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Creative Commons | Inside Publishing


Creative Commons


Chris Holifield 2017Copyright is under immense pressure from the new media. Google has in the past aroused publishers’ ire by their attempts to digitise books and but their plans are now coming to fruition and they are shortly to launch their own plans.

It’s never been easier to copy, ‘borrow’ or steal authors’ work. The idea that everything on the web is free is seductive. But it is essential to preserve writers’ ownership of their work and make sure they are properly remunerated and acknowledged, whilst at the same time making their work more widely available.

Creative Commons is a clever and innovative way of licensing material which both makes it widely available and also protects and controls the licence given. Although it is now well-developed, it is still relatively little known and the huge advantages it offers are not yet widely understood.

The Creative Commons project

Creative Commons was set up in California in 2001 and in the UK in 2005. It’s a non-profit organisation which now has 30 affiliates in different countries. Already 150 million Creative Commons licences have been taken up and used by creators over the past four years, with a vast potential still to come. Its aim is to promote the free sharing of intellectual property worldwide. It provides creators with off-the-peg licences to attach to their work online, which give clear instructions as to how they will allow it to be used.

The project is funded by donations from Google, Microsoft, the Rockefeller Foundations and contributions from the Amazon Honor system.

Creative Commons licences

There are six main licences, from ‘Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives’ (which allows whole work to be produced without allowing changes) to ‘Attribution by’ which allows others to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon the work, even for commercial gain, as long as they credit the original creator.

Perhaps the one that writers might find particularly attractive is ‘Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike’, which allows the whole work to be re-produced (or copied) without any changes and only for non-commercial use.

The main types of licence:

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.

The core licensing suite will also let you mix and match conditions from the list of options below. There are a total of six Creative Commons licenses to choose from in the core licensing suite.

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. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

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

The search engine is able to look for everything in Creative Commons in a search on a website, so that you could, for instance, find a sub-set for commercial purposes. For writers, granting Creative Commons licences should enable them to get additional exposure and sell more books.

Creative Commons can make a huge difference to how people can use existing material in developing countries. Those wanting to use material can mix and match it, pay any licence fee and proceed to use it very easily online. They have immediate access to a sophisticated permission system which facilitates all of this whilst making sure that the rights-holder is protected and can control the use of material from their work.

Anyone making content available online may download a licence (with its own logo) and attach it to the work, which could be a book, a part of a book, an image or an audio-file. This means that the use permitted is clearly visible and available on the page, linking to a means of clearing copyright online.

A Creative Commons licence allows the author to remain in control of their own copyright rights. It opens up ways for consumers to experience their work, whilst protecting them from others who might seek to profit from it. It is a way of working towards a future in which copyright is used in an innovative manner, improving access to material across the world, whilst protecting it.



Chris Holifield