I think Creative Commons is rad because:
- I am pro sharing
- Creative Commons is a choice. Creators only use CC if they choose to make their work available for free. If they want to keep everything “all rights reserved” that’s their choice too.
- I’ve explained before how copyright protection is automatic. This means that there are a lot of things out there – incidental creations – which are copyright protected, but which the copyright owner doesn’t really care about in a commercial sense. Things like those extra photos or film reels that the creator doesn’t intend to sell or commercialise. So why not make them available to others to use?
- Creative Commons supports creativity. There are people out there making some really awesome stuff out of CC licensed works. One of my favourite examples is Remix my Lit, a literary project where established authors released short stories under Creative Commons, emerging writers “remixed” the stories into something different, and the original and remixed stories were published side-by-side in a book. Other great examples include: etcc – a touring remixable art exhibition, the many wonderful music remixes on ccMixter, and the National Public Toilet Map (never hold it in again!).
- CC provides a kind of answer to overly long copyright protection. A lot of archival material that is still under copyright protection but no longer commercially attractive is now available under Creative Commons licences. For example, the ABC has released some of its old news footage under CC and the Queensland Museum has released some of its archival photographs. Government and public institutions, in general, have really embraced Creative Commons in Australia. CSIRO has released its Scienceimage Library, a database with over 4000 high definition science and nature images and videos, under CC BY. The Australian Bureau of Statistics now releases all of its statistics and census data under CC BY. The Queensland Police Service website, including Qld crime statistics and graphs, is under CC BY. And Geoscience Australia releases its materials, including topographical data, images and maps under CC BY too.
- Creative Commons helps creators be strategic about the market. Savvy creators might release some content under CC in order to generate interest and build their reputation, and then sell the rest of their content under a traditional copyright model. For example, in 2008, Nine Inch Nails released their album, Ghosts I-IV under a CC BY-NC-SA licence. They made the first 9 tracks available to download for free and then made the full album available under a variety of price points. At the lowest end, people could download the full 36-track album for $5. At the highest end was the Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition Package, which included a four-LP set of Ghosts I-IV on vinyl, the album on 2 audio CDs, extra multitrack .wav session files, arts prints and a 48-page photography book with photographs from the recording sessions. Each Limited Edition package was signed by Trent Reznor. The Limited Edition packages were $300 and only 2,500 were made available. The Limited Edition packages sold out in only two days. This means that despite releasing their album under Creative Commons – meaning that once downloaded, users could freely and legally share the entire album with their friends – Nine Inch Nails made $750,000 in two days from the Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition Set alone. That doesn’t even include all the sales at the lower price points. Not bad. Of course, we’re not all as famous as Nine Inch Nails, but for many bands and other creators out there, employing this kind of strategy where free downloads are bundled with valuable extras could still generate substantial sales. Many musicians make barely any money under the traditional model of copyright, so for some it can be worth experimenting with new business models like this.
(Pssst like the photo of Trent Reznor above? Wired.com has made a bunch of hi-def photos of other celebrities, including Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chloe Moretz, Seth Rogen, J.J. Abrams and Tim Burton, and photos of other cool stuff too available under Creative Commons. Check out the gallery here.)
- CC users are good at cooperating. A study (.pdf) conducted a few years ago by the Creative Commons organisation found that people using CC-licensed content tend to interpret the “non commercial” licence term more strictly than the people actually applying the licence to their work. The study asked both users and creators to rate various uses on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 meaning “definitely noncommercial” and 100 as “definitely commercial”. For uses that generated some money but were educational, charitable or by a not-for-profit organisation, creators rated the uses more “noncommercial” than users did. This means, for example, that a creator might not consider a particular educational or charitable use to be “commercial” and would happily allow it under a NC licence, but in general users would not use a NC-licensed work for that purpose if money was remotely involved. I like this because it indicates that CC users are respectful of creators and that for creators it is generally safe to apply CC licences to your work without the risk that people will misuse them.
- If someone has used a CC licence, it indicates a willingness to share. It means that they are likely to be more open to permitting – or at least talking about – certain uses than other copyright owners. So say that someone has used a NC licence, but you want to make a commercial use of their work. You know that they’re already willing to grant permission for some uses, and you will generally know who they are from the attribution information included with the CC licence. This makes it easier to contact them and ask for permission for your commercial use. Why not? It can’t hurt to ask.
Any final questions about CC? Hit me up in the comments!