A year in the making, Creative Commons just released the results of their investigation into how users and producers of content define noncommercial use. Defining “Noncommercial”: A Study of How the Online Population Understands “Noncommercial Use” details the results of research gathered through online surveys of content creators and users in the U.S., open access polls of global “Creative Commons Friends and Family,” interviews with thought leaders, and focus groups with participants from around the world who create and use a wide variety of online content and media.
The report is long and detailed, with a lot of interesting information about how creators and users approach the question of what is and isn’t noncommercial. While the research did identify a spectrum of opinion about NC that suggests that not everyone is on the same page, in general the results seemed to be that the existing definition of NC is pretty good, and the range of understanding may not be a bad thing. From CC’s blog post announcing the report.
Overall, our NC licenses appear to be working rather well — they are our most popular licenses and we are not aware of a large number of disputes between licensors and licensees over the meaning of the term. The study hints at some of the potential reasons for this state of affairs, including that users are in some cases more conservative in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are creators and that in some cases creators who earn more money from their work (i.e., have more reason to dispute questionable uses) are more liberal in their interpretation of what is noncommercial than are those who earn less.
As an advocate of the use of NC licenses by scholars and others, I’m glad to know that they’re not as broken as we feared they might be. There are lots more findings in the report that may interest you; it’s worth perusing the executive summary at the very least.