Commentaries - October 2011

What is non-commercial?

A few years ago our friends at Creative Commons conducted a study on the meaning of the term “noncommercial” with respect to copyright, the dissemination of copyrighted material easily or indeed for free, etc. I wish I had come across this at the time. I would have urged all my poet friends to fill out the questionnaire. I dare say that in the world of poetry and poetics, for the purposes of making the work as widely available as possible, a rather limited definition of noncommercial suffices.

And yet at the same time we should all want the term defined widely for general purposes. If music and film can break the logjam, surely less commercial realms such as poetry will be in good company as makers of online intellectual property. The more public the domain, the better. And I wonder, now (post-September 2008) that capitalism is less adamantly said to be ipso facto self-correcting, if that economic system will continue to be used as the main reason for keeping art and creative work out of the public domain.

Noncommerical. Is the key quality (number 1 in the attributes list in dictionary definition, e.g.) that a work be unremunerative? Or that it be out of the mainstream? (These are more difficult questions than they at first seem.)