Creative Commons: An alternative to copyright

Creative Commons logoIs it just me, or does copyright seem more and more restrictive and all-encompassing (not to mention longer-lived) as the “digital information revolution” continues?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an ardent supporter of author/creator rights, and I believe strongly that everyone should be rewarded for creating value.  Sometimes, though, it seems like copyright law is hampering even the creator’s ability/right to share her/his own work.  Well, enter Creative Commons.

Creative Commons mission: “Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.”

What does this mean?  Creative Commons provides an alternative to traditional copyright processes.  Notably, this alternative allows an author/creator to make his/her work legally available for others to use in different ways (without requiring them to embark on the long, unsure, and potentially costly journey of attempting to gain legal permission to use a copyrighted work).

You have, most likely, had the experience of wanting to use images, video, text, music or other materials in a project (research project, teaching assignment, project for fun, anywhere else) but you hesitated (or perhaps dropped the whole project) as you were not clear on how copyright does and does not restrict the use and reuse of most materials.  Creative Commons licenses provide a solution to this troubling scenario.

You may be interested in learning more about both how to find and use materials that have a Creative Commons license and how to license your own work through Creative Commons, so others can use and reuse it in ways that you would like to encourage.  The place to start is the Creative Commons website (where you can search for Creative Commons licensed content, learn more about the different flavors of Creative Commons licenses, and much more):

Although the Creative Commons website is a reasonable place to start, here are two additional ideas:

  • On March 21, 2011, the Dartmouth College Library and Computing at Dartmouth will be offering a workshop about Creative Commons titled, “Easy (to Find) n/ Safe (to Use): A Workshop on Finding and Using Creative Commons Licensed Materials”.  The workshop will be offered by Barbara DeFelice, the Director of the Digital Resources Program at the Dartmouth Library.  More information, and the ability to sign up for this workshop is available here:
  • About a month ago the ProfHacker blog on the Chronicle of Higher Education website posted a brief story about the Open Attribute Addon (a free, downloadable FireFox Addon) that simplifies the process of identifying and properly attributing Creative-Commons licensed content.  Open Attribute is worth knowing about, and the ProfHacker post also points to a number of earlier posts discussing Creative Commons-related topics.

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