This article answers the question what licence should I give media items in my module? Media means things like images, audio clips and movies.
The general problem
People who are unfamiliar with media licencing typically make the following mistakes:
- Everything they make themselves they licence as restrictively as possible - often with an all rights reserved licence. The reasoning is often this:
- They don't understand how Creative Commons licences provide adequate protection.
- Almost everyone overestimates the commercial value of their creative works, such as images, and acts out of fear of commercial exploitation. In fact companies who really have money will mostly commission their own artwork just out of habit. If anyone re-uses your artwork, the likelihood is that they have as little money as you do.
- Everything they get from somewhere else they licence as permissively as possible - often with a public domain licence. The reasoning behind this is:
- They don't know what the original licence was.
- As they have it, and can't remember paying for it, they think they got it cost-free, and they believe that cost-free and public domain are the same thing.
- Logical? Frequent.
- Alternatively, people panic and put their heads in the sand, choosing unknown licence (which is also unacceptable).
Other people, who know about media licencing and while away the hours mulling over the finer points of the GFDL, often tend to forget that most of the world's population think as above.
Licencing of 3rd party resources
This section is for when you have media which you got from somewhere else (e.g. from the web).
The general principle is: use the original licence.
- "But I don't know what the original licence was." Then you can't use it. Go to Wikipedia or Flickr and find an alternative.
- "But I did get it from Wikipedia." Then it's probably licenced under GFDL or CC-BY-SA or both. Go and find the image again and click on it. Wikipedia will then show you the licence details.
- Be careful about media which you get from a seedy looking website which says "everything for free" or "public domain". The percentage of illegally licenced media may be high. And free usually means cost-free; it doesn't mean you can re-use it.
- Go for media items which the distributor has clearly and carefully licenced for re-use. Careful labelling suggests legality! Media resources labelled with Creative Commons licences typically qualify as "clearly and carefully licenced", and they're always cost-free into the bargain.
- If you paid for the media items (e.g. stock photos), the probability is that you can only use them in your own works, but you can't redistribute them to others. That means you can't release them under a Creative Commons licence, which means that, as a free user, you can't use them in Qedoc learning modules.
- Just because it's on the web doesn't mean that it's public domain! In fact, mostly the opposite.
See also: Getting Wikipedia image licences right
Licencing of your own resources
This section is for when you made some media items yourself.
The general principle is: be as permissive as possible.
That's rather vague, though, so here's some concrete guidance:
- Your basic choice should be between two Creative Commons licences known as CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-SA-NC:
- CC-BY-SA has the advantage that other people can put the media onto Wikipedia if they want. But it also has the disadvantage that other people could (theoretically) sell your media without paying you royalties. Don't, however, overestimate the likelihood of this.
- CC-BY-SA-NC has the advantage that it explicitly excludes commercial exploitation. However, we say again, don't overestimate the likelihood that anyone would really be able to make money out of your media. A lucky paparazzi photo might have commercial value for 24 hours after being shot. A professional training SWF might have small long-term value. Unless you have a track record of selling your artistic work, it probably isn't of sufficient value to be worth protecting. CC-BY-SA-NC has the disadvantage that it is incompatible with Wikipedia.
- Or if you want to be different:
- CC-BY is about as permissive as you can get while still being "clear and careful".
- Public domain offers maximum permissiveness, but fails to be "clear and careful". You're making your licencing indistinguishable from shoddy and illegal licencing. But you can do this if you insist.
- Things you definitely shouldn't do:
Afterthought: remember that any copyright claims (which includes any Creative Commons licences) expire about 70 years after your death anyway, whereupon the item falls into the public domain.
Licences which are acceptable for media items in a module published on this site
The following licences are acceptable provided that they really are the licences under which the original author released the items.
The use of almost any other licence type will lead to a refusal to publish (or unlock) the module. Please note if your module is refused you can:
- either remove the inappropriately licenced material.
- or buy a commercial licence under our share-or-pay policy and keep your materials to yourself and your audience without the need for publication, unlocking or inspection.
If in doubt...
If in doubt, contact Qedoc. We know that media licencing is a subject which gets everyone confused. So we're very happy to help and advise people with getting things right.