Once we get down to brass tacks, we understand that CC is not so much an alternative system that runs parallel to and independent of the extant copyright system but one that builds on existing copyright laws. This way, creators need not be wary of violating copyright laws or enforceability while choosing a CC license that suits them. Users have to answer two simple questions that will enable CC to choose a license that is best suited to their needs. First, whether or not the creator is willing to allow commercial use of his/her work and second, whether any derivative works are allowed. One aspect of the second question is the choice of many creators to allow for derivative work as long it is also shared i.e. it contributes to the digital commons. The CC license system has this choice inbuilt into its process. There are three versions of each license which are designed to ensure that all stakeholders on the process can access and understand the nuances. The first is the legal code layer that is written in language that lawyers are comfortable with. This is to ensure that the license begins as a “traditional legal tool”. The second layer is ‘human readable’ version of the license. The Commons Deed, as it is called, is intended to present the terms and conditions of the license to the licensors themselves and to the creative community at large who might not be comfortable with the excessively technical language that finds its way into the legal code layer. However, there is a stark distinction between the legal and the human readable version. The contents of the Commons Deed do not form a part of the legal version of the license at all. Therefore, in the event of a legal dispute only the legal code is relevant. The Commons Deed is only meant to make access to and use of the license a more user-friendly experience. Finally, it has the machine readable version as well that ensures that this system of copyright is compatible with the various kinds of technology that is meant to read it. This is so that the internet knows when a work is available under the Creative Commons license. Next, we will go through the various kinds of licenses that are available for content creators.

There are six licenses (Table-1):

Net, we will demystify all these terms and make it easy for you as a creator/ researcher/ academic to choose an appropriate license for your needs. 

3.7.1 Attribution License (CC BY)

The Attribution license exists on one end of the spectrum of licenses that CC has on offer. It is the most enabling and non-intrusive license in that it allows both sharing and adapting. The copying and redistribution of the material is allowed in any medium or format for any purpose, including commercial purposes. Also, adaptation or the derivation of the material is also allowed. This is what allows for the myriad ways (‘remix, transform and build’) in which one can display one’s creativity on eithera video, song, literary or research work. The only condition that is placed in this license that is attribution must be given to the original creator of the work and if changes were made, then the original licensor must not be in any sense be made to endorse those changes. Finally, no technological restrictions may be placed on either the sharing or adaptation of the material. One of the many kinds of attribution is the kind that is automatically built into the YouTube system of sharing19 and adaptation of videos. This sums up the broadest license that CC offers.About 20% of journals in DOAJ use this license20. All PLOS journals use CC-BY license for the articles published there in. Other popular journals and/or Journal platforms that use CC-BY license are BioMed Central21, Nature Communications, Molecular Systems Biology, etc.

3.7.2 Attribution-ShareAlikeLicense (CC BY-SA)

This license largely builds on the previous license in the sense that it enhances access. It too allows for sharing and adaptation of the work even for commercial purposes. This must also comply with the condition of attribution but it is the additional condition that is imposed that makes this kind of license unique. The ShareAlike condition means that the original creator has imposed an obligation on the adaptor of the work to also share the newly created work under the same terms and conditions as the original license. This kind of condition is characteristic of the commons and what it stands for. The commons is a vibrant and constantly evolving organism, the health of which is dependent almost entirely upon the culture that its users share. The culture of sharing, working and giving back that this particular license is symbolic of this culture. One example of this is a heartening one from Brazil with the culture of technobregamusic catching on very fast. Technobregamusic originated in northern Brazil, with its epicentre in the city of Belem. The idea of technobregais one that embraces free distribution, open access and a vehement support of remixing. The entire genre of music is based on remixing. However, the culture that is has created is one that transcends mere remixing. Technobregahas created a whole new business model on Latin America. The musicians of this genre do not rely on music sales of any kind to make money. They understand that asking for money from music sales would inevitably prevent those who cannot afford it from listening to their music. They believe that their music is one that was obtained from the community and that therefore, every member of the community must also have access to the music. So, they make their music and then feed it into an underground network of individuals in cheap CDs, who then ensure that the music is available throughout the country. This has been made even easier with the internet, as now technobregamusic is widely disseminated in the online world through file sharing websites that support it. These musicians also manage to support themselves. Their popularity is directly proportional to how many people have listened to their music, so concert tickets are a way for them to earn an income. Not only does this heavily incentivizes enhancing access but also creates newer markets through the organization of concerts around the country and region. The economic model of open content business that it has created has caught the attention of copyright and copyleft scholars around the world. The possibility of replication has also been discussed. In a sense, this particular CC license stands for this very culture of sharing and giving back to the community.

3.7.3 Attribution-NoDerivatives License (CC BY-ND)

Under this license, sharing is allowed even for commercial purposes. However, no form of adaptation is allowed to be disseminated. Therefore, this license does not restrict anyone’s right to adapt their work but restricts the publication or the dissemination of this work. On certain platforms, the two are not mutually exclusive, in that adaptation and dissemination happen almost simultaneously. Leaving these platforms aside, this license does not restrict the use of copyrighted material much. Exceptions and limitations, as per jurisdiction, apply as always. This license caters to a certain section of the creative community that is not against the sharing of their work but uncomfortable with adaptations of the same. Examples could be of a particular kind of work (say, for the preservation of the cultural uniqueness of a dance form) or a literary work (if the author does not want any spoofs). The logic of the internet, at times, functions at odds with this concept but the agency of the creator stands.

3.7.4 Attribution-NonCommercial License (CC BY-NC)

As the name of this license suggests, the works are allowed to be shared (copying and redistribution) in any medium or format, and also adapted. Proper attribution must be given as it is the bedrock upon which this entire licensing regime has been built. However, no use may be made of this material for commercial purposes. A CC licensed image may be altered and put on a T-shirt and even distributed to friends. However, CC-BY-NC license would prevent the sale of those T-shirts even if it is to one individual. Such a license is primarily catered to protection of economic interests. Big brands and authors will gravitate towards such a license since it protects their income while not coming in the way of either access or creativity. This paradigm also escapes the ‘imagined loss’ criticism that is often directed against ‘All Rights Reserved’ copyrighted work. Access to expensive academic books is prevented because of their copyrighted nature. Publishers argue that allowing their free download will eat into their profits but activists and students argue that the prices of these books, particularly in Third World countries, places it outside the range of affordability of most students. Therefore, these students would never be able to buy these books and downloading or photocopying is often the only way for them to access it, thereby making the putative economic loss entirely imaginary. Prohibiting photocopying is not going to do anything but block access since these students are never going to be able to afford the books. This license does not stand in the way of access in any way. Some rights reserved allow for the reservation of the economic rights while not pre-emptively blocking the access right of the user or community.

3.7.5 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlikeLicense (CC BY-NC-SA)

This is a combination of the ShareAlike and NonCommercial licenses. It allows for both sharing and adaptation but not for commercial purposes. In addition, any adaptation made to the original work must also be shared in the public domain (‘the digital commons’) with the same terms and conditions (i.e. also allowing for sharing). This would be the perfect union of protection of commercial interests (something that is in the interests of big business) and enabling greater access. In many ways, this would be the codification of the educational exception under most copyright laws since the very gist of education is the greater dissemination of an idea.

3.7.6 Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

In the final combination, this license does not allow commercial use nor does it allow for adaptation of the work. While the broad, enabling attribution license exists on one end of the spectrum of CC licenses, this license exists on the other. Such a license would be the most restrictive license available which, in a sense, speaks volumes about CC. This license allows only for sharing (in any medium or format) which, as you may have observed, is the sine qua non or basic minimum of a CC license. Creative Commons has a license choosing option online22 to help you decide the type of license you may need for your different kinds of publications/creative works.

Last modified: Monday, 19 April 2021, 12:29 PM