Creative Commons

aesthetics  →
being  →
complexity  →
database  →
enterprise  →
ethics  →
fiction  →
history  →
internet  →
knowledge  →
language  →
licensing  →
linux  →
logic  →
method  →
news  →
perception  →
philosophy  →
policy  →
purpose  →
religion  →
science  →
sociology  →
software  →
truth  →
unix  →
wiki  →
essay  →
feed  →
help  →
system  →
wiki  →
critical  →
discussion  →
forked  →
imported  →
original  →
edit index Creative Commons

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others legally to build upon and share. The organization has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons Licenses. These licenses, depending on the one chosen, restrict only certain rights (or none) of the work.

The Creative Commons licenses enable copyright holders to grant some or all of their rights to the public while retaining others through a variety of licensing and contract schemes including dedication to the Public Domain or Open Content licensing terms. The intention is to avoid the problems current copyright laws create for the sharing of information.

The project provides several free licenses that copyright owners can use when releasing their works on the Web. It also provides RDF/XML metadata that describes the license and the work, making it easier to automatically process and locate licensed works. Creative Commons also provides a "Founders' Copyright"(1) contract, intended to re-create the effects of the original U.S. Copyright created by the founders of the U.S. Constitution.

All these efforts, and more, are done to counter the effects of what Creative Commons considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. In the words of Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons and former Chairman of the Board, it is "a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past".(2) 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.(3)(4)


The Creative Commons Licenses were pre-dated by the Open Publication License and the GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL). The GNU FDL was intended mainly as a license for software documentation, but is also in active use by non-software projects such as Pseudopedia (and thus widely communicated virally, due to Wikipedia's popularity). The Open Publication License is now largely defunct, and its creator suggests that new projects not use it. Both licenses contained optional parts that, in the opinions of critics, made them less "free". The GNU FDL differs from the CC licenses in its requirement that the licensed work be distributed in a form which is "transparent", i.e., not in a proprietary and/or confidential format.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Creative Commons was officially launched in 2001. Lawrence Lessig, the founder and former chairman, started the organization as an additional method of achieving the goals of his Supreme Court case, Eldred v. Ashcroft. The initial set of Creative Commons licenses was published on December 16, 2002.(5) The project itself was honored in 2004 at the Prix Ars Electronica, for the category "Net Vision".

The Creative Commons 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 NonCommercial license. While the verdict was in favour 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."(6)


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 January 2007, there are 34 jurisdiction-specific licenses, with 9 other jurisdictions in drafting process, and more countries joining the project.

Several million pages of web content use Creative Commons licenses. Common Content was set up by Jeff Kramer with cooperation from Creative Commons, and is currently maintained by volunteers.

Criticismj from the Copyleft

During its first year as an organization, Creative Commons experienced a "honeymoon" period with very little criticism. Recently though, critical attention has focused on the Creative Commons movement and how well it is living up to its perceived values and goals. The critical positions (and non-positions) taken can be roughly divided up into complaints of a lack of:
  • An ethical position - Those in these camps criticize the Creative Commons for failing to set a minimum standard for its licenses, or for not having an ethical position to base its licenses. These camps argue that Creative Commons should define, and should have defined, a set of core freedoms or rights which all CC licenses must grant. These terms might, or might not, be the same core freedoms as the heart of the free software "movement.(7)(8) In particular, Stallman has criticised the newer licenses for not allowing the freedom to copy the work for noncommercial purposes, and has said he no longer supports Creative Commons as an organisation, as the licenses no longer provide this as a common basic freedom.(9)
  • A political position - Where the object is to critically analyze the foundations of the Creative Commons movement and offer an eminent critique (e.g. Berry & Moss 2005, Geert Lovink, Free Culture movements).
  • A common sense position - These usually fall into the category of "it is not needed" or "it takes away user rights" (see Toth 2005 or Dvorak 2005).
  • A pro-copyright position - These are usually marshalled by the content industry and argue either that Creative Commons is not useful, or that it undermines copyright (Nimmer 2005).

See Also


  1. cite web | title=Founder's Copyright | work=Creative Commons | url= | accessdate=2006-04-07
  2. cite book | first=Lawrence | last=Lessig |url= |year=2004 | title=Free Culture | publisher=Penguin Press | location=New York | pages=8
  3. cite journal | author=Ermert, Monika | title=Germany debuts Creative Commons | journal=Register | year=2004| url=
  4. cite web | author=Lessig, Lawrence| year=2006| title=Lawrence Lessig on Creative Commons and the Remix Culture | format=mp3 | work=Talking with Talis | url= | accessdate=2006-04-07
  5. cite web|url=|title=Creative Commons Unveils Machine-Readable Copyright Licenses|work=Creative Commons|date=2002-12-16|accessdate=2007-02-09
  6. cite web|url=|title=Creative Commons License Upheld by Dutch Court|work=Groklaw|date=2006-03-16|accessdate=2006-09-02
  7. Benjamin Mako Hill, Towards a Standard of Freedom: Creative Commons and the Free Software Movement
  8. the writings of Richard Stallmanweblink
  9. Free Software Foundation blog

  • Ardito, Stephanie C. "Public-Domain Advocacy Flourishes." Information Today 20, no. 7 (2003): 17,19.
  • Asschenfeldt, Christiane. "Copyright and Licensing Issues—The International Commons." In CERN Workshop Series on Innovations in Scholarly Communication: Implementing the Benefits of OAI (OAI3), 12 February-14 February 2004 at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva: CERN, 2004.weblink video
  • Brown, Glenn Otis. "Academic Digital Rights: A Walk on the Creative Commons." Syllabus Magazine (April 2003).weblink
  • ———. "Out of the Way: How the Next Copyright Revolution Can Help the Next Scientific Revolution." PLoS Biology 1, no. 1 (2003): 30-31.weblink
  • Chillingworth, Mark. "Creative Commons Attracts BBC's Attention." Information World Review, 11 June 2004.weblink
  • Conhaim, Wallys W. "Creative Commons Nurtures the Public Domain." Information Today 19, no. 7 (2002): 52, 54.weblink
  • "Delivering Classics Resources with TEI-XML, Open Source, and Creative Commons Licenses." Cover Pages, 28 April 2004.weblink
  • Denison, D.C. "For Creators, An Argument for Alienable Rights." Boston Globe, 22 December 2002, E2.
  • Ermert, Monika. "Germany Debuts Creative Commons." The Register, 15 June 2004.weblink
  • Fitzgerald, Brian, and Ian Oi. "Free Culture: Cultivating the Creative Commons." (2004).weblink
  • Johnstone, Sally M. "Sharing Educational Materials Without Losing Rights." Change 35, no. 6 (2003): 49-51.
  • Lessig, Lawrence. "The Creative Commons" (1994) vol.55 Florida Law Review 763.
  • Plotkin, Hal. "All Hail Creative Commons: Stanford Professor and Author Lawrence Lessig Plans a Legal Insurrection.", 11 February 2002.weblink
  • Schloman, Barbara F. "Creative Commons: An Opportunity to Extend the Public Domain." Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 13 October 2003.weblink
  • Stix, Gary. "Some Rights Reserved." Scientific American 288, no. 3 (2003): 46.weblink
  • Weitzman, Jonathan B., and Lawrence Lessig. "Open Access and Creative Common Sense." Open Access Now, 10 May 2004.weblink

External Links

Articles For-and-Against

Some content adapted from the Pseudopedia article "Creative_Commons" under the GNU Free Documentation License.
edit index
[ last updated: 5:18am EDT - Thu, Apr 12 2007 ]
LATEST EDITS [ see all ]
Eastern Philosophy
History of Philosophy
M.R.M. Parrott