Re: Misuse of encoded characters (was: "Re: Creative commons' license symbols")

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Tue Nov 28 2006 - 22:09:27 CST

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: Test your web browser! Unicode 5.0 charts in HTML on French Wikipedia"

    From: "António Martins-Tuválkin" <>
    > Surely so — but why then raise the question of possible legal problems
    > on the use

    I don't think that the simple encoding of a single numeric codepoint, whatever it means, is a legal problem.

    The problem would be:

    * In giving a name to the character: can Unicode cite "Creative Commons" in this name? The alternative being to name it "Enclosed Double C Symbol" (without specifying that the englosing glyph is a circle), and leave the actual meaning to the users.

    * in making a font providing a glyph for the symbol: can a commercial font be made if it uses the Creative Common logo to represent the symbol? if not, then the font must use a derived glyph which looks different from the protected Creative Commons logo. However, a font made and published under a Creative Commons licence could use the true Creative Commons logo for the glyph associated to the character.

    * in documents using the codepoint:
    ** if the document embeds the font containing the Creative Common logo for the glyph associated to the character (for example a PDF file), then the text of the document must conform to the Creative Commons citation and usage rule for this protected logo ;
    ** if the document does not embed such font (or embed a font containing a distinct glyph), then it could be commercial and licenced with other protections or licences (given that it does not embed the logo, and does not even cite it directly, as it merely includes only the numeric codepoint), but it must be clear that those reading the document will not understand the document as citing Creative Commons, unless the text explicitely states that. The document could as well be rendered using a commercial font showing a enclosed doucle C glyph different from the Creative Commons logo.

    So the problem will be: how can we render the last category of documents (which do not embed the logo)? Clearly, to respect the intended usage rules for the document, where it is not clear that the text conforms to the Creative Commons usage or citation rules, all fonts should, by default, not display the Creative commons logo for the glyph associated to the logo.

    As a consequence, the codepoint will effectively not represent the Creative Commons logo, but will surely display only a derived enclosed double C symbol, and then, it does not even need to be encoded! To display the Creative Commons logo in any document, one must use a separate glyph out of any general purpose font, and use the logo according to the rules associated to this licence:

    * this will be true in HTML, documents using an external image or an embedded SVG, or in a PDF embedding the logo, or in any Office or OpenOffice document embedding the logo as well (those document formats do not require the encoding of the Creative Commons as a Unicode character even if one must cite it legally).

    * for plain text documents, the only safe way to cite Creative Commons is to name it explicitly within the text itself, according to the citation and usage rules of the protected name, regardless of the existence of any encoding of the logo in some custom Creative Commons fonts.

    The conclusion is different for the symbol that would represent the "No copyright" concept, which is not associated to any protected licence. The usage rule is the same as the international copyright rules, but it makes sense only in specific contexts where the character is used in combination with some wording specifying the author and year of publication (outside of this context, the character itself as no legal constraints, because it has no meaning without the associated information).

    But the question of the legality of a document stating that it has no copyright is out of scope here (the absence of a copyright notice is sometimes not legally binding in some countries, where the author's right still apply even in the absence of the copyright notice, and where the author may still have legal requirements even if he says, illegally, that his work is left to the public domain without any warranty or if the author denies all his responsabilities about the document). What is questionable then, is not the usage or non usage of the character, but the nature of the document and the text that it actually contains. For this reason, the mere encoding of the copyright symbol was legal, but did not imply that using it in a document implied that it meant a copyright notice was present where it was used.

    We cannot reason the same way with a character that would cite Creative Commons in its name or that would represent its protected logo. If the character is just an enclosed double C (for example in a box, to avoid using the protected CC logo), do we really need it?

    The only way to encode the CC logo alone (just the "circled double c", not the name after it) would be to ask to Creative Commons where they authorize this limited use for general purpose, without binding the documents to its usage licence and other requirements. But I fear they will deny such use (for example when embedding their logo in a general purpose commercial font not licenced according to the CC terms).

    My opinion is that Creative Commons already lives without such encoding, and can continue to live without it. It's up to each document author to respect the CC licence terms or citation rights, when they cite it by name or when they embed the protected logo in their documents.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Nov 28 2006 - 22:10:29 CST