SFC

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.

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