Picture by cogdog (CC-BY-SA)

Picture by cogdog (CC-BY-SA)

As often discussed, the Creative Commons NC-license can not be considered a true open license. This is because “Non-Commercial” content cannot be distributed widely and easily. In 2012, a group of German copyright experts (irights.info) released the German document “Folgen, Risiken und Nebenwirkungen der Bedingung Nicht-Kommerziell – NC” (Consequences, Risks, And Side-Effects of the license module Non-Commercial – NC) which now has been translated to English.

Overall it becomes more and more obvious, that CC-NC licenses do not comply with the requirements of the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berliner Erklärung because among other things both include the entitlement to produce and distribute derivative works. Therefore the NC licenses can also be seen as not compatible to the common understanding of open access or open science.

Here you find a Short summary of the most important Q&A in the document showing why the Creative Commons NC-licenses are not suitable for spreading knowledge.

How does the NC module affect the way content can be distributed?
NC-Licensed content cannot be distributed as widely and easily.

Can a CC license With the NC module prevent that my content is used by radicals or extremists?
No. Extremists want to change society, not make profit.

I want to keep my content accessible through CC licensing. Is the NC module the only option to prevent the appropriation of my content through commercial enterprises?
No. There are other options, such as the share alike module.

Does the NC module prevent commercial usage?
Yes, but often in all the wrong places.

Am i ready to act against the commercial use of my Content?
If not, you should consider not to use the NC Module in the first place.

Can NC-licensed content be printed in newspapers?
No. Newspapers are in any case commercial users.

Can NC-licensed content be used in schools, training and universities?
No, not everywhere.

Can a third party commercial usage benefit the author?

yes, if you are interested in distributing your content widely, you should allow commercial use.

Can the NC module still have any advantages?
Yes, but less commonly than you would think.

You can download the full english document about Consequences, Risks, And Side-Effects of the license module Non-Commercial (CC-BY) here (PDF).

Christian Heise


Research Associate at the Hybrid Publishing Lab and Member of Board of the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, currently working on his Ph.D thesis about Open Science. More about me...

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