MPDL License

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Recommendation: Using CC-by as a default licence for MPDL


The policy of the MPDL is to strongly recommend the use of the CC-BY licence for the dissemination of documents upon which no further constraints bear. The MPDL applies this to itself as much as possible and wants to contribute to the debate of encouraging other parties to adopt the same policy. Here below are given some background reasons for doing so. Word of caution This note is not intended to be based on a strong legal expertise, but rather on the experience and feedback from various communities who have had to disseminate content on the Internet and have faced similar debates as that we have had within the MPDL. As such it should reflect more a spirit for the wide dissemination of scientific and technical information, and can always bare counter-example when, for instance, what the information we want to publicized is based on third party sources coming with its own constraints.


The creative commons framework consists of a series of very simple features that may be combined to create a standard licence for the wide dissemination of intellectual works. As a matter of fact, these licences are mainly intended to facilitate the dissemination of information since they all provide the rights to disseminate (share) and modify (remix) the info under the condition that one or several of the following features are applied:

  • Attribution (BY). This is the core feature of the CC framework and implies that any use of the information should come with a clear reference to the source (the author). This is somehow an obvious feature in the academic world where we need to recognise the paternity of an idea;
  • Non commercial (NC). This feature is intended to prevent any further use of the information for a commercial purpose. This is a feature that is usually perceived as obvious by academics, but requires further thoughts when applied systematically;
  • No derivatives (ND). This is to make sure that the information is conveyed unchanged in its entirety.
  • Share alike (SA). Any further usage of the information should bear exactly the same licence as the original version.

Why adopting a simple CC-BY scheme?[edit]

A major idea behind the adoption of least restrictive scheme is indeed to favour the widest possible dissemination while preserving the reference to the source. Indeed, any further restriction is potentially a potential hindrance for a third party to make a proper usage of the work:

  • ND prevents the use of only parts of the published work if this use is not a pure quotation, e.g. this condition may prevent that colleagues reuse some of a technical documentation for instance or slides from talks within a different context. This is in a way contrary to our core missions;
  • SA forces the user to actually adopt exactly the same licensing scheme, which prevents the combination of the work with any other work bearing a different licence (for instance information having some copyright restrictions, even illustrations). This line or argumentation is actually the one that leads to always support the least restrictive licensing scheme;
  • NC is a strong hindrance to the reuse of information for any one who has no clear view on whether or not the target product will be used or not in a commercial context, which is often difficult to judge. Imagine that you want to reuse a slide with an NC feature for a presentation in a workshop organised by STM. You would probably think twice… Also the ability to put a price tag to otherwise freely available information is quite limited. Most important, allowing commercial use does not exclude the work from the public domain!

Further links[edit]