Copyright is under immense
pressure from the new media. Google has in the past aroused publishers’ ire by
their attempts to digitise books and but their plans are now coming to
fruition and they are shortly to launch their own plans.
It’s never been easier to copy, ‘borrow’ or steal authors’ work. The idea
that everything on the web is free is seductive. But it is essential to
preserve writers’ ownership of their work and make sure they are properly
remunerated and acknowledged, whilst at the same time making their work
more widely available.
Creative Commons is a clever and innovative way of licensing
material which both makes it widely available and also protects and
controls the licence given. Although it is now well-developed, it is
still relatively little known and the huge advantages it offers are not
yet widely understood.
The Creative Commons project
Creative Commons was set up in California in 2001 and in the UK in
2005. It’s a non-profit organisation which now has 30 affiliates in
different countries. Already 150 million Creative
Commons licences have been taken up and used by creators over the past
four years, with a vast
potential still to come. Its aim is to promote the free sharing of
intellectual property worldwide. It provides creators with off-the-peg
licences to attach to their work online, which give clear instructions as
to how they will allow it to be used.
The project is funded by donations from Google, Microsoft, the
Rockefeller Foundations and contributions from the Amazon Honor system.
Creative Commons licences
There are six main licences, from ‘Attribution Non-commercial No
Derivatives’ (which allows whole work to be produced without allowing
changes) to ‘Attribution by’
which allows others to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon the work,
even for commercial gain, as long as they credit the original creator.
Perhaps the one that writers might find particularly attractive is
‘Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike’, which allows the whole work to
be re-produced (or copied) without any changes and only for non-commercial
The main types of licence:
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted
work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit
the way you request.
The core licensing suite will also let you mix and match conditions
from the list of options below. There are a total of six Creative Commons
licenses to choose from in the core licensing suite.
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and
derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only
Derivative Works. You let others copy, distribute, display, and
perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon
Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under
a license identical to the license that governs your work.
The search engine is able to look for everything in Creative Commons in
a search on a website, so that you could, for instance, find a sub-set for
commercial purposes. For writers, granting Creative Commons licences
should enable them to get additional exposure and sell more books.
Creative Commons can make a huge difference to how people can use
existing material in developing countries. Those
wanting to use material can mix and match it, pay any licence fee and
proceed to use it very easily online. They have immediate access to a
sophisticated permission system which facilitates all of this whilst
making sure that the rights-holder is protected and can control the use of
material from their work.
content available online may download a licence (with its own logo) and
attach it to the work, which could be a book, a part of a book, an image
or an audio-file. This means that the use permitted is clearly visible and
available on the page, linking to a means of clearing copyright online.
A Creative Commons licence allows the author to remain in control of
their own copyright rights. It opens up ways for consumers to
experience their work, whilst protecting them from others who might seek
to profit from it. It is a way of working towards a future in which
copyright is used in an innovative manner, improving access to material
across the world, whilst protecting it.