Patrice Riemens on Sun, 16 Jan 2005 17:59:08 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: What's the meaning of "non-commercial"?

Polemics about 'commercial' vs ' non-commercial' always have this uncanny
ressemblance with discussions about what pornography exactly is, viz
'something that is next to impossible to define, yet is readily
recognizable when you see it'. As Rasmus has pointed out, most people know
quite well what they intend to convey when using a GPL or CC license, but
problems are likely to arrise when an exact interpretation is needed for
decision-making, not to speak of what happens when the whole thing goes to

The problem is not that intractable, however, but needs to be seen in a 
larger context, that of the remuneration of labor that goes into/ pass for 
what may be called the 'open knowledge/free source' (sic) domain. That 
issue is one of political economy on a grand scale and I cannot possibly 
address it here, save to say that a lot of 'function critical' details 
hinge on resolution at that level.

On a more pragmatical plane, I would suggest to replace the word 
'commercial' by 'corporate', and rephrase the clause as "commercial use by 
_corporate entities_ not allowed/subject to authorisation". This will 
probably appear as hairbrained as my long-standing proposal to 
systematically do away of the 'intellectual property' monicker in favor of 
'proprietary knowledge' (pace Coase), but has the advantage, immo, of 
clarifying a little bit further the 'field of assumptions'.

This being said, the clausula that prior permission must be seeked before
engaging in _possible_ commercial use does not appear so much of a burden.  
In a culture of copyright as our own, it is being routinely done all the
time. The 'source' can then authorise,and extract or wave a fee. Further
down the road, but this is a (much) lesser option, it can choose to
prosecute or not.

The real non-trivial problem, in my view, resides somewhere else: Has
'non-commercial' any legal standing left at all - to the point of is it
not becoming actually illegal?  If you follow the market fundamentalists
in the corporate world (and 'their allies in big govvernment' as I never
fail to add) this is fast becoming the ruling orthodoxy (aka 'the
one-idea-system', Ignacio Ramonet), and the law of the (global) land. With
other words: start thinking wether FLOSS (to take one example) is not
going to led you to prison, just as dishing out free food has taken some
activists ( - and do something about it.

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