Marketer Bitten by Creative Commons License?

Marketing guru Seth Godin, author of The Bootstrapper’s Bible: How to Start and Build a Business With a Great Idea and (Almost) No Money and many others about marketing and blogging, published an ebook titled Everyone’s an Expert (About Something): The Search for Meaning Online.

The title page of the ebook says that "Copyright holder is licensing this under the Creative Commons license, Attribution 2.5.".  According to Creative Commons,  that license "lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution." 

Fine, right?

Yes, until an email from announced that an unknown publisher was offering his ebook for sale as a new book.  Those two words in the license, "even commercially," meant that Godin had granted the rights to anyone to resell the book, as long as he received attribution as the author.

In a recent posting on his blog (Please Don’t Buy This Book), he says "I fully realize that the Creative Commons license I chose permits someone to sell the ebook or even turn it into a book. I had no problem with that. My concern was that the book was being passed off as something new. That my trademark (and your expectations) were violated when Amazon sent out an email indicating that in 2007 I had a new book come out on this topic. The news is that the publisher of the book was incredibly responsive and has changed the cover.  He’s being really clear about the origin of the book now, and that was my point all along."  Plus Godin received some good publicity, including a brief mention in The New York Times.

The takeaway: Others won’t be so fortunate.  It pays to read and understand the licenses that you grant, even if they are short or look "standard".

By the way, Godin is still making the ebook available for download for free.



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