A gentle introduction to Creative Commons for digital storytellers

Copyright in the old days:
All of this is owned by me, contact me if you want to discuss the possibility of re-using it.

Copyright nowadays:
You can still use the above model.


You can state explicitly and irrevocably up front that you’re happy for people to re-use your intellectual property in certain stated circumstances without them having to come to ask your permission every time.

This is attractive to those making digital stories who want the world to be able to share and re-embed what they’ve made. And a knowlege of this kind of license is useful for someone who wants to include other people’s work within their own digital story.

One model that’s popular is the Creative Commons licence, which has three axes:

1. Whether or not you want a name-check (Attribution or BY) for your work
2. Whether or not you’re willing for others to alter your work, or create derivatives. Risk: someone may Photoshop someone else’s body onto that image of your child’s face you put on Flickr. Three options here:
(a) If you want your work untouched, just passed on as it is, use NoDerivs (ND)
(b) If you do decide to allow alterations as long as the new author shares it in the same way as your original work was, you add ShareAlike or SA to the label.
(c) If you don’t care what happens to the altered work, no mention need be made of this on the license label.
3. Whether or not you care about others making money for themselves out of what is yours. This part of the label says either Non-Commercial (NC) or there’s no mention of it.

So a Creative Commons license which is labelled: Attribution, No Derivatives, Non Commercial means I’m happy for you to use my work without getting in touch with me as long as you name-check me as the creator, don’t change my work and don’t make any money from its re-distribution.

A more relaxed license – used by Wikipedia – is Attribution-ShareAlike or CC BY-SA. This is the license many of those lobbying governments to open up publicly-funded data would like to see adopted by governments.

Creative Commons is most straightforward if the thing you made was entirely made by you and contains no unlicensable third-party elements. So a video diary of you speaking your own words to camera in front of a blank wall is OK to label with Creative Commons. If there was a photo by Steve McCurry in the background, or some commercial music playing and it’s no longer ‘all yours’ and it might no longer be fair to pass the right on to others to use the clip.

So, as you can see, a knowledge of Creative Commons is useful for anyone involved in a diital storytelling project.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ – on this site you can read more about correct attribution, various international territories, comparisons between CC and Public Domain, etc.

Disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer; please don’t take what I say as legal advice.