Finding works of art, photographs or video footage that you can legally use without falling into the deep, dark depths of copyright land or churning out a hefty fee or subscription, is truly hard in the digital times that we live. However, Creative Commons is making our lives a lot easier by letting us find works that we can share, modify, adapt without getting tangled in licenses. But, what actually is Creative Commons (CC)?
Contrary to popular belief, Creative Commons is not a license, but a non-profit organization that publishes standard license agreements.
These licenses are known as Creative Commons and allow the creators of texts, music or images to release the works with a blanket permit so that they can be used, copied, distributed and published.
"The free Creative Commons licenses want to help make knowledge, art, culture and also cultural heritage as simple as possible and freely accessible to as many as possible," explains Philipp Otto, director of the iRights.Lab think-tank specializing in digital development.
Thanks to the general and far-reaching permits provided by the licenses, content is easier to use and more widely disseminated.
The licenses also make it easier for works to be freely edited, changed and combined with other content, for example for remixes or internet memes.
“Creative Commons licenses are widely used for scientific, educational and consumer-oriented publications, for photos and images, and for open teaching and learning materials, the so-called Open Educational Resources,” Otto says.
All of the contents of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia are also CC-licensed.
"The CC licenses are contracts with comparatively simple conditions," Otto says. Thanks to them, content creators can allow anyone to use their content in a variety of ways without having to provide anything in return.
There are six different Creative Commons licenses, with their characteristics denoted by abbreviations such as CC BY, which means that anyone using the content covered by the license must provide attribution to the content creator.
Content creators can also use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, the effect of which is to waive all copyright and related rights.
Each Creative Commons license can be used worldwide and is valid as long as the protection of the copyright lasts.
If you want to apply for a CC license to your work, you just need to attach the appropriate license notice and your name. The Creative Commons website offers a license chooser to help you pick the right one for your content.
Anyone who uses CC-licensed content should make sure that they comply with the license conditions. If someone violates a CC license they're violating copyright law and may receive a warning from the content creator or rights holder.