Sharon Housley

Article Summary:

What is a Creative Commons license, and how does it compare to traditional copyright standards?

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows artists, authors, publishers and musicians the option of creating and defining a flexible copyright for their creative works. It was officially launched in 2001 by a group of intellectual property experts, lawyers and web publishers. Creative Commons licenses cover art, music, and writing, but is not designed for software.

A Creative Commons license allows creators to place conditions on their copyrights. Traditionally, copyrights restrict the rights of others from modifying or distributing copywritten works. These licenses offer flexibility by allowing the creator (copyright holder) the ability to choose what limitations they want in place with respect to specific copywritten works.

How Creative Commons Works
Creators login to the Creative Commons System and select what restrictions, attributes or modifications they wish to assign to their creative works. The site will then produce a license for the creative works expressed in three ways. It will provide: a commons deed clearly stating the licensing rights in plain English, legal code for the license, and a digital license code. The digital code can be embedded into websites and search engines.

Yahoo has a new Creative Commons search which identifies works and recognizes any licensing conditions. Searches can be conducted for different types of licenses. The Creative Commons site also provides a website icon that clearly marks the creative work as Some Rights Reserved or No Rights Reserved.

A variety of license options exist for the copyright holder. Assigning a license does not mean that the copyright holder is relinquishing rights to a piece of art, it merely means some conditions could be placed on the use of creative works.

Examples of Creative Common License Options
A Creative Commons license enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining other rights.

NonCommercial
A non-commercial license lets others copy, distribute, perform creative works and derivative works, but only for noncommercial purposes (anyone using the creative works cannot profit from it).

ShareAlike
A ShareAlike license allows others to distribute derivative works under a license identical to the one held by the original copyright holder.

NoDerivative Works
A NoDerivative Works clause allows others to copy, distribute, display and perform the exact copywritten works and no derivative works can be created.

Attribution
An Attribution license means creative works can be copied, distributed, displayed, or performed and derivative works can be created, provided that appropriate credit to the original copyright holder is given.

Many artists feel that a Creative Commons license increases their exposure but still allows them to retain their rights to the creative works, striking a balance between ownership, credit and use. Ultimately, the license enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining others; with Creative Commons the copyright holder retains the flexibility to control the rights to their creative works.

Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll, software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage, a wireless text messaging software company.

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