Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Two letters too many.

Two letters too many.

Credit where due: Karsten Wade blogged about this in his usual prophetic fashion about a week ago.

One of the problems with remixing Creative Commons (CC) licensed material that includes a Non-Commercial (NC) clause is that it can hurt downstream community members. People might have the mistaken impression that there is something noble in using NC, to keep people from profiting unfairly from one’s work. But letting people remix your work and then profit from it is certainly a noble goal, and rewards people who want to share their work as well.

Out of habit, I had produced a presenatation a couple of months back as CC BY-NC-SA. But imagine a Fedora project member who wanted to use it for a speaking appearance for which she was getting remunerated — even if just for room and board. The NC clause could conceivably make this foul play. There are too many instances where NC can injure the ones with whom you share to have it be useful for an open source project like Fedora.

Only today did I get my fair dose of karma, when I wanted to use a specific remix that included some CC BY-NC-SA material. My thought processes went something like this: “Great, we’ll use this for some Fedora schwag, and give most of it away. If there are leftovers we can sell them through this other channel over here so we don’t throw money and resources away… Oh wait. Curse you, NC!” I’m not going to say that NC makes CC totally useless, but I’m having a hard time seeing how it could ever be useful in the Fedora Project — not because it prevents Fedora selling things based on our assets, but because it’s another unpredictable set of shackles on an as-yet-unseen use case.


  1. While I agree in theory, leaving it open for commercial use seems like your it’s ripe for abuse. Isn’t it just as easy to email the content creator mentioned above with your potential usage to get the ok? That way everyone involved is happy. Maybe through the creator a T-Shirt as a sign of good will?

  2. @Scott Baker: One could advocate this, but remixing makes this process *harder* over time. If you’re several iterations downstream from an original work, it’s possible to end up having to contact *exponentially* more copyright owners who were involved in the creation of pieces of the work. Or exponentially more T-shirts, by your example. No, much better to avoid the whole mess IMHO. Besides, where’s the abuse as far as Fedora is concerned? We pride ourselves on all our bits being free for anyone to use for any purpose. The NC clause immediately makes that a false claim.

  3. You know, I was just thinking about this very thing too. Most videos on Red Hat’s website (I believe even including your interviews) are licensed BY-NC-ND, which is about the most non-free license you can get from Creative Commons, and is certainly not within the realm of something that we’d like in Fedora. We need to lead by example in this space, IMO.

  4. @Scott Baker: yes, he can mail to the author, but one can do that also for proprietary licensed content… according to Creative Commons the advantage of using their licenses is that you don’t have to mail the author for permission…

  5. Boy am I late on this one…I’m catching up in Liferea and I’m way behind…

    I think it’s important to stress that a CC NC licensed work is still better than one that is not CC-licensed or freely redistributable at all. Having said that, yes, attaching the NC clause to a CC-licensed does have some chilling effects in that it is not clear to some people what a commercial usage is, and perhaps that extends to all people.

    My point is that we should be embracing that someone choosing to freely license something according to CC, and then educate them on the consequences of using the NC clause, and teach them that it’s also okay for someone to make money from your work. I am willing to guess that 9 times out of 10, that is money that would have never come to the creator’s way in the first place, so most likely one is not sacrificing anything by allowing commercial usages of their work.

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