Copyright and sharing

This is a bit of a digression: I like the idea that my wandering physical route links with wandering thoughts.  It was triggered by a short Email conversation with Craig Fees who runs the excellent Planned Environment Therapy Trust and the TC-OF (Therapeutic Community Open Forum) Email list, one of a number of Email lists I started many years ago.  That reminded me that I needed to declare the copyright on the site and the licensing but it also linked with some thinking I was doing and conversations with my family.

So, one immediate declaration and then some wandering.  The declaration is that, unless it says to the contrary, everything on this site is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.  That means that you can use anything here, and modify it as you wish, provided that you both provide an attribution showing it came from here AND you share whatever you create with my material under the same terms.  That’s nice and simple but it links with some things that are more complicated.

The complication is about confidentiality and rights over being identified.  I started thinking about this on about day three when I started wondering how much to say about my family and other identifiable people.  The issue is one that’s crucial in psychotherapy, so for the 32 years that I was practising psychotherapy I tried to be meticulous about protecting people’s confidentiality and often their identity and rights over how they were described.  The principles involved intersect rather interestingly (to me at least) with what to do here and “confidentiality” and rights over representations of ourselves are actually often complex and fraught and overly simple solutions often problematical.  These issues overlap into the (largely) non-clinical realm of this blog.

The internet, and particularly the web, has given us fascinating new possibilities but brought challenges about ownership and sharing of materials that even the printing press didn’t.  It’s now so easy to share things that it is really near zero cost for both the person publishing things and the person reading them.  It isn’t quite zero cost and that gives privileges over the web realm to those with more money than others but as things stand for now, it sets the wealth bar for entry pretty low, perhaps the power imbalance in favour of the wealthy is lower than it is any other human realm.

This is great if you want to share things and I have been a great enthusiast for sharing some things I’ve done in the (continuing!) academic/research side of my work life so far.  At first I was quite naïve about that and didn’t understand the legalities and the technicalities.  I was lucky with a paper I did years ago which suggested six short forms of a nice questionnaire (the Body Shape Questionnaire, BSQ).  My luck was that the authors behind that questionnaire were also in favour of making such things as freely available as possible.  That was good as my paper was pretty close to a copyright violation in suggesting adapting a copyright material: their full 34 item questionnaire.  There was a win:win outcome as, since 2005, I have used the strength of the internet and my familiarity with the technology, to provide both their full length questionnaire and the short forms for free download (  That in turn has supported a few translations of the measures.  I don’t log the downloads but I know that over the last 11 years I’ve answered roughly 1,100 Emails about the BSQ, mostly from students in much poorer countries than the UK, seeking confirmation that they are within their rights to use the measures for project work.

Another example of trying to make things near zero cost to use is my biggest real research achievement: the CORE system (  We always made the instruments free to reproduce on paper but, as of the 1st of January 2015, we have moved them into the the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0)

So, unlike the CORE instruments, which are free to use but not to change in any way, you can adapt anything I’m putting up here as much as you like as long as you obey those two legally binding conditions: acknowledgement (simplest is to give the URL of the original) and that you too make things available in the same way.  I love the simple way that Creative Commons licences make it easy to do all this, that they look after the legal side (I can sue you if you don’t obey those two conditions: can’t see me doing it but I’d have the right as the material remains my copyright material) and the simple “share-alike” gives the process an inbuilt encouragement to reuse of the licence and the stance as well as the materials.

I like to think that this is in a spirit of sharing that coexists with an individual experience when one goes along a much used pilgrimage route.  There are some confidentiality challenges that I was going to wrap into this blog post too but it’s already too long and I’ve struggle with it, it’s taken nearly a week to do.  OK.  Just press “publish” Chris!

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