creative commons means content licensing for the digital age
Posted by Steve Woolf

Zadi interviews Eric Steuer, Creative Director of Creative Commons

The web was built by people sharing content and information. Years ago if you saw something cool in a website's design, you'd view source, copy and paste, and tweak it to make it your own. It was exactly this collective pool of available knowledge that made the web grow quickly and exponentially. The same went for hip-hop music in its early days -- artists regularly sampled other artists like James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic.

The creators and artists who were sampled could benefit by being promoted, even if there was no monetary compensation. But at a certain point, content creators get understandably upset when others take their work without permission, potentially for profit. Unfortunately, the traditional copyright system fails to support the flexibility needed in the digital age where the sharing and proliferation of media is paramount. It's either Public Domain or All Rights Reserved. This is where Creative Commons comes in, offering a spectrum of licensing options for content creators.

From the CC website:

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright -- all rights reserved -- and the public domain -- no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work -- a "some rights reserved" copyright.

They make this possible by offering a range of conditions you can set for your work:

Attribution Attribution. 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.

Noncommercial Noncommercial. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work -- and derivative works based upon it -- but for noncommercial purposes only.

No Derivative Works No Derivative Works. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Share Alike Share Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

The Creative Commons website has excellent tools that let you step through your choices in a logical way to generate the right license for your work.

And if you want to find other CC-licensed content to incorporate into your work, there are hundreds of millions of pieces of content available on the web for you to use. You can work with CC's search tools to find them, or go directly to the advanced search options of sites like Google, Yahoo, and Flickr.

As we indicated in our Featured Commoners interview for EPIC FU recently, there is probably no more important entity for enabling the expansion of web content than Creative Commons. Get to know them and support them!

Also, check out the keynote (video embedded below) by CC's Jon Phillips from last year's Pixelodeon here in L.A. Tons of great info!