Who Has Rights To Heraldic Illustrations Submitted to the College of Arms?

There’s often a bit of confusion about the rights to the pictures people submit to the SCA’s College of Arms when registering their personal devices and badges.

Does the SCA “own” or “have rights to” those heraldic images?

Continue reading “Who Has Rights To Heraldic Illustrations Submitted to the College of Arms?”

Draft Licensing Agreement for SCA Software Developers

TL;DR: If you write or manage software for the SCA, I’d love to get your feedback on this proposed license agreement intended to document the Society’s ability to continue using and maintaining the software even if you someday become unavailable.

Given the high proportion of technical professionals in the Society’s ranks, it is no surprise that the SCA has a long history of informal software development: folks developing small custom applications to facilitate some part of their office’s or local group’s operations. However, this process has by-and-large been uncoordinated, and policy for it has been slow to coalesce.

One recurrent issue in this area has been the lack of clear licensing practices. In a few cases, copyright has explicitly been transferred to the Society, but in the majority of cases the issue has not been considered, leaving the copyright in the hands of the original developer. In most cases, there is no written license agreement, which is usually fine while the original developer remains involved in local activities, but can become problematic if they move away or drop out of Society activities, as nobody knows for sure if the group has the right to to continue using the software, to make changes to it, or to share it with other branches of the SCA.

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Are Releases Needed to Re-share Social Media?

Someone asked an interesting question over on the Known World Discord server this evening, and after I wrote up my answer I thought I should also post it here (lightly edited) in case it was of use to anyone else:

Is sharing posts from individuals […] acceptable by SCA social media rules for official accounts, or is a written release required?

Continue reading “Are Releases Needed to Re-share Social Media?”

Update: SCA Disclaims Copyright to Heraldic Officers’ Work

Earlier this year I learned that the SCA has long relied on an unwritten interpretation of copyright law that does not seem to be well supported.

I’ve encouraged Society leadership to reconsider this approach, motivated in part by the fact that this would have implications for my work on the Book of Traceable Heraldic Art, but it’s been difficult to make much headway and now a month has passed since my last email without any reply.

While I am not a lawyer, I am profoundly skeptical that the Society’s interpretation holds any water, and so I have decided to move forwards without giving it any credence, as laid out in the letter below.

[Update:] I’m very happy to report that the Society Seneschal has responded, stating that they are not claiming copyright to the armorial depictions produced by heraldic and scribal officers.

It remains unclear to me on what grounds they claim copyright for some creative works created by volunteers but renounce it for others — however, as a first step in the right direction, I am pleased by this declaration.

Continue reading “Update: SCA Disclaims Copyright to Heraldic Officers’ Work”

Release Form Improvements

When the new Release Forms Handbook was published earlier this year, it included updated versions of the release forms themselves.

Although I had a chance to provide feedback on the contents of the handbook, the new forms unfortunately weren’t shared with me prior to publication, so I wasn’t able to proofread them or provide suggestions for their appearance.

Continue reading “Release Form Improvements”

Implicit Transfer of Copyright in Official SCA Documents

I’ve long been curious about the legal reasoning behind a carve-out in the Society’s release-form policies which stated that it is not necessary to obtain written consent when publishing routine operational communications.

Continue reading “Implicit Transfer of Copyright in Official SCA Documents”

Local Officers May Grant Permission to Redistribute Copyrighted Materials

When an author/creator sends material to be published by the SCA, they’re asked to fill out a Creative Works Grant of Use form, which offers several options including having the author assign their copyright to the Society.

While I’m not fond of this approach — in most cases, I’d rather see people retain rights to their work and merely grant the Society a license to use it — it is in widespread use, and it’s worth grappling with its consequences, including the following: If the SCA ends up owning the copyright to these contributions, what steps are needed to grant others permission to use them elsewhere?

I posed this question to the Society Webminister, who replied that local officers could grant others permission to republish those works, without requiring approval from further up the Society’s chain of command.

Correspondence attached below for additional context.

From: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin
To: Society Webminister
Cc: Society Publications Manager
Date: March 10, 2023

Greetings from the East!

I have a policy question I’m hoping you can help to answer, which is related to this sentence in the standard site disclaimer provided by the Webministers Handbook:

For permission to use photographs, articles, or artwork from this site, contact the Webminister.

If someone follows this guidance and contacts a webminister for such permission, does the webminister have independent authority to grant it? 

In particular, if I’m serving as a local webminister and have published some educational material for which the author filled out a Creative Works Assignment form to transfer copyright to the SCA, can I make the decision to allow someone else to re-print it? 

Or if the request must be forwarded up the chain of command, at what level of authority should that decision be made?

Thank you!

— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin

From: Society Webminister
Cc: Society Publications Manager
Date: March 15, 2023

It is my understanding that as long as there is a document in place (i.e. Release form) depending how that form is worded, you may either grant the request or ask that particular individual for permission to redistribute. It should not have to go any higher on the chain for that.

Release Forms for User-Published Content

Now that the new Release Forms handbook is in circulation, I’ve realized that it fails to address a long-standing point of confusion about whether written releases are required for images published by the populace on Society official communications platforms.

Wikis are the most salient example of this uncertainty — multiple kingdoms have operated for years under the impression that all photographs uploaded to an official wiki would require signed release forms, and since the logistics of managing that paperwork seemed prohibitive, they decided that wikis had to be “unofficial.” Continue reading “Release Forms for User-Published Content”

Release Forms Handbook Published

Well, it’s been a long and painful trip, but I’m pleased that the SCA has published a new handbook covering the use of release forms for recording permission to publish photos, creative works, and personal information.

Given that there are only a few areas of substantive policy changes compared with the vintage 2010 status quo, the process was surprisingly arduous. I spent months convincing folks in Society leadership that having an updated guide to this policy would be valuable, and wrote the first draft of all of the handbook text, then sent dozens of follow-up emails chivying it through the process. (It shouldn’t be this hard!) And now that the final document has emerged, I’m pained by the many little details that got mangled along the way.

But all of that is a matter for another day — for today, I’m going to try to bask in satisfaction of having gotten my first piece of Society-wide policy lead-authorship over the finish line.

Licensing of Software Developed for the SCA

An open letter to the corporate leadership of the SCA, lightly edited for clarity from the version I submitted in September 2022. — Mathghamhain

There is a long-standing issue within the Society around licensing for software developed by volunteers as well as related IT-related creations.

My direct experience with this is mostly in the context of the East Kingdom webministry, but in talking with folks from other kingdoms I’ve gotten the impression that this issue is widespread and dates back more than twenty years.

If you look at all the software written for various branches of the SCA — event calendars, order-of-precedence repositories, custom website themes, martial-authorization databases — I believe you will find that only a minority of it has clear copyright attributions or explicit licenses. Continue reading “Licensing of Software Developed for the SCA”