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What is Creative Commons?

Creative commons is a copyright scheme invented by Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford Law School. It creates a middle ground between the public domain and copyright. Where the public domain leaves “no rights reserved” and traditional copyrights keep “all rights reserved”, creative commons keeps “some rights reserved.” This means that a creative commons license can be used to share your work freely with the world while still preserving some of your rights to it. A license is customizable to suit the needs of the creator wishing to share the work.

How does Creative Commons work?

There are 4 components that can make up a creative commons license. A work can be licensed under up to 3 of the following conditions. The No Derivative Works and Share-Alike conditions are mutually exclusive; they cannot both be used in the same license.

  1. Attribution - The work can be used, reproduced, redistributed and changed as long as the original creator is given credit for the work.

  2. Non-Commercial - The work can be used, reproduced, redistributed and changed as long as it is not used for any commercial gain.

  3. No Derivative Works - The work can be used, reproduced, redistributed as long as it is kept whole and intact. It can be used only if it is not changed from it's original version.

  4. Share-Alike - The work can be use in a derivative work only if the derivative work is shared under the same exact license as the original.

Why use Creative Commons?

The creative commons license is groundbreaking in that it is made available to the public for free, and is the first copyright scheme to also help track and find material covered under it's licenses. When a creative commons license is created, three versions of the license are provided. A "human-readable" version that summarizes the license in an easily understandable way, a "Lawyer-readable" version that contains the full legal text, and a "Machine-readable" version that is used to track and search through all the material covered under creative commons licenses.

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