This is a guest post by Heather Johnson.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Creative Commons (CC), you have no doubt spotted one of its various badges at the bottom of Websites. CC is a non-profit organization that allows you to license your work with very specific attributions. Rather than the standard “All Rights Reserved,” your creative work can allow some rights to others, such as non-commercial distribution. Many bloggers have embraced CC licensing, though others have wondered how useful it really is.
Just like anything else related to copyright law, the average Internet user doesn’t quite understand how CC works. If you are new to the concept, here is a useful comic book that explains the basic concepts of CC. (No, I’m not patronizing you. Those comics are official guides to the licensing service.)
CC licenses can be applied to both online and offline work. Writers, musicians, artists and scientists are using CC. Licensing your blog, however, is as simple as cutting and pasting a license badge into your sidebar. This simplicity has drawn heavy skepticism from some in the blogosphere.
PC Magazine’s John C. Dvorak writes:
…this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous ‘fair use’ provisos of existing copyright law. This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.
Wow, he doesn’t pull any punches there. However, CC could be a bit more useful than he gives it credit for. According to the well-meaning company, CC licenses were drafted with the intention of holding up in court. Although they can’t legally promise anything (who can?), they have taken the time to draft proper fine print for your free licenses. Also, each license comes with “severability” clauses – meaning that, if a provision of your license can’t be enforced in court, that provision can be dropped, leaving the rest of the license intact.
The CC organization is a byproduct of the open source movement, as many writers and developers wish to reasonably share their work with the world. Is the licensing really useful for protecting creative works? Weighing both sides of the CC argument, my personal opinion (as a professional blogger) is that it couldn’t hurt. However, if you have any doubts about copyright issues and your work, it is always best to consult an attorney.