Absalom Media licences its designs to the Mambo community), advertising placed on variations of designs using Absalom Media's work, e-commerce, membership/subscription sites and other forms of private or public compensation (e.g. dotcoms). This is why most of our designs under Creative Commons work focus on a weblog feel - most businesses would not use weblog designs as their primary advertising medium.

This is why I write this primer. Hopefully this will show people that there is a clear delineation between "free as in free beer" and "free as in non-commercial", and respect the work various coders and designers within the Joomla community release under Creative Commons.

Now why would anyone use a Creative Commons licence ?

Creative Commons means creative works are set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, Creative Commons allows control on free software being releaesed. They work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare "some rights reserved.". Extensive use of Creative Commons licencing has been propagated through the web design community, as seen in such sites as the CSS Zen Garden. Video, image and audio content is also released under various Creative Commons licences. Creative Commons allows:

    * Designs and code to be controlled by the artist or designer. By adding a Creative Commons Non-Commercial licence, that means it may generate revenue for you by clients and users wishing to buy/use your work commercially. All your hard work opens doors to commercial business.
    * The freedom for users around the world to look at your work and use it in a way that benefits them, providing they keep to the licence.
    * A sense of community and understanding in the same vein as the open source movement, with a few unique controls and features unavailable under OSI licencing.

There are also other licences out in the J! marketplace such as LGPL and BSD Licencing (though they're not seen with such frequency as GPL or Creative Commons).

Discuss here:,52907.0.html
Last edited by Jenny on Fri Apr 07, 2006 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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