Problem solving

Is a Creative Commons license right for you?

- January 26, 2016 3 MIN READ

You want your work to be seen and appreciated but you don’t want it to be ‘stolen’. Can a Creative Commons license help you?

In a world dominated by Google and social media, there is a feeling that ‘sharing is caring’ and that whatever is in the public domain is ‘fair game’ and free for all to use. Many people believe (and will argue) that if there is no specific statement on how they can use online material such as articles, photographs, images or material, they can use it as they like.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether we’re talking about graphics, designs, photographs, articles or content: the second that item is created, copyright applies to it. And copyright belongs to the creator of that item. They don’t need to do any specific (like putting a watermark on their image) to assert copyright over that item. It just applies automatically.

So what if you’re a creative person? What can you do?

You’ve created e-books, illustrations, photographs, coaching material or educational material. You want your work to be seen and appreciated, and you’re happy for it to be shared around. But you don’t want it to be ‘stolen’. And you don’t want people having to check in with you every time they want to share something of yours either.

What’s the solution?

Well there is an easy, cost-free, growing regime called Creative Commons licensing that provides a way you can choose a license to give permission to people to use, share or modify your work in the way you nominate. In other words, it’s a way you can give permission to the general public or your customers to use or share your work without having to first check with you.

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How does Creative Commons Licensing work?

It’s pretty simple really: you choose the level of license that matches how you are happy for people to use and share your work. There are four types:

  1. Attribution: people can use your work provided they give you credit. All Creative Commons licenses have this as a minimum requirement.
  2. Share Alike: people can modify, remix, then use and share your work provided any derivative work they have made is licensed to the public on the same terms as your own original work.
  3. Non Commercial: people can use your work provided they do not make any revenue from it.
  4. No Derivative Works: people can use your work without any alterations or transforming it beyond any ‘fair use’ (use for critique, comment or parody).

And you can create combinations of these. For example, you can allow sharing but require attribution back to you.

The best part is that the licenses are free on the Creative Commons website.

The pros and cons

As with anything like this, there are going to be good things about it … and less good things. From where I sit the pros are:

  • Letting people share your images and work may help to grow your business faster.
  • Creative Commons licensing offers options to creators of material to specify how their work is used. Instead of people thinking they can use and share your work because it does not specify otherwise, you can give ground rules around how you want your work used.

While the cons are these:

  • You cannot revoke a license. Once you give a license to the world at large, you cannot change your mind. This means if you provide a license to use your work or share your photographs and someone comes along and offers to purchase your business, they have to buy your business subject to any license you have provided.
  • You are giving up rights to your creative material for free.

The final word

Creative Commons licenses are becoming more widely used as well as enforced. They are now recognised worldwide and the Creative Commons website states that the license are “drafted to be enforceable around the world and have been enforced in court in various jurisdictions”. There is always a risk that incorrect use, user error or changing terms may result in the inability to enforce the license but at least this provides a way for creators to protect and control sharing of their content for free.

Used correctly, Creative Commons licenses can be a great way to share your work, grow your business and still protect your intellectual property.

Have you used Creative Commons licenses? Do you think they are effective?