Tipping the weight against NC clauses

from http://creativecommons.org/license/

Yesterday I was watching a presentation by Jessica Coates of Creative Commons Australia at the Local 2020 summit organised by Senator Kate Lundy called Foundations of Open. (I plan to write up my general notes from this summit tomorrow.)

Jessica showed a screenshot similar to this one of Creative Commons’ license selector form, and explained that it was designed to make choosing a license as simple as possible, with just two questions required to answer. She also mentioned that licenses with an NC clause (only licensed for non-commercial use) were used about 75% of the time.

I accept that Creative Commons is not going to drop its “pragmatic” outlook. However, I wonder if there is a way these questions could be reworded to subtly discourage people from choosing NC clauses. (And ND “no derivatives” clauses too, for that matter, although I generally think the case for allowing a ND clause is stronger for creative works, when compared to code. —Another time.)

My hunch is that when confronted with the question “Allow commercial uses of your work?”, the mental process goes something like this:

One way of changing the wording would be to invert the concept (author) allowing to restricting. So:

However, I am not really confident that this framing would result in a much different situation.

Any suggestions?

04 April, 2008 •



Great point. I’ve always had this impression but never stopped to think about it. The mental process you refer makes total sense. I don’t believe changing to “restrict” would be the ideal, it stil has the potential to create the same mindset, but it probably is an improvement, and I guess it would probably sparkle such thought less frequently… afterall nobody likes to be looked as a close-minded, selfish person, and that word does kind of ring a bell in this sense.

Waldir · 5. April 2008, 00:36


That is an improvement. A key thing to get people to think also, is that the work might be used in a larger commercial work. I think most people think, “allow commercial use?” and envision someone selling their image on the street, when it’s much more likely that the image will be used in a flier etc with attribution.

Maybe “Restrict use to non-profit entities?”

That’s not the best wording, obviously, but I think the more people think about their image being used in a larger work with attribution, and the less they envision their image ending up as stock photography (which, given share-alike clauses is pretty much completely unlikely) the better.

Judson · 5. April 2008, 03:05


I’ve thought about this problem quite a bit, and I’m just not sure that there’s any way to accomplish this with just wording. What’s needed is to educate people on what non-commercial means, practically.

On the other hand, I suppose replacing the non-commercial radio buttons with a “Click here to prevent Wikipedia and other educational sites from using your content, as well as commercial organizations” link might have the desired effect.

Tracy Poff · 5. April 2008, 07:24


Wikipedia has a standard licence – currently GFDL, (proposed to change to CC-BY-SA). This should appear on the “Choose Licence” dialogue. All other options should be on an “alternative Licenses” tab that can be viewed with an additional click.

The dialogue should clearly show which licence is recommended by Wikipedia.

If this page is to show multiple licenses then the Wikipedia recommended license should be first.
Free culture approved licenses should be next.
Non free licenses at the bottom.

joe · 5. April 2008, 18:00


NC is supposed to be about the use (I think), not the user. “Non-profit entities” can have commercial uses, and profit entities can have NC uses. So I’m not sure that makes things any simpler.

@ Tracy & Joe,
as plenty of people use CC without the need to consider Wikipedia, I doubt CC would put such a prioritised statement.

pfctdayelise · 5. April 2008, 22:35


What the hell does “tipping the weight” mean? Blah. Should have written “tipping the balance”.

pfctdayelise · 6. April 2008, 00:46


That is true, I was trying to push in that direction too much I think.

I think what Tracy says is correct, there is really no simpler wording than what CC already uses. The only solution is education.

Maybe when you select a combination creating a non-free license there could be a message or interstitial saying “This license is not considered free by the Free Software Foundation, Wikipedia, etc. Consider the following benefits of a free content license…” People could ignore it if they want, or read a short paragraph about it. Some system of education might be best. If I were creative commons I wouldn’t let that text say anything more complex than “allow commercial uses” for fear of making the license selector mad at creative commons.

Judson · 6. April 2008, 02:26


I know it; I was just trying to come up with some suitably discouraging verbiage that wouldn’t also be a lie (or too dramatically extreme).

Unfortunately, if you throw a wall of text at people at any point, they’re likely to just give up. It’d be worse for everyone to make the license-picker any more complicated. And so we are left with the nigh-impossible task of teaching people about licenses and copyright…

Tracy Poff · 7. April 2008, 09:18


I think one small change that might benefit would be putting a link in the “more info” bubble linking to a page like “the benefits of allowing commercial use”. That’s a slight improvement.

pfctdayelise · 7. April 2008, 10:52


It’s not only Creative Commons. IIrc the wording on Flickr is pretty much the same.

Flominator · 14. April 2008, 06:36

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