Creative Commons -NC Licenses Considered HarmfulEdit
Article status : Editing - Proofreading - Translating - edit
Report by Erik Möller
When the Creative Commons project published its first licenses in December 2002, it finally brought a sense of unity behind the free content movement. Instead of many scattered licenses, creators now have the option to pick the right license for their work using a simple tool. They only have to answer basic questions like: "Allow commercial uses? Allow modifications?"
The tool then recommends one of the licenses developed by the Creative Commons team. They are legally sane, simple documents, specially adapted for various jurisdictions. In short, the Creative Commons project has made life a lot easier for everyone wanting to share content.
One particular licensing option, however, is a growing problem for the free content community. It is the allow non-commercial use only (-NC) option. The "non-commercial use only" variants of the Creative Commons licenses are non-free, and in some ways worse than traditional copyright law -- because it can be harder to move away from them once people have made the choice.
There may be circumstances where -NC is the only (and therefore best) available option, but that number of circumstances should decrease as the business models around free content evolve. The key problems with -NC licenses are as follows:
They make your work incompatible with a growing body of free content, even if you do want to allow derivative works or combinations.
They may rule out other basic uses which you want to allow.
They support current, near-infinite copyright terms.
They are unlikely to increase the potential profit from your work, and a share-alike license serves the goal to protect your work from exploitation equally well.
Hopefully, Creative Commons will contribute to the effort of educating content creators that the seemingly simple choice of forbidding commercial use is not so simple at all.
Erik Möller 2005. This article is in the public domain. Feel free to use it for any purpose. It is also a living document whose editable main copy resides at http://www.intelligentdesigns.net/Licenses/NC. You are encouraged, but not required, to include this notice.