The Spirit of Flickr and the Problem of Intent -

This is a superbly-written, empathetic, nuanced look at the issues around Creative Commons licensing, particularly the danger of inferring a “spirit” in a legal agreement.

“Spirit” as it’s being used in this conversation is a relative term. You have the spirit of the user, the spirit of the license, the spirit of the community, the spirit of the service, and the spirit of the law. All these can align and all these can diverge and that’s OK. It is also the reason we have a legal system that sets clear parameters for how things can be interpreted: Spirit is relative, legal decisions and documents are not (at least in theory). The whole idea of a legal contract (under which we can find CC licenses) is that there is no room for interpretation. The meaning of the document is singular, unambiguous, and not up for debate. Of course this is purely theoretical, but that’s the idea anyway.

The problem arises when the spirit – or intent – of the user when applying a license differs from the actual legal interpretation of that same license.

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