Rhea Myers

The Emerging NC Consensus

NonCommercial is Creative Commons’s most popular licence module (Attribution doesn’t count, it is automatic). Richard Stallman and Tim Berners-Lee support a baseline of non-commercial use. And cool music acts like Radiohead and Girl Talk release work under NC.

There seems to be a growing consensus around NC.

Compared to standard copyright, NC is a gain in freedom. I do not deny that. But it is not enough. It is still a restriction on freedom of speech.

How can this be? After all, you are free to make any work and place it on a P2P network under NC. But, as Negativland point out, your freedom of speech can be expensive to exercise. It takes money to make work, the more major the work the more major the cost, and if you cannot recoup your costs there will be a chilling effect on the production of work that you can’t make in a few minutes on a laptop.

I understand that people wish to reserve the right to economically exploit their work, or to deny that right to exploitative entities such as major media corporations. But I think that this cuts off freedom’s nose to spite censorship’s face. NC is triangulation, it is censorship. A lesser censorship, indirect and with the best of intentions, but censorship nonetheless.

The emerging NC consensus must be broken before it becomes institutionalized. I hope that Wikipedia converting to BY-SA at some point will help to achieve this, but more is needed. People are starting to recognize the link between freedom of expression and alternative licencing again. It is a link that Lessig made in “Free Culture”, and it is the lost content of debate around the Creative Commons licences.

We need practical ways of re-emphasizing the link between free expression and alternative licencing, and in particular between free expression and copyleft (or ShareAlike). We need this quite urgently.