Instance-wide publication license in the fediverse

Something I miss in most of the fediverse communities is clarity in how the content published is protected or how it can be shared by third-parties. License definitions are usually missing in the different instances. For example, in my profile I state the license for my toots.

However, I think instance-wide license terms should be defined and the software should allow that. From now on, for example, we have decided to use a CC-BY-ND 4.0 license in our Ecko instance. We have included a statement in the About section but I think it would be nice to have this license statement in the footer. Moreover, I think we should promote that the different communities clearly state under which license their publications are.


Good idea.
With Pixelfed you can choose a license per post, but I think that only applies to the image, not the text.
But isn’t a license on the post’s text mostly just important for academic instances?
And what happens if someone crossposts a post to Twitter? Would that be a license violation?

I think it is important for everyone and for anything we create and make public. Imagine news outlet from the corporate media decides to quote you because you published something relevant. You don’t want your post to be altered, therefore you need a license for it.

Crossposting to twitter or other social media would only be a violation if the license in use is too restrictive. For example, a share-alike license.

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This could perhaps be a good feature, Once a post has been written before tooting there is a way to set a License, perhaps standard should be the various creative commons licences, but over time as people run their own there could be other add on modules to include difference licences.

So a free software foundation module would cover all their licences including gpl for any code blocks included within posts.

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Generally if there is no licence saying otherwise, it defaults to all rights reserved, so in theory if someone misquoted your post you already can sue. Of course it depends on the country, here in Poland there’s a rule that quotes (in media as well) are exempt from copyright.


Another good reason to state the default license of an instance.

It would require you to state explicitly in the rules “by registering an account on our website you agree that all your posts will be licensed as (license name here)”, but I’m not really sure if that would be enforceable legally.

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I wonder what the NoDerivatives clause means in practice. The creative commons site is very unclear on it. Did you also consider ShareAlike clause? Wikipedia content is CC BY-SA.

Think it is a very good idea to be clearer on the licensing of fedizen’s content.

Might be a low-hanging fruit for Ecko, @weex :slight_smile:


I understand NoDerivatives as the content should not be modified, remixed. For example, if you publish a song, that song cannot be used in a video someone else produces. That’s quite restrictive but actually good for microblogging purposes, I think.

Share-Alike, as I understand it using the same example, means that you can use the song in your video but your video must use a CC license as well.


As far as licensing goes, my understanding is there’s a threshold for how small a piece of content can be and still be defensible from a copyright standpoint, undoubtedly this varies across the globe but here I’m thinking of US law.

In software I’ve heard 5 lines of code. In text, maybe 100 words? If people want it, there could certainly be a default license for an instance and user’s account overridable per post.

In any case, I suspect a lot of content out there doesn’t reach its maximum potential because of murkiness around licensing.

One solution I thought would be interesting would be to support content iteration by licensing and in software by creating a chain of authorship. Ex. @aschriver creates post A, @jorge sees a typo and produces post B which is a modded post A with cryptographically secure links back to A, I make translate post C into French making another link in the chain. For some reason it goes crazy viral in the french-speaking community which you both see and branch A and B to try out what resonated in your own communities.

It wouldn’t stop the usual screenshot or copy-paste kind of unlinked resharing but it would turn posting into a fascinating process of community iteration. Maybe the original poster doesn’t say their bit perfectly, but the idea takes on a life of its own and they could follow those threads for years!


Yea, I don’t know the limits either, but quoting is most always allowed AFAIU. But reasonable bits of text, including a whole article and you’d be likely in a license violation.

It would be nice to be able to track revision history, but - especially with different licenses everywhere - things can become very complex very quick. For me personally a more general reminder to people to not forget proper attribution would be a better start for improvement and way easier to implement. I.e. focus on decent behaviour and good habits, rather than administration (and maybe reinforcement). On the Fediverse, like in other media, you see a lot of images being posted for instance that are likely not having open licenses and no attribution is present.