The folks behind Creative Commons will argue that it isn’t a new form of copyright, that it supplements and extends copyright, utilizing its provisions. While semantically true, modern copyright has reached a point where it is fully associated with the idea of control and the lack of freedoms. The point has come where content creators simply assume that work is copyrighted and can’t be licensed because the law has become so restrictive. Creative Commons is so contradictory to this, that it is a virtual 180′ from traditional copyright.
Creative Commons, for the uninitiated, is based around three primary ideas: attribution, commercial vs. noncommercial uses, and sharing alike the new work.
Creative Commons License Buttons
Take these three fundamentals, mix them up, and you have the ‘Commons. It’s a copyright replacement, with three incredibly simple and easily understood icons. Why would you go with this system though? What’s wrong with traditional copyright?
Find out after the jump…
Imagine you’re working on a documentary, and a cell phone rings. The ringtone: the Rocky theme. You, the realist filmmaker, leaves the ringtone in (why sacrifice your documentary’s believability?). The day after the premiere, you receive a phone call: you’re being fined ten thousand dollars for use of a copyrighted song. Sure, you could fight it in court. Sure, you could assert fair use. But why bother – it’s a long battle that you don’t need to fight. You pay the fine. You change the film. In the process, you lose credibility. Good bye distribution.
Copyright, Creative Commons style
Creative Commons is looking to stop this scenario. By allowing artists to easily choose a license (with a pathetically easy license generator), it becomes easier than ever to tell what work you can use (and how much). Licenses are human readable (no laywer required) and available for the world. It’s easy for everyone. Here’s an example:
The deed is quite simple: it outlines the provisions of the license (in the screenshot above, you must attribute, use only non-commercially, and share your work under this license as well). There’s a link to the lawyer-version and a disclaimer, as well as the important note that any of the conditions can be ignored if the licensee says so. If the license owner is using Creative Commons, there’s a much higher chance he or she will consider your plea for affordable commercial rights.
Creative Commons is one of the most useful tools that a media creator has. It helped create the intro music for the PodDev podcast, it gave me background music for The Bet, its given web designers thousands of stock photos thanks to Flickr’s support of it – it can’t be put plainer than to say that Creative Commons kicks ass.
For the sake of the participatory culture, you too can put your work into the ‘Commons. There’s an easy-to-use generator, and you can snag the above images for use in your work (be sure you follow their terms though). It’s a fantastic system that helps everyone out, spreading work and helping artists do what comes easiest – create.