I think this is great… but.
But like all copyright mechanisms, CC licences are only a means to an end, and that end is to restrict the rights of the consumer and purchaser. Some CC licenses are unarguably vastly better than most commercial licenses. But CC is not public domain.
Every time I see a government or a library getting “into” CC, I have to ask: as opposed to what?
If the alternative is Public Domain, then moving to CC is a giant leap backwards. If you are going to spend money promoting a rights mechanism, and preserving works released under that mechanism, and putting your weight and support behind that mechanism, then let that mechanism be the Public Domain, not some “watered-down Copyright that is still undeniably Copyright”.
I can’t speak as a government or library, but I can say why I myself post my work under creative commons and not public domain.
I have been trained as an artist. In school, I heard a LOT about not giving yourself away, about protecting your copyright, your “brand,” even about legal ramifications both of using others work and others using your work. I remember that the whole thing seemed weird. There was no way then, at least not that I knew, to release my work under a license that said “please use this, please share it” and allowed me to find other artists whose work was remixable. Artists have a tenuous relationship with copyright. Those that make art by remixing know, or at least should know, the copyright law as it applies to derivative works and fair use. Most artists, rather then spend a lot of time wrestling with legal definitions, will either use public domain source material, or try to use nothing at all (which can be stifling for many people.)
In general, if you release something into the public domain, that means anyone can do anything they want with it. There are limitations of course, but you wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on if you released something in the public domain and then someone else put it in a gallery show without attribution. Of course, there is nothing to stop someone from putting a CC:By work in an art show either, but if they are following the terms of the license, at least you’ll have your name attached. It may not seem like a big deal – after all, you aren’t making money off your work either way, right? But in the art world, as most other circles, name recognition is *really* important. So if you give enough away under CC:By that people know your name, that’s social capital.
In an ideal world, Creative Commons wouldn’t be necessary- people would be polite and cite their sources. CC is a way of reminding people that yes, you can use this, but don’t pretend you made it, ok? Attribute back.
What creative commons license you use will depend on your purpose: I attribute almost everything CC:By because the important thing to me right now is name recognition. I’m building my brand, so to speak. Even if I was selling artwork, though, I’d probably stick with the CC:By SA license, because I don’t mind people making money off the work, as long as they help the cause by releasing their work into the commons as well. The brilliance of CC:By SA is that it is self perpetuating- you are free to use my content, but you have to let other people use your content. I personally don’t believe in, and will never use the Noncommercial version of the license, because it stifles other’s ability to make money as an artist (if they so choose) and is too incompatible with the other licenses. I don’t begrudge others decision to put that restriction on their content, however, I try not to use noncommercial licenses in case I want to sell something based on another work* later on. (* I added “based on another work” to try to clarify what I was saying re: Mark’s comment below. My full reply to his comment is in the comments)
As a creator, I don’t believe it is wrong to assert some rights over my work. I believe in intellectual property- I just think that as a society, we need to be able to build upon things or we will stagnate. The only problem I see with creative commons as it is is the time span- my work goes into the public domain following the same schedule as copyright law which would be 70 years after I die – that is, unless I go back and manually change the licenses of older content. Ideally, I could set a limit of my CC license, after which point it passes into the public domain. I think 10 years is reasonable. As it is now, I’ll just have to do a reevaluation of old work and release it into public domain where appropriate.
The reason I think 10 years is a reasonable term is that artists don’t live by resting on our laurels. We don’t make one really great painting or book and go “well, guess I can retire now!” – We create, we keep creating, and we keep changing. What I made 10 years ago doesn’t matter near as much as what I will create tomorrow. I think 10 years is a reasonable term for me to monetize what I can. That may be just me. I think terms up to 30ish years or until death (whichever comes first) are reasonable- but not this 70 years after death stuff.