A Gap in the Creative Commons Licences

The “Non-Commercial (NC)” aspect of the Creative Commons Licences has been discussed a great deal, and there’s always been a lot of confusion over how to apply it (is simply having Google Adwords on a personal blog enough to trigger the NC clause?); there was even an extensive survey a year or two ago from Creative Commons on the NC clause & usage thereof.

There’s another, closely related gap in the CC schemes that I’ve just run into: there’s no way to specify “this product may itself be used in commercial products, but may not be sold by itself”.

The use case I have is a PDF package of gradient backdrops for photography which I’ve created; it’s a basic PDF of Inkscape-created coloured backdrops, mostly aimed at photography of wargaming miniatures. I’d be happy to have these used by a wargaming company for webstore/catalog pictures (or by anyone else, of course), but I don’t want the PDF (or printed backdrops from it) sold on it’s own… and there’s no way to make that distinction clear with existing CC Licences.

Anyone else got any other interesting licencing edge cases they’ve run into, or suggestions for cases like this?

By Brian Burger

Started this site way, way back in November 1998, when the web was young. It's still here, and so am I.

4 replies on “A Gap in the Creative Commons Licences”

Maybe we should make a No Commercial Derivatives variant and limit NonCommercial to just the item in question?

We use the NC clause for our webcomic, but it does feel like overkill in the way that it stifles “minor” commercial use in order to prevent significant commercial (ab)use. Unfortunately there’s a trade-off between simplicity and granularity – you can’t specify every possible use-case without losing the simple appeal of the CC licenses.

Although we use NC, what we actually mean is “don’t be an arse”. A while back I tried to define what we mean by that, but it turns out that although it’s easy to understand in general terms, it’s not so easy to specify:

Are the terms of the CC license(s) themselves open to be re-used and re-mixed? If so, what is preventing you from using the content of the CC license, modifying it to suit your own needs and licensing your work under your own tweaked-CC license?

I actually have no idea what terms the actual elements of the various CC licenses are available under… the problem with “rolling your own” is that it wouldn’t really be a CC-lic at that point, as it wouldn’t have CC backing… it would just be yet another license in a world already overflowing with them.

I like “don’t be an arse”, and I really like the “No Commercial Derivatives” idea – I think “NCD” captures most accurately what I was aiming at in my post.

Great writeup on the issue, MarkC.

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