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Creative Commons licence symbol.

Creative Commons licences

In recent decades, a number of alternative copyright schemes have emerged to address perceived shortcomings in the traditional copyright system. Creative Commons (CC) is one such scheme, intended to ameliorate two main issues: 1) the problem of maintaining creative control over a work even when the author is happy for others to use their original creation in certain specific ways (such as open source, collaborative projects) and 2) to make the process of protecting works easier for a broader public of creators to understand, by using standardised, simplified terms.

Works distributed under a Creative Commons licence are different from other copyrighted works, but they still attract copyright. The benefit of Creative Commons licensing is that it does not require complex negotiations or legal representation in order to be able to use a Creative Commons-protected work. Unlike other copyrighted works, a Creative Commons work will clearly show that it is available under a Creative Commons licence, usually through the use of a ‘CC’ symbol followed by additional symbols that explain what sorts of uses are permitted. Examples of these symbols can be found on the official Creative Commons website at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/. The licences are as follows: –

Attribution (CC BY): – The most flexible licence. The protected work can be used in any way you like, whether it is being used on a website or for a song remix, and it does not matter whether the use is commercial or non-commercial. All you need to do is attribute (say who the original creator is, referring to the ‘by’ in the licence name) the original creator(s).

Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BYSA): – This is the next most flexible type of licence. You are allowed to do whatever you like with the work, for commercial or non-commercial purposes, but on one condition – any work you create using material licensed under a CCBYSA licence must also be licensed under the same licence. That means anyone that wants to use the work you created is free to do so, so long as they give you credit for the work you created.

Attribution-NoDerivatives (CC BYND): – This is a more restrictive form of licence, in that while you can use the work, you are not able to change or modify it in any way whatsoever. This means you cannot remix a song, or use it in your short film. A CCBYND licence is useful if you have made a short movie, or written a story that you want people to be able to share freely online, whether on a website or through BitTorrent, but you want to make sure the work stays in exactly the same format. People can copy the work as many times as they want, and give it to whoever they want, but they cannot change or adapt the work.

These types of licences all have a Non-Commercial equivalent, CC BY-NC, CC BY-SA-NC and BY-ND-NC respectively. The terms for each kind of licence are the same, with the exception that your use of that work cannot be for commercial purposes. In other words, under a CC BY-NC licence, you can use a song for a remix, but you cannot sell the result. You can give it to people for free, but trying to obtain money for the resulting work will be considered in breach of that licence. So, as was said earlier, permission counts, but so does the type of permission!

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This article is from the free online course:

Music Copyright: Understanding UK Copyright Law When Working with Music

The University of Glasgow