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On March 19th I posted about the idea of a non-political Creative Commons license. Talking about it with various people since, it’s clear it won’t work, and lends itself to some serious abuses in more totalitarian jurisdictions.

BUT I stand by my point that what appeals to me most about the NC license is not the chance to insist on payment for the right to use the work in commercial derivatives, but the right to block certain corporations from using my material to advance their agendas, and that I would like a way to do the same with other, non-commercial groups.

So could we make a Non-Promotional license work? I.e. you are free to use this work to produce further work which is primarily creative or educational in purpose, but if the derivative work is primarily aimed at promoting some external objective, such as encouraging buying a particular product, voting a particular way, or adopting a given set of values, you need my permission again.

Problems: distinguishing between education and advocacy can sometimes be difficult. Even creative speech can have a very distinct agenda. The increasing encroachment of marketing into what would traditionally fall under the aegis of art (eg product placement) can mean that even the most easily excluded agenda, sales of a product, is hard to exclude completely. I’d have no problem with the license simply prohibiting use of the CC-NP material in a derivative that contains product placement, though…

Need to think about it more.


So I’ve been looking into the Creative Commons licenses for my possibly-big thing. They are awesome and I will certainly be using them in future.

However, there’s a glaring omission. For those who don’t know, Creative Commons is basically a way of issuing a free blanket license on material whose copyright you own – basically allowing anyone to do anything they like under a range of standard terms, without all the headaches of getting clearances and permissions in advance.

The four standard options, which can be mixed and matched to some degree, are BY (if you use my stuff in your work, you have to credit me), NC (non-commercial: you can only use this if you’re not making money from it – if there’s profit involved I may want some so you have to contact me first), SA (share-alike: if you want to use my material you have to share whatever you make on the same terms as I just specified), and ND (no derivatives: you can only share this exactly the way it is, you can’t remix it or mash it into something new). See the link for proper explanations.

The problem I have is that, provided it’s not “commercial”, there’s no way to say “you can’t use this for political speech”. So if you create some awesome feisty feminist character and the local NeoCon franchulate, sorry, political party wants to make posters with her on them, they can do so freely provided none of the steps in the chain are “commercial”.

Now, I know there’s a mighty fine line (or else a very wide, smeared one) between opinion and political speech. But I’m pretty sure most jurisdictions already have legal definitions of political speech for regulatory purposes. Here in Oz, it’s the stuff that has to have that little spiel “Authorised by so-and-so”. So my suggestion for an NP clause for the Creative Commons is something along the lines of simply:

“You can’t use this if you’re working (whether paid or unpaid) for a political party or a government agency; you can’t use this in anything that would count as political advertising for other legal purposes, or to advocate voting or otherwise supporting a particular political party; and you can’t use this in material that is primarily intended for an audience of politicians or members of a political party.”

Does it work for you?

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