Copyright for Writers and Bloggers – Part II: Creative Commons

Providing a solution for protecting creative works on the Internet.

In the first article of this three-part series (Part I: Why Copyright is Important), I discussed the importance of copyrights to an author like me. But is an “all rights reserved” copyright appropriate for work published on the Web? I don’t think so.

In this article, I tell you a little about Creative Commons and how I use it to license my work.

CopyrightCreative Commons

What I write on my Web site is available here for free to anyone who wants to come read it. (Don’t get me wrong — if I can sell an article for real money, I do — and then link back to it from this site so my readers can still find it for free online.) But just because this material is available for free to read and link to doesn’t mean it’s not copyrighted. It is.

Many blogger and Web content creators use a Creative Commons licenses to set down the rules for using or reusing their work. The Creative Commons Web site makes this easy with its License page. As the page states:

With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify here.

Creative Commons LicenseYou fill out a form like the one shown here by selecting options. You can click a link to display optional fields to provide more information for the licensee about the work you are licensing.

When you click Create License, the site generates some HTML code that you can copy and paste into your blog or site. The box to the right shows the example for my site. As you can see, the code includes a Creative Commons logo and the name of the license you chose as a link to a page with the full text of the license. (Follow the link in the box to see the license I use on my site.) If you go to the © page of this site, you’ll see the same logo and link.

What It All Means

Here’s what my Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License means.

You are free to share, copy, distribute and transmit the material on my Web site under the following conditions only:

  • Attribution. This means you must attribute the work to me. In other words, you must make it clear that I wrote or prepared the material you’re sharing. Not you. Not someone else. Not an unknown being. (So imagine my surprise recently when I found the full texts of one of my articles on someone else’s Web site under his byline!)
  • Noncommercial. This means you cannot use my work for commercial purposes. In case you’re wondering, if your Web site or blog or publication is sold, subscribed to for a fee, or even earns revenue from Google AdSense or some other advertising program, you cannot use my work. In other words, you can’t make money by sharing my content. Period. End of statement. (And people who haven’t understood this have had their Google AdSense accounts shut down when I complained about their violation of my copyright, which is also a violation of Google’s Terms of Service.)
  • No Derivative Works. This means you can’t take part of my work and use it as the basis for another work. You like my discussion of Creative Commons. Well, thank you. But don’t think of using it as Part 1 of a series of posts you want to do about copyright without firs talking to me. This license does not allow it.

The license goes on to state:

  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.
  • Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.

What does this mean to you? It means that you can only reproduce or share my work if you give me credit, don’t make any money on it in any way, don’t use it as the basis of another work, and include my Creative Commons licensing terms. If you want to make other arrangements, you need to make them directly with me.

That’s My License. Yours Could Be Different.

I’m very restrictive in my license. You might not want to be.

For example, you may not mind commercial use of your work as long as you are cited as author. Or perhaps you don’t mind allowing others to build on your work — as many open source software developers allow. This can all be stated in your Creative Commons license. Just choose the options that matter to you and let the Web site generate the Creative Commons license you want to use.

Remember you can always learn more about Creative Commons licensing on their Web site. The Creative Commons Licenses page provides detailed descriptions of all licenses.

But Wait! There’s More!

While my creative commons license may seem very restrictive, there are ways you may be able to use a writer’s work — even my work — without violating any law or license. The third and last part of this series explains the basics of fair use and public domain.

Do you use a Creative Commons license on your Web site? If so, which one? And why did you make that choice? Use the Comments link or form for this post to share your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Copyright for Writers and Bloggers – Part II: Creative Commons

  1. I’m going with the “yes” to commercial and “yes” to modification. As you said, if someone wants to site me as an author, then I’m okay with that. But, again, as you say, I’d rather be paid for what I do than hand it out for free. Hhmm…

What do you think?