Lesson 2: Creative Commons


Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a way that copyright owners allow others to use and sometimes remix their work without first asking permission. Works with a CC license allow re-use of the work under certain conditions depending on the license chosen by the copyright holder.

Watch this 3 minute video to understand Creative Commons.

Video | A Shared Culture

What does it mean to be human if we don’t have a shared culture? And what does a shared culture mean if you can’t share it? It’s only in the last 100, or 150 years or so, that we started tightly restricting how that culture gets used. The Internet enabled an infrastructure where anybody could participate without asking permission. We have all these new technologies that allow people to express themselves, take control of their own creative impulses, but the law’s getting in the way. Creative Commons is designed to save the world from failed sharing. People who actually want to share stuff, who put it up on the web because they want to share it under certain terms. So we wanted to create a simple way, for creators to say to the world here’s the freedom that I want to run with my creative work. Here are the things you’re allowed to do. Can I reproduce it, can I copy it, can I put it in my text book? Can I use that photograph? Can I make a new version of it? Creative Commons gives tools to creators to make a choice about copyright. Creative Commons license can cover anything that copyright covers. Every license says “You need to give me attribution. I created this, give me credit for the work I did.” The basic choices are commercial use, or not. Can you make derivative works, versions, adaptations or not? And do you want me to have to share alike? So if I take your stuff, do I have to offer it to the next person under the same terms? There’s no requirement for you to do anything with your work other than what you want to do. You own the copyright to it. What we’ve done is given you the right to exercise your copyright in more ways, more simply. So the idea here is to enable the creative impulses that the technology turns loose, and get the law out of the way. The work of Creative Commons is really about laying the infrastructure and ground work for this new type of culture. A new kind of Folk Culture. Somebody from Delhi, somebody from New York, somebody from Singapore, can feel comfortable using photo that was created and given away by somebody in The United States, or in China, or wherever that the licenses have been extended to. With their identity being preserved. Which means that people can actually create new kinds of things, come together and build things. Mash-ups that people can do with peoples Flickr photos. And CCmixter has allowed artists to make music together. It’s really about creativity and connection. Access and control. From amateurs who simply for the love of what they are doing and they want to share it and they want other people to be able to make use of it, to commercial organizations. In the end, this will have a very successful place in the for profit economy. Creative Commons is the bridge to this future. You’ve got to move away from thinking about content to thinking about communities. Communities that develop around content and the sharing that the licenses allow enable these communities to come together. A physical Commons like a park where anybody can enter equally, a Commons with intellectual works is actually much freer. It really is going to be the pillar for communications between people, cultural exchanges. The space for more speech, more free expression. And that’s the kind of Commons we’re trying to create.

The Licenses

Creative Commons licenses indicate what the copyright owner expects from people re-using their work through the specific terms of each license. Review this Creative Commons “About our licenses” information page for more information. In particular, read the details of all six licenses listed in the second half of this page.

Finding Creative Commons Licensed Material

When creating a new work that will incorporate other images or audio, searching for Creative Commons or similarly licensed works that meet that need is an easy way to ensure you’re in compliance with copyright law. Creative Commons hosts a Creative Commons Search page that links to multiple search engines that include Creative Commons-licensed material, but licensed content can be found in many common search engines including Google (Google Search Help page on searching by usage rights).

Check your understanding

Why do we need a system to allow content creators to license their works in the way that Creative Commons licenses allow?

Because copyright protection automatically covers all qualified creative works, regardless of whether or not their creators want to prevent other people from using their works in the prohibited ways. CC licenses make it possible for copyright owners to give broad permission for people to reuse their works in certain ways so that everyone wouldn’t need to individually ask them for permission.