September 13, 2003 11PM PST

Freedom wins.

Point: there are people who will steal Zen Garden designs no matter what we do.

Point: slapping a restrictive license on the CSS files is completely against what the Zen Garden is trying to accomplish.

Point: cheap knock-offs are not a professional threat to the original designers.

Point: those who need to use other people’s CSS are still learning, or they’re lazy. If it’s the former, their use is an intermediate step; when they feel comfortable enough to move beyond someone else’s design, there’s no question they will. If it’s the latter, the site they’re applying the design to won’t be around for long anyway.

So there you go. Creative Commons is back (although it never technically went away, since I hadn’t got around to modifying the .css files yet), and all new submissions will continue to be open.

I realized the value of the Zen Garden is much more than I originally intended: not only do we have a strong demonstration of what CSS design is all about, but we also have a central repository of tested CSS designs that have solved browser compatibility issues and layout problems. Little Boxes, Blue Robot, and Glish are all still useful and relevant, but we’re moving beyond duplicating table-based layouts.

Creative Commons remains a double-edged sword. Individual use has never really bothered me (there have been plenty of people basing sites/weblogs on the .css files), but the recent example moved into a whole new territory I wasn’t prepared to deal with, namely re-distribution.

I worry all this will inhibit some submitters. Design is not software: there is no such thing as an ‘open source’ mentality. Some share more freely than others, but most are very firmly negative about their work being used elsewhere. The quality of work being submitted keeps going up despite it all; maybe I needn’t worry.

Plunder! Dissect! Pilfer! Learn! (Just don’t steal the images.)