Creative Commons (CC) licenses: what are they, what do they do, and how do you find something with a CC license?


Creative Commons license options


Lora Leligdon (Physical Sciences Librarian) and I (Jen Green, Digital Scholarship Librarian) hosted a workshop this morning that addressed these questions: Creative Commons: find and share creative and educational works.  Lora and I planned a 20 minute presentation that would cover some basic copyright information (helpful in general, but also good to know before digging into CC licenses), what Creative Commons is, the variety of CC licenses available, and how one might go about deciding which license to create for their own work.  Our 20 minute presentation turned into 60 minutes, but only because our participants were very interested in the basic copyright information and running through licensing scenarios as we presented this information.  The variety of perspectives from which the participants were coming made for extremely interesting and engaging discussion.   Here are some of the topics that sparked our conversations throughout the morning:

Copyright as a bundle of sticks

We often use this analogy to help people understand that copyright is not just one thing that you either have or you don’t.  Like a bundle of sticks, you can choose to give them away all at once OR  you can decide to give some rights away and keep others.  Sometimes this negotiation regarding which rights to keep and which rights to give away happens between a publisher and an author through a publication agreement.  But, Creative Commons is a resource that offers another way to allow all types of creators to make a statement about what she or he is willing to let others do with or to their published and copyrighted works.

What’s the difference between copyright and a creative commons license?

Lora says  “copyright is magical” (which is one of my favorite ways of describing this) because a good portion of what’s created is automatically protected by copyright. But, copyright confers some significant protections so that others don’t use your work without your permission. Not every creator needs or wants all those protections. Creative Commons provides licensing structures people can use to license their copyrighted work to anyone willing to follow the licensing terms.  It makes it easy to share your work without giving up total control or granting permissions.  Having done permissions work in a former life, I can tell you that permissions handling takes a lot of time, effort, and expense.

How do I find something with a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons licensed content exists in places you are already searching.  After you do a search in Google Images, for example, a menu will pop up that gives you the option to use some advanced search tools (see below).   Creative Commons also partners with a variety of search engines and you have the option to search those directly from the Creative Commons site.

google image cc

That’s the quick glimpse into our Creative Commons workshop today.  If you’d like to know more, please contact us. It seemed today’s participants found much of the information to be new or useful or affirming, so there may be more CC workshops on the horizon.

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