Creative Commons

Creative Commons copyright licenses allow content creators to adapt copyright rules (that automatically apply to all documented forms of creative work) to suit their more specific needs. The genesis of this idea was to let creative people share some (or all) of their otherwise copyrighted work if they so desired. The motivations for allowing this controlled sharing can range from the purely altruistic to the recognition that works often acquire more importance as they are shared, adapted, built upon and exchanged, and possibly ultimately benefitting the creator.

Many people, especially educators, wish to share their content. Typically, the content they created would be exclusively owned by them and not usable by others without permission. Getting copyright permission can be a time consuming, difficult, and expensive process. Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow the creator to select amongst an array of standardized licenses so that people who wish to share the content will know automatically what is permissible. Currently there are six types of licenses plus an “all rights granted” mark option to put your work in the public domain.

The six currently existing CC licenses for sharing work are:

  1. CC BY (very open, just asks for attribution)
  2. CC BY–ND (may be shared with attribution but no derivatives made)
  3. CC BY-NC-SA (may be shared, tweaked etc., but only non commercially, must be attributed to you and shared under the same terms you created)
  4. CC BY-SA (same as #3, but does allow commercial use)
  5. CC BY-NC (work may be tweaked, shared, only non commercial use, but can redistribute under another license)
  6. CC BY-NC-ND (the most restrictive; no commercial use, no derivatives, must have attribution)

It is wise to be aware of what type of license the material you are using has before you invest time modifying and/or sharing it with students. One drawback to relying upon a CC license is the assumption that the person issuing the license actually has the right to do so and is not violating someone else’s copyright. I have often found obvious copyrighted material under a CC search.

Overall, CC is a great benefit to educators and all content creators who wish to maximize the potential use of their work by others. It facilitates educators’ desire to be generous with their knowledge and ingenuity.


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