ND

Next Steps: NonCommercial and NoDerivatives Discussion

Timothy Vollmer, December 17th, 2012

In the last few months there has been quite a bit of discussion about what CC should do with the non-free licenses. Some have called for Creative Commons to retire or otherwise change the way we offer licenses containing the NonCommercial and NoDerivatives conditions because those licenses do not create a true commons of open content that everyone is free to use, redistribute, remix, and repurpose. These suggestions have been made by the Students for Free Culture, QuestionCopyright.org, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and others.

Creative Commons offers 6 licenses. The BY and BY-SA licenses are considered “Free” because they grant to users a set of freedoms including:

  • the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it
  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works

There are four CC licenses that are considered “non-free” because they do not provide for all of the freedoms listed above. The CC licenses that contain the NonCommercial and/or NoDerivatives terms are considered non-free. These licenses are BY-NC, BY-ND, BY-NC-SA, BY-NC-ND.

Back in August we wrote a blog post about the ongoing discussion around NonCommercial and NoDerivatives and promised to keep the conversation going. We noted that these issues have surfaced frequently over the years, and we reminded readers that CC studied the NonCommercial issue and has worked to try to clearly mark and otherwise communicate the differences between the Free and non-free licenses. For example, CC has placed a “Definition of Free Cultural Works” seal on the BY and BY-SA license deeds. We also included it in the most recent upgrade of our license chooser.

We’re taking a close look at the arguments and recommendations from the various individuals and groups and have generated a few TO-DO items to attempt to address the issues raised. We have aggregated these proposed actions on the CC wiki. We’d appreciate any feedback you have–you can do this over at the CC-Community email list or the wiki Talk page.

Some of the draft actions include the following (you can read more about them on the wiki page):

  • Improve information about which CC licenses align with definitions of “Free licenses”
  • Revive the color-coded “license spectrum” graphic
  • Provide descriptive examples of adoptions of Free and non-free licenses
  • Gather feedback about changing the name of “NonCommercial” to “Commercial Rights Reserved”

This last point warrants a specific mention here, as it would be a big (and potentially sensitive) change to the branding of the Creative Commons NonCommercial licenses. This proposal is for a simple renaming of the “NonCommercial” license element to “Commercial Rights Reserved,” without any change in the definition of what it covers. Renaming it to something that more accurately reflects the operation of the license may ensure that it is not unintentionally used by licensors who intend something different. For more information about the idea and rationale behind this proposal, please see the CC wiki page on the topic.

Again, if you have feedback on the proposed actions or other ideas that haven’t been captured here, please contribute to the CC-community list, the wiki Talk page, or in the comments below. We appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

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Ongoing discussions: NonCommercial and NoDerivatives

Timothy Vollmer, August 29th, 2012

A few days ago the Students for Free Culture (SFC) published a provocative blog post called “Stop the inclusion of proprietary licenses in Creative Commons 4.0.” The article urged Creative Commons to deprecate (meaning “retire” or similar), or otherwise change the way Creative Commons offers licenses containing the NonCommercial and NoDerivatives terms, because they “do not actually contribute to a shared commons.”

The SFC blog post raises important questions about the opportunities and challenges presented by the NC and ND licenses. The NC and ND licenses currently make up four of the six licenses in the CC license suite:

These issues have surfaced frequently over the years, in varied forums and by a variety of stakeholders. CC studied the NC issue from 2008 to 2009, investigating how online populations understand noncommercial use in the context of the NC licenses. The previous year, CC acknowledged the differences between the NC and ND licenses on the one hand, and BY and BY-SA on the other, by announcing placement of the free cultural works seal on the BY and BY-SA deeds as part of an “effort to distinguish among the range of Creative Commons licenses”.

At the same time, CC celebrates successful adoption of the NC and ND licenses, in part because those licenses signal a desire to be more open than the alternative of “all rights reserved.” Moreover, those adopters may eventually migrate to more open licenses once exposed to the benefits that accompany sharing. But this duality opens CC to criticism (if not also confusion) about our identity and mission.

CC committed to addressing this issue most recently with the launch of the 4.0 license process following consultation with the CC affiliates at the 2011 Global Summit in Warsaw. We fully intend to engage in a manner that is inclusive of a wide range of voices and interests. In this way, CC will be best positioned to make informed, thoughtful decisions with the input of our community (defined in the broadest sense), our affiliates, and our adopters (both would-be and existing).

While the specific challenges to NC and ND are not tied to the 4.0 versioning process per se, they’ve been raised in the context of the 4.0 NonCommercial dialogue. The decision not to change the definition of NonCommercial itself in 4.0 now gives way to the broader policy discussion of the role that the NC (and ND) licenses serve, and CC’s stewardship of and communications around those licenses.

As license steward, we are accountable to our stakeholders and global community, and must be transparent about decisions and how we act (or not) on the proposals that have been put on the table. These proposals span a wide range and include more clearly differentiating the licenses aligned with the Definition of Free Cultural Works from those that are not, to providing more education to licensors about the consequences of license choice, to disassociating Creative Commons from the NC and ND licenses altogether, among others.

Here’s what you can expect from CC:

  • Please continue to use the CC-Community list (as opposed to the CC license development list) as the venue for discussions about the various options, proposals, and considerations for NC and ND.
  • CC will collect, analyze and synthesize ideas and proposals, identify possible policy changes, and communicate potential implications of each. CC will look to these various proposals with the recognition that any policy change cuts across the entire community and organization, including education, data and science, legal, technical, etc. CC will share this information publicly in an easy to understand fashion that includes the relevant historical and contextual framing.
  • CC will hold stakeholder consultations that include adopters, CC affiliates, funders, and the broader community. These might take the form of email discussions, community phone calls or IRC chats, etc.

Other suggestions for actions are most welcome.

22 Comments »

U of Oregon Library faculty research to become more open

Jane Park, May 8th, 2009

Steps towards openness were taken yesterday by the University of Oregon Library, as its faculty unanimously passed a resolution requiring all library faculty-authored scholarly articles to be licensed CC BY-NC-ND (thanks to Peter Suber of Open Access News). Although NC-ND does not allow derivations (which may include translations and other adaptations) of the articles, library faculty also have the option of licensing their works under one of the more open licenses, including CC BY-SA and CC BY.

We highly encourage library faculty (and libraries in general) everywhere to consider adopting these more open CC licenses for their content (especially CC BY). If you remember from last October, the University of Michigan Library adopted CC BY-NC for all of its works, including those to which the University of Michigan held copyrights. Stripping away the ND term enables collaboration across institutions, as you are granted more than the simple right to access, but to also adapt, translate, and improve the work.

However, adopting CC BY-NC-ND is a step in the right direction. From the announcement,

“We largely followed the leads of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and most recently Oregon State (our friends and rivals). One area where we differ is in explicitly mandating a CC-BY-NC-ND license. Choosing that license was very conscious. We believe that it is vital that the community standardize on a small number of licenses to move beyond the present mess where every publisher and practically every author has their own unique terms. The license we chose is a good candidate for standardization. … Authors who wish to can of course also license their works under a more liberal license such as CC-BY-SA.”

For more information on our Open Access work, visit the Scholar’s Copyright Project page.

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