Creative Commons Demystified

Missed our Creative Commons workshop last week? Fear not Digital Reporter Miranda Wade went along to find out more…

You’ve heard the term ‘Creative Commons’ bandied about in the office or on the web. You may have even hopped on before, searching for a free image for your blog perhaps. It’s amazing what you will find. But are you holding up your end of the deal?

Defining Creative Commons
We’re talking about the non-profit organisation Creative Commons, or CC, as well as the licences it offers for creative works. Licences are free, and allow people producing creative content to determine the ways in which their work can be used by others. Here, content refers to materials such as images, songs, videos, and writing. Creative Commons is already twelve years old, but intellectual property expert Steve Kuncewicz says best practice is still hard to find. “People break the law all the time,” he says. “The Government needs to educate people on this.”

So why does it matter?
Steve reminds us that copyright is meant to protect, not the idea itself, but the way in which it is used. In an age of blogging and the personal brand, everyone’s a publisher. The risk of unwittingly misappropriating someone else’s work is real, so using content covered by one of CC’s several licences will help you to do things by the book.

If you produce your own content, don’t feel up yourself by wanting to protect it either. There is plenty of scope within CC to find the right permissions you’d like to apply to your work.

CC in real life
There is no single system which governs the internet, and it’s difficult to police the guidelines offered, even where they can be enforced. When questioned about the practicality of CC, Steve admits there is a world between what is legal and what is widely accepted. He offers a tongue in cheek summation, saying CC is “a less evil way of making copyright work.” Indeed, one of the biggest selling points for CC is that it is law in simple terms, and readily accessible.

The session touches on data protection, freedom of speech, and inevitably litigation. It’s more than can be explained or understood in one evening, and we’re encouraged to continue our exploration online. Myths are debunked – “Facebook doesn’t own nearly as much [content] as people think,” smiles Steve – and we are reminded that it pays to read the fine print. We leave, inspired to discover where CC is most relevant in our own lives. I doubt I am the only one who sees advertising imagery on the journey home in a new, slightly suspicious light.