Monday, January 19, 2009

Open: CC Licenses

I started out my research on Creative Commons with this question in mind: Suppose I have a book that is published in print. The publisher has exclusive print rights to the book, but I have exclusive digital distribution rights. Can I/should I put a creative commons license on my digital version. What effect (if any) would it have on the publisher’s copy?

As I explored the CC site, I found some very helpful information. From the video on their front page, I learned that whenever you create anything you are automatically given 100% copyright over whatever you created. If you want your work to be freely shared it technically is illegal without your permission.

A basic question that many have is: [quoting from creative commons:] “What are the terms of a Creative Commons license?

The key terms of the core suite of Creative Commons licenses are: Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives and ShareAlike. These license elements are succinctly described as follows:

Attribution. You let people copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix your copyrighted work, as long as they give you credit the way you request. All CC licenses contain this property.

NonCommercial. You let people copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix your work for non-commercial purposes only. If they want to use your work for commercial purposes, they must contact you for permission.

ShareAlike. You let people create remixes and derivative works based on your creative work, as long as they only distribute them under the same Creative Commons license that your original work was published under.

NoDerivatives. You let people copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work — not make derivative works based on it. If they want to alter, transform, build upon, or remix your work, they must contact you for permission.”

These elements can be “remixed” into six difference licenses. The key acronyms are:

BY—meaning attribution is required.
SA—meaning that users are required to put the same CC license that you used on any remix or redistribution of your work.
NC—meaning that there can be no commercial uses of your work.
ND—No derivatives allowed. The whole work can be copied, but no remixes.

The associated symbols are:

Attribution Attribution
Share Alike Share Alike
Noncommercial Noncommercial
No Derivative Works No Derivative Works

Their definitions of licenses are here:

My short version follows:

BY—least restrictive. Only attribution is required.

BY-SA—people can remix as long as they attribute you and use your same CC license.

BY-ND—people can share your work in its entirety, (commercially or not) as long as you are given full credit.

BY-NC—people can remix your work, but can’t make commercial uses of it, though they can relicense it however they want. I have a hard time seeing why people would choose this license.

BY-NC-SA—like BY-NC, except people have to use the same license you did.

BY-NC-ND—Like BY-ND, except no commercial uses. Most restrictive license.

Another question that comes up is, “If I use a photo that has been CC licensed, am I guaranteed that I won’t have any legal issues with it?” Sadly, the answer is NO!

From the CC website:
“You should learn about what rights need to be cleared and when a fair use or fair dealing defense may be available. It could be that the licensor is relying on the fair use or fair dealing doctrine, but depending on the circumstances, that legal defense may or may not actually protect her (or you). You should educate yourself about the various rights that may be implicated in a copyrighted work, because creative works often incorporate multiple elements such as, for example, underlying stories and characters, recorded sound and song lyrics. If the work contains recognizable third-party content, it may be advisable to independently verify that it has been authorized for reuse under a Creative Commons license. If the work contains images, voices, or likenesses of people, educate yourself about publicity rights. The result of this is that you should always use your informed good judgment, and you may want to obtain legal advice.”

To me this is very disappointing—it somewhat negates the positives of using CC images on Flickr. The story of Virgin Mobile getting sued for using a CC licensed photo gives one pause.

So back to my original question--can I relicense my digital version without affecting the rights of the print version? I believe the answer is yes, if I put a BY-NC-ND license on it. With such a restrictive license, one asks, "What is the point of even using it?" From what I understand the purpose would be so that people could email the e-book to each other freely which they technically could not do if the regular copyright restrictions were in effect.

1 comment:

opencontent said...

I assume this isn't just a hypothetical question. One major question for you, though, is this - who is the rights holder? If you hold the copyright, and have given the publisher exclusive rights to print distribution, then you can choose to do (almost) anything with the online distribution. HOWEVER, if the publisher holds the copyright, and has given you permission to distribute online, you can't just start relicensing it willy-nilly.

If you hold the copyright and your publisher has exclusive print rights, you could publish openly online as long as you figured out a way to share the content digitally without allowing someone else to turn your digital version into a competing print version.

ND has nothing to do with it. NC might get you what you want, though. (5)