The Rules of Stealing Have Changed. Creative Commons is in Effect.

Creative Commons Licensing Types

A few days ago I’ve had the good fortune to attend one of the best technology and social media conferences on the West Coast – Twiistup. As is typical of my attendance, I brought along my camera to snap a “few” photos (you can see them here). I uploaded select photos onto Flickr and included a caption across the entire set that I would be happy if people used these photos in their website, blog or other online medium just as long as they attribute it to me and include a link back. Pretty simple, yes? That was until I happened to find some individuals who decided to use my photos without asking permission or without accreditation. Don’t get me wrong…I’m fine with them using my work and I’m not upset but would like it if accreditation was given.

This brings me to the purpose of this post: what exactly is creative commons and how has it changed the rules of the game?

Just what is Creative Commons? It’s a common standards that was started a while ago that is designed to inform the public how you want to share your media. According to the Creative Commons website:

A CC license marks your work with the freedoms of your choice. This notifies the public how your work can be reused, cutting out the middleman.

Founded in 2001, the group known as Creative Commons apparently needed to find a way to solve the common problem (no pun intended) about how to create a standard that would allow people to showcase their work while not hindering on the issue about shareability. Some people wanted to share their work freely while others felt it prudent to perhaps restrict how “freely” their work was used without preventing others from repurposing the work. So a new way was created and that became the Creative Commons – it has an established rule that people can understand without any confusion.

With Creative Commons, there are multiple forms of marking your media:

  • Attribution
  • Attribution Share Alike
  • Attribution No Derivatives
  • Attribution Non-Commercial
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

As you can see, there are at least six forms of licensing your media, but what is common across each of these is that attribution must be given when using other people’s work as licensed under Creative Commons. Here’s a breakdown of what each of these licenses mean:

When it comes to the most simple of licenses afforded under Creative Commons, you’re going to look for simple Attribution as it seems that the author of the work simply just wants credit for creating the work. As long as others credit you for the original work, they have your permission to tweak, distribute, remix and build upon it – even for commercial use.

If you want to apply the license to even any new deviations of your work, then you’ll want to assign the Attribution Share Alike license. This will still allow those who want to use your work – even for commercial purposes – to distribute, tweak, remix and build upon it.

However, if you want to maintain the integrity of your work, you can use the Attribution No Derivatives license which restricts others from making any changes to the work, but it can still be redistributed and used commercially or non-commercially.

If you’re not interested in sharing your work for  others to use commercially, then the next three license types are more appropriate. With Attribution Non-Commercial you are essentially granting permission for people to tweak, dstribute, remix and build upon your work but not for commercial use, as long as they give you credit for original work. This is the same for Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike but the license carries over to any new work that was done from the original source – in which case credit must be given to you.

Lastly, one of the licensing types that I typically use is the Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives which gives me full control over my work as that means anyone who uses my work may not use it for commercial purposes and cannot make any derivatives of the work – the media I create is used exactly as is. Attribution must be given.

Flickr has a great tool to allow you to control the way licensing is given for a whole set or an individual media. Be sure to note which of your work you post you’d like to share with others – this is probably more prevalent when it comes to social networks as it is custom to share works of art with your friends or post them up somewhere for comment or review. However, it should be noted that if you see a specific work that you want to repurpose or redistribute, make sure that you know what the Creative Commons licensing is before you borrow it and that you adhere to the rules – otherwise you might be in store for a legal fight or possibly pissing someone off.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.