I participated in a Creative Commons “noncommercial” survey a day or few ago.

A question from the survey:

Imagine someone approached you about using one of your works, and asked if you would allow both commercial use and noncommercial use of your work. Would you understand the question? We would like to know how you would define the difference between a “commercial use” of your work and a “noncommercial use” of your work.

After taking the survey, I was inspired to go over to Creative Commons’ Choose-a-license page and see what’s available there.  (I’d considered making the content of this blog available under a CC license, but hadn’t been able to settle on which one.)  It turns out that the two that interest me are the simple “Attribution” license and the “Attribution-Noncommercial” license.  I realized that not being sure of the meaning of the term “noncommercial” has been a barrier to me proceeding with a CC license.

My answer to the above survey question:

Actually I’m confused on this point.  I think of the difference like this: “Commercial use = selling my works directly for a profit; noncommercial use = everything else”.  But I’m afraid if I put a “noncommercial use only” license on my technical blog, then other software developers might be afraid to make use of my examples because they’re using them in the course of a for-profit operation’s business — and I don’t want to exclude this type of use!

As I said later in the survey, I hope that the folks at CC will use the input from the survey to develop helpful clarifications on what commercial vs. noncommercial uses would be:

Maybe a FAQ with several examples demonstrating what’s considered commercial use vs. what’s not. Some of the questions in this survey bring up good points here: is it commercial use if I disagree with what it’s being used for? (I don’t think that has anything to do with commercial use)  Is it commercial use if a not-for-profit does X?  If a for-profit does X?  What about ad revenues?  (That’s a topic I haven’t really thought about as applied to the commercial/noncommercial question, but I bet it’s pretty important these days.)


  1. #1 by Ben Dean on December 10, 2008 - 10:31 am

    For what it’s worth, in the past Creative Commons did not have any sort of software license. All their licenses and the wording thereof was designed specifically for “artistic works.” (Now there are certain people that argue that programming is an art but let’s not get into that.)

    But the wording of the licenses doesn’t really make sense for software. I think they had been looking at making some CC licenses for software too but at that point they’d kind of be stepping on the toes of the Free Software Foundation. I seem to remember Richard Stallman publicly condemning the CC licenses.

    Looks like they made up though:

    And there are CC wrappers for the GPL, LGPL, and BSD licenses.

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