The Open Argument: Does Open = Free?

Open is a license with specific use rights. It doesn’t specify anything about whether or not the IP needs to be offered for free. In this context, free is ambiguous:

  • Free (libre), as in free to do something with the material.
  • Free (gratis), meaning that there’s no cost to the user. 

There is a distinction between openly licensed (libre) and open access (gratis). Creative Commons makes no claim that works published under their licenses need to be offered free of charge. 

In this post defending claims against them that they are “opponents” of copyright, Creative Commons makes it clear that they don’t expect for artists/publishers to forego their rights to commercialize their work: 

Creative Commons licenses are copyright licenses – plain and simple. Period. CC licenses are legal tools that creators can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Without copyright, these tools don’t work. Artists and record labels that want to make their music available to the public for certain uses, like noncommercial sharing or remixing, should consider using CC licenses. Artists and labels that want to reserve all of their copyright rights should absolutely not use CC licenses. 

Many musicians, including acts like Nine Inch Nails, Beastie Boys, Youssou N’Dour, Tone, Curt Smith, David Byrne, Radiohead, Yunyu, Kristin Hersh, and Snoop Dogg, have used Creative Commons licenses to share with the public. These musicians aren’t looking to stop making money from their music. In fact, many of the artists who use CC licenses are also members of collecting societies, including ASCAP.