[okfn-discuss] Re: Updates to NC essay

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Fri Feb 2 11:43:33 UTC 2007

Erik Moeller wrote:
> Hello Rufus,
> I've considerably revised my essay on NC licensing with some new
> arguments .. I'd be interested in your thoughts:
> http://intelligentdesigns.net/index.php?title=Licenses/NC&diff=1734&oldid=1720 
> I would really like this to become as complete as possible, so please
> let me know if you can think of any other arguments I should address.

Good to hear from you and I'm glad you are preparing an updated version 
of your essay (which, by the way. was one of the sources I used in my 
first piece on this issue[1]). The NC 'problem', by which I mean the 
unnecessary or inappropriate use of the NC restriction, is a serious one 
which I, and others at the open knowledge foundation, have run into 
repeatedly over the last year. Having read your essay I think you do an 
good job of covering the arguments. I do have a few comments which I 
list below.



PS: as I think this might be of interest to others here at the Open 
Knowledge Foundation I hope you will not mind me cc'ing our discuss list.

## Comments

1. On a minor point I'd suggest s/free culture/open knowledge/g as I 
think the themes run wider than simply those producing 'cultural' works 
(for example it applies to those releasing data as well).

2. I'm not sure about the item on nc supporting almost infinite 
copyright terms and think it might be better to drop it

3. When choosing a NC license there are costs and benefits vis a vis 
using a truly 'open/free' license (such as by-sa or by or GPL or MIT or 
...). The real problem with NC is that it becomes a default that people 
use automatically and even though the costs usually outweigh the 
benefits (both for themselves and society). They usually do so because 
they have an (understandable but misguided) attitude of the kind "I 
don't want someone exploiting my work without me getting a cut". As 
summarized in [2]:

"With a 'copyrighted culture' you've got an overly restrictive (and
overly extended) default that creates huge transactional burdens and
complexity. So too with restrictions on commercial use: we create a 
bunch of restrictions -- less burdnesome than with traditional copyright 
to be sure -- but burdensome nevertheless that in /many cases/ are just 
acting as obstacles while doing little for the producers of the work. 
Sure, just like full copyright, nc provisisons give the creator more 
control over the use of their work but it's a control with large 
attendant costs for the community and often few benefits for the creator."

4. Costs of using NC (you cover most of these in your essay but I think 
it is worth relisting them here):

   1. Incompatibility with other licenses (breaking up the 'commons')[1] 
-- you deal with this admirably
   2. Need for others to seek permission for commercial uses is 
burdensome (very similar to issues with normal copyright)[2][4]
   3. Commercial exclusion and may exclude many uses that one would wish 
to allow (e.g. performance of a NC-licensed play text in a student 
   4. May reduce the degree of dissemination of the work

5. Benefits of using NC (again you cover most of these):

   1. I'll make money from my work which I wouldn't otherwise
     * somtimes true, sometimes not but probably overestimated [2]
     * often can achieve same end with share-alike license [1]

   2. The 'integrity' argument: I want to prevent people (e.g. 'evil 
corporations') exploiting my work in ways I wouldn't want (see [3])
     * rather dog-in-the-manger
     * leads to large-inefficiencies -- commercial organisations may be 
rather better than individuals at doing things such as printing books [3a].

## References

Two articles dealing with this specific issue. The first references your 
original essay and is quite general while the second is particular 
interesting as is summarizes a mailing list discussion on the subject:

[1]: http://blog.okfn.org/2006/04/24/removing-the-nc/
[2]: http://blog.okfn.org/2006/05/02/removing-the-nc-contd/

There was also another thread started by a discussion with Ron Severdia 
of PlayShakespeare:


A response to a comments from Anna of transmission.cc relating 
specifically to the use of NC for films:


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