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Non-commercial licenses vs open licenses

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"Open licenses" are the way we create open content. This is important to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing. (Open licenses are also called "free licenses" - free as in freedom).

Advocates of open licenses often do not consider licenses with non-commercial clauses to be truly free, as it's not free to be used for any purpose. See for example the Freedom Defined wiki.

An alternative: Share-alike prevents commercial annexation[edit]

Using a license with a share-alikeW clause (without a non-commercial clause - e.g. CC-BY-SA) means that if a commercial entity uses the content, they have to release any modifications under a compatible license, as well as following the requirements for attribution. Many commercial organizations will simply choose not to use this content; others will use it, and by sharing their modifications they are contributing back to the community and supporting open content.

Appropedia allows commercial use[edit]

True open content material (that does not use the non-commercial restriction) is in principle compatible with projects such as Appropedia, OLPC content bundles, or Wikipedia.

Appropedia uses a license which allows commercial use. We don't mind if someone makes money out of this content, and under our license, we can't stop anyone from doing so.

In fact, if this information is used for the purpose of sustainable business, or a small entrepreneur in a developing country uses Appropedia content (with attribution), for example printing it out and selling books, booklets or pamphlets, that is a sign of Appropedia's success and the value of the content. It helps to spread the knowledge and positive impact further - which is our ultimate goal.

Appropedia and restricted (Non-Commercial) (No Derivatives) content[edit]

While we encourage like minded communities and websites to use an Open content license in most cases, without the non-commercial clause, we respect that the creators of content have the right to license the content how they wish.

In general we do not include content in Appropedia unless it can be freely edited, improved and reused. Feel free to post a review of any such material if you think it could be useful to other users of this site. If it is available as a free download on the web then include a link. If it has to be paid for then include a link to the publisher. We may never get all relevant information included on this site but in the meantime we can make this site the first port of call for anyone looking for links to such information.

Problems with non-commercial licenses[edit]

There are major problems with non-commercial (NC) licenses:

  • If a Micro-entrepreneur wants to print information out and sell it as books or booklets, or sell a solar water heater incorporating ideas from here, this is spreading the information. A trainer may be prevented from using the material in a course. In the Appropedia Foundation's case, and for most in the Appropedia community and other communities such as Wikipedia which allow commercial use, we want to spread the information as far as possible - we want trainers to run better courses, and people to be able to buy printed versions of our content if they wish. Any restriction will mean, in most cases, that the information simply won't be used. The opportunity to pass on a lifesaving piece of Public health knowledge, or a way to reduce a company's ecological impact, may be missed.
  • Much content online which is under a relatively open license has a non-commercial clause, specifically the CC-by-nc (or sometimes CC-by-nc-sa) license. This is not "free content". Many international bodies such as the FAO have their own statments to the same effect - you can use it for non-commercial use only. Any content with this kind of clause cannot be used in a publication or website operating on the more open license types that don't have the clause. For example, FAO content cannot be used on Appropedia (apart from the standard Fair useW provisions, small quotes etc).

Secondary concerns include:

  • The exact definition of non-commercial is not intuitive. What about a personal blog with ads? What about a business that distributes an information leaflet at cost, as a service to the public? What about use by a private educational institution? They are not even defined by Creative Commons in their non-commercial licenses, though some study has now been done on public understanding of the clause: see CC: Defining Noncommercial.

Concerns with licenses allowing commercial use[edit]

A Virgin mobile advertising campaign used people's personal photos, licensed under a CC license, from Flickr, and caused a storm of controversy. This was a very rare case (and the controversy it caused will probably make it more rare) but it highlights one potential problem with allowing commercial use: People may use the content (including images) in ways you don't want. This may not matter if it's a photo of a sand filter, but it probably does matter if it's a photograph of a family member, friend, or a publicity-shy person, particularly "cute," amusing or embarrassing shots.

Thus a fully open license is probably not the best idea for sensitive material (personal photos, photographs of other people, and especially photographs of children). Consider carefully before choosing a license in such cases.

Interwiki links[edit]

External links[edit]