Talking to Creators about the NC clause

One element of working towards a world built on the commons is talking to creators about freedoms and licensing options that they have. Some creators are fine with re-use of their work by their fan base, but have just never thought of explicitly marking with a license that they are ok with that. Sometimes approaching these creators suggesting BY-SA as a nice way to do this has worked for me in the past.

But what about creators who already know about licensing, and have chosen BY-NC-SA? What strategies can we use for talking to such creators about the harms of the NC clause? To them, they’re already allowing the kind of reuse by their fans that seems common/obvious, and the NC intuitively makes sense to them in terms of keeping out the “big business” guys. (Of course, in reality it seems like the SA alone is often enough to keep out the proprietary culture purveyors.) These creators understand that they want to be friendly to others, and so need a more specific kind of information about how useful it is to allow commercial use and/or examples of uses they want to allow that are commercial in nature.


You surely know about The case for Free use: reasons not to use a Creative Commons -NC license but for anyone else reading this, the linked thing has a bunch of arguments, primarily written by Erik Moeller in 2005, though it has been tweaked by a number of people since, several of them among the tiny number of people who have visited this site, eg @wolftune and @solstag. Its “further reading” section points to a few other resources.

I’d enjoy seeing someone develop new material specifically intended and tested/iterated toward getting NC licensors to join the commons. I have three related suspicions:

  1. Successful material will might start from an understanding and even sympathy with the conceptions of fairness and prestige and professionalism creators assume go with commercial exclusivity.
  2. NC licensors are a trivial target for such material, if it existed. The biggest failure of NC is lack of adoption by many with a stake in the property-based system; non-licensors constitute a vastly larger and more important target. My pet theory about why freedom advocates get worked up about NC (and semicommons licenses generally) is that it represents an identity crisis, not that it is a problem worth expending energy on, given vastly greater problem/opportunity of unmitigated copyright.
  3. The most helpful thing will not be new arguments or new material based on the status quo, but more culturally relevant or better culturally dominant venues for which committing works to the commons is a requirement for full participation. Therefore my interest in concentrated platforms for promoting free works and commoning advertising.

But (3) is a different sort of task and regarding (2) it’s entirely possible that people reading this have some kind of comparative advantage in communicating with people who already know about free and semifree licenses, so that’s who we should attempt to communicate with despite the relative triviality of that audience. So I’d still really enjoy seeing material developed targeting NC licensors.

Towards doing that, another useful activity might be to collect stories of former NC licensors who have transitioned to using free licenses. I have a built a latent collection of these over the years, could probably put together a decent list given a few hours of searching email and the like. A complementary approach would be to do a widely publicized survey. I kind of want to do this now. :slight_smile: Thoughts?

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I could help with some transition cases.

I’m in agreement with your 3 points, Mike.

Just, beyond fairness and prestige and professionalism, depending on the audience you also have to deal with “anti-commodification”.

Some people have seen NC as a way to manifest a position of “NO to culture as a commodity”. These people fail to understand that a “non commercial license” actually does the opposite of that, as it preserves culture as a commodity where it matters most: when the small guy would rise by making a living from the commons, NC stops that; and when the big guy wants to take something over, commercial rights are right there to be bought.


I love the idea of collecting transition cases! This, along with substantial examples of desired uses hindered by NC, seems like it could be a powerful combination.