I have been doing a lot of studying on copyright and creative commons as of late. My wife has always accused me of being a closet lawyer and most of my friends will tell you that sometimes I enjoy debating just a little too much for it to be normal. 🙂
I have known about creative commons for years, going back to a conversation that I had with Rocky Lhotka in 2003 (or so), but I really did not dig into until recently. Now that I think I understand the Creative Commons, I have decided to adopt a creative commons license for all the past entries that I have created on this site and unless otherwise specified all future entries as well. The specific Creative Commons license that I have selected is the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License, which is also specified by this neat little image:
This basically means that you can share the entry as you like (both electronic and non-electronic versions) so long as you do not do it for commercial purposes, that you attribute the work to me and that you do not modify the work in any way. If you want to use the work in any other way, you must get specific permission to do that. For example, if you want to put all my blog entries in a book and sell it for $9.99 at Barnes and Noble that is not covered by the license.
I have included screen shots in some of these blog entries and some of those include trademarks and/or copyrights that belong to someone else. Of course me putting a CC license on my work does not extend to those items. I think that every instance that I have done that with falls under Fair Use (but remember that Fair Use is not a right - it is only a defense). If anyone ever takes offense to my use of those I will take them down with no questions asked.
Why I like Creative Commons over Copyright
First and foremost let me say that I respect the rights of a content creator to control their works. If you create it you control it and I will respect and help to defend those rights. There is a growing trend to think that just because somebody puts something up on the Internet that gives everyone some inalienable rights over the work. I am not a member of that camp.
What creative commons lets me do as a content creator is to allow people to have certain rights to the works I create, while reserving other rights for myself. And it does that in a very easy to understand way (look at those nice symbols in the logo above). There is no need to contact the creator as long as you use the content in accordance with the license specified. Copyright is an all or nothing thing “All rights reserved”.
Where do we go from here?
I think most people (including the lawyers) would agree that our copyright system needs reform in the face of the technology changes that we have experienced in the last 50 years. The US copyright laws are based on the Copyright Act of 1790 after all and they were designed to protect books and maps, not the rich media that we have these days.
At the same time I think Creative Commons is only a “nice start”. It does not get granular enough at this time. For example the license that I put on this blog does not allow for deriviative works. I selected that one because I did not want someone to add or remove content that might change some of my meaning. However if someone wanted to make a “good faith” translation of this blog into Spanish they would not be allowed to based on that license. Also Creative Commons is still targeted at people, so you have to look at the license and understand the meaning of the license (and interpert it). Ultimately we need something that is machine readable and not subject to interpretation.