I’ve been asked (putting it mildly) why we’d choose to make data available with a CC-BY-NC license – especially the NC bit and how this has the potential to introduce uncertainty with future reuse. There are discussions going on about why the NC is a bad clause, and all I hear are the advocates against. This doesn’t really fit on a company blog, so here’s my personal view.

Actually, Mike Linksvayer of CC has saved me a whole pot of writing, with his comment on PMR’s original NC rant. And by his pdf on the CC deliberations and discussion on the future of NC (http://wiki.creativecommons.org/images/c/c2/20110917-noncommercial.pdf). I think it’s an admirable summary of both sides of the for- and against-NC argument – and I have great respect for the work of Creative Commons and resources they’ve provided.

I’ll certainly acknowledge the perception gap between licensors – and we absolutely fit the mould that we think we’d take a liberal view of requests and to what ‘commercial’ means – and the licensees who think they’re prevented.

The only additions I can give (which may be commonly understood, but I’ll make them anyway) are:

Making organisation-owned content available by CC is a great opportunity, but organisations need to take a big leap of faith to drop the NC element. It’s a risk - an unquantifiable risk which may be low, but one which I think many organisations have difficulty with ignoring. It’s the same for individuals as well, but the leap of faith to drop NC is a decision easier made by individuals than organisations.

The leap of faith? It’s not about preventing re-users making a few bucks here and there, but if it’s work with real intellectual effort involved, it is really difficult for many to exclude any possibility of getting a cut if a bright spark makes a million off it. It may not be realistic, but there’s a real human instinct to protect. It’s one of the reasons data isn’t shared more - and I’m involved in efforts to promote open sharing of data as well, through ChemSpider and Open PHACTS - but there are real social and organisational issues before you just ascribe motives to worries about immediate revenue loss.

RSC will shortly be making some educational resources available as NC. It’s great that we have a standard licence to offer them under. We paid for them, we’re making them available to academics for use and reuse for free. Here the intention of NC is not to protect revenue, but to prevent others taking this and charging others for it. Doesn’t sound unreasonable to me, no doubt others will differ.

So that’s my summary really – discouraging, or marginalising, NC will make that gap for organisations to leap into CC greater than it is already. NC provides a safe part of the bridge. My concern is that without it, the safe option would then be not to release. I also suspect that (as acknowledged in Mike’s pdf) that the same applies for individuals.
I would much prefer that available content ends up as CC in some form, as the alternative is likely to be no content or content with no license.
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