Creative Commons Website: http://creativecommons.org/

What is it?

Creative Commons is a set of copyright licences under which copyrightable work can be distributed. Copyrightable works include books, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, songs and other audio & visual recordings, etc. It offers an alternative to the blanket 'all rights reserved' licence that any such work automatically gets. It allows people or organisations who want to share their work with others to make explicit the terms under which this sharing can occur.

Why do we need it?

Traditional copyright is too inflexible in the Internet age, where works can be copied and redistributed at next to no cost, and stifles creative use of digital works. Standard copyright puts a blanket all rights reserved' on any work, and this is the only licence that 'travels' with the work, making it difficult, and often impossible for users to identify the owner and find out what they can and can't do with it.
Creative Commons has been set up to provide flexibility and transparency.

For producers: it allows you to retain your copyright in a work, while allowing certain uses of your work that you specify. You offer your work as having 'some rights reserved'.

For consumers of copyrighted works: by using works released under Creative Commons you can see exactly what you can and can't do with it. You do not need to identify and find the copyright owner and seek permission from them, saving you time and money.

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How does it work?

A producer of a work decides what s/he wants others to be able to do with their work. There are four attributes that the producer can specify:

Attribution: the producer decides if s/he wants to be recognised as the creator of the work. If they do, then anyone using or redistributing the work must give the original creator credit, and provide a link to their original licence.

Commercial use: the producer of the work decides whether people are allowed to make money from its use. If they decide that they are, then anyone can do so, without having to get permission. If they decide that they are not allowed to do so, then users know exactly where they stand. Of course if they really want to use the work, there is nothing to stop them approaching the creator and seeking permission (probably for a fee).

Derivative works: the producer decides if they will allow others to alter or transform the work. If they do allow this, users can take the work and change it (e.g. resize a photograph, or write a play using the plotline from the work). If this is not allowed, then the user must seek permission before doing this.

Share alike: the producer of the work decides to make it a condition of use that any new work that contains it must be made available under the same conditions on which it was offered. For example if I produce a photograph and someone uses it in a book, then that book must be released to the world under the same conditions as my photograph, which may have stipulated no commercial use, or no derivative works.

These four attributes can be combined in a total of eleven ways, providing a wide range of flexibility. A twelfth option is to make the work available with no restrictions at all (no rights reserved) - in this case it becomes 'public domain'.

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How do I use it with my own work?

For online works you choose the appropriate Creative Commons licence by completing the questionnaire here: http://creativecommons.org/license/

The licence is made available to you in a number of ways, including some text you can put on the website from where the work will be available. The process and licence are free.

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How do I use it with other people's work?

When you come across work that uses Creative Commons you will see the distinctive Creative Commons logo and there will be a link to the licence under which it has been released. This tells you exactly what you are allowed to do with it.
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Finding Creative Commons works

The Creative Commons website has a search engine that searches the Web for Creative Commons works, and Google (under its Advanced Search facility) has an option to search for materials that use Creative Commons.

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For more information:

The Creative Commons website: http://creativecommons.org

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