Startup Settles Creative Commons Licensing Dispute with Tech Database
San Francisco - Mobile app startup People+ and free technology-industry database CrunchBase have settled their dispute over data collected under the Creative Commons Attribution License, allowing both companies to continue their work.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents People+, a company making apps for iOS and Google Glass. In its iOS app, People+ used materials from the free CrunchBase database, which includes information on technology companies, people, and investors. The CrunchBase database was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License, allowing anyone to use the data as long as the author receives credit. However, CrunchBase also claimed the right to shut down some uses of their materials – a position at odds with the Creative Commons license – and CrunchBase demanded that People+ stop using the data.
Fortunately, the norms and values of the open content community were a roadmap to resolving the argument. After discussions among CrunchBase, People+, and EFF, People+ will continue to use the material it has gathered under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Going forward, CrunchBase has revised its terms of service and now licenses its content under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which will require a separate license for commercial uses.
"Offering content under the most permissive CC license while claiming the right to shut down uses they didn't like was a bit misleading," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "CrunchBase's new terms of service are clearer and more in line with the best practices of the open content community. The new terms should allow developers to re-use and build on the CrunchBase dataset with greater confidence."
"We are thrilled with the outcome and are looking forward to continue growing the app and the company far beyond this controversy," said Peter Berger, People+ co-founder and CEO.
Creative Commons is a suite of standardized licenses for creative work, providing a simple way for authors and artists to keep "some rights reserved" – like the right to receive credit and the right to prevent commercial uses – while allowing their work to spread freely on the Internet and be re-used by others without the threat of legal trouble.
"We are grateful to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for playing an instrumental role in updating the CrunchBase Terms of Service," said CrunchBase President Matt Kaufman. "At their suggestion, we adopted Creative Commons 4.0 and open content best practices. These updates provide more clarity to our community and provide a stronger foundation from which to build and extend the CrunchBase dataset."
"We are very pleased we could work with People+ and CrunchBase to resolve this issue," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Creative Commons licensing is a mainstay of creativity and collaboration in the digital age, and having the system work smoothly is to everyone's benefit."
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation