[cc-licenses] Articulating the commons: for the public domain, pro-noncommercial, and why require attribution?

Rob Myers rob at robmyers.org
Wed Dec 28 07:03:18 EST 2011

On 27/12/11 03:33, Heather Morrison wrote:
> Strengthen the opportunities to contribute directly to the public  
> domain.

The public domain is a threatened and enclosable resource. Contributing
directly to it is more an economically irrational gift than the building
of a commons.

> Noncommercial means noncommercial. It does not necessarily mean, I (or  
> my organization) necessarily reserves commercial rights for myself.

That is its practical effect, though. It also does not create a commons
as it prevents anyone else using the work commercially, disposessing
them. It is enclosure that destroys a commons, not economic activity.
Copyleft/ShareAlike protects against this. NC doesn't.

> Journals with good creative commons models (all either permit or  
> require noncommercial)

Permitting and requiring noncommercial are not good models for building
a commons. If they are good models then it must be for some other reason.

> Why require attribution?

The 1.0 Creative Commons licences featured versions without attribution.


These were dropped for the 2.0 licences as people overwhelmingly chose
attribution. I chose attribution under 1.0, although I'm not sure how
sound my reasoning was.

Certainly when Wikipedia was being relicenced, the objections of some
Wikipedians to any reduction in their personal attribution was misplaced.

In Free Software there's a difference between advertising the author of
the work to the user and maintaining the author's attribution in the
source code. I think that CC is already closer to the latter.

Certainly attribution caused a *lot* of discussion on massively
collaborative projects I follow (such as OpenStreetMap), but the 2(.5 ?)
licences introduced the idea of attribution to projects rather than
individuals in order to address this kind of scenario.

I think that attribution is useful for identifying the "source" of
something, whether a project or an individual, and that this is valuable
in academia as you point out and also in other scenarios such as
checking for canonical versions of documents, finding improved or higher
quality versions of works, and finding more work by the same author or

- Rob.

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