A little sidebar on creative commons licensing

by alison

A few days ago, I tweeted out a basic ‘how to’ for adding a creative commons license to blogs because I just added a license to my blog. During the licensing process, Creative Commons makes it easy to select the license criteria. However, I wanted to provide a little bit more information about what this licensing is about and considerations that one might want to make (these are questions I had when going through the process) so that others might have an easier time determining which license best suits their needs.

What is Creative Commons and why does it matter?

Creative Commons License
A Shared Culture by Jesse Dylan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) license. The original video can be found here.

Lovely, non? We can all create, share and connect through our experiences while still acknowledging one another for our work.

What license should I select?

There are six licensing options and I would recommend reading this when making a selection. Some key questions to ask yourself are:

  • Am I okay with someone making changes to my work?
  • Am I okay with my work being used for commercial purposes?

Can I select different licenses for different aspects of my blog?

You can. In fact, this is something to think carefully about. This is the recommendation from Creative Commons’ Before Licensing FAQ:

You need to be specific about exactly what you are CC-licensing when you apply the Creative Commons license to your work. We give you the option of identifying the format of the work in the metadata (text, audio, video, image, interactive) and you should use this. This enables more precise machine-readable language.

However, you should also think about exactly which elements of your work you are licensing. For example, in the case of a website, are you licensing just the text and images? Or also the stylesheets and the code that run the site? Similarly, if you make CC-licensed music available for download on your site, does the Creative Commons license apply to both the musical composition and the sound recording as well as any artwork and graphics at your site? And remember, as discussed under “2. Make sure you have the rights” above, you need to make sure you have the rights to each element that you license under a Creative Commons license.

Take a moment to think about exactly what you are intending to license and then frame your metadata and legal notice accordingly, eg. “All images at this site are licensed under a Creative Commons [insert description] 2.5 license.”

I decided to license my overall blog as I was comfortable with both my writing and the few images of my own that I have hosted (and will host in the future) being adapted and distributed in the same way. I also figure that if I want a different license to an image or something else, I’ll set up that license and notate separately.

Can I change my mind?

Yes you can adjust or revoke your license but bear in mind that if you put out work under a particular license and it’s picked up and distributed before you change/revoke the license, it’s a done deal.

Again, from Creative Commons:

This is an extremely important point for you to consider. Creative Commons licenses are non-revocable. This means that you cannot stop someone, who has obtained your work under a Creative Commons license, from using the work according to that license. You can stop offering your work under a Creative Commons license at any time you wish; but this will not affect the rights associated with any copies of your work already in circulation under a Creative Commons license. So you need to think carefully when choosing a Creative Commons license to make sure that you are happy for people to be using your work consistent with the terms of the license, even if you later stop distributing your work.

For some creators and/or licensors, this is not an important issue. And most educators who put their their educational resources online do so with the idea that they will be widely shared. But if you depend on controlling the copyrights in your resources for your livelihood, you should think carefully before giving away commercial rights to your creative work. For example, many musicians have discovered that offering work for noncommercial use can be quite rewarding. But anything beyond that requires careful consideration. We all admire generous souls. But if you want to be generous, we want you to think carefully about it before you are.

It’s worth investigating a Creative Commons license. As we’ve all likely learned from our guest speakers, Alec and one another, collective learning is the future. Let’s share responsibly!

Has anyone else added a Creative Commons license to material on their blog (or the entire blog)? What did you do? Have I missed any lessons that you’ve learned or do you have any suggestions for me and/or others?

UPDATE: I took my own advice (!) and made my license slightly more specific (when writing out the description of what’s covered). It should now be clearer that any of my text and my own uploaded images are governed by the license.