Defining Noncommercial

Yesterday, Wired announced that they will be releasing all staff-produced photos under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

For those unfamiliar, this license allows a third party to reuse one of these photos from Wired, so long as one credits Wired for the photo, and does not use the photo for “commercial purposes”.

The particular license they have chosen, raises a very interesting question.
What is a commercial use?

In 2009, Creative Commons released the results of a study in which respondents didn’t even feel that “personal or private” use was totally noncommercial.

If commercial/noncommercial isn’t clearly defined, it seems that the license isn’t granting any special rights to anybody. If the terms of a Creative Commons license are not met, the use of material is subject to plain vanilla copyright laws.
What’s to stop a rights holder from suing a licensee for copyright infringement if their use isn’t noncommercial enough? Who gets to decide what that means?

Also of interest is the difference between how the photos are licensed on Wired’s website and how the photos are licensed on Flickr.

If somebody is using a Wired photo and provides a link to Wired’s Flickr stream and specifies that the photo was licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0, rather than linking to the story on Wired and specifying the license as CC BY-NC 3.0, are they in violation of Wired’s terms?

It is worth noting that Flickr does not provide a method for users to license photos with a 3.0 Creative Commons license, which is especially unfortunate as Creative Commons is now starting work on version 4.0!

 
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