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Why you should care about "CC" and copyright law

Discussing Creative Commons licensing in Khmer I Photo by Cobi (CC BY SA)
Discussing Creative Commons licensing in Khmer I Photo by Cobi (CC BY SA)

Throughout the past 25 years, technologies have been developing very quickly. The general availability of the Internet has changed the ways in which we consume media and also how we create and spread our own content.

Whether you are running your own radio station, online magazine, or publishing e-books, you have inevitably come across the problem of having or not having the right to use certain content you like or need. Perhaps you have created content that you would like to allow other people to reuse or build upon for their own non-commercial purposes. Or maybe you simply want to donate your work to the public domain and you’re not sure how to.

A brief history of copyright law

Copyright law and technologies have been linked together for centuries. After Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1436, Europe witnessed a huge proliferation of books as their numbers grew extremely from thousands to over ten million within 50 years. This caused an immediate need for protection of the rights of both authors and publishers from the earliest of literary pirates.         

This situation lead to the implementation of the world’s first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, which was enacted in England in 1710. The purpose of the Act was to secure the rights of authors and inventors.

Creative Commons has you covered

The introduction of printing technology back in the 15th century was as revolutionary as the spread of the Internet at the end of the 20th century. Due to the rapid introduction of new methods of media creation, a change to the strict approach to copyright law was desperately needed.  

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. It was founded in 2001 and its Board of Directors is comprised of thought leaders, education experts, technologists, legal scholars, investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

The first set of Creative Commons licenses was released to the public in December 2002.

Creative Commons offers licenses to its users which are in part inspired by the Free Software Foundation’s GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). It also provides a web application platform to help their users to license their works freely for certain uses, on certain conditions; or dedicate their works to the public domain. The licenses have been ported to over 70 jurisdictions, meaning they have been incorporated and adjusted to national juridical systems, since they slightly differ even though they have a shared common base.

Creative Commons licenses schema

Creative Commons licenses schema

How to use content licensed under Creative Commons

So when would you need to use content licensed under CC? You might need a photo for your website or blog, background music for your video, or video for your presentation. You can use advanced search options on many media websites to find items with a Creative Commons license. CC-licensed materials can be used as long as you follow the license conditions. Have a look at this example of best practises for attribution.

How to license your content under Creative Commons

There is no registration to use the Creative Commons licenses. Licensing a work using Creative Commons is a simple process. Just select one of the six licenses that best meets your goals, and then mark your work so that others know that you have chosen to release the work under the terms of that license. Here are some examples of how to license different types of content.

Interesting facts about Creative Commons

  • As of 2014 there have been 882 million works licensed with CC.

  • Since 2011 Wired.com began releasing their photos under CC Attribution-Noncommercial.

  • Beginning in 2011, YouTube users are able to license their videos under Creative Commons Attribution license.

  • In 2009, Nine Inch Nails released their album under a CC licence. 

Interested in contributing to the spread of Creative Commons in your language? Here’s how you can participate. Is your organisation or project powered with Creative Commons licenses? The you might want to be included in this database.