Problems with TV Tropes' license:

Total posts: [8]
I wasn't sure exactly where to post about this, but there's a pretty serious problem with licensing on TV Tropes. The statement at the bottom of each page reads as follows:

"TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from"

There are two main problems with this:

1. In order to claim that content is licensed under a specific license, the copyright holder has to actually agree at some point to license it. On Wikipedia, a message on the edit page reads "By clicking the "Save page" button, you agree to the Terms of Use, and you irrevocably agree to release your contribution under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License and the GFDL." On TV Tropes, there is no licensing information on the edit page whatsoever, and hence contributors retain all rights to their contributions. TV Tropes has mandatory registration, so it could be included there too - but it isn't. I don't know if it's stated on some page buried somewhere in the site, but that doesn't matter because a court would reject any agreement that the parties were not made aware of prior to contributing.

As a consequence, anyone could issue DMCA takedown requests to TV Tropes at any time for pages they made major contributions to. Changing the edit page now will not fix this for past contributions - it would be necessary to contact every past contributor and secure a license statement from them, which is impossible. It also means anyone who reuses the content is vulnerable to legal action. This makes the CC license statement very dangerous.

2. The statement "Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from" implies that the staff at TV Tropes can give such permission, which would only be true if they were the copyright holder. This would only be the case if all contributors agreed to transfer rights to their contributions to TV Tropes LLC. Neither the editing page nor registration process contains language transferring the rights of contributions, so contributors retain those rights, and only the original contributors can offer "permissions beyond the scope of this license" (or any rights at all).

In short, I think TV Tropes needs to consult with a lawyer regarding their licensing policy, because it looks very much not legit and like irresponsible incorrect legal advice right now. As far as I can tell, it is actually impossible to release the contents of TV Tropes under a Creative Commons license unless we erase everything and start over.

Most TV Tropes contributors aren't the sort to go around suing people, but it's not uncommon for someone who has had a dispute with a project to do everything in their power to have their contributions to it removed. At a minimum, we need to modify the registration process and edit pages now so that future contributions are licensed/transferred, and we need to clarify the license statement at the bottom of the page to note that only new contributions after that is done are available under a CC license.

edited 21st Nov '13 3:12:07 PM by Dcoetzee

2 SeptimusHeap21st Nov 2013 03:12:12 PM from Laniakea , Relationship Status: Mu
Isn't there something in the Get Known function about it?
Not a bug!
Nope, the Get Known function does not mention the license.
Expergiscēre cras, medior quam hodie. (Awaken tomorrow, better than today.)
4 Fighteer21st Nov 2013 05:19:19 PM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
This issue, yet again.

The CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license governs what other people may do with the content on TV Tropes, not what we may do with the content on our own site. All content contributed to the site is granted to us irrevocably with all rights surrendered, except:

  • Where third-party content (images, quotes) are contributed that are governed by Fair Use. The user contributing them has no license to them whatsoever.
  • Where a person makes a specific, written agreement with the staff to display copyrighted material, retaining the rights thereto. Example: the Evil Overlord List.
  • Where a person contributes content that they do not have the rights to — most often, copy-pasting from Wikipedia or other third party. If we are notified that an article contains plagiarized content, we will remove that content and potentially discipline the user who added it.

That is the limit of our responsibility.

Nowhere in our terms of editing is there any requirement of attribution nor any right of ownership. Anything contributed may be deleted or modified without notification or consent. That is fundamentally how a wiki works.

We probably should put up something warning people not to put their original work on here, because by the CC license, they'd lose the rights to publish it commercially. But I think anyone with any sense realizes that.

edited 21st Nov '13 9:23:18 PM by Fighteer

The original post is a misinterpretation. I do not believe that I can use a DMCA takedown notice to delete my own contributions to TV Tropes — that would be stupid. By clicking the "send" or "save" button, I grant permission to TV Tropes to use my contributions. If I want to refuse permission, I would not click "send" or "save".

Imagine if J.K. Rowling called me and told me to destroy my copies of the Harry Potter books, because I forgot to ask her for a license to read them.
Not a bug!
To clarify:

In theory, someone could sue us and we'd have no defense against it, because the forfeiture of those rights is not formally "in writing". (Yes, covering legal bases requires a large degree of anal-retentiveness.)

In practice, no one would pull it off, since there's no way they can claim any kind of significant damages, meaning no sane lawyer would take the case (no money for them in it).

It's kind of a "it doesn't hurt us to do this, but it's not really important" matter.

edited 21st Nov '13 6:36:56 PM by TotemicHero

Expergiscēre cras, medior quam hodie. (Awaken tomorrow, better than today.)
7 Fighteer21st Nov 2013 09:08:09 PM from the Time Vortex , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
I can't do anything about the Getting Known form or the edit form (that's Eddie's territory), but I did add a section to Welcome to TV Tropes!, slightly modified from what I posted earlier.

edited 21st Nov '13 9:08:22 PM by Fighteer

Every page carries the license notification. You cannot edit a page that does not contain it. You are adding to a document already under its influence. The license specifically states that waivers from the terms can be granted by rights holder, which is TV Tropes Foundation.

Goal: Clear, Concise and Witty

The system doesn't know you right now, so no post button for you.
You need to Get Known to get one of those.

Total posts: 8