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The Creative Commons licenses January 1, 2008

Posted by keito in : Licenses , trackback

The Creative Commons family of licenses, created and administered by the Creative Commons organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, is a suite of licenses designed for easy use by both amateur and professional content creators around the world.

The Creative Commons licenses allow a great deal of freedom to modify, reuse, and redistribute content. Content creators can put a number of restrictions, or a combination on them, on their licenses. The restrictions are:

The entire number of combinations is 2^4 = 16; however, since the Share-Alike and No-Derivatives flags are mutually exclusive, four of those are invalid, and the last combination, no restrictions at all, is tantamount to releasing your content under the public domain, so is not a valid Creative Commons license. Also, licenses that do not have the Attribution clause used to exist, but have been phased out due to lack of demand.

Using these combinations, one can create the eleven Creative Commons licenses, which are named after their abbreviated restrictions: CC-BY-SA 3.0, for example. (3.0 is the version of the Creative Commons license; version 3.0 is the latest as of now.) Incidentally, this blog is licensed under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license. That is, any derivatives or redistributions must be licensed under the same CC-BY-SA license, and must be attributed back to me.

The sheer power of the Creative Commons license comes partly from this — the ease of use with which content owners can license their content. You don’t need a law degree when licensing your content under these licenses; Creative Commons provides a clean, easy-to-use interface on their website that allows you to pick and match licenses according to your needs, and provides “human-readable” license deeds detailing, in very plain and simple language, the freedoms accorded by each Creative Commons license.

The Creative Commons licenses also have very high visibility on the Internet today. Not only are their icons professional-looking and recognizable from a distance, the sheer number of websites and services using their licenses is staggering. Some major users of Creative Commons include Flickr, the Wikimedia Commons, MIT OpenCourseWare, and soon Wikipedia. Furthermore, many service providers set Creative Commons as their default license (Blogger and even the Berkman Center’s blogging platform), coercing users who otherwise do not know or care about licenses to license their content under a Creative Commons license.

The advent of Creative Commons licenses is a welcome development for the open source community. More and more people are being introduced to the free licensing movement, and even large companies (including Microsoft with parts of its MSDN specifications and its MSDN Wiki) have begun to embrace this as well, further escalating this move. It’s reassuring to have one license framework that everybody can rely on and trust, and the stability and expertise of the Creative Commons organization can only help.


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