What is Creative Commons?

How and When Can You Use Other People’s Content?

As we talk about blogging, social media and creating content online, we have to stop and talk about sharing content, copyrighted material and when it is ok to use other people’s work and when it is not.

For years, in our recent history, we copyrighted everything that we created. We copyrighted photos we took, videos we made, music we created and everything else so that people knew it was ours and we would get credit for it.

Now with the internet, blogs and social media – users are creating content all the time. With that they are re-purposing, sharing and building off other people’s words, thoughts and art; standard copyrighting laws are too strong. Many people want their content to be shared, built on and used for collaboration.

Introducing Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that is working with content creators of every kind to make it possible for some of their work to be used in some ways. Creative Commons provides free licenses for creators to use when making their work available to the public. These licenses give the creators that ability in advance to know what their content is intended for.

In the past, copyrighted material meant all rights were reserved and that you had to ask permission to use or build upon that work, without ever knowing what the original creator’s intention was. Now when you create some type of work you can use Creative Commons to tell potential users exactly how and when they can and cannot use your content.

In the late 80’s copyright laws changed, and as soon as you finished a piece of work it was automatically copyrighted as yours. What if you wanted to share that work? Let people add onto it? Build upon it? Make something else with the content you created? You couldn’t really. The copyright laws were too restrictive. Creative Commons created their own terms and agreements so you can make the decision on how and when people can use your work the way you intended.

Here is a video that I think explains Creative Commons well:

What Should I Do With MY Content?

It is very much up to you and your company what you want to do with your content. Some people want all of their work completely open to give it as much legs as it can get. Some want to publish some content for free and then have some work copyrighted and be able to charge for specific in-depth content. As you work with your business on a content strategy you need to decide what it is people can and cannot do with your content.

Jason Falls recently wrote a post on his blog, Social Media Explorer, on why he recently changed his open, share and share alike copyright to a non-commercial, share and share alike copyright. His work was being confused for other people’s and credit for his work was going to other sites and it was important to him to get those pieces back.

How Do I Know What Content I Can Use?

Not everyone participates in Creative Commons. It is still, in the scheme of things, relatively new. The catalog of items increases every day. You can start by browsing some of the resources Creative Commons has on their site. Some blogs have a logo and link to their creative commons specifics.


Photo credit: hoangnam_nguyen
Creative Commons License

I have always used Flickr for my blog entries and they are great with Creative Commons photos. You can search just for items that are part of the Creative Commons and each photo clearly tells you what the image can be used for.

For example this adorable puppy picture (I picked it to make Jenika go ‘awwwwww’) has a link on the Flickr page that says ‘Some rights reserved’. I can click on that link and see what the specifics of using this image are. This image is made to share as long as you attribute the work, which I did below the image, and on the condition that if it is used again from this blog entry, it gets attributed there as well. Here is the link that explains how the image can be used.

The puppy example is just for photos. Now think about how you can use this for text, music and other creative content. Creative Commons has a good thing here, especially now in this time of so much content creation. I hope this post helped explain what Creative Commons is. Happy creating and sharing!