[Air-L] Creative Commons Publishes Study of “Noncommercial Use”

Richard Forno rforno at infowarrior.org
Tue Sep 15 05:13:07 PDT 2009

Creative Commons Publishes Study of “Noncommercial Use”
Mike Linksvayer, September 14th, 2009
San Francisco, California, USA — September 14, 2009


Creative Commons announces the publication of Defining  
“Noncommercial”: A Study of How the Online Population Understands  
“Noncommercial Use.” The report details the results of a research  
study launched in September 2008 to explore differences between  
commercial and noncommercial uses of content found online, as those  
uses are understood by various communities and in connection with a  
wide variety of content. Generous support for the study was provided  
by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The study investigated understandings of noncommercial use and the  
Creative Commons “NC” license term through online surveys of content  
creators and users in the U.S., open access polls of global “Creative  
Commons Friends and Family,” interviews with thought leaders, and  
focus groups with participants from around the world who create and  
use a wide variety of online content and media. The research behind  
Defining “Noncommercial” was conducted by Netpop Research, under  
advisement from academics and a working group consisting of several  
Creative Commons jurisdiction project members as well as Creative  
Commons staff and board members.

Creative Commons provides free copyright licenses to creators who want  
to grant the public certain permissions to use their works, in advance  
and without the need for one-to-one contact between the user and the  
creator. “Noncommercial” or “NC” is one of four license terms that  
creators may choose to apply to CC-licensed content.

Creative Commons noncommercial licenses preclude use of a work “in any  
manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial  
advantage or private monetary compensation.” The majority of  
respondents (87% of creators, 85% of users) replied that the  
definition was “essentially the same as” (43% of creators, 42% of  
users) or “different from but still compatible with” (44% of creators,  
43% of users) theirs. Only 7% of creators and 11% of users replied  
that the term was “different from and incompatible with” their  

Other highlights from the study include the rating by content creators  
and users of different uses of online content as either “commercial”  
or “noncommercial” on a scale of 1-100, where 1 is “definitely  
noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial.” On this scale,  
creators and users (84.6 and 82.6, respectively) both rate uses in  
connection with online advertising generally as “commercial.” However,  
more specific use cases revealed that many interpretations are fact- 
specific. For example, creators and users gave the specific use case  
“not-for-profit organization uses work on its site, organization makes  
enough money from ads to cover hosting costs” ratings of 59.2 and  
71.7, respectively.

On the same scale, creators and users (89.4 and 91.7, respectively)  
both rate uses in which money is made as being commercial, yet again  
those ratings are lower in use cases specifying cost recovery or use  
by not-for-profits. Finally, both groups rate “personal or private”  
use as noncommercial, though creators did so less strongly than users  
(24.3 and 16.0, respectively, on the same scale).

In open access polls, CC’s global network of “friends and family” rate  
some uses differently from the U.S. online population—although direct  
empirical comparisons may not be drawn from these data. For example,  
creators and users in these polls rate uses by not-for-profit  
organizations with advertisements as a means of cost recovery at 35.7  
and 40.3, respectively—somewhat more noncommercial. They also rate  
“personal or private” use as strongly noncommercial—8.2 and 7.8,  
respectively—again on a scale of 1-100 where 1 is “definitely  
noncommercial” and 100 is “definitely commercial.”

“As more people have begun to make, share, and use content online, the  
question of what constitutes a ‘commercial use’ versus a  
‘noncommercial use’ has become increasingly important to understand,”  
said Josh Crandall, President of Netpop Research. “With this study, we  
were particularly interested to see that—contrary to what many might  
believe—there is little variation between creators and users in the  
perceived ‘commerciality’ of particular uses of copyrighted content.  
Furthermore, where they do differ, users tend to have a more  
conservative outlook than creators. This study provides useful data  
and perspectives—from both members of the general public and people  
who work closely in the world of copyright—that can help people begin  
to think more clearly about the issue.”

The study report and its associated data are available at http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Defining_Noncommercial 
, where members of the public can contribute feedback about the  
report. Defining “Noncommercial” is published under a Creative Commons  
Attribution license, and the research data is available under a CC0  
public domain waiver.

“We’re excited that the results of this important project will be  
available for all kinds of uses—including commercial use—by anyone,”  
said Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons. “We encourage researchers and  
our community to use what we’ve done and expand this investigation  
further, building upon the data we collected and incorporating more  
perspectives from Creative Commons adopters worldwide.”

In the next years, possibly as soon as 2010, Creative Commons expects  
to formally launch a multi-year, international process for producing  
the next version (4.0) of the six main Creative Commons licenses. This  
process will include examination of whether the noncommercial  
definition included in licenses with the NC term should be modified or  
if other means of clarifying noncommercial use under the CC licenses  
should be pursued. The results of Defining “Noncommercial” and  
subsequent research will be an important thread informing this process.

About Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2001,  
that promotes the creative re-use of intellectual and artistic works,  
whether owned or in the public domain. Through its free copyright  
licenses, Creative Commons offers authors, artists, scientists, and  
educators the choice of a flexible range of protections and freedoms  
that build upon the “all rights reserved” concept of traditional  
copyright to enable a voluntary “some rights reserved” approach.  
Creative Commons was built with and is sustained by the generous  
support of organizations including the Center for the Public Domain,  
Google, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Mozilla  
Foundation, Omidyar Network, Red Hat, and the William and Flora  
Hewlett Foundation, as well as members of the public. For more  
information about supporting Creative Commons, please contact development at creativecommons.org 

About Netpop Research, LLC

Netpop Research, LLC is a San Francisco-based strategic market  
research firm that specializes in online media, digital entertainment  
and user-generated content trends. Netpop Research has fielded  
numerous studies for major profit and nonprofit entities, and is the  
creator of the Netpop tracking study of Internet usage among broadband  
consumers in the United States and China.


Mike Linksvayer
Vice President
Creative Commons
ml at creativecommons.org
+1 415 369 8480

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