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Although this is in my User space, others are welcome to modify and copy it. If you want to make major changes, make a copy and modify your copy. I put my money where my mouth is and allow this essay to be copied under any of these licenses.

While researching on the internet I've found sites with their main focus on getting the word out on a topic, or campaigning to change a law(the whole "our position", "letter to send to your elected representative", the works).

I look and see a sign that says the site is licensed under a Creative Commons license; "That's useful," I say to myself. Then I see the license is an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license. Now my issue isn't with the Creative Commons organization itself; they produce a range of licenses, from the Public Domain dedication to the aforementioned "Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works" (BY-NC-ND) license.

Now the reasons for choosing it could vary but there are some reasons that don't hold water. For one, the BY-NC-ND license does not protect your work from criticism and ridicule. Criticism and parody fall under fair use and are possible regardless of what license you choose. A fact or idea can't be copyrighted; others can recreate or redraw your work from scratch regardless of which license you choose.

Now what you will prevent with a restrictive license:

Noncommercial: The Noncommercial clause probably doesn't say what you think it says. It doesn't just restrict big companies. The legal wording is that the work cannot be used "in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation". If someone wanted to put your position statement on their high-traffic website and make a small profit from contextual ads, that would be prohibited. If a magazine or newspaper wanted to use your own words to present your position, that would be prohibited. On the smaller scale, if someone wanted to sell booklets or CDs which used your own words to present your position, that would be prohibited.

No Derivatives: As pointed out before, if someone rewrites your work in their own words, the license on your work can't affect them. Nevertheless, if they feel that even if they rewrite your work in their own words, they would still be in violation of your license, they may decide not to risk it. A No Derivatives license prevents summarizing, building upon, and translation of your work, as well as recasting in an audio or video format. Not ideal if your true goal is getting maximum exposure for your viewpoint. Some of these activist sites have example "letters to your elected representative" under a No Derivatives license. If your audience wanted to include some of their own arguments in the letter before sending it out, you probably couldn't enforce the No Derivatives license since it's a private communication, but your audience can't share their modified letters and try to combine the best arguments from each.

I've seen a wiki with a No Derivatives license on text contributions.[1] Think about that for a second.[2] If I were evil, I would start an article there and sue everyone who edits it for copyright infringement. I certainly wouldn't want to edit an existing article on such a wiki.

Summary: There probably are situations where a Noncommercial or "No Derivatives" license are appropriate, but if your objective is "getting the word out" rather than your personal benefit, release your work under the most permissive license you are able to.


  1. No, this wasn't an archive wiki, nor a closed wiki, or some type of wiki where this license might have actually made sense.
  2. If you don't see why that's a problem, it's because using the wiki software for its intended purpose, editing articles, is creating derivative works, and thus in violation of the license.