Overview of Creative Commons Licensing

If you are an artist, writer, filmmaker, or anyone who creates, you automatically own an all rights reserved copyright to your works. Thankfully, this makes it easy to legally protect your works, but sometimes an all rights reserved copyright is too restrictive. Many times artists create works in order for them to be used and shared freely. 

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization that works to enable the sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. They have created legal tools to help artists and creators who want to encourage the reuse of their works by offering them for use under generous and easy to understand standardized terms. 

Creative Commons provides free copyright licenses you can use to tell which parts of your copyright you are happy to share with the public. You can quickly and easily refine your copyright to fit your needs and wishes. 

What Kind of Licenses do they Provide?

The licenses come in a unique “Three-Layer” design. Since each license is a legal tool, the first layer is written in the Legal Code that lawyers use. The second layer is a more readable version known as the Commons Deed. This essentially explains the first layer using terms that artists, writers, and lay people typically understand. The third and final layer is a “machine readable” version of the license, which is written in a format that software can understand. 

To get a license, simply go to their website and answer a few quick questions. Based on what parts of your copyright you want to be protected and which parts of your works you want to share, they will grant you a license that suits your needs. 

The first type of license is the Attribution license. It lets others use your work as long as they credit you for the original creation. The second type is called the Attribution-ShareAlike. This is similar to the first type, except that the new works must be licensed under identical terms. The Attribution-ShareAlike is what Wikipedia uses, for example. The third type is called Attribution-NoDerivs. This license allows your work to be used and shared freely with credit attributed to you, but unlike the ShareAlike, the adapted form cannot be shared with anyone. 

Each of these three licenses comes in a non-commercial form as well. They are identical to the first three, except none of the works can be used for commercial purposes. 

Who Benefits from Creative Commons?

These licenses allow creatives to maintain all of their legal rights, and still be able to share their art, stories, pictures, or any other content within their wishes. Creative Commons was one of the first organizations to provide this alternative to copyrights, sometimes called the “copyleft” movement. 

Since its founding twenty years ago, Creative Commons has empowered creators in 86 countries with legal tools and licenses to share and unlock over two billion works of art in order to fulfill their mission of creating a richer and more vibrant culture. 

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