Thursday, October 25, 2018

Creative Commons

 Creative Commons

Copyright is a tricky, regularly misunderstood legislative conception that, even to well-trained and experienced copyright lawyers, leads to the response “it depends” more often than not. To further muddy the discussion and general understanding of copyright are the concepts of fair use, the public domain, and infringement. And the capabilities provided by technology and social media even further exacerbate the confusion. There are many beautifully-made videos out there that attempt to clarify some of the details of copyright (see Fix Copyright: Copy (akacopyright) Tells the Story of His Life, Copyright Basics, AFair(y) Use Tale, and so on).

Essentially (and please take this as it is, I’m not a lawyer), copyrights are inherent for a fixed piece of work, be it art, scholarship, software, etc. They are initially “exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works” (Wikipedia). The copyright holder can be the creator (and most often is) but could also be a publisher or other business to whom the copyright has been assigned either via a publishing agreement or work-for-hire situation, respectively. Alas, once the work is fixed, it is protected by copyright law. The creator retains those rights and can disperse of them as they so choose.

The CopyrightTerm Extension Act (a.k.a. the Sonny Bono Act) of 1998 proved to be unfavorable to many, but very especially problematic to an internet publisher named Eric Eldred who in 2002 took it to court with help from Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig and the support of many others who, like Eldred, depend on the public domain for their work. The main crux of their argument against the Sonny Bono Act was that the extension of an additional 70 years beyond the life of the author was an impediment to sharing knowledge and creative works.

It was quite literally a David v. Goliath situation, but with an outcome opposite of that in the story. Despite coming after the Sonny Bono Act as a violation of the US Constitution, the US Supreme Court decided that Congress has a "wide leeway" to interpret copyright law in the Constitution... or, that corporate interests were more important than the individual.

The group of folks who attacked the Sonny Bono Act were named the Copyrights Commons, the precursor to the Creative Commons organization. Following the Supreme Court defeat, the Creative Commons set out "to provide a free set of tools to enable creators to share aspects of their copyrighted works with the public." Inspired by the GNU General Public License, Creative Commons issued their first set of licenses on 12/16/02.

The Creative Commons (CC) participates in 3 avenues with which to traverse the restrictions of copyright: 1. the organization. 2. the licenses. and 3. the larger open movement. There is the organization itself, comprised of a small staff and board, that creates, maintains, and promotes the Creative Commons Licenses, which are the 6 licenses that share specific rights from the author/creator to the public. Creative Commons the organization and the licenses exist within a larger world of the open movement, which includes open access, open source, open educational resources, et al.

The CC works to give the power back into the hands of the producer, instead of allowing corporate entities (i.e. modern bourgeoisie) to dictate their rights. It is a powerful stance that can trace its roots to the beginning of human creation noted at the beginning of this brief foray into the Creative Commons. They do so by advocating for or against proposed government policies (not just here in the US, but all around the world) and promoting the licenses and movement.

CC wants information to be like a giant socialist potluck bar (like an ice cream bar, or smores bar, or whatever hip "bar" there is... mashed potato bars are the best, IMO) wherein everyone brings ingredients and creates their own concoction. No one is charged for using any particular item. Sharing is caring, after all.

As mentioned above, there are 6 licenses that CC has created. You can decide for yourself which license to use thanks to their handy-dandychoosing tool. These 6 licenses have been used on over 1.4 billionworks, so there is bound to be one that suits your needs!

The Licenses are:

Attribution (CC BY)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

Attribution-Share Alike (CC BY-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

Attribution-No Derivs (CC BY-ND)
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-Non Commercial (CC BY-NC)
This 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-Non Commercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

They also provide tools that work in the “all rights granted” space of the public domain. The CC0 tool allows licensors to waive all rights and place a work in the public domain, and the Public Domain Mark allows any web user to “mark” a work as being in the public domain.


This blog post has been written by committee members from the Georgia Knowledge Repository (GKR). The GKR is a central metadata repository containing records from participating GALILEO institutions that can be freely searched by the citizens of Georgia and the scholarly community at large.

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