Some notes for a presentation on Creative Commons I am giving 8/11/2012:
In the US, when someone creates something in fixed form it is copyrighted. You don’t have to apply for a copyright or add the copyright symbol. So pretty much anything you see that anyone has created is copyrighted. This can make it hard to find things to use for educational purposes – as we are often on low to no budgets.
Fair use is one way to use things, and a good one, but it can be complicated and still risks getting slapped with a cease and desist order. Creative Commons is another way.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a way for people to license their work for use that is in between full copyright (which is completely restricted) and public domain (where anyone can use the work for anything with no limitations.)
Owning the copyright gives you full right to display, perform, or duplicate a work in any form, or to grant others those rights. Creative Commons gives the owner of the copyright a way to preemptively transfer some of those rights to others, while maintaining full copyright for themselves.
There are several options when it comes to Creative Commons:
“This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.”
Attribution is found in all the Creative Commons licenses.
“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 allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.”
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially.”
By mixing the options mentions, you get these licenses, from the most lenient, attribution, to the most strict, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivitives.
What about Public Domain?
You can also assign your work to the public domain on the creative commons website, which means you relinquish all claim of copyright to it. This is called CC0.
Can I take it back?
Creative commons licenses are irrevocable. You may later take the work down if hosted on the web, but anyone who has already downloaded it has the rights you granted them.
Why Creative Commons?
Copyright is now set at life of the creator plus 70 years, which means we will never see most things created today come into the public domain. Creative Commons gives an option to creators to share their work before that time, and for users to find, use, and remix more recent work.
Fair use can be a little hard to interpret and apply, and you could always run into a situation where you and the creator of the work don’t agree on what’s “fair” and end up in court. Creative Commons is a bit more straightforward, provided you follow the rules of the license.
Creative Commons is also useful for work that might get redistributed outside an educational setting. As long as you are careful about what license you pick, you can go ahead and reuse that presentation image in a book, without having to renegotiate rights or rethink fair use because the use is now commercial (Assuming you stick to licenses that allow commercial use.)
Creative Commons is also a great way to teach about copyright – by looking over each license and understanding what one is giving away, one can more fully understand the reach of copyright. Creative Commons is a great way to work multimedia in the classroom without having to skirt around the copyright issue or have students produce material they won’t be able to use later.
How to use it?
To find creative commons media, just head to http://search.creativecommons.org/ and search. This will give you several options to get started.
Many other sites incorporate creative commons into their search as well:
- Comp Fight, a flickr search engine, lets you search hundreds of Creative Commons Licensed images in seconds.
- Vimeo just introduced a creative commons licensing scheme and search for their redesigned website.
- CC Mixter is a great place to find Creative Commons licensed music.
- You can find a pretty extensive list on The Creative Commons Wiki.
- Google’s advanced search lets you search Creative Commons licensed content in addition to public domain content.
After you have found the media, you just have to follow the license terms. So if the work is No Derivatives, you can’t chop it up and make something new out of it. If you stuck to an attribution only license, all you have to do is slap a URL or name on there (Some people tell you how they want to be cited on the photo page or their profile page – if not, a URL is usually sufficient.)
Here are some examples of how I have used creative commons work at work and home.
Creative Commons photos are great for illustrating points in presentations. When you are giving the presentation it may not seem too important, after all, you are just going to give the presentation to a set group of people one time. But by using creative commons photos, you can reuse your presentation in different contexts, or you could post your slides online.
Pictures are way more fun to look at than words.
License your own stuff!
The CDRH has used Creative Commons licenses on at least three of our websites: The Whitman Archive, The William F. Cody Archive, and Civil War Washington. This license covers the content we created (the essays and such), but not always the content, as much of that is already public domain, or is owned by other institutions. We make sure to note when the content is from somewhere else. We license our content as Creative Commons because the public helped fund the resources
As for myself, I try to license much of what I do under creative commons. I scan my artwork at high resolutions and put it on Flickr Under a CC By: license, I license my videos under Creative commons on Vimeo and allow downloading.
Two of my most popular Creative Commons licensed images are: a picture of an empty podium I created when I could not find a similar picture, and a picture of some clouds, which is usually used for “cloud computing” articles.
I license my pictures as creative commons because I think it’s neat that people find and use my images for things. Besides illustrating blog posts, people have told me they’ve put my images in books, videos, used them in presentations, and used them for school projects.
Finding Creative Commons material used to be my biggest challenge, but that isn’t very hard anymore. Pictures of almost anything are easy to find, and sound and video are increasingly easier to find as well.
I find the biggest problems now are keeping track of the licenses of all the creative commons work you have used, along with the contact information, URL’s, etc. I usually stick to including the web address where I found the work, because it’s easy and fairly straightforward. But I have come across images I know are creative commons and want to use again, but can’t find the source. As with a lot of things, good record keeping is essential. A page of credits at the end of works, a spreadsheet, however you need to track it.
I have not come across any significant challenges in licensing my own work. My images have been used a few times for blog posts I definitely do not agree with, but I can live with that. I have come across a few examples of people taking my images without attributing me, but that would happen with or without creative commons.
One final problem I have come across is the Share alike creative commons license may clash in certain educational contexts. See Noncommercial Isn’t the Problem, ShareAlike Is for more information.