Last week Creative Commons celebrated its 10th birthday. I thought it would be a good time to talk about the organization and the role Creative Commons plays in helping bloggers, musicians, authors, and other content producers and artists focus less on the legal licensing and more on the creation of things.
If you’re a blogger, photographer, musician, author, or a general Internet enthusiast, I’d really appreciate a few moments of your time. I bet you’re already using Creative Commons for licensing, but how much do you really know about the organization that provides free tools that help license your work, while still retaining certain rights?
At Tucows, we strongly believe that openness drives innovation. Thinking about licensing in a way that promotes discovery and sharing goes against the grain of some organizations. Not so at Tucows, where I’ve found the desire to share to be almost instinctual– A default switch, set to on.
So on Dec 15 we issued a challenge to Creative Commons donors: do what you can to donate to the Creative Commons cause, and we’ll match contributions up to a total of $10,000.
It didn’t take long for donors to step up. Just two days later, on Dec 17, Creative Commons, on the CC blog, Allison Domicone wrote they had reached $10,000 in donations. With Tucows contribution, this brought the total donation to $20,000.
“We support Creative Commons because all of our business philosophy is based on the open Internet. For the Internet to really flourish and remain an open, healthy, and great platform for innovation, we need to adapt old sets of rules to new paradigms. Creative Commons is one of the first and best examples of that.” -Elliot Noss, Tucows President and CEO
The Internet is only ten years old. Just a baby, really. When I try to imagine how much content will exist online in ten, or even twenty more years, it seems impossible to fathom. I hope that people producing this content will consider what their works could become if properly licensed. Innovation, creativity, entertainment are all benefits of an open, connected network.
My hope is that I can shed some light about Creative Commons and at the end of the day, while you’re considering which organizations are deserving of your charitable dollars, you’ll think about how CC has helped make your life as a content producer easier and consider donating to their efforts.
What Role does Creative Commons Play in Copyright?
The staff at Creative Commons work to understand copyright legislation for countries around the world. Armed with this understanding, they’ve created a licensing model that complements the existing copyright legislation, that is easy to understand and simple to apply, while simultaneously adhering to the legal copyright mumbo-jumbo understood by lawyers and judges.
Why Licence Content Under Creative Commons?
Although you probably have used Creative Commons licenses for your works already, it’s easy for content producers to overlook the importance of Creative Commons and how the framework and free tools have changed how we provide permission to use our content.
Put simply, Creative Commons provides a global standard for licensing your content, provided certain guidelines are followed. Back in the 1980s, if you produced content, your work was automatically copyright protected.
Sounds great, right? Well, what you wanted others to be able to reproduce your content, or perhaps building upon it to make something bigger, or better, or just plain different? Creative Commons lets this happen.
Before There was Creative Commons
The world was a dark place before CC. It was a world where the default “switch” on the machine was ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This is all well and good for some things, but for content producers who wished to share their work and receive recognition, there was a pretty big gap. If you were a blogger, photographer, or musician just a few short years ago and somebody wanted to reproduce an article, a photo or a song, in order to comply with copyright laws, these users (licensees) would have to contact you to obtain written permission first.
A Simple Example
I found the wonderful pictures below on the photo sharing site Flickr, which has an impressive selection of Creative Commons licensed images. Because the photographers licensed them as CC with attribution, it means I can use their images, without contacting them for permission, as long as I credit them with the work. Prior to Creative Commons, if I were to follow the requirements of copyright legislation, I would have had to obtain the author’s permission in writing prior to publishing them. For three images, that meant three phone calls, or three emails to the individual content producers. What would be more likely to happen is that I would have paid for a stock photo, taken my own photos, or if I was time-crunched, forget using the photos altogether.
Creative Commons Celebrates Its 10th Birthday
In a birthday blog post, Jane Park talked with Justin Cone, a designer and animator, who in 2004 submitted and won first place with a powerful video called “Building on the Past”. I hadn’t seen this video until last week and I think offers a powerful video summary of Creative Commons.
Justin talks about why CC is so important to him:
“Creative Commons is important to me for two reasons: The first reason is that it just makes life easier. I don’t have to worry about law suits or trying to secure permissions from people who might be impossible to get in touch with. It just makes creation easier and encourages the exchange of ideas; it encourages discussion and education. The second reason is a little more symbolic. By putting the CC license on my work, it basically says I care enough to share. I feel like I’m taking part in a community just by licensing my work with CC.”
Sharing Has Its Own Rewards
If you’re a content producer, licensing your work as Creative Commons, the entire Internet owes you its thanks. Although you’ll never be able to know in advance what future impact your work will have, or how it might shape future works, it’s decidedly more exciting than having the knowledge that your work is locked away under an All Rights Reserved policy. Isn’t it?