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Creative Commons
Creative Commons logo
Founders Lawrence Lessig
Type Non-profit organization
Founded 2001
Headquarters San Francisco, California
 United States
Focus Expansion of "reasonable", flexible copyright
Method Creative Commons licenses
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Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.[1] The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses for free to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy to understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons License. This simplicity distinguishes Creative Commons from an all rights reserved copyright. Creative Commons was invented to create a more flexible copyright model, replacing "all rights reserved" with "some rights reserved." Wikipedia is one of the notable web-based projects using one of its licenses.

The organization was founded in 2001 by Larry Lessig, Hal Abelson and Eric Eldred[2] with support of the Center for the Public Domain. The first set of copyright licenses were released in December 2002.[3] In 2008 there were an estimated 130 million works licensed under Creative Commons.[4] Creative Commons is governed by a board of directors and a technical advisory board. Esther Wojcicki, journalism teacher from Palo Alto, CA, is currently the chair of the board. Creative Commons has been embraced by many as a way for content creators to take control of how they choose to share their intellectual property. There has also been criticism that it doesn't go far enough.


Aim and influence

Golden Nica Award

Creative Commons has been described as being at the forefront of the copyleft movement, which seeks to support the building of a richer public domain by providing an alternative to the automatic "all rights reserved" copyright, dubbed "some rights reserved."[5] David Berry and Giles Moss have credited Creative Commons with generating interest in the issue of intellectual property and contributing to the re-thinking of the role of the "commons" in the "information age". Beyond that, Creative Commons has provided "institutional, practical and legal support for individuals and groups wishing to experiment and communicate with culture more freely."[6]

Creative Commons works to counter what the organization considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. According to Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, it is "a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past".[7] Lessig maintains that modern culture is dominated by traditional content distributors in order to maintain and strengthen their monopolies on cultural products such as popular music and popular cinema, and that Creative Commons can provide alternatives to these restrictions.[8][9]


Creative Commons Japan Seminar, Tokyo 2007

The current CEO of Creative Commons is Joi Ito.[10] Mike Linksvayer is Vice President, John Wilbanks is Vice President of Science, and Ahrash Bissell is the Executive Director of ccLearn.[10]


The current Creative Commons Board include: Hal Abelson, Glenn Otis Brown, Michael W. Carroll, Caterina Fake, Davis Guggenheim, Joi Ito, Lawrence Lessig, Laurie Racine, Eric Saltzman, Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Jimmy Wales, and Esther Wojcicki (Chair).[11]

Technical Advisory Board

The Technical Advisory Board includes five members: Hal Abelson, Ben Adida, Barbara Fox, Don McGovern and Eric Miller. Hal Abelson also serves on the Creative Commons Board.[11]

Audit Committee

Creative Commons also has an Audit Committee, with two members: Molly Shaffer Van Houweling and Lawrence Lessig. Both serve on the Creative Commons Board.[11]

Types of Creative Commons licenses

Wanna Work Together? with subtitles - Creative Commons.ogv
"Wanna Work Together?"
Mayer and Bettle 2 - Creative Commons.ogv
Mayer and Bettle explain what Creative Commons is.

There are six major licenses of the Creative Commons:[12]

  • Attribution (CC-BY)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC-BY-NC)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND)

There are four major conditions of the Creative Commons: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author; Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative works under the same or a similar license (later or jurisdiction version); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives.[12]

As of the current versions, all Creative Commons licenses allow the "core right" to redistribute a work for non-commercial purposes without modification. The NC and ND options will make a work non-free.

Additional options include the CC0 option, or "No Right Reserved."[13] For software, Creative Commons has three available licenses: the BSD License, the CC GNU LGPL license, and the CC GNU GPL.[14][15]

Usage and list of projects that release contents under Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons is maintaining a content directory wiki of organizations and projects using Creative Commons licenses.[16] On its website CC also provides case studies of projects using CC licenses across the world.[17] CC licensed content can also be accessed through a number of content directories and search engines (see CC licensed content directories).

On January 13, 2009, some broadcasting content from Al Jazeera on the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict was released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Creative Commons International

     licenses ported      licenses being ported

The original non-localized Creative Commons licenses were written with the U.S. legal system in mind, so the wording could be incompatible within different local legislations and render the licenses unenforceable in various jurisdictions. To address this issue, Creative Commons International has started to port the various licenses to accommodate local copyright and private law. As of December 2008, there are 50 jurisdiction-specific licenses, with 8 other jurisdictions in drafting process, and more countries joining the worldwide project.[24]


General Criticism

CC some rights reserved.svg

Péter Benjamin Tóth asserts that Creative Commons’ objectives are already well served by the current copyright regime, and that Creative Commons’ “some rights reserved” slogan, as against Copyright’s “all rights reserved”, creates a false dichotomy. “Copyright provides a list of exclusive rights to the rightholder, from which he decides which ones he wishes to "sell" or grant and which to retain. The ‘Some rights reserved’ concept is therefore not an alternative to, but rather the very nature of classical copyright.”[25] Other critics fear that Creative Commons could erode the copyright system over time.[26]

Some of Creative Commons’ critics support revision of the copyright act, but believe Creative Commons to be merely a contractual quick fix that dissuades the public from mobilizing toward a real revision of the Copyright Act and copyright term lengths.[26] Others, such as Jeffrey Harrison, believe the Creative Commons system to be too lax, and caution against “allowing some of our most precious resources--the creativity of individuals--to be simply tossed into the commons to be exploited by whomever has spare time and a magic marker."[27]

Other critics question whether Creative Commons licenses are truly useful for artists, suggesting that Creative Commons is directed mainly toward a “remix culture” that often fails to account for the real needs, such as financial compensation and recognition, of fine artists, especially in the visual arts world.[27] Some critics also worry that a system that does not allow authors to obtain a reward for their creations will cause some artists to avoid sharing their work.[28]

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig counters that copyright laws have not always offered the strong and seemingly indefinite protection that today's law provides.[29] Rather, copyright's duration used to be limited to much shorter terms of years, and some works never gained protection because they did not follow the now-abandoned compulsory format.[29]

Another critic questions whether Creative Commons can really be the commons that it purports to be, given that at least some restrictions apply to people's ability to use the resources within the common field.[28] The is restricted entirely within the private rights of others and has nothing to do with rights shared by all.[30] Creative Commons also does not define "creativity" or what aspects a work requires in order to become part of the commons.[28]

Critics such as David Berry and Giles Moss also argue that the founding of Creative Commons is not the proper mechanism for creating a commons of original content.[30] Rather, a commons should be created, and its presence preserved, through the political process and political activism, not through lawyers writing down new rules.[30]

License Proliferation and Incompatibility

Critics have also argued that Creative Commons worsens license proliferation, by providing multiple licenses that are incompatible.[31] The Creative Commons website states, “Since each of the six CC licenses functions differently, resources placed under different licenses may not necessarily be combined with one another without violating the license terms.”[32] Works licensed under incompatible licenses may not be recombined in a derivative work without obtaining permission from the license-holder.[33][34][35] Some worry that "without a common legal framework, works which inadvertently mix licenses may become unshareable."[36] Additionally, the various Creative Commons licenses may not be compatible with the copyright regimes of some countries, such as Australia.[37]

License Misuse

Some copyright holders have complained that internet users erroneously brand their copyrighted works with Creative Commons licenses, then re-upload the works to the internet. Critics assert that this stems from rampant user-confusion about the licenses. At present, there are no checks in place to hold users accountable for mislicensing.[38] Ben Sheffner, author of the pro-copyright “Copyrights and Campaigns” blog, wrote that when an author creates a subsequent work using someone else's content without permission, slapping a Creative Commons license on the work does not give the author the right to use the other person's work.[39] A subsequent author attempting to do so would still be infringing on the original author's copyright.[39]

Although Creative Commons offers multiple licenses for different uses, some critics suggest that the licenses still do not address the differences among the media or among the various concerns that different authors have.[28] For example, one critic points out that documentary filmmakers could have vastly different concerns from those held by a software designer or a law professor.[28] Additionally, people wishing to use a Creative Commons-licensed work would have to determine if their particular use is allowed under the license or if they must still get permission.[28]

Lessig wrote that the point of Creative Commons is to provide a middle ground between two extreme views of copyright protection--one demanding that all rights be controlled, and the other arguing that none should be controlled.[29] Creative Commons provides a third option that allows authors to pick and choose which rights they want to control and which they want to relinquish.[29] The multitude of licenses reflects the multitude of rights that can be passed on to subsequent creators.[29]

The Free Software Foundation

Some Creative Commons licenses do not meet the standards of the Free Software Foundation and other free content organizations. Specifically, the Creative Commons NC license has been denounced by FSF founder Richard Stallman because, he says, it denies users a “basic freedom” to reuse materials as they see fit.[40]

Mako Hill asserts that Creative Commons fails to establish a “base level of freedom” that all Creative Commons licenses must meet, and with which all licensors and users must comply. “By failing to take any firm ethical position and draw any line in the sand, CC is a missed opportunity.... CC has replaced what could have been a call for a world where ‘essential rights are unreservable’ with the relatively hollow call for ‘some rights reserved.’” Some critics fear that Creative Commons' popularity may detract from the more stringent goals of other free content organizations.[31]

Other Criticisms of the Non-Commercial License

Other critics, such as Erik Moller, raise concerns about the use of Creative Commons’ non-commercial license. Works distributed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial license are not compatible with many open-content sites, including Wikipedia, which explicitly allow and encourage some commercial uses. Moller explains that “the people who are likely to be hurt by an -NC license are not large corporations, but small publications like weblogs, advertising-funded radio stations, or local newspapers.”[41]

Lessig responds that the current copyright regime also harms compatibility and that authors can lessen this incompatibility by choosing the least restrictive license.[42] Additionally, the non-commercial license is useful for preventing someone else from capitalizing on an author's work when the author still plans to do so in the future.[42]


The maintainers of Debian, a GNU and Linux distribution known for its rigid adherence to a particular definition of software freedom, do not believe that even the Creative Commons Attribution License, the least restrictive of the licenses, adheres to the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) due to the license's anti-DRM provisions (which could restrict private redistribution to some extent) and its requirement in section 4a that downstream users remove an author's credit upon request from the author.[43]

As the other licenses are identical to the Creative Commons Attribution License with further restrictions, Debian considers them non-free for the same reasons. There have been efforts to remove these problems in the new version 3.0 licenses, so they can be compatible with the DFSG.[44] In contrast to the CC-SA 2.0 license, version 3.0 is considered to be compatible to the DFSG.[45]

Legal Cases

Dutch Tabloid

A Creative Commons license was first tested in court in early 2006, when podcaster Adam Curry sued a Dutch tabloid who published photos without permission from his Flickr page. The photos were licensed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial license. While the verdict was in favor of Curry, the tabloid avoided having to pay restitution to him as long as they did not repeat the offense. An analysis of the decision states, "The Dutch Court’s decision is especially noteworthy because it confirms that the conditions of a Creative Commons license automatically apply to the content licensed under it, and bind users of such content even without expressly agreeing to, or having knowledge of, the conditions of the license."[46]

Virgin Mobile

In 2007, Virgin Mobile launched a bus stop ad campaign promoting their cellphone text messaging service using the work of amateur photographers who uploaded their work to Flickr using a Creative Commons-BY (Attribution) license. Users licensing their images this way freed their work for use by any other entity, as long as the original creator was attributed credit, without any other compensation required. Virgin upheld this single restriction by printing a URL leading to the photographer's Flickr page on each of their ads. However, one picture, depicting 15 year-old Alison Chang at a fund-raising carwash for her church,[47] caused some controversy when she sued Virgin Mobile. The photo was taken by Alison's church youth counselor, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, who uploaded the image to Flickr under the Creative Commons license.[47] In 2008, the case was thrown out of court for lack of jurisdiction meaning Virgin Mobile were not liable for any accountability or subsequent damages.[48]

CC-Music - Spanish Court (2006)

The issue in this case was not whether the CC license was enforceable, but instead whether the major collecting society in Spain could collect royalties from a bar that played CC-licensed music.[49]

See also


  1. ^ (Creative Commons FAQ)
  2. ^ "The Public Domain, James Boyle". Retrieved 2010-2-5. 
  3. ^ "History of Creative Commons". Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  4. ^ "History of Creative Commons". Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  5. ^ Broussard, Sharee L. (September 2007). "The copyleft movement: creative commons licensing". Communication Research Trends.;col1. 
  6. ^ Berry & Moss 2005
  7. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2004) (PDF). Free Culture. New York: Penguin Press. pp. 8. 
  8. ^ Ermert, Monika (2004). "Germany debuts Creative Commons". Register 1: e9. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000009. 
  9. ^ Lessig, Lawrence (2006). "Lawrence Lessig on Creative Commons and the Remix Culture" (mp3). Talking with Talis. Retrieved 2006-04-07. 
  10. ^ a b "People - Creative Commons". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  11. ^ a b c "Board of Directors - Creative Commons". Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  12. ^ a b "Licenses - Creative Commons". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  13. ^ "About CC0 — “No Rights Reserved”". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  14. ^ "Creative Commons GNU LGPL". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  15. ^ "Creative Commons GNU GPL". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  16. ^ "Content Directories". Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  17. ^ Creative Commons Case Studies
  18. ^ Benenson, Fred (2009-01-13). "Al Jazeera Launches Creative Commons Repository". Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  19. ^ Steuer, Eric (2009-01-13). "Al Jazeera Announces Launch of Free Footage Under Creative Commons License". Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  20. ^ Cohen, Noam (2009-01-11). "Al Jazeera provides an inside look at Gaza conflict". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  21. ^ "Al Jazeera Announces Launch of Free Footage under Creative Commons License". Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  22. ^ Andrews, Robert (2009-11-14). "Al Jazeera Offers Creative Commons Video, Lessig Lends Backing". Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  23. ^ Ito, Joi (2009-01-14). "Al Jazeera Launches Creative Commons Repository". Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  24. ^ project
  25. ^ Tóth, Péter Benjamin (2009), [ Creative Humbug], Indicare Project, 
  26. ^ a b John Dvorak (July 2005), Creative Commons Humbug, PC Magazine,,2817,1838244,00.asp 
  27. ^ a b Schaeffer, Maritza (2009). "Note and Comment: Contemporary Issues in the Visual Art World: How Useful are Creative Commons Licenses?". Journal of Law and Policy.;col1. 
  28. ^ a b c d e f Elkin-Koren, Niva (2006). "Exploring Creative Commons: A Skeptical View of a Worthy Pursuit". The Future of the Public Domain (P. Bernt Hugenholtz and Lucie Guibault, eds.). 
  29. ^ a b c d e Lessig, Lawrence (2004). "The Creative Commons". 65 Mont. L. Rev. 1. 
  30. ^ a b c Moss, Giles (2005). "On the Creative Commons: A Critique of the Commons Without Commonality". Free Software Magazine. 
  31. ^ a b Benjamin Mako Hill (29 Jul 2005). "Towards a Standard of Freedom: Creative Commons and the Free Software Movement". 
  32. ^ CC Learn Explanations: Remixing OER: A guide to License Compatibility, Creative Commons CC Learn,, retrieved 18 Nov 2009 
  33. ^ "Can I combine two different Creative Commons licensed works? Can I combine a Creative Commons licensed work with another non-CC licensed work?". FAQ. Creative Commons. Retrieved 16 Sep 2009. 
  34. ^ "Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported". Creative Commons. Retrieved 18 Nov 2009. 
  35. ^ "Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported". Creative Commons. Retrieved 18 Nov 2009. 
  36. ^ Michael Fitzgerald (December, 2005). "Copyleft Hits a Snag".,300,p1.html. 
  37. ^ Weatherall, Kimberlee (2006). "Would You Ever Recommend a Creative Commons License?". Australasian Intellectual Property Law Resources. 
  38. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (July, 2009). "The Tragedy of the Creative Commons". 
  39. ^ Stallman, Richard M.. "Fireworks in Montreal". FSF Blogs. Retrieved 18 Nov 2009. 
  40. ^ Erik Moller (2006). "The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons -NC License". Open Source Jahrbuch.,300,p1.html. 
  41. ^ a b Lessig, Lawrence (2005). "CC in Review: Lawrence Lessig on Important Freedoms". Creative Commons. 
  42. ^ Evan Prodromou (3 April 2005). "Summary of Creative Commons 2.0 Licenses". debian-legal (mailing list). 
  43. ^ Garlick, Mia (2007-02-23). "Version 3.0 Launched". Creative Commons. Retrieved 2007-07-05. 
  44. ^ "The DFSG and Software Licenses - Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC-SA) v3.0". Debian Wiki. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  45. ^ "Creative Commons License Upheld by Dutch Court". Groklaw. 2006-03-16. Retrieved 2006-09-02. 
  46. ^ a b "Use My Photo? Not Without Permission.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-25. "One moment, Alison Chang, a 15-year-old student from Dallas, is cheerfully goofing around at a local church-sponsored car wash, posing with a friend for a photo. Weeks later, that photo is posted online and catches the eye of an ad agency in Australia, and the altered image of Alison appears on a billboard in Adelaide as part of a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign." 
  47. ^
  48. ^


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

  • One of the most important philosophical and social issues confronting humanity in the beginning of the 21st century is the sharing of information.
  • Creative Commons licensing is great because it just sort of “snaps in” — the hard thinking has already been done, and even some of the technical work.

"Get Creative" Flash movie [2]

  • "It can be that easy when you skip the intermediaries."
  • "Enter one of the internet's most famous citizens. A face familiar the world over. A public identity rivaled by only a handful of corporate giants and global superstars... the big copyright C."
  • "We interrupt this brainstorm to call the lawyers."
  • "We wrote these licenses so that lawyers and courts could read them. Then we translated them into a language that YOU can read."

Further discussion and commentary as to what should be on this page is welcome on the Talk page.

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity


Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."


Share, reuse, and remix — legally

This unit is here to explore Creative Commons licensing and its implications for academic and educational use. Copyright (or copyleft) aspects apply to many activities such as original research, composition, photography, cartography, musical works and many other endeavors that need to be "protected" in some way. We shall use this resource to explore and discuss the various types and kinds of CC licenses and research and compare them with other copyright and copyleft devices. We may also explore the technical and social ramifications of the introduction of the Commons mindset to the Internet world.

Wikiversity and Creative Commons

Wikiversity content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, by default. Some works, especially in the Image: namespace carry a dual license adding a Creative Commons license. Wikiversity license tags are generally selected at the time files are uploaded to or other Wikimedia project. The two most commonly used CC license tags are:

  • {{cc-by-2.5}} (Creative Commons - Attribution 2.5)
  • {{cc-by-sa-2.5}} (Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5).

To see which documents, images and other content items carry these licenses see:

Please see Wikiversity:License tags for more information and guidelines.

Wikimedia and Creative Commons

When the GFDL was adopted at Wikipedia, the Creative Commons licenses did not exist. Once the Creative Commons licenses became available, discussions began about the idea of either switching from the GFDL to a Creative Commons license or dual-licensing under both the GFDL and a Creative Commons license.

Which Creative Commons license(s)

The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license is very similar to the GFDL. Both licenses allow re-use of a work as long as attribution is given to the the original author(s) and as long as derivative works are also licensed copyleft.

Reasons for switching from the GFDL to a CC license

The Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license is better suited for wikis; the GFDL was designed for software manuals.

Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees Resolution about changing from GFDL to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Reasons for continuing to use the GFDL

The GFDL has been used by Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects since 2001. It works fine. Switching now would be disruptive. Switching to a similar license such as the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license would not be worth the trouble.

See also

Commentary articles


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

Creative Commons


Creative Commons

Wikipedia has an article on:


  1. A set of licences intended to offer the consumer more freedoms than traditional copyright (sometimes abbreviated CC).

Simple English

Creative Commons
Founders Lawrence Lessig
Type Non-profit organization
Founded 2001
Headquarters San Francisco, California
Focus Expansion of "reasonable", flexible copyright
Method Creative Commons licenses

The Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that tries to make creative work available for others to use and share.



Their website allows copyright holders to give some of their rights to any other people. They still keep some other rights. They do this through licenses and contracts. Some of these make the work public domain or open content. They do this because copyright law can stop people sharing information.

The project has different free licenses. A person who has copyright can choose which one they want to use when they publish their work. They also provide RDF/XML metadata. These say what the licenses are and make it easier to automatically sort out and find work that has these licenses. They also provide a 'Founder's Copyright' [1] contract. This aims to give the same effects as the original US Copyright did.


Creative Commons was officially started in 2001.

Lawrence Lessig is the founder and chairman of Creative Commons. Lessig started it as a way of reaching the goals of his Supreme Court case, Eldred v. Ashcroft.


The iCommons (International Commons) is one of the Creative Commons projects. They improve the wording of the licenses and make them usable in other countries. The first ones dealt with US law only. As of February 4, 2004, Brazil, the People's Republic of China, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the United Kingdom have joined this project [2].

Projects that use Creative Commons licenses include LOCA Records, Magnatune, Opsound, Opcopy, Wikitravel, iRATE radio and the fiction of Cory Doctorow.

Other websites

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