Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

We've posted a summary of the Creative Commons Board Meeting held 13-14 of December, 2008 on the CC Wiki. Highlights included the CC Network, progress with the Free Software Foundation with respect to CC and the GFDL, CC0, integration with additional tools such as Picasa, the "Defining Noncommercial" study, partnership with the Eurasian Foundation, the fall fund-raising campaign, website updates, updates from Science Commons and ccLearn and the launch of four new jurisdictions - Romania, Hong Kong, Guatemala and Singapore.


And nothing about clarifying what a commercial website constitutes and nothing about clarifying how media embeds are protected by CC. You guys need to do something about these very pressing questions as more and more people start to worry that their CC NC content is just used and abused by advertisment sites who make money and then claim "we are not commercial" or "embeds do not fall under any copyright" this makes CC license quite useless in the internet world and people have been waiting for a clear message on these things for the CC foundation for a VERY long time now. Everyone thought this is why you are having this quite ridiculously generic questionary a month ago.
Don´t understand me wrong I love CC but there needs to be some leadership on really pressing issues from the foundation if it wants to stay relevant in the future.

The "Defining Noncommercial" is about clarifying what a commercial website constitutes. Our RDFa work with the W3C is about building into the next version of XHTML/HTML a way to annotate each object on a web page with the proper license and attribution and this should solve the embed issue. For now, it's best to annotate it visibly and use things like, "unless otherwise noted, the content is..."

Yes but is there any progress and what is the proposed way forward and when can we expect a clarification? An additional license for "ad supported" websites?

Great news on the embed issue - is there any more information and nitty gritty details of this proposal anywhere?

Here's information on RDFa:

As for "ad supported" website. For now, the best reference is the license itself.

The license:

Relevant text of section 4.b:

You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in connection with the exchange of copyrighted works.

"Primarily intended" is the key. So a copy shop charging people to copy works is not selling the work so that's OK. Generally speaking, ads that support the infrastructure are kind of like a copy shop fee. It enables the sharing. So just because a site has ads, doesn't necessarily mean that the use is primarily intended for commercial advantage. For instance, I don't think most blogs are written primarily for commercial advantage. I realize there is a gray zone, but ads or no ads is not the "trigger" for categorizing something as non-commercial or no.

We are working on a study to get an idea of what the rest of the world feels is non-commercial and when people feel "exploited" to inform our process in trying to make this less of an issue. However, it appears generally to be split - that some people feels ads are "exploitive" and others not. The problem with making yet ANOTHER license or tag for "yes / no for ads" is that it adds complexity which we try as much as possible to avoid... but we are working on this.

Thank you for the explanation of your view and the link to the RDFa spec.

As for the commerciality problem:

I am on the hardcore side - thats why I am asking - had long discussions about this over the past years with lawyers, netactivists, content creators and normal people. I am coming from a content creation standpoint and I am absolutely positive that if people choose "non commercial" they also mean "no ad supported websites" because the gray area is actually quite dark grey as "infrastructure" can be considered widely. For example musician friends who publish pretty much exclusively under creative commons have found that their songs are on a LOT of blogs that are doing nothing else then collecting "free" CC licensed music - these blogs have no additional content and are full of ads - hence they are generating a revenue - he has written some of the people demanding that they take their music down - because they do not want anybody generating money with what they create they just want to share it freely. The answer is almost always the same "we are a not generating profit we just run the site" after further asking they admit that they pay staff and their own life with some of the revenue but they say no money is left over at the end of the month making them "non profit".
You see this is a BIG problem - I am aware of the questionary the CC foundation did and took part but the questions were at point in my opinion very misleading and some extremely redundand and didn´t really get to the point - namely that people are earning money with other peoples work - not making a profit per se but making money nonetheless. With all the discussions I had the only viable solution anyone came up with is an addition tag to the CC license that excludes ad sites.
The big problem is that the people who are benefiting from gray zone the most are those having big blogs already so they influence the discussion heavely - from people who are in that field you get only the answer "oh its fine as it is no clarification needed" the serious content producers (the guys from the example above have at the moment the most downloaded CC song in germany - ever) are all in agreement that as long as there is a gray zone it will be exploited and nobody has the time, energy or money to go to court about each and every breach if it is a gray area and in the end you might even loose against the sharlatans that rip of your work doing nothing else then posting a freaking link - sometimes work you have produces over month´s.
CC should take side formost with the content creators, then next with the end users and only last should it consider the distribution channel because that is most commercial in the chain and that is also the link that would benefit most from "gray".

I hope you might consider this comment in your thought process. I would gladly give more opinion from the content producers perspective if there is a place and need for that as I have been following this problem for quite some time and there is clearly dissent in the artist community - some seriously considering moving back to normal copyright shemes because CC does not offer them enough protection - which would undo a lot of the work of the CC foundation and would be a real shame.

fALk: First of all, I'd be happy to take a formal comment from you and include it in the input to our study which is still ongoing.

Yes, one solution would be to add the "ads" choice and it is still being considered at some level, but we're trying hard to find a solution without using it.

The problem with coming down strictly against all kinds of ads or even "people making money" is that most are not really "sharlatans" trying to rip off content. People who are distributing free books in developing nations often have to pay for people and materials to get books to school. They need to charge something for this service. Many if not all public benefit organizations are underfunded and need sponsorship and ads to run. In many countries, there is no official "no profit status" and it begins to get very sketchy when you try to designation organizations by their legal status.

If you could send me information, maybe by email, of specific examples of where you see people being exploited by abusive interpretations of the non-commercial license, this would be very helpful. We are not giving "influential" bloggers and any particular class of people more say in our discussions and we always try to take a balanced approach that we hope provides the most benefit to everyone, the creators obviously being the key stake holder.

Thank you for the clarification. I agree that in 3rd world countries the "advertisment" and "nonprofit" line is much more blurry and a strict interpretation would be unethical to enforce as we are making content and information available for the benefit of mankind wich should be one of the funamentals of CC and it seemingly is. Thanks for showing some of the more daunting questions that one tends to forget when in its own world (thats me here ;) I can see now why it would be easy to extrend the license with 1 Mio+ tags (like a 3rd world exempt tag where in the 3rd world your stuff could be used in any endeavour - commercial or not).
I will collect detailed evidence of CC NC fraud with links etc pp. also with grey areas where I know artists where less then happy about the publication of their work on some advert sites. Might take a week or so but expect an email. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!