Creative Commons - why don't more people "get it"?


Alan wrote up a post on "linktribution" (the concept of providing attribution for a link to a web page, flickr image, etc...) and in the comments, Scott replied that (perhaps a more broad concept such as) Creative Commons would be a better Big Picture meme to propagate.

Which got me thinking about my experience with CC. I'm a firm believer in it. All of my stuff is licensed using a simple CC-Attribution license. Anyone is free to use any of my blog posts, any of my Flickr photos, however they wish. As long as they provide attribution to say that I created it. My photos don't even have a non-commercial clause, and as a result they've been included in a board game, books, travel guides, and (soon) the cover of a magazine. Sure, I'm not getting paid for any of that, but it's not like I'm losing out by contributing to the pool. Karma's a good thing, and if I want to use items in the CC pool, it's only fair that I contribute what I can.

I've tried mentioning Creative Commons in some workshops, and it seems like many (most?) people have a vague awareness of some strange subversive counter-culture movement called "Creative Commons" - but it doesn't seem to apply to them, and certainly not to their own creative works.

At which point I'm often left stumped, scratching my head and wondering what else I can do to show how CC applies to everyone. I model it, walking the walk every day. I show samples of works that couldn't have been created without CC. But then clients ask me how to ensure their content is locked down so nobody can even see it without their approval, never mind reusing and remixing.

People get confused about the difference between CC and Public Domain. They're quite different. Under CC, you retain "ownership" of the thing, and people are free to use it only as long as they abide by the clauses you select for the CC license. Under PD, everybody owns it, so nobody controls it. Subtle difference.

Also, people worry that if they release a work under CC, they won't be able to later sell it. Release it under a CC-NonCommercial license, and you're covered. You're free to later release your work however you like (commercially, or under a different license, as you deem fit).

Perhaps this is a side effect (intentional or otherwise) of the huge blitzes by the MPAA, RIAA, Disney, etc... in protecting copyright at all costs by suing 3-year-olds and grandmas. People are (rightly) scared of accidentally violating copyright and incurring the wrath of a well funded team of legal beagles.

I dunno. I strongly believe that CC is one of those things that has the power to change the nature of the game. It's not about gathering the most intellectual property, and staunchly protecting it through threats of litigation in the microscopic chance that you might make a buck off it. It's about freely sharing, contributing to the greater good, and all that jazz.


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Last updated: September 29, 2022