Most work (i.e., the expression of an idea) is copyrightable at the moment it is created on some tangible medium – some exceptions being US governmental documents, domain names, facts, ideas, etc. Generally speaking, a copyright lasts decades beyond the death of the creator or author and will depend on the country and formal international agreements that apply, such as the Berne Convention, for instance. In the US copyrightable work expires 70 years after the death of the creator or author (Copyright).
Before looking into Creative Commons, it’s important to understand the purpose of copyright and its exceptions. The purpose of copyright is to provide an incentive for expressing a new idea that will provide some benefit for others. The creator should benefit as well as receive protection as to the integrity of the work itself. The Fair Use Doctrine in the US offers an exception to copyright law by providing a level of rights for the user to the extent that the copyright holder is not being exploited. In the US the TEACH Act, which is not an exception per se, clarifies more specifically how a teacher can be compliant when trying to use copyrightable material when teaching and learning online (i.e., distance education).
Creative Commons is an extension of current copyright law. To use copyrighted material, one would need to receive permission from the creator. However, when using work licensed under Creative Commons, the user only needs to pay attribution (i.e., permission is not required). Creative Commons is not an exception to copyright law but rather an extension of copyright law that provides even more rights to users than any particular exception to copyright law (e.g. Fair Use Doctrine).
When determining the type of Creative Commons license to use, the creator needs to make some decisions about what user rights should be granted. Beyond attribution, which applies to all forms of Creative Commons licenses, the creator should consider the following questions:
- Should the work be used for commercial or non-commercial purposes?
- Should the work remain in its original form or can it be modified (i.e., derivative v. non-derivative)? and
- Should the user of the work maintain the same license if the user is repurposing the work (share-alike)?
Finding Creative Commons work
Become familiar with DuckDuckGo and Bangs as a way to easily find examples of Creative Commons content. For example, if I want to search for images of trees that are registered as Creative Commons, I would use the search term !CC trees and then select the Google Images box. If I want to know more about Creative Commons, I would either use the search term !wiki creative commons or !CC creative commons, then select the Google Web box.
When searching images of trees, compare and contrast a normal search with one using a Creative Commons search as discussed above. It is not a perfect search, but it will go a long way in making it easier to find content that provides a user more rights in how material can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed.
How are you currently repurposing content licensed under Creative Commons?