Introducing Decentralized Commons initiative and DC BY 0.1, a fork of Creative Commons attribution license

in #decentralized-commons4 years ago (edited)

Decentralized Commons is an experimental nonprofit initiative developed to increase value flows to authors of works published under copyleft licenses while improving protections of public rights.

Decentralized Commons is in early stages and at this moment consists of two projects:

  • DC BY 0.1 license
  • Authors Link Equity Regeneration Campaign

DC BY 0.1 is a fork of Creative Commons BY license that is designed to ensure that original authors receive a majority of link equity created by attribution links.

Authors Link Equity Regeneration Campaign is an action plan focused on healing the damage done to the commons by the exploitative rent-seeking behavior of megacorps.


A core tenet of Creative Commons licenses is attribution requirement. Terms of CC 4.0 licenses specifically include this clause: " the extent practicable, URI or link to the material if supplied".

When web was young and brimming with independent and hobbyist projects, links were the currency of the internet. Several hundred high quality links from authoritative domains generated as much value for a website owner as an expensive advertising campaign.

Why? In an online context, the most valuable component of HTML links for link recepients is link equity. Link equity is an abstraction that describes influence of the given link on the rankings of linked page/domain on search engine results page (SERP) for relevant queries. In general, increase in link equity means higher positions in SERP and more traffic from search engines to the link URL and link domain.

As web evolved, network effects and misalignment of incentives, among other reasons, prevented authors from being practically able to host their own content. As as a result, when platforms offered an option to apply a CC license to uploads, most authors did not have a personal website and CC attribution presented by hosting platforms linked to the authors' page on platform's website.

Therefore most value from the CC attributions was captured by platforms, stripping creators of billions of dollars in organic search engine marketing. The largest offenders are Youtube and Flickr,both of which at some point were owned and operated by the largest search engines in the world. This wasn't a mistake or an oversight. Hanlon's Razor doesn't apply.

There are at least 1.4 billion CC-licensed works and at least 35% of them are hosted on Flickr, Youtube, DeviantArt and other hosting platforms where attributions link to an author profile on the hosting platform and not to an artist website.

This means that there are at least 500 million works where link equity was stripped from the original creator.

DC BY license goal is to put a stop to this practice.

CC BY 4.0

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.

Creative Commons BY license on

DC BY 0.1

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation and to an extent practicable, value generated by the attribution is passed to you, the author.

This means that attribution link targets have to be URLs under direct control of the creators.

CC BY value flows

DC BY value flows

Decentralized, blockchain-based registry

There are significant obstacles to the widespread usage of DC BY. The main two are simple: hosting platforms are not incentivized to change the status quo and majority of creators are not able to maintain their online presence and host their works.

Decentralized registry:

  • Prevents a single point of failure. Based on a public blockchain. Individual registry entries are controlled by their creators and private keys.
  • URIs are preserved, link rot is prevented.
  • Link equity is under direct control of a creator and can always be redirected from the registry URI to a creator's URI using the rel="canonical" tag attribute.
  • Provides a straightforward path for creators who prefer to publish their works under a pseudonym but would like an option to merge their identities in the future.
  • Registry APIs provide unlimited open access to registry data and offer great developer experience.

Authors Link Equity Regeneration Campaign

DC BY 0.1 license may address the problem for the future authors but won't help a huge amount of creators who have already contributed to the commons.

The campaign aims to regenerate at least a part of link equity captured by hosting platforms and redirect it to the creative ecosystem.

Campaign projects:

  • Educate authors on importance of link equity and ways to generate intrinsic and extrinsic value from it
  • Create a step by step checklist for creators on scrappy and sustainable way to host their own domains and canonical URLs
  • Analyze and quantify link graphs data using Common Crawl project
  • Build a provisional registry of canonical URLs
  • Work with Wikipedia to replace links to hosting platforms with links to authors' domains
  • Build tools to scan the internet for links pointing to hosting platforms and automagically replace attribution to authors' websites, for example, using a Wordpress plugin
  • Build social media bots that attempt to detect Creative Commons images and automatically post attribution data
  • Launch a petition calling for hosting platforms to provide authors of CC-licensed content to redirect their link equity using rel="canonical"

How to contribute to Decentralized Commons

Utopian submission



Thank you for your contribution. A very well explained post, explaining every aspect of the project. A question, you say that this helps in "increase value flows for to authors", how?.

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Thank you for your review, @codingdefined! Keep up the good work!

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