UCL News


Launch of new copyright licences aims to help artists share work and boost creativity

4 October 2004

Copyright law may finally lose its grip on creativity with the UK launch of new licences that offer an alternative way for artists to make their work available.

Rather than the usual '(c) All Rights Reserved' approach that limits the use that can be made of works, the non-profit advocacy group Creative Commons provides a range of '(cc) Some Rights Reserved' licences for artists.

Launched today at University College London by Stanford University law professor and Creative Commons chairman Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons has already met with success in the States by offering a tailor made way authors, artists, musicians and film makers alike can choose the conditions under which their work can be used by others.

Creative Commons gives all of these creative individuals the options that programmers have long had under 'open source' licences. The project's website (http://creativecommons.org) automatically generates a legally water-tight licence to make sure users of creative works respect these conditions.

Over a million works have already been released under the US licences, with clients including the Beastie Boys, and Brazilian musician and Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil. In the UK, the BBC and British Library considering using the new Creative Commons UK licences to make their extensive back catalogues available online.

Dr Ian Brown, of UCL's Department of Computer Science who sits on the UK Creative Commons advisory board, says:

"Despite the content industries' paranoia concerning the perils of modern digital technology, some artists want to share their work - within limits. In the US, Creative Commons has drafted licenses that not only allow fans to download music files, but also to copy and share them, as long as they don't make commercial use of the files. This allows musicians to harness the power of the Net for maximum promotion while retaining rights to their work. Other musicians can sample these works without needing to go through the lengthy and expensive process of getting legal clearances.

"Many artists have concluded that extreme copyright protection doesn't help them gain the exposure and widespread distribution they want. They prefer to rely on innovative business models rather than maximalist copyright to secure a return on their creative investment."

Creative Commons was formed by a coalition of academics from a broad range of institutions, including Duke, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Villanova. Its aim is to use the flexibility of copyright law to help support a rich public domain alongside traditional copyrights. Authors and artists who use the tool may choose to dedicate their works to the public domain or choose to retain their copyright while allowing creative reuses subject to custom combinations of conditions. An illustrator seeking exposure might choose to let anyone freely copy and distribute her work, provided that they give her proper credit. Or an academic eager to build a public audience could permit unlimited noncommercial copying of his writings.

Notes to editors

There are a total of eleven Creative Commons licenses to choose from which can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/learn/licenses/

The founder of the Creative Commons project, Stanford University law
professor Lawrence Lessig, will launch the UK version at a public lecture from 12.15-1.45pm in the Windeyer Institute's, Edward Lewis Theatre on Monday 4 October.

Tickets are free but must be requested in advance by emailing Ian Brown at: i.brown@cs.ucl.ac.uk with "Creative Commons UK" as the

For further information, please contact:

Judith H Moore
Media Relations Manager
University College London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 7678
Mobile: +44 (0)77333 07596
Email: Judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk