NC ND discussion

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Proposed action items

Why not something more radical?

There has been calls from some individuals and organizations that Creative Commons should stop offering non-free licenses altogether. In practical terms this would mean that Creative Commons would not version the non-free licenses (again, BY-NC, BY-ND, BY-NC-SA, BY-NC-ND) licenses to 4.0. There are both pros and cons to this option.


  • It would increase interoperability with other pools of content and with other CC-licensed works; essentially, it increases the ease of remixing by reducing number of incompatible licenses.
  • It makes the clearest statement in support of a commons aligned with the Definition of Free Cultural Works and the Open Definition.
  • It would unify the free culture movement to be able to focus on more important issues.
  • It would simplify the task of educating rightsholders about why a free license is the right choice.
  • It would solve criticisms/confusion about the definition of "NonCommercial" (although these criticisms would still be present for pre-4.0 versions).
  • Works already licensed under the non-free licenses will still be available under those licenses in pre-4.0 versions; e.g. dropping the non-free licenses from 4.0 would have no effect on already-shared works.


  • It's the most drastic option and would upset communities of non-free license users or cause potential adopters to reconsider using CC licenses altogether. (It risks alienating many major CC adopters, like OCW projects, who use non-free licenses such as BY-NC-SA.)
    • It would hinder a community of users whose business model depends on NonCommercial from upgrading to 4.0, including musicians, photographers, and others that use NonCommercial licenses so that they can still collect royalties from collecting societies.
      • CC rejects potential users that want more restrictions. CC doesn't have an "all rights reserved" option, either.
    • It cuts off a potential entry path for people new to open licensing, at least those who want to use 4.0 NonCommercial licenses. But, would this group use 3.0 non-free licenses, or simply not use CC at all?
      • CC's mission is to maximize creative freedom, which means pushing everyone towards a free license. The non-free licenses seem to actually reinforce the idea that proprietary licenses are good, and do not give users a reason to switch to free ones. They are more of a hindrance than an entry point.
        • It does not help free licensed art to keep people from starting off with a choice which seems safe to them. Remember that even Josh Woodward, who nowadays offers his albums under cc by started out with cc by-nc-sa. That was his first safe step. When he found that his work wasn’t abused, but the NC hindered people from reusing his work (=free advertising), he left out the NC. But being able to start with NC was an important first step: That brought him into the commons. Obviously he then realized that he wanted more commons.
  • It opens the door to a new license steward for non-free licenses, if they can provide a solution as good as or better than CC 3.0 licenses.
    • The door is not open. CC is too well established. It is also irrelevant. It would be beneficial for non-free licenses to be done under an org that does not claim to aim to maximize sharing and creativity.
  • It creates perception problems, such that 4 of its licenses (the non-free) should not be used (after 10 years of support), or that CC licenses are not suitable for mainstream adoption.
    • Better late than never. CC should not compromise its mission for having licenses that appeal to the "mainstream" if the mainstream mindset is the problem. CC should work to undo that.


Not versioning the non-free CC licenses to 4.0 is seen as less desirable, for the following reasons:

  • There is a potential that we would end porting of the licenses in 4.0 (this would mean that there is only 1 set of international licenses, with no licenses ported to individual jurisdictions). However, if we are set on this because we want to create a more internationally applicable license, then not versioning the non-free licenses and suggesting that the community should just use the version 3.0 licenses seems contradictory and we’d lose the benefits of having licensors upgrade to 4.0.
  • Many CC affiliates around the world have told us that not offering the non-free (or at least the NonCommercial) licenses would be detrimental to their outreach to potential adopters in their jurisdiction.

Improve information about which CC licenses align with definitions of "Free licenses"

  • Current situation is that we link to from the "Approved for Free Cultural Works" badge. You'll see this badge on the BY and BY-SA license deeds, as well as the CC0 deed. The web page is not as clear as it could be, and that there are other definitions to which the Free licenses (BY, BY-SA, CC0) align, notably the Open Definition ( We also already mark the deeds and license text page headers in different colors: green for Free licenses, yellow for non-free licenses (BY-NC, BY-ND, BY-NC-SA, BY-NC-ND).
    • Action item: Develop a web page on that describes the definitions to which the Free licenses (BY, BY-SA licenses, CC0) are aligned; this page will be linked from the "Approved for Free Cultural Works" badge on the deeds and license chooser.

Revive the “license spectrum” graphic

  • Current situation is that the current CC web assets could do a better job at explaining the licenses along a spectrum of "openness"; we used to have a simple graphic on, but it is no longer present.
    • Action item: Develop a license spectrum graphic for display on the CC site, probably on where the 6 CC licenses and Public Domain tools are placed along a spectrum of “more open” to “less open”; indicate high profile users of each license along the spectrum. One good recent example is the spectrum infographic from It could be repurposed for our needs.
    • Problem: Openness is not a spectrum. Permissive vs copyleft has practical differences, but proprietary licenses (NC and ND) are not free or open and should not be represented as such.
      • There are two axis: Permissive vs. Assured and Proprietary vs. Free. cc by-sa is Assured Free. cc-sa-nc and cc-nd-* are Assured Proprietary. cc by is Permissive Free. (I’m not happy with the word assured, but neither with permissive: Assured: Make sure that all content which profits from your work is free, too. Permissive: Allow bootstrapping unfree works on your free works).

Provide descriptive examples of adoptions of Free and non-free licenses

  • Current situation is that messaging on the Creative Commons website and communication from CC in general does not provide useful examples of which licenses are used in various contexts and domains. A current tension is that on the one hand Creative Commons promotes individual choice so that licensors can adopt the CC license that they feel is most appropriate to their needs. On the other hand, there is a call for CC to more proactively guide the decision-making process (by providing useful information and assistance) and encourage more open licensing (Free licenses) in certain situations, such as for publicly funded scientific research and educational materials.
  • Action item: Develop copy for the CC website so that it is reiterated that CC provides a spectrum of license choices (and connect this with the license spectrum graphic that will be developed). CC should better describe how some licenses facilitate specific activities and actions, and describe how licenses constrain certain actions. All this will be done with the goal of providing better education and guidance to help licensors make the best decision to fit their needs.

Gather feedback about changing the name of "NonCommercial" to "Commercial Rights Reserved"

  • Current situation: the way the "NonCommercial" license operates is often misunderstood by licensors and reusers, in part because its name is unclear. One proposal made is to change the name of the license from "NonCommercial" to "Commercial Rights Reserved", to better reflect the function of the license. There is a draft wiki page expanding on the arguments at Commercial Rights Reserved.
  • Action item: Gather feedback from the community and within CC on the desirability and impact of a potential name change, so CC may reach a decision before the launch of the 4.0 license suite.
  • There is danger that there will be massive objection from the existing users of the non-free licenses, who may simply stop using CC licenses altogether.
  • CC would be seen as a poor license steward, as not versioning the non-free license would acknowledge that there is something wrong with the non-free licenses, which we’ve been supporting since the beginning of CC.