Life is a Mystery

16 September 2009


I love Creative Commons and I enjoy using Flickr to find images that are available with Creative Commons licenses. I usually use a “BY-NC license, “by attribution” and “non-commercial”. But what do I mean by non-commercial? What do other mean when they specify non-commercial? Recently I realized that I was being paid a couple hundred dollars to give a presentation and used “NC” images in the slides for that presentation. I was being paid, is that “commercial”? I decided that I didn’t think my individual (paid) presentation constituted commercial use, but others might disagree.

All that thinking about non-commercial and what it means made me very ready for a report the Creative Commons recently released documenting a survey of CC users. They asked both creators and consumers what non-commercial means to them. This is a dense read, but very interesting work.

The empirical findings suggest that creators and users approach the question of noncommercial use similarly and that overall, online U.S. creators and users are more alike than different in their understanding of noncommercial use. Both creators and users generally consider uses that earn users money or involve online advertising to be commercial, while uses by organizations, by individuals, or for charitable purposes are less commercial but not decidedly noncommercial. Similarly, uses by for-profit companies are typically considered more commercial. Perceptions of the many use cases studied suggest that with the exception of uses that earn users money or involve advertising – at least until specific case scenarios are presented that disrupt those generalized views of commerciality – there is more uncertainty than clarity around whether specific uses of online content are commercial or noncommercial.


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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /