After the release of WFTDA’s new bout stats management / collection project, bouttime (or BoutTime) as “Open Source”, we wrote an Explainer (linked) to let the less technical members of the derby community in on why this was exciting.
One of the points we made was the “Open Source” is essentially the tech world’s equivalent of “For the Skater, By the Skater”: it’s an encapsulation of the community spirit that says we should all collaborate and share to make things better.
In fact, far from being a property unique to Roller Derby, this community spirit lives on in many groups. The creative arts community, for example, has a concept and movement called “Creative Commons“, formed from the concept that modern restrictive copyright is actively against the spirit of collaboration and improvement of works by the community. Such bodies as Wikipedia, the TED Talks, MIT, and the Brooklyn Museum (as well as many more: including this very blog) release some or all of their works under Creative Commons. YouTube, Flikr, SoundCloud, and many other content hosts, also recognise Creative Commons, and support their users in adopting these licenses if they wish.
Creative Commons understands that, however, the amount of “sharing” you might want to do can vary, for entirely legitimate reasons. So, if you put something into the Creative Commons, you get to choose from a palette of options concerning what rights you want to give to the world, and which you want to limit:
The basic level of Creative Commons* is Attribution (CC:BY):
Releasing as CC:BY means that you’re giving everyone the right to do anything with your work at all (including using bits of it for their own work), as long as they give you credit.
CC:BY is nice, but it lets people make things with your stuff which is not in the Creative Commons itself. You might morally object to this (since the point of Creative Commons is to enrich the community), in which case you want to add the Share-Alike (SA) property:
Adding SA to your Creative Commons license means that anything that anyone else makes using your work must also be released under the same Creative Commons terms.
You might also have a moral (or legal) objection to people making money off of your work, or things using your work. (For example, American 501c3 non-profits, like WFTDA, can’t allow people to use their work for profit.) In this case, you want to add the Non-Commercial (NC) property:
Adding NC to your Creative Commons license means that anything anyone else does with your work cannot be sold or used for commercial gain. [Donations etc are of course acceptable]
Finally, there are some kinds of work which (for practical or moral reasons) that you might want to let people copy and redistribute… but not make anything different out of. (This is generally the most controversial kind of CC limitation, given that Creative Commons wants to enrich the creative community, but it can make sense for, say authoritative rules sets or specifications.) This is what you want the No-Derivatives (ND) property for:
Adding ND to your Creative Commons license means that all people can do with it is to share it freely (via making copies, printing them out, email, or whatever). [If you don’t specify NC as well, they’re also allowed to sell copies, of course.]
We at the Scottish Roller Derby Blog believe that the Creative Commons is fundamentally compatible with the core spirit of Roller Derby (as expressed as “For the Skater, By the Skater”), in a way which traditional copyright is not.
Given that WFTDA seems to be realising that the “open sharing” community is a reflection of the same spirit, we’d like to see the organisation take this additional step of applying appropriate Creative Commons licenses to their non-software work.
In particular, the “Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby” are currently explicitly Copyrighted (the license on the website reads: “©2014 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA). The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby may not be reproduced or translated in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the WFTDA.”). Technically, this means that anyone at all (especially non-WFTDA leagues) who even prints out a copy of the WFTDA rules (or makes a copy of the PDF) is potentially breaking the law. (We’re also vexed by the explicit translation restriction, as we’re aware of unofficial translations to many languages which WFTDA has not officially addressed, and all of these are also potentially forbidden under the current license; although of course we understand WFTDA’s concern about the accuracy of translation in complex rules sets.)
We believe that, given that a huge community of Roller Derby, outside the set of WFTDA member leagues, use the WFTDA rules, that this kind of heavy-handed Copyright is both unwarranted and unneeded.
Given the options available for Creative Commons licenses, we believe that the true spirit of Roller Derby would be better reflected by releasing the next version of “The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby” (due in December this year) under a CC:BY-NC-ND license. This would, unlike conventional Copyright, allow the free sharing of the Rules across the entire community. It would prevent anyone from profiting from doing so, and would prevent anyone from releasing modified copies. (This would also prevent translation of the Rules, but we believe that WFTDA can address that by directly inviting potential translators to engage with them, which we believe is something in progress at the moment.)
The second aspect where we think that WFTDA might work to improve their use of modern collaborative community spirit is in the reuse and support of common repositories for statistics. Historically, the WFTDA has maintained its own “silo” of statistics for Sanctioned Games, hosted in the WFTDA Stats Repository. Whilst we understand that part of the draw for WFTDA membership is the “official” Sanctioning of games, we don’t see how this warrants siloing off their statistics into a separate location.
The FlatTrackStats website has been maintaining Roller Derby statistics for the entire Flat Track Roller Derby community, for longer (we believe) than WFTDA has had a Stats Repository. (FTS dates from 2008, whereas the Stats Repository copyright is from 2012). In addition, FlatTrackStats is already a member of the Creative Commons community – the entire website, and all of the statistics collected within, are licensed CC:BY-NC-SA.
Given that the community benefits from the sharing of resources (rather than their splintering apart), and given the existence of a prior community resource suitable for the purpose: we believe that the true spirit of Roller Derby would be better reflected by WFTDA working directly with FlatTrackStats to act as a host for the WFTDA Stats Repository, and that the Stats Repository should therefore be licensed under the same CC:BY-NC-SA license.
*Strictly, there’s also CC0 “Creative Commons Zero”, which doesn’t even have Attribution attached to it, but this actually has less effect than you might think, as many countries have laws which prevent you from waiving your right to Attribution! So, effectively, CC0 acts a lot like CC:BY, in most Western countries.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, because anything else would be hypocritical.