Must Be in an NC Mood

Know how you get in one of those moods where everything reminds you of the same thing? I was reading Lessig’s commentary today on the Copyright Office’s recent report on orphan works. In the report, “a work is deemed an ‘orphan’ if you can’t discover the copyright owner after a ‘reasonably diligent search.'” Larry goes on to comment:

The trigger to the Copyright Office’s Orphan Works Remedy is whether a copyright owner can be found with a “reasonably diligent search.� That standard is just mush. The report outlines six factors to be considered in determining whether a search is “reasonably diligent.� The effect of this complexity is simply make-work for lawyers. Libraries and archives will be unfairly burdened. Users won’t be able to achieve any real security.

I agree completely. However, I couldn’t help but think that the current standard for noncommercial is also rather mushy, if not complete mush. Of course, Larry is much more succinct than I managed to be yesterday in saying that mushy-ness prevents users from achieving “any real security.”

A number of people seem fond of the view in which the licensor’s interpretation of noncommercial is the correct standard to judge noncommercial use against. But as I said in my last post, that view takes us ten years back in time to a place where every web site owner had to write their own terms of use document – only now they have to include their own legally viable definition of noncommercial use (daunting!), and each web site user had to read the terms of use on each and every site they visited (daunting!).

The goal of CC is to make things simple. In the case of attribution it does (you must, always) and in the case of derivative works it does (either you can, you can’t, or you can if you relicense exactly the same way). In the case of noncommercial it does not. Hopefully we can fix that.