This post has been written “live” at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2011, taking place from September 16-18 in Warsaw, Poland. 

In the field of open content licensing, Creative Commons licenses have been the first and still are the only licenses that are adapted (“ported”) to local jurisdictions. Free/open source software licenses such as the GNU GPL, which had served as the role model for Creative Commons in the first place, are generally unported licenses. And also in the realm of Creative Commons, not all licenses are ported.

In the first session on the upcoming versioning process, Paul Keller (CC Netherlands)  mentioned the “no rights reserved” (CC0) license as an example for a Creative Commons license working without any adaption to local jurisdictions. Therefore, Keller argued, the laborious task of license porting could be abondoned as the licenses approach version 4.0. This statement was followed by several legal arguments with respect to the benefits and pitfalls of license porting.

The legal aspects are, however, only one side of the medal. For both the organization and the community behind Creative Commons, license porting has always been a transnational “growth strategy”. While probably not intended as such, Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig emphasized this community-building function of the porting process already in an interview in 2007 (see Dobusch/Quack 2008, PDF).  There he also added that porting “make[s] clear that [Creative Comons] is not an American thing.”

Paradoxically, the work necessary to port Creative Commons licenses to a local jurisdiction provided a clear-cut task for potential local affiliate organizations, thereby effectively (trans)porting Creative Commons’s ideas and concepts as well as building an international community of (legal) experts. The question is, whether today, as this community is already in place, the porting process is still necessary?

Today, Lawrence Lessig also weighed in on the issue, asking whether there were other ways to provide the community building function of the porting process, such as, for example, simply translating the license into the local language(s). In addition, Lessig mentioned practical problems associated with the porting process as the number of jurisdiction keeps growing: “The porting process is difficult in some countries and it is difficult for Creative Commons to uphold the standard across all countries.”

As I see it, the community aspects of license porting are (much) more important than the legal problems. Without license porting, a new task for local lawyers to engage with Creative Commons would be needed to uphold the global community of legal experts; translating the licenses would definitely not be enough.