Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organisation which specialises in creating fine-grained licences for people who wish to distribute their works for free. Qedoc makes widespread use of their licences.
Why do I need to licence a free work?
You don't really need to. But on the other hand, do you really want someone else to take your work, mutilate it, pass it off as their own and get rich from it without every paying you a penny or saying thank you? If any of the points in this last sentence aren't among your intentions, then you need what is known as a free licence. Free licences allow you to give the world the benefit of your creativity while limiting the various types of exploitation which could occur.
Free licences can (depending which you choose) control these various areas:
- Other people have to acknowledge my contributions.
- I can prevent or allow modifications of my work by others.
- I can control whether or not my name is associated with versions of my work which others have modified.
- I can prevent or allow others to make money from my work or derivatives of it.
- I can control what kind of licence derivative works are issued under.
- I can allow redistribution of my work.
Problems before Creative Commons
Before Creative Commons (and a few others like it) came onto the scene, many people who gave things away for free would either make vague, home-grown statements on their website about conditions of free use, or completely ignore the problem. In all cases, this leads to unclarity for would-be recipients of the materials. Almost every free resource had different usage conditions attached, which were often vague, incomprehensible, self-contradictory, possibly not legal anyway, and which were not compatible with each other if you were putting different resources together.
The role of Creative Commons
Creative Commons responds to the need of many artists, educators and others, who (1) don't have enough money to pay for legal advice on licencing, but (2) wish to give away their works for free, but with a certain minimal retention of some rights. Anyone can go along to Creative Commons and use their licences, without charge. Creative Commons offers standardisation and clarity, allowing other artists and educators to know exactly where they stand when reusing and redistributing free materials.
The popularity of different Creative Commons licences
The use of CC licences by http://www.flickr.com gives a good idea of how the general artistic public view Creative Commons licences. A snapshot of 33 million photos in March 2007 revealed the following preferences.
Popularity of specific clauses:
- commercial restriction (NC): 77% use it; 23% don't.
- modification restriction: 38.5% are against all modification (ND); 35.5% allow modification of content but not licence (SA); 25% permit all modifications.