Creative Commons 'non-commercial' licenses impede the re-use of biodiversity information

December 1, 2011

Open access to information about biodiversity is of crucial importance to society, directly affecting areas such as conservation and climate change research and education. "Non-Commercial" restrictions on the reuse of this information are a major barrier to addressing these problems, says a review paper published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Halting the loss of demands that information on organisms, ecosystems, their properties, and their interactions, is easily found and readily available. This requires sharing. Creative Commons (CC) provides a set of licenses to facilitate this. However, Non-Commercial (NC) restrictions are commonly added to Creative Commons licenses, intended to prevent commercial exploitation. The article shows that the ambiguity between "non-for-profit" and "non-commercial" prohibits many legitimate re-uses of NC licensed materials, and imposes significant risks that affect for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.

"The concept of 'commercial advantage', the heart of the NC licenses, is very broad and ill defined" says lead author Dr Gregor Hagedorn from the Julius Kühn-Institute in Berlin, Germany. "It potentially excludes all public relation activities that increase the recognition of an organisation and may thus confer commercial advantages later on. Furthermore, the non-open NC licenses are usually incompatible with open Creative Commons licenses, severely restricting the use of NC licensed materials."

The review arose from discussions within an EU funded infrastructure project (ViBRANT) that several authors of the article participate in, on how best to license materials produced within the project. To ensure the widest possible use of biodiversity information, the authors of the ZooKeys publication argue that publicly funded projects should use open CC licenses such as CC BY or CC BY-SA. These are used by most publishers, the Wikimedia Foundation projects, and many other open content initiatives.

Explore further: In Brief: U.K. to release wireless spectrum in '07

More information: Hagedorn G, Mietchen D, Morris RA, Agosti D, Penev L, Berendsohn WG, Hobern D (2011) Creative Commons licenses and the non-commercial condition: Implications for the re-use of biodiversity information. In: Smith V, Penev L (Eds) e-Infrastructures for data publishing in biodiversity science. ZooKeys 150: 127-149. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.150.2189

Related Stories

Apache Seeks Harmony with Sun

April 11, 2007

In an open letter to Sun Microsystems' CEO, the Apache Software Foundation accuses Sun of restricting its access to a critical test kit to protect Sun's commercial interests.

Poll Shows Developer Support for GPLv3

April 22, 2007

Some open-source developers believe that the upcoming GNU GPLv3 will be good for open-source software, but they are concerned about its patent and digital rights management provisions.

Google Books to add Creative Commons books

August 14, 2009

(AP) -- Google Inc. is now enabling authors and publishers who release their work under Creative Commons licenses to distribute it through Google Books, a free service that allows users to search and read books online.

Recommended for you

Trade in invasive plants is blossoming

October 3, 2015

Every day, hundreds of different plant species—many of them listed as invasive—are traded online worldwide on auction platforms. This exacerbates the problem of uncontrollable biological invasions.

Ancestral background can be determined by fingerprints

September 28, 2015

A proof-of-concept study finds that it is possible to identify an individual's ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics – a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.