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Sep 13th, 2013

Finding our OS Content License

Written by weaverryan, and Leannapelham

Finding our OS Content License

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about making KnpUniversity open, transparent, and full of the rainbows and sunshine that come with sharing and collaborating. We already offer the content of our screencasts for free right here on the site. Our hope is that we can make money selling the full package (screencast + in-browser coding activities) while still giving away good content to everyone.

But we want to go further by making the content available on GitHub (done!), which means figuring out how to license it. Of course, this is where things get legal, which means complicated... and boring -_- zzzz.

If you're not too familiar with licenses, I'll give a brief background. But my real goal is to get your opinion! If you're an expert or already bored, at least scroll down to the good part and let us know what you think.

Creative Commons to the Rescue

GitHub has a great site ( to help you license your code, but not necessarily your content. If you peak at the footer, you'll see that the site itself is licensed as "Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License". In fact, this is also the license used for Symfony's documentation and Creative Commons is the go-to provider of licenses when it comes to protecting content. They even have an awesome license "wizard", which you can see a screenshot of at the top of this post.

But which License is for Us?

There are basically two big decision points to selecting the license:

1) Allow modifications of your work?

Yes! Locking down information is silly, and if someone can improve on our work, more power to them. The license specifies that the modification must attribute the original author, which seems reasonable.

There's also a "Yes, as long as others share alike" option, which is even more interesting because it means that any modifications must have the same license as the original content (similar or equal to "copyleft"). This is what we prefer.

2) Allow commercial uses of your work?

And this is where the debate starts, which comes down to two conflicting, but good arguments:

A) "Yes: We should let anyone do whatever they want with the content. Let's not be the "man" and control them. Peace and openness!"

B) "No: I love being open, but I want to protect someone from scamming people by taking this content and selling it. It's free (as in beer) and we should make sure it's always that way!"

Saying "Yes" is more open, but saying "No" protects the content from being used in a way that we don't really want. The decision may never matter, but choosing a license lets us plan ahead... just in case.

So what do you think?


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Default user avatar Wouter J 6 years ago

I prefer copyleft + "B) No"

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Default user avatar Larry Garfield Wouter J 6 years ago

Copyleft does not require non-commercial. Commercial is completely OK as long as it's share-alike.

For me, attribution is the most important aspect. Credit where it's due. Share-alike is also good to have to ensure the free-flow of information. Allow modification, well, of course. That includes excerpting into a larger work, which is a totally valid thing to do (again, as long as credit is given).

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Default user avatar Bill Israel 6 years ago

I think it's about access to the information. If you think allowing someone to commercialize the content, even though that's more "open", potentially restricts someone's access to the information contained therein, then you specify non-commercial.

However, says: "In practice Share Alike or Copyleft clauses provide a restriction on commercial profits since any reuse making excessive profits will soon stimulate a bunch of copycats which will bring prices down while encouraging even wider distribution of the works - which is the objective of the free culture licenses." (source:

So maybe it's a matter of whether you think the market really will it out, and whether you're willing to let the information be "restricted" while you wait for that to happen. Personally, I don't love the idea of someone else charging for information I intended to be freely available, so in this situation I'd use BY-NC-SA.

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Hey Bill!

Ha, I love the point about share alike bringing about competition - that's a really fantastic by-product :). But everyone seems to be seeing eye-to-eye with the non-commercial option, so I think that makes sense for us. And of course, what I didn't specify was that A) was my idea and B) was @leannapelham's - so her infinite wisdom wins again ;).

Cheers and thanks!

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Default user avatar Mark Fox 6 years ago

(B) — I once saw someone republish the documentation of a library as a commercial ebook; I wish I could remember the title/software but it was available on O'Reilly Media's Safari book service and it was all kind of mind boggling as it looked like a legit O'Reilley title

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