+CAL Ethical IP Licensing

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 12.47.35 PM.png

Many inventors, artists, engineers, coders and musicians (Intellectual property [IP] producers) hope to one day be discovered. For some, that looks like their music being used in a commercial, for others it seeing their invention revolutionizing production lines. Being recognized for good work is thrilling, but seeing your work used in systems that hurt people and the environment is not. So, CAL developed licensing language that IP-producers can put into their employment contracts, copyright licenses for original works of art, or open source software licenses.  These licenses ensure that their creations are only ever used in supply chains that comply with basic human rights and environmental norms. IP producers can keep producing and partnering with buyers while resting assured that their creations aren’t helping to oppress people or the environment.

How Does it Work? 

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 3.39.37 PM.png

Let’s say Beyonce (one day it’ll happen) adopted this sort of licensing language in every contract she signed with corporations. One day she finds out that a clothing company who put her lyrics on a t-shirt design is getting their cotton from suppliers that use slave labor and harmful pesticides in their cotton production. Not only does this distress Beyonce to know that her lyrics about female empowerment are on t-shirts made by enslaved women, but it also represents a breach of contract since her contract has an ethical IP license that requires the fashion company to never use slave labor or harmful environmental pollutants in their supply chains.  Thankfully, Beyonce remembers her contract and sues the organization for violating the terms of their agreement. She gets a settlement from the organization (which she in turn uses to found a non-profit that frees enslaved laborers) and requires the fashion organization to sign an agreement that they will never source their materials from suppliers that use slave labor or harmful pesticides again.

Why Is It Awesome? 

This license creates economic incentives that discourage the use of unethical supply chains in the first place. But when harm does occur, the +CAL license provides grounds for IP producers to sue US corporations in US courts for victimizing people or the environment in their supply chains. The added costs of these liabilities creates additional economic incentives for corporations to be more careful in their supply chains and to take immediate action to remediate any environmental harms when they do occur.

We know this license can lead to radical change in corporate power. By all of us deciding that corporate use of our IP is conditioned on the commitments of our employers, research institutions, and other corporations to protect human rights and the environment across global supply chains, we can transform our IP into a deterrent for unethical supply chains, enforceable in federal courts across the country.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 4.15.57 PM.png

Still Not Sure?

Check out our blog for some additional background. If you’re a salaried employee, you can use this same concept to restrict the use of your IP by incorporating this language into your collective bargaining agreements or employment contracts.

While CAL itself cannot draft custom contracts for individual IP producers, we are eager to see how individuals around the world will use this idea to advocate for human rights and the environment within their own contracts. Contact us if you have questions about how to adapt this license to your needs.

If you’re still not sure how you could use the +CAL license or can’t imagine how your work can be an agent for change, please visit our website at www.legaldesign.org to see more examples of what this license can do.