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What is Creative Commons?

Sharon Housley -- Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows artists, authors, publishers, and musicians the option of creating and defining a flexible copyright for their creative works.

Creative Commons was officially launched in 2001 by a group of intellectual property experts, lawyers, and Web publishers. Creative Commons licenses cover art, music, and writing, but is not designed for software.

A Creative Commons license allows creators to place conditions on their copyrights. Traditionally, copyrights restrict the rights of others from modifying or distributing copywritten works. Creative Commons licenses offer flexibility by allowing the creator (copyright holder) the ability to choose what limitations they want in place with respect to specific copywritten works.

How Creative Commons Works

Creators login to the Creative Commons System and select what restrictions, attributes, or modifications they wish to assign to their creative works.

The Creative Commons site will then produce a Creative Commons license for the creative works expressed in three ways. Creative Commons will provide: a commons deed clearly stating the licensing rights in plain English; legal code for the license; and a digital license code.

The digital code can be embedded into Web sites and search engines. Yahoo has a new Creative Commons search which identifies works and recognizes any licensing conditions. Searches can be conducted for different types of licenses. The Creative Commons site also provides a Web site icon that clearly marks the creative work as Some Rights Reserved or No Rights Reserved.

A variety of license options exist for the copyright holder.

Assigning a Creative Commons license does not mean that the copyright holder is relinquishing rights to a piece of art. It merely means some conditions could be placed on the use of creative works.

Examples of Creative Common License Options

A Creative Commons license enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining other rights.

NonCommercial -- A non-commercial license lets others copy, distribute, and perform creative works and derivative works, but only for noncommercial purposes (anyone using the creative works cannot profit from it).

ShareAlike -- A ShareAlike license allows others to distribute derivative works under a license identical to the one held by the original copyright holder.

NoDerivative Works -- A NoDerivative Works clause allows others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the exact copywritten works and no derivative works can be created.

Attribution -- An Attribution license means creative works can be copied, distributed, displayed, or performed and derivative works can be created, provided that appropriate credit to the original copyright holder is given.

Many artists feel that a Creative Commons license increases their exposure, but still allows them to retain their rights to the creative works, striking a balance between ownership, credit, and use.

Ultimately, a Creative Commons license enables copyright holders to grant some of their rights to the public while retaining others; with Creative Commons the copyright holder retains the flexibility to control the rights to their creative works.

Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll, software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds, and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage, a wireless text messaging software company.

© 2005 Sharon Housley

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