After I found what I believe to be a satisfactory formulation for what CC actually does, which divides the CC enterprise into three planes, transactional, institutional, and normative, as I described to you in the former post — another concern began to harass me in the shower, (and I mean this very literally).
This time the quandary had to do with the abundance of fields and activities which CC supports: CC operates to contribute to a wide variety of human endeavors. Part of its contribution can be classified under widely acknowledged topical fields, another part under budding fields, and yet another, which is slightly different than the other two, as a contribution to specific modes of creation.
In the first group I include art on all its types, basic science and open education. Among the second group I count user-generated-content enterprises, such as online commenting, blogging and contribution to knowledge bases like Wikipedia. The third group hovers the other two, since it pertains to the direct contribution to the method. In a nutshell, it refers to the welfare contribution of the improvement and suffusion of the new type of collaboration which is marked by the following attributes: (1) it involves many different individuals, usually a flexible group of people that changes dynamically with contributors leaving it and joining it (2) their product is thus highly flexible, transforming through time (3) the individual contributions are performed at different moments in time, and (4) the contribution can vary in size, from infinitesimally tiny to extremely extensive. Through the facilitation of this new type of collaboration, different interacting communities are being created, which in itself can be counted as a sphere of contribution.
So what’s the problem?
Clearly what one has to do in order to evaluate the contribution of each of these, is to scrutinize each in order to derive the proper metrics for quantification. But on closer inspection of the issue you necessarily come to realize that all of these fields of contribution have some unquantifiable quality which makes metrics-identification slightly complicated. Yes… unlucky me, CC has handpicked a set of fields that are quite resistant to measurement, each for its own reason:
Art. Nobody really wants to quantify art. Art in utilitarian terms… not very palatable, you have to admit. Thinking in pecuniary terms might imply that the contribution of art is merely its price, and would undermine the value of the very engagement in art, as well as the value of works which have not had the good fortune of being auctioned or sold.
Basic science is likewise a “tough cookie” for measurement. Not least because thinking just in terms of end products fails to account for the advantages of the learning process and some of the outputs of basic science are extremely hard to predict.
Open education… oh well, difficult to quantify in its own stead. How can one begin to account for the contribution that extended access has? That active over passive consumption of material has in terms of effectiveness of the learning and teaching process? And how does one discount the cost of degraded outputs which are invariably part of the contribution of educational material which has not undergone the same rigorous screening process that commerciality putatively mandates that it undergo?
Harder still, what’s the value of a collaborative encyclopedia? Is it that aggregation of the separate contributions, in many cases almost negligible? What is the contribution of a post that is published in the open? Of comments to these posts? Again, these are the same problems, overburdened by extrinsic costs that must be accounted for too.
All of these enterprises have a basic attribute which I considered as a separate issue and that is the contribution which ensues directly from increased collaboration. And how the (#*&(@&!# does one begin to analyze the beneficial impact that increased collaboration, cooperation and flexible creative communities has?
So, because hyperventilating in the shower is dangerous, I reminded myself that it cannot be that I am the first person who is attempting to tread this road. Except collaboration. I am pretty sure that I haven’t seen any separate consideration of the direct value of collaboration. So as an aside, let me just explain why I am resigned that it is quite necessary to think of collaboration as a separate matter: First, because there are new topical fields created by virtue of these new modes of interaction and these we will fail to consider, analyzing from a strictly topical angle. Second, collaboration itself has positive impact that goes much further than the benefits to the actual activity, creating immense positive externalities to an abundance of distinct enterprises that follow it.
To get back to what I was saying before, I did find out that I wasn’t the first one to try to find a similar path. So I’ll just describe the very first ideas I drew from other researchers.
The first one I choose to denominate as the devil’s advocate approach, which is basically: Don’t even try. Don’t try to measure; It’s all good; Its art; it’s science; it’s learning; its collaboration; these are fantastic things. And measuring will just downgrade the general awe with which everybody considers these human activities. I was tempted, but thought I’d better think of something else.
So my first real attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants was to think in terms of strict macroeconomic gauges. After all, this is the natural direction for the measurement of the contribution of any enterprise to welfare. Also, so many before us have chosen this path: The US copyright industries, for example, have come up with their report (Look, for example, for Stephen E. Siwek’s Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2006 Report, prepared for the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), Nov 2006) after WIPO produced its Guide on Surveying the Economic Contribution of the Copyright-Based Industries, and after many different countries produced such similar reports. This has likewise been the method employed for the preparation of the US fair-use industries report, analyzing the fair-use industries contribution to the revenue, value added, employment, productivity and exports.
So why don’t I believe that this is the solution for CC? Well, I have both general and practical reasons:
As for the general incongruence —
First, most of the macroeconomic measures are nation-centric, while CC is a global enterprise which sets to advance global welfare. Pure aggregation of the macroeconomic contributions of CC to each country is not a solution because it can’t show us whether CC manages its goal to obtain global optimization.
Second, macroeconomic measures do not account for non-market transactions. In other words, activities that are not directly paid for will not contribute to these measures. And yet the promotion of non-market interactions is at the core of CC’s contribution, which means that we can’t settle for measures that are not set to estimate these contributions directly.
In truth, I am not the first to note these shortcomings of macroeconomic measures. The World Bank, for example, despite being content with measuring the total wealth as the net present value of future consumption, came up with a measure for what it deems “intangible capital”. This measure is calculated as the difference between total wealth and the sum of produced and natural capital. According to the World Bank, this number “necessarily includes human capital—the sum of knowledge, skills, and know-how possessed by the population. It also includes the institutional infrastructure of the country as well as the social capital—the level of trust among people in a society and their ability to work together toward common goals.”
I realize this sounds promising. Still, I don’t think it is the answer for CC. First, because intangible capital contribution is a primary area of its contribution, which means that it requires a gauge that measures it directly and vicariously, as a complement. The second and related reason is that CC is contributing to both monetary and non-monetary interactions and the calculation of value must consider the mutual influences. My third qualm with this measure is more fundamental than practical: even when we are coming to evaluate CC’s contribution, it seems pertinent to remember that the very foundations on which CC has been established have to do with the presumption that the consumption stream cannot fully account for human and social capital or for an optimal institutional infrastructure. This means that even these measures would fail to represent the range of contribution of the CC enterprise, because they are complementing measures that do not account for all the relevant welfare dimensions.
As for the practical incongruence —
First, Macroeconomic measures are so broad and all-encompassing that it makes one wonder how she can possibly isolate the separate contribution CC has on the sum of Consumption, Investment, Government Spending and Net Exports, (and, by the way, the former reports on other enterprise do not seem to bridge this difficulty.)
Second, the norm category of contribution (3rd pillar of contribution from the previous post in this series) seems to be almost categorically at odds with macroeconomic estimation in the sense that they stand on distinct foundations: The macroeconomic set of measures is strictly utilitarian, whereas the norm pillar has both a utilitarian aspect as well as one which creates the proper environment against which utility will later be estimated.
To repeat, CC is operating in the norm space to recalibrate the creative space in a way that will induce more value from a utilitarian perspective, but it is also acting according to a set of beliefs with respect to how the fields of its operation ought to operate from a different moral perspective; in a way that is more collaborative and free. So although it is sensible to ask whether this recalibration of norms is beneficial to the aggregate welfare, it is a question, the answer to which will fail to expose the entire picture. If that makes sense.
What to do instead?
Well… good question. Any ideas?
I can only tell you where I decided to venture, and you can tell me what you think about it: I have come to notice that more often than not, CC’s contribution is fully captured by value measures which can then be translated to the more general macroeconomic sphere (if one is so inclined). In other words, I realized it is not my job, or not part of this project to look beyond CC’s direct impact, because that will do nothing to promote the efficacy, specificity, soundness or integrity of the evaluation. If anything, it might add an unnecessary level of complication and this is one circumstance in which you simply do not want to do that.
Particularly, what I suggest is to measure the incremental contribution of CC in terms of quality, quantity and variability of collaboration enterprises. All three should be measured across the different fields, under the different value categories, (transactional, institutional and normative), and as they pertain to both productive and consumptive use. What I mean by quality, quantity and variability will be described in more length in the coming posts, but what’s relevant here is that once we have these estimates for CC’s contribution, others should be able to use them to instruct their studies of wider economic measures. At least that’s the idea.Comments Off on Investigating CC’s welfare impact, the second step
CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world. See the first post in this series for an introduction.
Alright. So a few months back, on my second day at CC, I sat excitedly at a CC desk, opened a new document, and expected myself to outline a general plan for the impact project. Nothing happened. And you can trust me, I was really aching to begin, since by the second, I could see with increasingly radiant lucidity that this project could potentially pave the way for a brand new field of thought, crucially important in terms of the impacts that it can instantiate. After all, a rigorous analysis of the value contribution could expose how effective collaboration and sharing is, and how distinctly important it is to promote it. This in turn could strengthen the creative capacity of the creative communities, on their artists, scientists, educators, learners, content generators, readers through the auxiliary platforms, providing technical and legal assistance.
But I am babbling. The point is that I very much wanted to start, but that found it very difficult. The roadblock, I came to realize, was that I had an essential primary step before me, which was to offer an initial description of the CC enterprise, one which would be manageable enough for effective evaluation. CC, after all, is a varied enterprise, which operates on many levels to promote its goal of promoting the creative commons. Where the analyst really starts sweating, is the point it becomes clear to her that on each level, CC contributes to welfare in a way that must be taken into account, and that these levels are inextricably interrelated. Or in other words, the contribution on one level, promotes the contribution stemming from the others and so on and so forth.
So after carefully analyzing what CC actually does, I came up with a three-part categorization of the range of CC activities. This categorization is based on size really, and I came up with it thinking about what CC does through a contribution lens. First, I thought that every time someone uses a CC-tool, a license or a mark, a range of advantages, potential and actual, is being accrued. Then, I thought that the support of a platform of tools creates a set of advantages, potential and actual, in its own stead and on a slightly higher level. Second, I thought that CC, by its very existence as an institution is promoting a set of advantages on a more macro level, by virtue of offering institutional support. Thirdly, it seemed to me that there is a way by which CC is operating as a pure power in the even higher space of how cultural enterprises take place, trying to nurture the existing motivations to share and to collaborate into standard practices in each of the communities which it supports.
To recap, what I am offering is to think of CC as an enterprise operating on three separate spheres, each with its distinct, although definitely not independent, value contribution. The first is the contribution to transactions between actors in the creative fields, the second is the institutional contribution and the third is the contribution in the normative field.
The idea is that this can serve as the baseline for analysis, a fundamental categorization which lends itself to further sub-categorization, by field, by activity, by actor and by CC tool, but that doesn’t lose track of the way all of these tie into the one primary goal.
To say just a little bit more about each:
1. transactional contribution
The transactional contribution: the fields in which CC operates are fields where many actors of many different types are operating. The ability of these actors to collaborate is, therefore, very sensitive to costs of search, of recognition and of cooperation. CC, by offering a range of legal and technical tools, is equipping these actors with legal and technical capacities to reduce these costs substantially. In some cases, the reduction is so meaningful as to permit an enterprise to take place, and in other cases, it just makes it better. Relatedly, the availability of tools and platforms might promote the introduction of new entrants to the fields, which in turn varies and augments the range of collaborative enterprises of all types. Under this proposed analysis, CC’s transational contribution ranges between micro advantages created by each usage of the tool, and a slightly higher level contribution which is instantiated through the existence of the full platform of tools.
2. institutional contribution
Many Economists have pointed out that the efficiency of modern markets is promoted by the existence of a stable and certain legal framework. CC is clearly operating within the Intellectual Property framework to enhance it, relying on its own institutional framework, in a way that facilitates the optimization of social production markets.
3. norm contribution
As an organization, which is active in the space of creation and its regulation, CC influences it by weighing in on the evolution of its norms. There is a distinct difference between this and the other two spheres of contribution; What through the lens of the other two spheres appears as an independent factor existing as the environment to which CC sets itself to contribute to, is under the third pillar the actual target that it sets out to influence.
Again, this is not to say that when it comes to value creation these categories are clear-cut. In fact, there are constant cross-influences between the spheres of operation which impacts greatly CC’s contribution under each. For example, a shift in the norm space directly influences the extent of the reliance on the CC institution in the different social markets, and the ensuing benefits that can be derived through usage of each CC tool. In addition, an institutional move increasing the certainty of the collaborative legal Intellectual Property environment increases the benefits stemming from each usage of a CC tool, and in turn facilitates a normative move in the direction of a tighter community of cultural actors inside the different fields. I could go on and on.
Still, the fact that the value areas are co-dependent does not suggest that the categorization is faulty nor that it is ineffective. Instead, interdependency is the attribute of a clear goal which is being pursued using more than one strategy. Yet importantly, there is nothing mandatory or essential about this categorization. In fact, it is just one out of numerous possible ones. What speaks in its favor is its clarity and the fact that economic analysis has developed to analyze contribution of each type, micro-transactional, transactional and institutional at least, if not the contribution of changes in the normative playing-field.
However–and this is important–this categorization may not be the most effective for value analysis. There definitely can be other categorizations, ones that may be more true to the depiction of the CC enterprise, and that may even be more prone for evaluation. In other words, if you have any thoughts, please share them with us–having us all think about this is part of the point.Comments Off on Investigating CC’s welfare impact, the first step
CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world.
First, just so you’ll have a general idea about the person writing this post: I am Tal Niv, a PhD student at UC Berkeley with a background in Law, Economics and Computer Science. This post series is intended to start presenting a project I am already knee-deep into, thanks to a Google policy fellowship. Our aim with the project, as well as with the post series is not to offer conclusive analysis of CC’s impact on welfare (as the term is used by economists), but rather to start a conversation between all of us, that will start untying this complex topic, which despite its importance has been unexplored. Till now.
Everybody knows that CC is here to do good. After all, we are a nonprofit that is working diligently on its mission to promote sharing and collaboration. Yes, that’s what we are after; we have long believed that creators want to share and collaborate, and that it would be beneficial to the world if there is much more of that, which is why we are making out utmost to nurture and cultivate such distinctively positive enterprises and the motivations that fuel them.
What is also pretty clear, is that CC is breaking ground in this enterprise. Creative Commons has a hand and a foot in a range of activities that are based on openness in a multidimensional spectrum of creative fields. CC is known by artists, by scientists, by educators, as a facilitator of creative cooperation, known by consumers of knowledge and culture for extending access and quality of their inputs, by creative hobbyists and amateurs as promoter of access, of contribution, of community. Likewise, we are a prominent institution that carries considerable weight among global policy-making entities in the sphere of setting up the normative environment against which the range of creative endeavors are set.
But although our contribution is plain to the eye, or maybe because it is so crystal clear, we have never attempted to analyze it with rigor. We have never bragged in a detailed fashion nor have we been specific with respect to the immense value that we generate.
Why is that?
Well, it’s complicated. Partly it is because what I intuited in the former paragraph: Since it is so clear that we contribute, spending time on the straightforward just seems like a waste. Partly, it is because we never required this evaluation for the efficient design of our day-to-day tasks. But those are not the only reasons.
Mainly it is because conducting steadfast evaluation is a very cumbersome project: CC is heavily engaged in fields with self-explanatory benefits whose edges are fuzzy. This makes evaluation and measurement extremely tough, even for the most apt researchers.
If you are fuzzy about what I mean by “fuzzy”, just ask yourself: What is the value of art? Of basic science? Of open education? Of User Generated Content? Of collaboration itself? What is the value of free access? I don’t know of many who believe they have the answer to these questions.
And unfortunately, surpassing this challenge only rears more challenges; for CC to be able to know how much it contributes, it is not enough to understand how to evaluate the contribution of its target fields to welfare, but it must also understand its incremental contribution to the welfare enhancing capacity of those fields. And there is nothing that makes that increment any more fixed, clear-cut or lucid than the benefits of the baseline fields. To top that – my fingers are already shaking on the keyboard – it does not suffice to prove that CC incrementally advantages these enterprises, but it’s necessary to show that it does so optimally, i.e., that it is putting the resources that it has to effective use.
At any rate, tough as it is, this is the challenging task that we have undertaken now. Please help by engaging yourself with this intricate analysis, and sharing your deliberations, and if you are just here as a spectator, wish us luck!Comments Off on Introducing a series of posts investigating CC’s welfare impact
IssueLab, “an open source archive of research produced by nonprofit organizations, university-based research centers, and foundations,” launches their Research Remix Video Contest this week. The contest “aims to engage working artists and digital media students with social issues while encouraging nonprofits to make their research more broadly available and usable through open licensing.” If you recall my interview with co-founder Lisa Brooks earlier this year, a good chunk of IssueLab’s research is licensed under one of the Creative Commons licenses. From the press release,
“Contestants will be asked to remix facts or data from one of over 300 openly licensed research
reports on IssueLab into a video or animation under three minutes in length. Winners will be selected
after the December 31, 2009 deadline, and nonprofits will be able to use all submitted videos freely to
support their causes.
The launch of “Research Remix” coincides with Open Access Week, an international movement that
pushes for broad and free access to research findings and publicly funded studies. IssueLab’s official
participation is marked by its continued commitment to bringing open access and licensing to the
social and policy research fields. “It is especially important that nonprofits consider openly licensing
their research and resources. By giving people the ability to re-use, remix, and share research on
social issues we can much better inform and engage public debate and public policy.”
We encourage you to remix and submit your videos by the year’s end, especially because all finalists receive a free CC t-shirt and buttons (not to mention first prize is a netbook). I’m also one of the judges, so I look forward to your submissions!Comments Off on IssueLab Launches Research Remix Video Contest
AcaWiki, a project I briefly mentioned in Opening Education–the little things you can do, launches this week. Dubbed as the “Wikipedia for academic research,” AcaWiki’s mission is “to make academic research more accessible and interactive” by “[enabling] users to easily post and discuss human-readable summaries of academic papers and literature reviews online.” Founder Neeru Paharia (a doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School) explains that “cutting-edge research is often locked behind firewalls and therefore lacks impact. AcaWiki turns research hidden in academic journals into something that is more dynamic and accessible to have a greater influence in scholarship, and society.”
From the press release,
“AcaWiki’s work follows on the work of open-access publishers such as the Public Library of Science, as well as on the tradition of using new media to create public dialogue with science. Currently, it can cost up to $35 to download an academic paper—a significant cost, especially because thorough research on any topic usually entails downloading many papers. AcaWiki’s approach takes advantage of the fact that copyright does not apply to ideas, only to the written expression of those ideas. Scholars can thus post summaries of their or others’ research online as long as they are not copying verbatim beyond what fair-use laws permit. John Seely Brown, former head of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and a leader in the open education movement, says, “AcaWiki complements [the movement’s] work and opens a whole new dimension of making research accessible to the public.”
Like OpenEd, AcaWiki is “built using Semantic MediaWiki, combining the sophistication of the semantic web with the ease-of-use of a wiki. The site enables comments, discussion, user profiles, and tagging.” All AcaWiki content is available via CC BY.
AcaWiki also has some supporters in common with ccLearn and CC. Not only is AcaWiki starting with seed funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, but its board members include Mike Linksvayer, vice president of Creative Commons, and John Wilbanks, vice president of Science Commons.Comments Off on “AcaWiki Increases Impact of Scholarly Research Using Web 2.0”
A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration
The Publius Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society offers a new essay on OER and public policy in the United States: A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration . Written by Carolina Rossini and Erhardt Graeff, it does a great job of pointing out the major recent movements toward OER in state and federal governments, and thoughtfully evaluates the issues that each initiative brings to the table.
Comments Off on A Brief Overview of U.S. Public Policy on OER from California’s Community Colleges to the Obama Administration
“This post draws significantly from an interview on August 10, 2009 with Hal Plotkin, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Dept. of Education, who has closely followed and been involved with OER policies in California. The interview was part of research on the educational materials sector being conducted under the Industrial Cooperation Project at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. The research is part of a broader project being led by Prof. Yochai Benkler and coordinated by Carolina Rossini. In the research, we are seeking to understand the approaches to innovation in some industrial sectors, such as alternative energy, educational materials, and biotechnology. The intention is to map the degree to which open and commons-based practices are being used compared to proprietary approaches and what forces drive the adoption and development of these models.”
Almost one year ago we launched a study of how people understand “noncommercial use.” The study, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, included in-depth interviews and two waves of in-person and online focus groups and online questionnaires. The last included a random sample of U.S. (geographic restriction mandated by resource constraints) internet users and in an extended form, open questionnaires promoted via this blog (called “CC Friends & Family” in the report).
Today, we’re publishing the Defining Noncommercial study report and raw data, released under a CC Attribution license and CC0 public domain waiver respectively — yes, this report on “noncommercial” may unambiguously be used for commercial purposes. Also see today’s press release.
Creative Commons noncommercial licenses include a definition of commercial use, which precludes use of rights granted for commercial purposes:
… in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.
The majority of respondents (87% of creators, 85% of users) replied that the definition was “essentially the same as” (43% of creators, 42% of users) or “different from but still compatible with” (44% of creators, 43% of users) theirs. Only 7% of creators and 11% of users replied that the term was “different from and incompatible with” their definition; 6% or creators and 4% of users replied “don’t know/not sure.” 74% and 77% of creators and users respectively think others share their definition and only 13% of creators and 11% of users wanted to change their definition after completing the questionnaire.
On a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial” creators and users (84.6 and 82.6, respectively) both rate uses in connection with online advertising generally as “commercial.” However, more specific use cases revealed that many interpretations are fact-specific. For example, creators and users gave the specific use case “not-for-profit organization uses work on its site, organization makes enough money from ads to cover hosting costs” ratings of 59.2 and 71.7, respectively.
On the same scale, creators and users (89.4 and 91.7, respectively) both rate uses in which money is made as being commercial, yet again those ratings are lower in use cases specifying cost recovery or use by not-for-profits. Finally, both groups rate “personal or private” use as noncommercial, though creators did so less strongly than users (24.3 and 16.0, respectively, on the same scale).
In open access polls, CC’s global network of “friends and family” rate some uses differently from the U.S. online population—although direct empirical comparisons may not be drawn from these data. For example, creators and users in these polls rate uses by not-for-profit organizations with advertisements as a means of cost recovery at 35.7 and 40.3, respectively — somewhat more noncommercial. They also rate “personal or private” use as strongly noncommercial—8.2 and 7.8, respectively — again on a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial.”
The below is drawn from the Section 4 of the report, titled “Next” — we urge you to read that section for more, including ideas for future research.
Import for Creative Commons noncommercial licenses
This process will include examination of whether the NC term should be usefully modified as a part of that effort, or if the better approach might be to adopt a “best practices” approach of articulating the commercial/noncommercial distinction for certain creator or user communities apart from the licenses themselves. Whichever the result, this study has highlighted that in order to meet the expectations of licensors using CC NC licenses it will be important to avoid any modification of the term, however manifested, that makes a use widely agreed to be commercial — or only agreed to be noncommercial with low consensus — explicitly noncommercial. There is an analogue in our statement of intent for CC Attribution-ShareAlike, which provides assurances that we will not break the expectations of licensors whose intent is to release works under copyleft terms.
While the costs of license proliferation are already widely appreciated and resisted by many, the study weighs against any lingering temptation to offer multiple flavors of NC licenses due to strong agreement on the commerciality of certain use cases that, in the past, may have been considered by some to be good candidates for splitting off into specialized versions of the NC term, such as online advertising. For even in those cases where strong agreement may appear to exist upon initial inquiry, such as with online advertising, nuances and sometimes strong differences of opinion are immediately revealed when more specific use cases are tested and facts presented — such as those involving cost recovery or support of nonprofit organizations.
The study results also advise against any concerted effort by CC to attempt appeasing all license users, all the time — study participants are divided over the value of more or fewer specific “use cases” to delineate the commercial/noncommercial divide, some see the lack of specific uses as a strength and others as a weakness, and many others still disagree with the notion that a single definition of noncommercial use could be workable. Thus is the challenge, and opportunity, of public license stewards.
Aside from decisions about the NC licenses themselves, we will be looking back to the study as we update explanations of noncommercial licensing on our license deeds, license chooser, and other materials. Your ideas and feedback are most welcome (see below).
Creative Commons recommendations on using noncommercial licenses
Overall, our NC licenses appear to be working rather well — they are our most popular licenses and we are not aware of a large number of disputes between licensors and licensees over the meaning of the term. The study hints at some of the potential reasons for this state of affairs, including that users are in some cases more conservative in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are creators and that in some cases creators who earn more money from their work (i.e., have more reason to dispute questionable uses) are more liberal in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are those who earn less.
While it would take a more focused and exhaustive study to conclude that these seemingly fortunate attitudinal differences are correct, strong, and global, they do hint at rules of thumb for licensors releasing works under NC licenses and licensees using works released under NC licenses — licensors should expect some uses of their works that would not meet the most stringently conservative definition of noncommercial, and licensees who are uncertain of whether their use is noncommercial should find a work to use that does unambiguously allow commercial use (e.g., licensed under CC BY, CC BY-SA, or in the public domain) or ask the licensor for specific permission (interestingly about half of respondents to the “CC Friends & Family” questionnaire who had released works under a NC license indicated that they had been contacted for specific permission). Note that this rule of thumb has an analogue in network protocol design and implementation known as the robustness principle or Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.”
One way to think about Creative Commons generally is of providing tools to prevent the failed sharing that results from relying on copyrights’ defaulting to “all rights reserved” — uses that you would allow but that will not occur because you haven’t authorized them (maybe haven’t even thought of them) and the costs of finding you and getting authorization are too high for the intended use (or maybe you’re dead and even scholarly use of your works is suppressed by your estate). This sounds dry, but think about the anti-network effects of failed sharing at the level of a society, and the costs are large indeed. Some have realized that too much use of NC licensing suppresses uses that a licensor who wants to share may wish to allow, at a cost to NC licensors and licensees and a greater cost to communities and the broader free culture movement — failed sharing, though at a much smaller scale than the failed sharing engendered by default copyright. The Definition of Free Cultural Works website includes an article summarizing reasons to avoid NC licenses (and use a free license such as CC BY or CC BY-SA). If you’re concerned about the costs of NC licensing to yourself, the free culture movement, or society at large, review the arguments and consider “dropping -NC” from your license.
The potential negative impact and corresponding lack of use of noncommercial licensing differs across fields. For example, noncommercial licenses do not exist at all in the free and open source software world (note that CC recommends using a free and open source software license for software). Science and education are two large fields in which we believe that liberal licensing or the public domain are most appropriate. Unsurprisingly Wikipedia, with strong relationships with the free software, open access (scientific publishing), and open education movements, mandates liberal licensing, and many other massively collaborative projects are following.
However, compelling use cases for NC licensing remain — most obviously when an existing significant revenue stream from a work would be compromised by release under liberal terms. Giving your audience legal certainty that they won’t be prosecuted for doing what comes naturally from using digital networks — copying and remixing for no commercial gain or monetary exchange — while exploring the sharing economy and still protecting existing business — these are great reasons to start or continue releasing works under a NC license. It is little surprise that major music and book publishers’ use of CC licensing thus far has almost exclusively been of the NC variety.
How to participate in the discussion
There are a variety of ways you can participate in discussion of this study, the future of CC NC licenses and accompanying material, and future research on this and other topics related to voluntary sharing:
- Leave a comment on this blog post.
- Add to the study’s Talk page on the wiki.
- Discuss on the CC Forum or cc-community mailing list.
- Subscribe to the very low volume cc-licenses mailing list to be alerted when the 4.0 process commences.
- Join the commons-research list to connect with researchers studying free culture topics.
- Send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who has contributed in any way to this work!43 Comments »
ccLearn has published the first data supplement to our report “What status for ‘open’? An examination of the licensing policies of open educational organizations and projects,” entitled “Data Supplement to ‘What status for ‘open’?’ A graphical view of the licensing policies of open educational organizations and projects.” (PDF warning)
This supplement provides a graphical view of the licensing landscape within online education, drawing data from ODEPO, a database on our recently launched OpenEd. We find that a large proportion of educational sites are protected by “All Rights Reserved” copyright, including many sites that self-describe as “open,” which indicates a misconception of what it means to be an open resource.
ODEPO was compiled in MediaWiki, the platform that powers Wikipedia. And just like Wikipedia, anyone with an account on OpenEd can contribute to the database by adding organizations or editing current data. Future data supplements will include the most up-to-date data from ODEPO, so the more you contribute, the more research opportunities there are!Comments Off on Data supplement to “What status for ‘open’?”
Last December, when ccLearn issued its report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Creative Commons Netherlands published its own entitled, “Reuse of material in the context of education and research.” However, the report was only available in Dutch until recently. Now, thanks to Paul Keller (Creative Commons Nederland) and Wilma Mossink (SURF), the English version of the report is online. It recommends the most open Creative Commons license, Attribution Only, for reuse of material in the context of education and research. From the original announcement,
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“The rise of the Internet and other new ICT tools have led to drastic changes in the options for distribution and reuse. These changes demand a reorientation in the rules for sharing educational and research materials.
Since sharing educational and research materials is high on the agenda of Dutch higher education and research institutions, SURFdirect and Creative Commons examined the different Open Content licences that are available and that will make clear to reusers what they are permitted to do with material held in repositories.
SURFdirect has indicated that the choice of licence must not create barriers to the future use of educational and research material, that it can be applied at both research universities and universities of applied sciences [hogescholen], and that this can in fact be done in 80% of cases, this report recommends using the most liberal Creative Commons licence for textual output…
Another important recommendation in this report is that SURF should set up an effective awareness-raising campaign in order to introduce and explain Creative Commons licences to those ‘in the field’.”
Recently we launched the second round of a questionnaire on noncommercial use, this one focusing on users. Read that post for details, or hop directly to the questionnaire, which takes 15-25 minutes to complete. The questionnaire will be open through May 5.
We’ll be publishing preliminary data (note: free text answers will be removed for privacy) and reports from the first round after this second questionnaire is closed — as well as some thoughts from CC on noncommercial licensing that won’t be any news to anyone who has followed really closely this blog, the initiatives of our science and education programs, and our CEO Joi Ito’s speeches. Many thanks to everyone who has asked about study results so far. We’re getting information out as quickly as possible, given how busy we are, and not wanting to interfere with this round of data collection. Of course as mentioned previously a full report on the entire study will be available in July.
To whet your appetite (and hopefully encourage your participation in the current questionnaire), we’re releasing preliminary slides (.pdf) reporting on interesting data gathered in the first round that won’t influence the current round — on the profiles and activities of a random panel of U.S. content creators and those of “CC Friends & Familiy”, i.e., people who took the first questionnaire as publicized from the CC website — a self-explanatory slide from that set is to the right, as well as a list of questions asked in the first round (.ods), as some of you have requested.
Please contribute to this research — take the questionnaire on noncommercial use for users — and spread the word. You have through May 5!
Update: The questionnaire closes 6PM Pacific on May 5. That’s 01:00 GMT on May 6.14 Comments »