Anti-commercial forum terms


#1

This Discourse instance says, under Terms of Service, User Content License:

User contributions are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

This makes it at least unclear whether commercial use of the forum, such as taking part in discussions as a paid employee, is permitted at all. What’s worse, the non-commercial Creative Commons variants have a huge range of possible conflicting interpretations, and what they say in legal terms is often not what authors expect. The general Mozilla terms at least do not have this particular problem.

I was about to write that the same thing applies to Discord. But they changed their terms today and dropped the restrictions to personal, non-commercial use.


#2

It means that the text you write can not be sold in a commercial context. It has nothing to do with your employment status.


#3

I find it puzzling how you can say that. If I use the forums to get my job done, my use is “primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation”. Reproduction (“make copies of the Work”) is involved because it is impossible to read a web page without making copies, so I need that permission from the Creative Commons grants, and the commercial use restriction applies.


#4

It means that your posts are published under CC-NC-SA (i.e. you grant everyone right to use your posts under this license), you can write such materials without any problems (ofc if contract with you company does not forbid it in some way). Restrictions will mostly matter only for those who will use your posts.

For example it will be a violation of the license terms to collect forum posts, compile them into a book and sell this book for profit.


#5

I had not seen that, and that’s problematic.

It should be possible to copy discourse text into RFCs or code comments, for instance.


#6

This is a copyright license that grants additional rights beyond those you would normally have. It does not take away any rights you would normally have to read or discuss a published work.

2. Fair Dealing Rights. Nothing in this License is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any uses free from copyright or rights arising from limitations or exceptions that are provided for in connection with the copyright protection under copyright law or other applicable laws.

Instead it grants you additional rights to reproduce and distribute copies of other people’s comments, or modified versions of those comments, subject to certain terms. Copying text into RFCs is a good example of a use case that would be subject to these terms.

Merely reading on a computer may technically involve copying bits around, but these “temporary” or “transient” copies are generally held not to count as “reproduction” for the purpose of copyright law and so do not require a license from the copyright holder. This is why you can read an article on the New York Times website without them giving you a written license to reproduce it. Similarly, you can read comments published here without agreeing to any copyright license.

In the language of the license, such reading falls under “uses free from copyright” or “limitations or exceptions provided for in connection with the copyright law.”


#7

I think it’s common courtesy to obey an creator’s wishes even if there’s a legal loophole that allows one to ignore them.

The problem with the non-commercial Creative Commons variants is that it’s totally unclear what the creators want. For example, the original intent was that anyone could take a photo under these licenses and have printed and framed, for decorating their home. But there was a huge outcry when a photo hosting site offered a service to do the printing upon request.


#8

I do think it’s problematic. It basically means that people who use Rust commercially can’t use code they find in these forums.


#9

It’s the exact same license that StackOverflow puts on answers there. (This includes the code blocks.)

I would say that this forum and users are roughly comparable to SO: if you’re using code from it that’s a large enough blob to hold uniqueness properties required for copyright, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about the knowledge given freely, even if the words coveying them are CC-BY-NC. Give-codez is not how the platform works, so the license doesn’t need to support it.


#10

The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in con-nection with the exchange of copyrighted works.

IANAL, but it sounds like this is saying you can’t sell people’s comments, not that you can’t use the comments do develop something you can sell.


#11

Arguably the license does not even allow Discourse to display the comments. After all, Discourse is a commercial service. They are offering it for free to open-source projects like Rust, but that offer is partly a form of marketing – that is, by giving Discourse more visibility and popularity, it attracts others interested in becoming paying customers. (Same idea as GitHub.)

Similarly, if there were ever a need to migrate the forum from being hosted by Discourse to being hosted by Mozilla directly, you would have to ask whether Mozilla’s operation of the forum is commercial. Although the forum doesn’t directly make money, it would be operated as part of the Rust project’s core infrastructure, and Mozilla funds Rust partly because of its use in Firefox.


#12

No, StackOverflow is CC BY-SA.


#13

And even that license is problematic, since it’s incompatible with most software licenses. There was a plan to use the MIT license but as far as I can tell it never went anywhere.


#14

This is a good catch.

I would like to add that interpretation of “non-commercial” heavily depends on jurisdiction. In Germany, there have been multiple court cases where “receiving any money is commercial”, so it’s pretty hard to fulfill the clause.

The intuitive interpretation of the non-commercial clause doesn’t map to the legal one very well, which is why I recommend avoiding it anywhere.


#15

I’ve added this to the core team meeting agenda, and I’ll update this thread once I have more information. Thank you for raising this issue!