Creative Commons:
the future of copyright?

Introduction

What's the point?

How to licence your content

How to use Creative Commons content

What determines 'commercial use'?

What does 'sharealike' mean?

What kind of content is available?

Why worry about copyright in the first palce?

Sources of Creative Commons-licenced content

The final word

Don't look now, but there's a revolution going on, one which will affect the way work can and can't be used, whether it is your own or someone else's.

Okay, as revolutions go, this one is pretty low-key, and the topic - the influence of the Creative Commons initiative on copyright - doesn't sound exactly thrilling. But its impact on the way work is used and reused could be enormous, so read on to see how it will affect you, as both a creator and a content user.

It is important to get one thing straight: Creative Commons does not change or even reinterpret existing copyright law. It is simply a new way of making formal usage rights and restrictions clear from the outset, a way that makes perfect sense in today's omni-connected Internet world. It is designed specifically for Internet-available content, although it could, in theory, be adapted for use with offline content.

The Creative Commons concept makes your copyright claims and, more importantly, allowances clear, right up front. Creative Commons is an organisation, not a company, which explains why it is a .org domain rather than a .com one. It was founded in 2001, and is headed by leading lights in the fields of law, cyberlaw and intellectual property, as well as computer experts from MIT, and staff, fellows and students from Stanford and Harvard law schools. The organisation's goal was to provide easy yet comprehensive ways for people to assert their copyright in a flexible manner, in direct contrast to the increasingly restrictive and lawsuit-bound rules that are applied by default to created content.

The idea was made public at the end of 2002, in the form of the first licenses designed to protect rights-holders while making content free for public use. Since then the ground the initiatives cover has been extended to cover most other angles as well, and country-specific variations are being developed where local legislation differs significantly.

This is a major new direction for the future of copyright law, and arguably the biggest thing to happen in this area since the establishment of the concept of copyright itself.

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