Following my recent post about the problems of restrictions on commercial usage as found in Creative Commons ‘nc’ licenses there was a spirited debate on the mailing list. Tom Chance made the important point that for many in existing artistic communities the ‘NC’ restriction represents some kind of ‘ideal social contract’. Below I include the relevant portion of the email discussion:

Tom Chance wrote [in response to an email by Saul Albert]:
> Maybe. Or maybe if you spoke to more people who use NC you'd realise that, for 
> many of them, CC BY-NC-SA represents an ideal social contract that ensures 
> they will benefit from the fruits of their labour most fully. They may be 
> wrong about that, largely because of the practicalities of the license and 
> actually getting permission, but those could be ironed out as I suggested 
> above. Saying "I want a slice of the action" is pretty commonsense, if only 
> it can be guaranteed without making things worse for yourself.

While I agree it is commonsense it is exactly the kind of commonsense 
that sits ill with a 'share and share-alike' philosophy and leads to few 
positive externalities. It is also pretty close to the reason most 
people use full copyright: 'if you want to use it you can just come and 
ask me' -- and we know the problems with that. This doesn't make it 
wrong in any way at all -- just as I don't think it is any 'wrong' for 
people to use copyright (it's their right to use whichever license they 

> I think there are really two issues here. First, why the current NC system is 
> flawed. There can't be much mileage left in that debate, but there's lots of 
> scope for good proposals to implement a better NC-type system. Second, why 
> any NC system is flawed, and there I've only come across a handful of erudite 
> opponents (Rob Myers being one) and lots of simplistic libertarian rebukes :/

I don't think it would make sense to say 'all NC systems are flawed'. 
It's horses for courses after all. However for me it is important to 
have some idea of the community norms. After all we are going to need to 
draw a line about what is 'open' content is at some point especially 
when it comes to questions of what gets hosted and where. I am happy for 
people to write proprietary software, copyrighted books etc etc but won't host it (in this 
regard it is worth noting that at knowledgeforge the position is to only 
go with work licensed under terms compatible with the open knowledge 
definition or open source definition. and remixreading 
meanwhile both allow nc restrictions but my understanding is that 
remixreading wouldn't host Creative Archive material with all its extra 

With a 'copyrighted culture' you've got an overly restrictive (and 
overly extended) default that creates huge transactional burdens and 
complexity. So with restrictions on commercial use: we create a bunch of 
restrictions -- less burdnesome than with traditional copyright to be 
sure -- but burdensome nevertheless that in /many cases/ are just acting 
as obstacles while doing little for the producers of the work. Sure, 
just like full copyright, nc provisisons give the creator more control 
over the use of their work but it's a control with large attendant costs 
for the community and often few benefits for the creator.

I should leave the last word to Tom who in responding to my final paragraph above summed up the nub of, what we might term, the ‘advocacy’ problem:

Amen. However, this is quite a hard message to sell to artists who don't 
consider themselves to be remixers. Until they come up against a copyright 
holder or free culture advocates it won't seem a big deal. Playing devil's 
advocate: So what if the community doesn't benefit, there's a chance I might 
benefit from my exclusive control somewhere down the line. With software, 
programmers can quickly grasp the advantage of everyone sharing code openly. 
Why should a poet, band, painter or journalist jump on the bandwagon?
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Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.