How does a non-commercial Creative Commons license work?
November 8, 2013 7:38 PM   Subscribe

If a work (say, a book) is licensed as a non-commercial CC, does that mean that anyone is free to make digital copies, photocopies, hardcopies, etc and redistribute it as long as they don't sell it? What about the author? Are they able to sell it for profit, after that? Can they publish it through a third party, (e.g. Harper Collins) and how does the third party get around the prohibition on commercial distribution? Maybe I'm understanding this all wrong. I'm trying to figure out if there is a license that would allow the author (and the publishers he selects) to profit from a work, but also gives people the right to copy and redistribute the work for free. If it exists, is it practical? Are there examples of publishers being willing to do this? Or does that model prevent them from making a profit by printing?
posted by brenton to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My understanding is that if you write a book and CC-NC license it, you still own the rights but the CC license explains the terms under which other people can share/use/remix it without asking for permission from you. You can still always give permission for people to do anything, as the rights holder. So you as the author could give a work a CC-NC license and then let your publisher publish it with your permission because you are the copyright owner. You can read more about these distinctions here.

There are authors who use this license though not many (at least who are names you might have heard of). Here are a few case studies: Cory Doctorow, Jim Kelly (browse for more). But yeah, the lack of exclusivity means that it's a tricky license to sell publishers on. The other big thing to think about is the ND (no derivatives) option which means that people who reprint or republish your work will have to keep it intact which is different from allowing other people to alter or remix your work.
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 PM on November 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agree with jessamyn. You can license under cc-nc terms for noncommercial use, and have separate for-profit licensing with a commercial publisher. Doing this may impact what the publisher is willing to pay, but there are no inherent conflicts with the cc license.
posted by mercredi at 9:06 PM on November 8, 2013

You're getting good answers here. But you should also consider CC-BY-SA instead of CC-NC. If you really want your work to proliferate the NC license is an impediment to that, because "non-commercial use" isn't clearly definable and so it's a deterrent to people with good motivations who want to share your work but maybe e.g. also want to cover their own costs. The truth is that for most people's stuff there's not a huge commercial upside anyway, so the risk you're mitigating by using NC is very, very small.
posted by Susan PG at 1:36 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers all. This helps. Susan PG, what you said about CC-BY-SA does appeal to me, but I'm wondering how a publisher would feel about it? I guess I'm just trying to figure out of it's possible to mix the traditional scheme for profiting off a work with the whole CC world. Theoretically, they seem like they should be able to play well together, but there does seem to be a tension there that hasn't been fully worked out.

I wonder if there is a need for another type of CC or if it is just a matter of publishers realizing that CC works can be profitable. Anyway, thanks for the thoughts!!
posted by brenton at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2013

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