Non-Commercial study questionnaire

As previously announced, Creative Commons is studying how people understand the term “noncommercial use”. At this stage of research, we are reaching out to the Creative Commons community and to anyone else interested in public copyright licenses – would you please take a few minutes to participate in our study by responding to this questionnaire? Your response will be anonymous – we won’t collect any personal information that could reveal your identity.

Because we want to reach as many people as possible, this is an open access poll, meaning the survey is open to anyone who chooses to respond. We hope you will help us publicize the poll by reposting this announcement and forwarding this link to others you think might be interested. The questionnaire will remain online through December 714 or until we are overwhelmed with responses — so please let us hear from you soon!

Questions about the study or this poll may be sent to

22 thoughts on “Non-Commercial study questionnaire”

  1. “You indicated that, if your work would be make money from the use of your work, your score would be 100 on a 100-point scale where 100 means “Definitely A Commercial Use”, and 1 means “Definitely A Noncommercial Use”. ”

    I think the grammar und language in the survey is terribly wrong sometimes, up to the point where a non-native speaker of english would have problems understanding your questions, and I really think next time you make a survey please take some time for a basic introduction on how to make a user-friendly one first.

  2. The question on what percentage of works are licensed using different methods is a little flawed. The percentages must add up to 100%. However, a fair amount of my work is dual licensed. I may have a CC Noncommercial license and use a lawyer to craft commercial licenses for the same work.

    I’m going to take the question to mean what percentage of licenses are of each of the following, rather than what percentage of works.

  3. I tried filling out the questionnaire. It means a great deal to me, the subject of non-commercial use. I filled out about half of it and had a browser crash. It now seems to think I’ve finished the survey and wont let me complete the questionnaire.

    I think it’s really important to figure out what exactly non-commercial means. What if I create a film that is licensed very permissively, that I am obviously freely giving away and which is clearly not for profit. It seems somewhat absurd to me that people would begrudge me the ability to sell DVD’s of the film as a fundraiser for further projects or to comp my costs. Obviously it is the right of the creator to decide how their work is used, but it just seems like a silly stumbling block to the creation of more free media.

    I personally will never license a work NC unless I intend for the work to never be commercially used even by myself.

  4. @Justin: your response shows that there is still a lot of explaining to do about NC.
    CC is a license that you, as the creator and copyright holder of a work, grant others. It does *not* in any way limit your use of the work. If you license a film under a BY-NC-ND license for example, then I would be able to put it up on my website for download, but I would have to ask you for an additional license if I wanted to burn it on DVD and sell it.
    You could grant me that right, or not, however you decide.

    You yourself, retain the right to sell, distribute, change the work as you would have been without the CC license attached to it.

  5. Is there any specific reason that those of us under 18 seem to not be in the survey group? Even though we may be under-age, we still contribute CC licensed work and contribute to the community.

    If there is a logical reason for this, then so be it.

  6. Justin, you need to sort out the idea of “licensee” and “licensor.”

    How you use your own work is completely unaffected by the license you apply to it.

  7. I’m glad that consideration is going into re-defining the noncommercial license. Although I rarely use it myself, I frequently do web design for artists. Licensing is a big concern when it comes to putting artwork online. If something is visible, it is publicly available. I would love to have a more refined definition of noncommercial to explain to my clients. Creative Commons is wonderful.

  8. The question “When you share your works online, approximately how many people do you typically reach?” insists on a numeric answer. My answer SHOULD have been “I don’t know” and my forced answer (and I presume of others who can’t quantify this) will invalidate the results for this question.

  9. Two things:
    I was booted out of taking the survey for not fitting a profile. Creative Commons licenses have been vital to work that i do both politically and culturally. I’m guessing that i didn’t fit the profile because I’m not a producer of otherwise copyrighted or open-source material, but merely a recipient – one who benefits. So much for open access. This survey will represent the opinions of people who chose to respond who fit your profile. Um, okay.

    I did, however, get to fit part of your profile being that i can chose one of the provided options for gender (question number 2). Lucky me. There are many i know who would not and i know some them hold creative commons license. Why not be inclusive here and just let folks fill in the blank?

    Point is, in my brief interaction with this survey, a lot of your people are left out. Try again.

  10. Yikes, these comments definitely scared me off. I read about the survey on Boing Boing, and came to check it out. But out of 4 comments, 50% said the survey is so poorly written they couldn’t finish and the other 50% said the survey is so poorly written they regret finishing. Doesn’t sound like good odds. I guess I won’t waste my time. Too bad.

  11. I stopped at 21%. As Ian points out, the requirement of an absolute number when “I don’t know” is the accurate answer invalidates the question (unless the intent is to measure creators’ perceptions, however wild, rather than reality).

    A previous question seeking self-identifying as amateur or professional is probably invalid, too, given the lack of specificity of what being a professional means. Does it mean the creator relies on this income entirely? Partially? Is a serious, financially independent, and talented creator who is uninterested in income from this creativity an amateur or professional? If a serious artist believes as a matter of principle in creating work that should be completely free an amateur or a professional? What if you produce both video as a professional and songs as an amateur hobbyist?

  12. Hi everyone,

    I posted a comment on the newer post about the questionnaire — concerning the questionnaire simply being too long, I wrote…

    …and others saying the survey is too long. I hear you. It’s a nuanced question, requiring fine-grained questions to get at its heart. But in hindsight, we should’ve done user testing with the questionnaire before reaching out for wide response. Apologies for the frustration and thanks for the effort of those who made it all the way through (and those who tried). If we ever do a questionnaire like this again we’ll make it better — thanks for the candid feedback and care…

    And obviously we’ll have to note and consider any problems with the questionnaire when evaluating its results.

    Thanks everyone, especially @Kit MacAllister for the too kind words. 🙂

  13. First I think this a great idea. The comments almost scared me off which would have been too bad. I went through the survey smoothly and without a hitch in about 10 minutes.

    Is the survey perfect? No, most aren’t. A bit more pretesting would be useful, never hurts to add an other option in a few places, or box for comments. Then if someone is exceptional there’s room to explain.

    There are different views on non-commercial floating around and getting clarity on this issue is good for everyone and will only strengthen Creative Commons and the community. You know when to ask and when to use and when not to. It’ll be obvious how to color inside the lines for the users of content and creators will be happier to share when it’s clear.

    Looking forward to the conversation that we’ll have as a community about this issue.

  14. Although the intentions may be honourable, I agree that the survey is FAR too long. I gave up before I’d got to 50%, and I suspect lots more have done the same. The results therefore are going to be meaningless, as you will not have the same group of people at the end as you had at the start.

    The questionairre should be split into 10 separate ones! Maybe have a general survey to get an overview, then target specific areas with additional ones. Ask participants if they agree to being contacted to answer more specific questionnaires and target groups of respondants.

    Finally, some questions ask us to rate commercial/non-commercial usage on a scale of 1 to 100. Surely a particular usage is either commercial OR non-commercial – it can’t be both.

    Hope this helps in some way.

  15. A website is commercial when there is a flow of money that is generated by the traffic of the website – that means every website with adverts or promoting products, services or commercial companies. For me as content producer that publishes under a noncommercial creative commons license this is essential – if this gets watered down in the license I will stop using CC licenses for once and all as the main motivation for using CC licenses is that you get exposure AND security that noone is earning money with your time. That means if there is a bidirectional money flow someone somewhere is earning money with your content there is no question about it and thats what I don´t want EVER. I will become a fierce opponent of CC if this is not made clear very soon in the license – this is what CC is about – sharing with security for the copyright holder that noone is earning money with your stuff at no point in the distribution chain (if you choose the noncommercial license).

  16. Hey, next time you make a survey, please don’t put every question on a separate page. It makes the survey frustrating, lengthens the total time required, and probably reduces the number of reduces substantially, too.

  17. I am non the wiser. I am an event manager. If I run a conference for a non commercial organisation (charities, public sector etc) and create a delegate registration website for them using a CC licensed photo, and charge the client for my time as an event management company, is that commercial use? I would charge the same to design the registration website whether or not I used a photo and I would not necessarily buy a photo (as they might not have the budget) if I could not use a CC photo. Arguably the user is the public sector or voluntary organisation and the use is ‘non-commercial’. I would value contributors views.

  18. @Darlene, thanks!

    @Stephen, 10 separate questionnaires would also be complex, but thanks for the feedback, you’re not alone…

    @fALk, thanks for the definitive statement. I hope you said as much on the questionnaire. If only all feedback on NC were so clear!

    @Jake, I also find multi-page questionnaires (or even articles) annoying, would prefer one long page. However, in this case the questions you see were in some cases determined by previous answers or only shown randomly — all questions on one page might not make sense and would have been really, really long.

    @Jenny, remember you always have the option of using photos and other works under CC licenses that do not contain the NC term.

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