What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons logoCopyright has gotten a whole lot blurrier with the Internet. Copyright is one of those things that used to be very cut and dry – someone would write something, it would be printed (on paper) and there would be a copyright notice on it. No one else was allowed to reprint that thing without permission or quote marks and an attribution. End of story.

But on the Web, things are much more hazy.

First of all, content is much harder to control. If you write and publish something (or take a photo or a video or record a podcast), it’s out there in all its digital glory for all to see – and copy. Sometimes it’s copied with the OK of the original creator, sometimes there is an attribution, and sometimes things are just stolen – total copyright infringement, difficult to prove, harder to enforce.

For example in the earlier days of the Web (early 2000s), a company that I worked for had a network of about 40 Web sites. Overnight, all of the sites were completely de-listed from Google. The reason? Some other company had, unbeknownst to us, stolen ALL OF THE CONTENT FROM ALL OF OUR SITES, and created duplicate sites based on that content. Google saw this as “duplicate content” and a “spam island,” and we were kicked out. We eventually got back in, but not after a whole world of trouble and difficulty and pain and anguish (you get the point).

So it is with this issue, this difficulty in mind, that the Creative Commons licenses came to be. To quote exactly from the Creative Commons site, this is what the license are:

“Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.”

In my words, these licenses allow content providers on the Web to allow other people to use (or not use) their content based on a clear set of guidelines.

The following are the different Creative Commons licenses and how they are used. Again, I’m taking this straight from their Web site:

Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)
by nc cc license logoThis license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)by nd cc license
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even by sa cc licensefor commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution (by)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon yoby cc licenseur work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.

For more information on Creative Commons, here’s the Wikipedia listing. Flickr’s explanation of the licenses is here.

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