Talk:DiscussionDraftNonCommercial Guidelines

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Has a new draft of this been proposed or agreed on?

Here's where I need the most clarification:

Does use by any commercial site or entity equate commercial usage? For example, if uses a pic, even with attribution, and provides it for free would this be commercial use? What about a blog with heavy advertising in the sidebars? What about personal blogs on blogger - each page links back to the for profit main?


29 April 2007

This discussion page is very useful and helps a lot to clarify the situation. I recommend a few additions are made to clarify the use of NC materials by “commercial” organisations due to the following:

  1. Most public sector institutions (i.e. those that receive money from their governments and do not pay tax) also offer educational programmes outside of their subsidised offerings and therefore have a commercial element in their operation. These programmes include non-formal education, consulting services and registering “international students” or those who would not normally qualify to receive the local country’s subsidies. A public sector institution normally joins the private sector as soon as it starts working in another country where it does not receive subsidies from that government.
  2. Commercial enterprises that make, say, a 2% “profit” and reinvest this in the educational business might be considered similar to a public sector institution that makes a 2% “surplus” and reinvests this in its educational operation.
  3. Small colleges are needed in many countries to accommodate hundreds of millions of youth who will not see the inside walls of even a secondary school classroom in their lives (approximately 100 million people in each of South Asia and Africa). These “private” colleges are essential in trying to reach more people, they do not receive help from governments and must charge comparable prices to “public” institutions which receive subsidies.

We need to differentiate “commercial use” by a public or private sector institution that makes minimal or no profit from a commercial enterprise that pays a dividend to shareholders. This may be likened to comparing a “private” community radio station (“private” because it receives no subsidy, as would a public broadcaster) from an international news service that is listed on a stock exchange and pays dividends to its investors.

In the case of the truly commercial operation (the institution that pays dividends to shareholders), attorneys have informally told me that it would be a reasonably straight forward accounting task to calculate a royalty, payable to the originator of the relevant pieces content, on the portion of dividends that have emanated from the use of NC materials. This could be automatically calculated and forward to the originator of the materials that carry the NC clause. Others institutions would not need to worry about the NC clause because they are unaffected by it. I have been told that institutions may do the following without concern when using NC materials received from others:

  • charge registration fees to learners,
  • recover the costs of the duplication of the materials from learners or other sources,
  • recover overhead costs incurred in the customisation, duplication and distribution of materials and,
  • if a private sector institution does not earn a net profit from the use of the materials marked “NC”, it would not be liable to pay anything to the originator of the material.

What is one to believe?

Another challenge we face in education is the mixing of licenses in a new work. Some Wiki sites limit the kinds of licenses that may be used on the site. This limits what may be incorporated when creating a new piece of study material. Simple methods for mixing and tagging sections of educational materials with different licenses are needed to speed up the process of creating new learning content.

Going beyond educational institutions to publishers, some publishers might be interested in releasing older editions of some books under the NC clause. If they understand that this can promote the sale of new editions while helping 200+ million people, but don’t want other companies to make a fortune on their goodwill, they might just be prepared to share content while using a copyright agreement with the NC clause. We need, however, to be sure to clarify what can and cannot be done with these CC contracts, especially when the NC clause is applied.

The document is a welcome addition and adds clarity. Could we add a little more to clarify the above points? Either CC needs to create the clarity on the NC clause, or this will be done on a country-by-country basis through the courts, by process of precedent! Personally, I wish CC would create the clarity and write this into the contract.
--Paul 00:08, 30 April 2007 (UTC)


2 May 2007

Paul invited me to add my opion on the NC from the perspective of the Open eLearning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) project,, that aims to promote the production, sharing and re-use of Open Educational Resources in Europe and beyond.

For our project content we use the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. We include the NC clause to indicate that we do not want others to benefit commercially from material we create and make freely available in the framework of the project.

The costs of the OLCOS project are 75% co-funded under the eLearning Programme of the European Union, hence, the partners in the OLCOS project pay 25% themselves, but do not have the intention to use the content commercially.

Yet, I do not see much danger that others will re-use our content commercially:

  • firstly, we provide it for free, i.e. people interested in the content can download it free of charge from our project website, or the WikiEducator where we make available tutorials on how to create, re-use and share e-learning material,;
  • secondly, we have the "share-alike" clause included in the CC license we use, which - in principle - obliges others to provide changed content under identical terms.

If an organisation offers educational services and uses our content, I understand that this is not just about presenting our material -- which, by the way, anybody may do as the CC licenses, including the ones with NC allow others some basic uses, namely to copy the work, to distribute it, to display or perform it publicly, to make digital public performances of it (e.g. webcasting) and to shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy.

Rather, if an organisation offers educational services such as a learning programme I would expect that this involves some form of learner support, teaching/tutoring, some customization of the content to better adapt it to the learning purposes, etc.

Therefore, regarding the points mentioned by Paul, I think that in the context of such a learning programme it is o.k. if the organisation:

  • charges registration fees for the learning programme,
  • recovers the costs of the duplication of the materials from learners or other sources,
  • recovers overhead costs incurred in the customisation, duplication and distribution of materials.

However, regarding the points 2+3 important questions will be

  • if duplication means physical reproduction on paper, e.g. handouts; because, also the learners themselves would need to reproduce it,
  • if customisation means some real "educational added value"; because this requires additional work, that somebody must pay - though, I would expect that the overhead is adequate.

What we certainly would not like to see is that others just aggregate freely available digital content and charge learners for downloading it from their website or receiving it pushed to them (e.g. as e-mail attachment) in the framework of an information service contract.

Regarding the model of paying a royalty back to a provider of NC marked content, I think

  • that this would make sense mainly with larger volumes of educational content, i.e. large educational organisations that service many.
  • an other possibility may appear to be highly specialised content that is used in expensive courses. However, I would think that in such cases the commercial educational course provider would want to establish a contract with the content creators before using the content and maybe seek a longer-term cooperation with them.

Best wishes

Guntram Geser, Salzburg Research (OLCOS project co-ordinator)