Creative Commons' Branding Confusion

from the NC-stands-for-Not-Copyleft dept

About a year and a half ago I released my film Sita Sings the Blues under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. That license allows truly free distribution, including commercial use, as long as the free license remains in place. But my experience is that most people see the words "Creative Commons" and simply assume the license is Non-Commercial — because the majority of Creative Commons licenses they’ve seen elsewhere have been Non-Commercial.

This is a real problem. Some artists have re-released Sita remixes under Creative Commons Non-Commercial licenses. Many bloggers and journalists assume the non-commercial restrictions, even when the license is correctly named:

The film was made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, allowing third parties to share the creative content for non-commercial purposes freely as long as the author of the content is attributed as the creator of the work. —Frontline, India’s National Magazine

Initially I tried to explain what "ShareAlike" means, and asked "Sita" remixers to please switch to ShareAlike, per the terms of the ShareAlike license under which I released it. I felt like an ass; I don’t want to be a licensing cop. After a while, mis-identifications of the project’s license became so widespread I gave up trying to correct them. "Creative Commons" means "Non-Commercial" to most people. Fighting it is a sisyphean task.

So I’m stuck with a branding problem. As long as I use any Creative Commons license, most people will think it prohibits commercial use. Hardly anyone seems to register, let alone understand, CC-SA. Worse, those who do notice the ShareAlike marker combine it with Non-Commercial restrictions on their re-releases, which compounds the confusion (CC-NC-SA is the worst license I can imagine).

ShareAlike is an imperfect solution to copyright restrictions, as it imposes one restriction of its own: a restriction against imposing any further restrictions. It’s an attempt to use copyright against itself. As long as we live in a world wherein everything is copyrighted by default, I will use ShareAlike or some other Copyleft equivalent to attempt to maintain a "copyright-free zone" around my works. In a better world, there would be no automatic copyright and thus no need for me to use any license at all. Should that Utopia come about, I will remove all licenses from all my work. Meanwhile I attempt to limit other peoples’ freedom to limit other peoples’ freedom.

It would be nice if the Creative Commons organization did something to address this branding confusion. We suggested re-branding ShareAlike licenses as CC-PRO, but given that Creative Commons’ largest constituency is users of Non-Commercial licenses, it seems unlikely (but not impossible!) that they would distinguish their true Copyleft license with a "pro" brand.

If only Creative Commons offered this!

It would also be nice if everyone, including and especially representatives of Creative Commons, referred to their licenses by their names, instead of just "Creative Commons." "Thank you for using a Creative Commons license," they tell me. You’re welcome; I would thank you for calling it a ShareAlike license. Almost every journalist refers to all 7 licenses as simply "Creative Commons licenses." And so in the popular imagination, my ShareAlike license is no different from a Non-Commercial, No-Derivatives license.

This branding crisis came to a head recently when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation banned all Creative Commons licensed music in its shows:

The issue with our use of Creative Commons music is that a lot of our content is readily available on a multitude of platforms, some of which are deemed to be ‘commercial’ in nature (e.g. streaming with pre-roll ads, or pay for download on iTunes) and currently the vast majority of the music available under a Creative Commons license prohibits commercial use.

In order to ensure that we continue to be in line with current Canadian copyright laws, and given the lack of a wide range of music that has a Creative Commons license allowing for commercial use, we made a decision to use music from our production library in our podcasts as this music has the proper usage rights attached. link

The Creative Commons organization wants to get the CBC to separate out its different licenses. They could help by calling their licenses by their different names. If the Creative Commons organization itself calls them all "Creative Commons Licenses," how can they expect others to distinguish the licenses from each other?


Perhaps Creative Commons should only offer the Non-Commercial/No Derivatives licenses everyone associates with the name. Then they could create a new name/brand for their Free licenses. FreeCommons? CultureSource? CopyLove?

Meanwhile, I’m wondering how to clearly communicate my work is COPYLEFT. In addition to the CC-SA license, if there’s room I write "COPYLEFT, ALL WRONGS REVERSED". Unfortunately, the term "Copyleft" is growing increasingly meaningless as well. For example, Brett Gaylor’s mostly excellent film RIP: A Remix Manifesto gets a lot of things right, but it misunderstands and misuses the term "copyleft". Copyleft actually means this:

the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work. In other words, copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well. -Wikipedia

But in RIP it means this:

Non-Commercial restrictions are NOT Copyleft!

See that dollar sign with the slash in it? That means Non-Commercial restrictions, which are most definitely NOT Copyleft.


Anyone introduced to the word "Copyleft" in that film will have no idea what Copyleft actually means in terms of licenses.

I need a license that people understand. I’m tempted by the WTFPL but I would have to fork it to add a copyleft provision. The Do Whatever You Want And Don’t Restrict Others From Doing Whatever They Want Public License? WTFDROPL?

Are there any other useable Copyleft licenses out there that aren’t associated with non-commercial restrictions? I’m open to suggestions.

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Comments on “Creative Commons' Branding Confusion”

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Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Cultural diversity

Copyleft licensing worked for software primarily because:

  • Licensing legalese can be as convoluted as software (though law!=logic) and coders could discern the copyleft principle.
    Software is fundamentally derivative ? if the original author isn?t modifying it, another one is.
  • For the rest of culture, artists and the artistic process are often a little bit more organic in nature.

Until copyright (and patent) is abolished there are only those two things the artist can do: attach something to the art that persuades the recipient they won?t end up in jail like Emmanuel Nimley if they point their iPhone at it, and ideally make it clear that this isn?t a one-off act of mercenary expediency, that the artist is indeed committed to liberating their audience (will neither sue, nor enable them to be sued, for taking liberties prohibited by copyright).

This is one of the reasons why I created The Free Culture Logo ? a way of indicating that a work of art was ?free culture? ? no ifs or buts. Moreover, even the logo itself is free culture, just an ideogram free to evolve to the taste of each artist that touched it. The fclogo site is even a wiki. Just how free can you get?

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cultural diversity

Professionals are free to produce and submit a professional logo.

Serious people are free to produce and submit a serious logo.

Professionals who want to be take seriously are free to produce and submit a seriously professional logo.

Given that no-one wants to come across as sloppy and one dimensional, I doubt that anyone’s going to use the logo I submitted. Indeed, I hoped it would spur people to submit logos they’d be happy to adorn their work with. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:


create a new license called the shareit.useit
use the terms you wish or copy( lol ) the terms of the license and make any changes you wish but make sure its what you want.

I give royalty free , commercial non-commercial use of stuff i do cause if i make something and share it via the web i want everyone to be able to use it and if you come up with a way to make money GOOD FOR YOU. I don’t even care about attribution.

A true artist does not care of fame and ego.

foobar (profile) says:

I think the problem is that people’s intentions are far more nuanced than either “no commercial use at all” or “any commercial use you like,” but there’s no way to articulate that.

I think the vast majority of CC-NC licensed works are really CC-NC-unless-you-give-me-a-cut works. There just needs to be a low friction way to do that.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My intentions are pretty well articulated by ShareAlike. Do whatever you want and don’t restrict others from doing whatever they want.

The Non-Commercial licenses convey exactly what you wrote, “CC-NC-unless-you-give-me-a-cut”. That’s how they are supposed to work: like copyright, but not punishing people for making backup copies, or giving copies to their friends. And like copyright, those works end up being used a lot less because of the restrictions.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: One is worse

For my writing, no concern at all.

For my art, concerns about monopolies around re-uses. I’ve agonized over this:

Excerpt (follow link for illustrations & active hypertext):

Unfortunately many useful Public Domain works are snatched right out of the Public Domain via copyrighted “derivative works”. Take the comic above. If you changed the background color on panel 3 from reddish-gray to lime green, you could say you’ve made a new work and copyright the result. I don’t mind modifications like changing colors, in fact I encourage them; but I abhor monopolies, and the thought of someone then locking up the work in this way is troubling. Certainly the source would remain in the Public Domain. But if someone else modified the source in a similar way, being likewise inspired to change the color of panel 3 to lime green, they could be sued by the jackass that copyrighted his lime-green-panel-3′ed version.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is in the Public Domain, and technically you can still build on it. But if your “derivative work” too closely resembles Disney’s, they will sue your ass. The laws don’t recognize parallel evolution, nor do the tiny shriveled minds of the corporate executives who wrote them. Thus, although the exact text of Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland is PD, it’s no longer “free” to build on thanks to corporate monopolies on derivative works.

Much as I want to let go entirely, I fear that could be socially irresponsible. Which is also why using no license at all is not really an option. In our world, everything is copyrighted, whether it displays the © symbol or not, whether it’s registered or not, whether it’s attributed or not. Everything is “owned” by someone. Therefore unless something is very clearly marked as Free, it is assumed to be Owned. No license at all would make it impossible for would-be re-users to determine whether the work is legally safe to use.

A friend pointed out that the State gets into everything. Just because I don’t invoke repressive copy restrictions directly, doesn’t mean they don’t affect my work indirectly. Copyright affects everything, whether it’s copyrighted or not. Art is born free, but is everywhere in chains.

Another friend pointed out that my desire to “let go” is still desire. Choosing CC-o/Public Domain to experience the thrill of “selflessness” may actually be more selfish than choosing strong copyleft.

I want my art to stay free. How to achieve that under our current copyright regime, is quite a dilemma.

I’m conflicted, obviously.

SteelWolf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 One is worse

This is the same issue I’m currently struggling with – it applies not just in art, but in science.

Science is perhaps the ultimate situation where folks should be “sharing alike,” and yet so often things get classed as “pooperty” and buried.

I want to see my work (writing, art, research, whatever) shared and used by others in applications both commercial and non-commercial. What I’m afraid of is an individual or organization using copyright or patent on a derivative of my work to turn around and lock everybody else (including myself) back out.

Perhaps not such a big deal with something like writing, but in science I could see a biotech company doing exactly this.

Karl (profile) says:


As AC said above, the only thing I can think of is the GNU Free Documentation License. However, its purpose is for instructional text (it refers explicitly to Front-Cover Texts, for instance).

For the moment, I’m afraid your best option is to stick with CC-BY-SA.

Of course, as I’m sure you can guess, I’m a big fan of CC anyway. Not only do I think it’s better to stick with a “big tent” in the face of expanding copyrights, but there’s also the inevitable issue of license proliferation.

I think a better approach is to continue to contact journalists and users when they make this mistake. Maybe that’s not terribly helpful advice, but it can only strengthen the understanding of ShareAlike and Copyleft, which is good for everyone.

Nina Paley (profile) says:


I think a better approach is to continue to contact journalists and users when they make this mistake.

But there are just too many people making that mistake. It’s like when people start using a non-word that spreads like wildfire. What you have then is a new word, or a new use of an old word. Then you have to stop seeing it as a mistake, and accept the meaning of the word has changed. This is the brander’s dilemma: Kleenex means something now that the Kleenex corporation doesn’t want it to mean (for Trademark reasons). Me running around correcting everyone would put me in league with the Trademark nazis.

The phrase/name/brand “Creative Commons” is coming to mean Non-Commercial. It doesn’t matter that that’s incorrect – it’s increasingly used to mean Non-Commercial in the popular voice. Language is a living thing, and we can’t control it. It belongs to the Zeitgeist. I’m instead seeking another word.

Karl (profile) says:


I think you’re not seeing the root of the problem. The “non-commercial” nature of CC licenses is really nothing new – the GPL is often similarly confused by people who don’t realize that it doesn’t prevent commercial use. Although you have a point that the CC-NC licenses might be confusing the issue (guilt by association) enough other commerce-friendly licenses have had the same problem that I think the issue goes deeper than that.

I think you are fighting against a propaganda machine, in the form of media companies that purvey anything that’s not “all right reserved” as “non-commercial”. For decades, increasingly lop-sided copyright law and the propaganda surrounding it has persuaded people to believe that all free licenses are non-commercial.

I don’t think that forking or creating your own license would do help – I think you’ll end up fighting the exact same battle.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 GNU FDL vs CC-BY-SA

Nina, where you present the CC-BY-SA also right then and there state “(a) this license has share-alike requirements (b) but you can also use the work for commercial purposes — just remember that you have to share back!” Repeat this message everywhere you place CC-BY-SA.

Like the other commenter said and judging from the software world, I’d say that many companies will want to confuse the issue. The GPL is strong in part because many developers use it and know what it means “tit-for-tat” and so collectively defend it.. oh, and RMS and the FSF 🙂 You will have an easier time once enough artist have been using CC-By-SA because they understand the implications and value it. There is strength in numbers. It will take time and the brand point you made is probably a reason why it might be taking longer than expected. We should consider a new license as you are arguing; however, in any of those cases, it might still be a good idea to license in multiple ways since most share-alike licenses will likely be incompatible with each other (I once made a brief attempt to create a flexible share-alike license).

Karl (profile) says:


But there are just too many people making that mistake.

Well, perhaps there is a reason for that?

If people think it means “NonCommercial,” maybe that’s because they want it to mean “NonCommercial.” The Masses Have Spoken and all that, and they prefer to keep money out of their art. Maybe you should listen to them?

Also, has there ever been an issue where someone breaks the -NC clause of a derivative work? That is, right now is there actually a problem to solve?

In any case – both you and Mike have advocated (rightly) that “name and shame” is better than lawyering up. I also believe it’s better than either license proliferation, or (more importantly) fragmenting the free culture movement.

I think it would be better to simply reproduce a “Hall of Shame” on your website, or something, rather than change licenses. And, of course, speak out about this topic as you have been.

Obviously that’s just my opinion.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: GNU FDL vs CC-BY-SA

Jeez, I don’t want to shame artists who are re-using SSTB! I want to encourage them. They mean well, they just can’t wrap their heads around copyleft. Re-releasing under an -NC license is annoying, but it’s not driven by malice and does not merit shaming. It’s just license confusion.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 GNU FDL vs CC-BY-SA

I wish I’d been doing that all along – it would bolster my argument! But the various mis-licensed remix art projects that come to mind are in random places and I haven’t kept a list of them. And I’ve foolishly only been keeping URLs of articles that get the facts mostly right, not all the ones that get them wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

According to Wikipedia, the $50k music license you have for Sita allowed you to sell only one pressing of 4999 DVDs, and the free downloads are allowed as promotional copies. If there are no restrictions on commercial use, then why don’t you sell many more DVDs? Further, how can someone legally make derivatives and do commercial things with them without negotiating their own license for the music?

Anonymous Coward says:

CC tries to be to many things to to many people.

It got the branding wrong.

I fear the only solution is to make a new license that incorporates what people want really.

Maybe the Free Software Foundation and the GNU can help on that front.

Although I believe the GPL also applies to written text since and other forms of media maybe with a little tweaks here and there.

Other licenses:

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, but that might be a sort of minimum-requirement flexible share-alike license.. you just have to be sure you like that minimum requirement set.

I worry that people might create a derivative that allows anything (respects Free Art license), and then create a derivative of that without respecting the Free Art license. If the Free Art license doesn’t stop that, then maybe it could be more clear.. also if you slap on a copyleft license to the derivative, that ends the flexibility there and then.

.. so maybe the Free Art license (if it isn’t) should be more clear that (a) recursively respecting of these values is itself a value to be respected (and give an example), (b) recursively respecting a variation in license terms that adhere to this license is a value to be respected as well, (c) ….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Thats completely out of context! Here the whole provion and the definition of FAL compatibly:

Incorporating this work into a larger work that is not subject to the Free Art License shall not challenge the rights granted by this license.
If the work can no longer be accessed apart from the larger work in which it is incorporated, then incorporation shall only be allowed under the condition that the larger work is subject either to the Free Art License or a compatible license.

A license is compatible with the Free Art License provided:
it gives the right to copy, distribute, and modify copies of the work including for commercial purposes and without any other restrictions than those required by the respect of the other compatibility criteria;
it ensures proper attribution of the work to its authors and access to previous versions of the work when possible;
it recognizes the Free Art License as compatible (reciprocity);
it requires that changes made to the work be subject to the same license or to a license which also meets these compatibility criteria.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Thats completely out of context!

I didn’t think so, but I’m probably confused about what the license is trying to accomplish.

Is it that compilations don’t have to be shared under the FAL, but derivative works do? The “no longer be accessed” bit is the part that gets me.

I’m sure it’s clearer in the original French.

Anonymous Coward says:

Avoid negatives

If the problem is with the “NC” (non-commercial) people seem to assume is there, go on the offensive: plaster RIGHT NEXT TO your “CC-BY-SA” or whatever you use a BIG splashy “COMMERCIAL USES ALLOWED”. Since you are the creative type, you will probably either be able to design a really catchy logo to go with it or know someone who can do it for you. The trick is to always have it RIGHT NEXT TO the CC markings, and be REALLY VISIBLE and HARD TO MISS.

Yes, it is technically redundant, but the perception it affords is not. If you get enough people to use it, you can counter the “Creative Commons == CC-BY-NC” meme with a new “Creative Commons plus CATCHY LOGO == CC-BY-SA” counter-meme.

IMNSHO, the problem with CC is that it is a bunch of bland monochromatic circles with opaque sigils within them (or worse, cryptic two-letter codes). As is well known in user interface design circles, people do not read text in messages boxes; they see only a bunch of squiggles. I believe the same is what you are seeing here; people see only “CC” plus a bunch of squiggles, and assume “all Creative Commons is alike”. What you would be doing then is to add, on top of the “Creative Commons small circle small circle small circle”, a BIG “PLUS COMMERCIAL USE ALLOWED”, which no one can miss. With luck, you can turn it into a movement, and the best part is that no cooperation from the Creative Commons people is needed at all.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Follow What They Do, Not What They Say

Is it really a problem? Say somebody uses one of these derivatives of Sita in a commercial way, and the artist who created that derivative from your work tries to put their lawyer on to it to stop it, at that point they will discover rather quickly that they had no right to impose the non-commercial restriction.

In other words, when it comes down to it, your licence conditions will be honoured where it matters?in the deed, as opposed to in the word.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Follow What They Do, Not What They Say

Say somebody uses one of these derivatives of Sita in a commercial way,

That is unlikely to happen if it’s marked -NC. The whole point of marking is to encourage re-use. You are correct that whoever mis-marks it would learn they did so in error, if they ever sued someone for re-use. But that re-use wouldn’t happen, because of the mis-marking.

IronM@sk (profile) says:


Great post Nina, but it still didn’t go half way to expressing the frustration that such license confusion causes. Perhaps because the article is written from a content creator’s point of view. Lets face it, you created the content so how can you get into trouble for using it?

My frustration involves YouTube. I’ve always wanted to get into the whole Machinima scene. More specifically, I wanted to record my computer/console gameplay footage and edit it to music, for upload to YouTube for my friends to see. Seems innocent enough doesn’t it? As many here would already know, the problem arises because content creators don’t see YouTube as simply a service provider/hosting service, but as a commercial entity.

Now for the confusion.

YouTube has of course implemented a ContentID system to identify copyrighted works but the way in which “Big Media” chooses to handle instances of identification. Some allow the use to continue, placing an iTunes link and/or advertisement to attempt to monetize the use and some choose to have the audio muted and a strike placed against your account. This creates some anxiety if I want to use my favorite artist in a video as I can’t afford to gamble on the outcome. YouTube’s three strikes policy causes fear enough not to chance it.

So one day I saw a link right here on TechDirt in another article about music suitable for YouTube videos and I thought it would be a viable alternative to not being banned from the service. [i]Boy was I wrong[/i]. As mentioned before, many license holders see YouTube as commercial use regardless of the intentions of the user so the majority of the music on these CC sites use a CC-NC-ND license so there is confusion as to whether putting it in my gameplay video is acceptable use.

The next problem is that none of the sites on this supposed “YouTube friendly” list separates the artists into license categories. This means one must trawl the entire site looking for instances of ShareAlike licenses. With thousands of artists finding an artist whose music you actually like [i]and[/]i] is covered by a CC-SA is quite a time consuming process.

A final problem arises when I need to find a song of a particular length to fit the video where the length of the video can’t be altered. I came to the conclusion after about 6 hours of searching for a song (a) I liked, (b) of the appropriate length and (c) published under the appropriate license, that the project was totally futile and that these sites claiming to have music appropriate for YouTube videos were in fact a total lie.

Consequently I have uploaded only one video, using a song my friends band offered for use and I have not bothered since.

MechaGorgonzola says:

Every alternative copyright advocate seems to come out with their own licenses. It’s like we’re all splintered religious sects disagreeing on the interpretation of a single passage from our holy book.

What I’ve not heard definitely stated are the reasons why just gifting your works to the public domain is a problem. If you intend to share and allow commercial uses and derivative works, what else isn’t already provided by just forfeiting your copyright?

The only thing I can think of is the issue of companies trying to claim copyright on derivative works of public domain works or on the public domain works themselves.

The share-a-like licenses seem to take care of that, but is that really a concern? Are there other concerns I haven’t thought of?

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What I’ve not heard definitely stated are the reasons why just gifting your works to the public domain is a problem.

Because there’s no way to do that under our current copyright regime. If copyright were opt-in, it would be no problem. There aren’t any perfect solutions as long as copyright is automatic, so there will always be disagreements over what kind of licensing is appropriate.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

While I understand the frustration with the various CC licenses I can also understand the desire of some to control commercial use.

That this ought not to mean automatically “I want a cut” doesn’t seem to occur to most to slap NC on a license when that’s what they want. Where I use that license I really don’t care if the organization gets a cut or not. It would be nice if they did but we don’t and won’t insist on it.

Still, I’d agree that it’s been misused so often and become so restrictive that the law of unintended consequences has struck full force.

By the way, you can use the GDL and many have. It’s stretching it a bit but I can’t see why you couldn’t.

Failing that, the WTFPL sounds good but I don’t see it being acceptable to the owners of a church web site I run. 🙂

Given this discussion, though, I may consider dropping the NC component though, in this case, I can’t see any commercial outfit wanting to benefit from what comes out of a small town semi rural church. Could be wrong!

It’s like finding our way through a minefield to get these licenses right, no matter the sponsor of the license.

I’m near the point with copyright that I’d say it’s time to chuck the whole thing as it’s obviously been distorted far beyond it’s original purpose to be unrecognizable. And it never was about protecting “the artist” it’s always been about protecting “the publisher”. The artist be damned.

Ditto for patents.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Wandering Off-Topic Again

TtfnJohn wrote:

While I understand the frustration with the various CC licenses I can also understand the desire of some to control commercial use.

Which is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The artists who want to “control commercial use” have no right to do so, if they’re deriving their works from Paley’s sharealike-licensed work.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the real issue here is centralization. CC is an all-purpose multi-license, but the existance of this article proves that most people aren’t able to cope with such a thing.
Software licenses, on the other hand, are decentralized. There are a ton of licenses you can release software under, so they don’t have such a problem.
What you need is a non-software version of the zlib License.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t see the difference except that people have made an effort in the last decade to cut back on licenses but many software licenses existed already. This free culture movement exists largely due to the Internet and the example set by those building the Internet (with software mainly). In other words (and don’t shoot me if this analysis and history is faulty), it makes sense that software would have made the first attempt at open licenses and then have other groups learn from the lessons learned there. I don’t understand what centralized/decentralized has to do with this unless you mean that the current status is that one company came out with a decent solution that most people use. Also, the audience to software are generally other software developers and have an idea of what the openness means. Much of the audience of art are people that have not delved into these issues much (art can be enjoyed by fans that are not creators better than can software source code — which is usually where the copyleft came about) and have even learned perhaps not to even think about license issues (again, frequently wearing the hat of fans and not of creators).

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Expanding on this: it’s widely accepted in the software community that “license proliferation” (including “vanity licenses”) generally harms free software. A good part of the free software agenda is decreasing the number of licenses out there. “Centralizing” licenses is good for free software, and I think it helps licensing in general.

License proliferation is not what Nina is shooting for, obviously, but it is certainly a danger, and it’s mainly the reason that I think keeping things under the CC umbrella is a good thing. Copyright maximalists already have lots of weapons in their arsenal, “divide and conquer” should not be added to them.

Coises (profile) says:

Another (IMHO more serious) problem with ShareAlike

One of the more bizarre results of the Creative Commons licenses is that there is no (legal) way to make a derivative work that combines CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-NC-SA works without obtaining further permissions.

Open-source programmers face the same sort of problem when the GPL comes into conflict with some other royalty-free but incompatible license, and both bits of code are desperately needed to make an application work as users would expect.

Copyleft doesn?t just stop the creator of a derivative work from choosing his or her own licensing strategy… it also creates a ?remix hell? that makes ?free? works mutually incompatible, even though most creators releasing their works under free licenses intend no such thing.

Nina Paley (profile) says:

Re: Another (IMHO more serious) problem with ShareAlike

Of course CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-NC-SA. One is copyleft, the other has non-commercial restrictions.

There is no point whatsoever to CC-BY-NC-SA. If you want to restrict commercial use, just use CC-BY-NC. The -SA is pointless and misleading in a non-commercial license.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: PD

Unfortunately, it’s not actually possible to “just don’t use copyright”. If only it were that simple…

Well, it can be simple, just not for anyone. It simply requires the government to repeal copyright.

Before that happens though, you need the people’s consensus that copyright is an unethical anachronism that should have been abolished along with slavery.

When everyone (not just software engineers) realises that they should be free to engage with, share, and build upon their own culture, then copyright might just get abolished.

It’s publishing corporations vs the people. The wealthy and powerful vs the numerous and downtrodden masses. Such a confrontation can be forestalled, but if it isn’t you end up with civil war. The former is preferable.

Lachlan Hunt (profile) says:

I really despise the CC-NC and CC-ND licences. They are an attractive nuisance that are used by far too many clueless people who don’t understand the inherently blurry line between commercial and non-commercial works, and, particularly in the case of ND, by people who have no interest in actually contributing their creative work to the collective commons, but still want to be associated with the CC brand.

The NC licence actually has a hidden ShareAlike-like component to it, in that any work that is licenced for non-commercial use can only be reused in works that also have a non-commercial restriction. A lot of people miss that point. So although CC-SA-NC is technically worse, at least it’s honest about what it means.

Any work that is licenced under the NC or ND licences should simply be considered unusable.

But the problems you describe are not limited to people beliving all CC licences are NC. I’ve also seen many people completely misunderstand the restrictions imposed on works that are licenced under NC, and believe that all CC licences can be reused and modified without a problem. (I think this is actually far more common than the reverse situation you described.)

I also have a problem with the CC-SA licence because any copyleft licence is inherently incompatible with almost any other copyleft licence, and so it often imposes an unintended reuse restriction. e.g. A work licensed under CC-SA is incompatible with a work licensed under the GFDL, even though both licences are intended to permit reuse and remixing.

Anonymous Coward says:

These licenses are nothing but confusing. So far I have read about 3 different kinds of Creative Commons licenses. Too much hassle. The fact stated here that many artists released a new version of the work under a different Creative Commons license. Ouch! too much to keep track of. Yow. Anyone with any brains will avoid Creative Commons like the plaque, and most commercial companies are doing just that because of the confusion. Creative Commons is NOT an organization that you can count on to be around in 10 years. Come-on! As a private enterprise it has to make money or it dies. The only advantage to a government agency to protect your rights is it will probably be here tomorrow as it already has a budget. Getting any private agency, non-profit or not, to protect your rights is a joke. Yea you heard me ASCAP, BMI you are a joke and haven’t protected my rights yet.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In the world of software, there are numerous non-profits with a significant history of protecting rights. To survive you just need a goal enough people support (eg, with $) and to do a decent job executing.

The Red Cross has been there for people for a long time and is going strong.

Anyway, the license has nothing to do with the company or person that wrote it up. A license is a license. Ultimately, it’s the government that stands behind a license you wish to enforce.

RobShaver (profile) says:

Re: Wow! Love your humor!

“Creative Commons is NOT an organization that you can count on to be around in 10 years.”

That is downright funny. Creative Commons is a set of licenses, not an organization.

And, yes, it is all very confusing trying to take back your rights from the government that has taken them away. That’s what default copyright is, in fact. It is a limit to what you can do with your own IP.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

quite frankly my general view is that ordinary copyright licenses of the non-CC type actually make more sense.

CC licenses are the way to go if you don’t want to punish the public for liking your music.

Yes, they’re complicated, but that’s just a natural consequence of offering artists more choices – something I’m obviously going to support.

And when you look at the vast thicket of copyright laws, the “fair use” quagmire, statutory licensing, and so on… CC licenses aren’t any more complicated than what we have now.

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