Creative Commons Options: Non-Commercial & ShareAlike

Should I use choose a Creative Commons, non-commercial license option when sharing content with others?

When choosing to create and share content licensed under non-commercial Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC), the user (i.e., the licensee) allows others to copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless NoDerivatives is used) modify and use work for any purpose other can commercially unless the licensee gets permission (from the licensor) first.  However, there are a few details one should consider in order to know whether this is the best Creative Commons option when (re)licensing content.

Non-commercial depends on how the content is being used and not on the licensee

Regardless whether a business is not for profit or for profit (assuming the business has issued the Creative Commons license), deciding on a non-commercial Creative Commons license will mean that the user (the individual) is not profiting from the content.  

Defining exactly the type of content covered as non-commercial

Currently, digital file sharing is the only type of use explicitly stated to be noncommerciial (Creative Commons, 2013).  Also, it can get complicated when determining what kind of situation constitutes a commercial/non-commercial circumstance: incentives, YouTube ads, favors, transportation costs, gifts, etc.

The attractiveness of the term, Non-commercial

Many licensors will immediately be drawn to a non-commercial license even though it is not the most open/free license available (e.g., CC-BY).  Creative Commons licenses rank from the most open to the least, so although non-commercial sounds good, it is not sustainable in and of itself. One can argue that non-commercial provides more protection on the part of the licensee or user, but the argument goes the more open and flexible a license is, the more individuals will benefit overall.

Should I use choose a Creative Commons, ShareAlike option when sharing content with others?

Choose a Creative Commons ShareAlike option when you want to make sure that the licensee(s) continue to respect the same type of license – CC-BY – down the line.  Like the attractiveness of the term, non-commercial, ShareAlike sounds appealing because it gives the impression that by forcing others to maintain the commercial option, that the creation of content will remain more sustainable.  However, a ShareAlike automatically restricts the degree a license may remain open.  For instance, a CC-BY-SA is less open than a CC-BY, and thus may restrict its use.

Choose wisely when deciding between commercial and non-commercial and sharealike options by thinking about the sustainability factor of the content being shared. How one makes this decision will depend a lot on an overall philosophy of contributing to the greater good of society.

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