Newbie Blogger Initiative 2012 logo. Typography over image of dragon, monitor, and mouse

Creative Freedom

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2012 logo. Typography over image of dragon, monitor, and mouse

NEWBIE BLOGGER INITIATIVE, 31 MAY — Wow, month’s end already! I’d like to do one more piece for the fabulous Newbie Blogger Initiative, and it should probably be one of my most passionate topics, Creative Freedom, sometimes called Intellectual Property, although I personally reject that term. I reject that term because I believe

If it’s intellectual, it isn’t property

If I have one bottle of beer, I can drink it, or give it to you, I can’t do both. That’s the nature of physical objects or commodities or property. But if I have knowledge I can share it with you and still have it myself, in fact the act of sharing, rather than “draining my brain,” probably develops my knowledge even further. If it’s intellectual it isn’t property, or shouldn’t be.

Before I go off any further into the philoshopy, here’s the mechanics of the 8 most commonly used licenses: from the most restrictive Copyright All Rights Reserved to the most open Public Domain and in-between those 2 extremes, the 6 flavors of Creative Commons license.

It’s always your right to use Copyright ARR or PD, and peeps do use both every day, but in my probably not that humble opinion, I’d avoid both in favor of one flavor or another of CC license. On the open end, I don’t see the need for Public Domain, when Creative Commons Attribution is a totally open license, it simply acknowledges that there was an author. On the closed end, to post work online and label it Copyright ARR is to say that no one can show your photo or poem on their website or blog. Just for myself that kind of 20th century total control is unrealistic in the cloud age. If you want your work that locked down, perhaps you don’t want to post it on the Internet at all. With a Creative Commons Non-Commercial No-Derivatives license you require that peeps:
• Never sell your work
• Never modify your work
• Always credit you for the work
but you do allow that they can share your work, that is they can post your photo, poem, etc on their website, blog, etc, as long as they’re not monetizing or modifying your work and they are giving you credit. That’s pretty much why you posted online anyway, so that feels right to me.

The Creative Commons “Choose A License” page really simples this up for you

As you’ll see, they just ask you 2-1/2 questions:
1. Can peeps use your work commercially? (can they make money off your stuff)
2. Can they modify your work? (derivatives or remixes)
2b. If yes, do you want them to “share alike”

Your answers to these questions generate 1 of 6 possible licenses. I’ve already described the most restrictive: CC Non-Commercial, No Derivatives; and the most open: CC Attribution.

Actually, all 6 flavors of CC license are “attribution,” the CC-A license is just called that since it’s the only requirement with that license. Even though Copyright ARR is very restrictive, it actually doesn’t require attribution, as long as I pay you, I don’t necessarily have to credit you, although some countries additionally have a “moral right” of attribution.

All 6 CC licenses provide for 2 things Copyright ARR does not: 1. Attribution to the artist, and 2. the ability to share, under commercial or non-commercial terms.

If you’re a Free Culture zealot like me, CC-Attribution is the best way to let your work go as far as possible. With a more restrictive license, peeps can always ask for further permission. For example, even though Flickr is awesome for offering choices on your license, the Flickr default is, unfortunately, C-ARR, so for the myriad Flickr users who never actually pick a license, all their work is locked under C-ARR, never to see the light of day.

Sometimes I’ll go find a bunch of Flicker images that I might use in a lecture. I’ll download a bunch to my desktop, figure out what I want, and then if they’re not CC licensed, I can contact the artist for permission. Everyone I’ve ever contacted to show their C-ARR pix at the university has both said yes, and never asked me for any kind of fee. But even though I do get permission and it, in my case, costs nothing, it can often take a week to get that permission. Unfortunately many of my lectures are prepped less than 12 hours before giving them. So for me the power of peeps licensing their work with a CC flavor is that I don’t have to put in all that time, I can just go.

That’s also a big difference between a textbook publisher and a individual. Besides obscene profits, one reason your Art History textbook is so expensive is they have a whole “Rights Clearance” department to track down and secure the rights for the work they want to print. An individual like myself or someone wanting to do a YouTube remix isn’t realistically going to have that kind of time, regardless of the expense.

image of photo on flickr with Creative Commons license and Getty Images links circled
Logan Campbell’s awesome “Heart” photo. Notice the simultaneous Creative Commons licensing, and link to Getty Images for Commercial Use.

Speaking of Flickr, they let you pick your C-ARR or CC Flavor license and they also let you set up a link to license your images through Getty Images. This is a crazy cool scenario because it means you could license your Flickr pix:
Creative Commons Non-Commercial
Click to license through Getty Images

What that means is:
1. If you aren’t making money, then you have permission, take it, go, do, give me credit.
2. If you are making money with your textbook sales, advertisement, etc, then click-thru to Getty and pay me a little something

This rocks because it means that nobody’s going to sit around waiting for you to get back to them. Once they love your pix, they’re always just a click away from being able to use them. Further it lets “fellow amateurs” use your work for free, and simultaneously specifies that pro / commercial peeps share the profits with you. Pretty cool!

(As an academic, I might be able to use C-ARR work in my lecture under the “Fair Use” provision, but this post is already long enough, so let’s save the topic of Fair Use for some other occasion. Oh, and BTW, this is as good a time as any to point out that I AM TOTALLY NOT A LAWYER. All this info is accurate to the best of my knowledge, but I am not A lawyer and I am not YOUR lawyer, and my understanding could be in error or out of date, so do be sure to verify any important info! 🙂

AKA No Remix. This means you can take my Photo, Poem, Music Video, etc, and place it on your website or wherever, but you don’t get to mess with it. No photoshopping your face on my body. No mashing up Notorious B.I.G. and Miley Cyrus to make your Party and Bullshit in the USA remix.

You already know my personal preference is CC-A. I’d encourage you to think about letting peeps make derivative works, that’s really the spirit of the web and the internet and if you block that you’re locking down a lot. But yes, that does mean somebody else’s head or body could wind up on your body or head, so share freedom and creativity with some caution.

If you do allow derivative work, do they have to “share alike?” This one is a little confusing. If I license my work CC-SA or CC-NC-SA, I’m allowing you to remix, and saying that you must use the same CC-SA or CC-NC-SA license. At first this seems cool, I made this CC-SA work and I want anything that flows from it to stay that way. The only catch is that by me dictating the terms for the license of your derivative work, you might be mashing up more than one source and there are actually all kinds of licenses out there, so it could be that 2 open works both have pretty free terms, but not identical terms, so 2 works with SA provisions might be impossible to mashup, even though it was the author’s intent to allow precisely that. So for me to specify the license for your derived work is a little bit of a “viral” act. Then again, I’m trying to help peeps pay this creative freedom forward…

Screen Shot of Creative Commons Non-Commercial license

If I wasn’t such a Free Culture zealot, the license that I might like a lot is CC Non-Commercial. From my personal perspective, Copyright is bad law. (yes, I do appreciate that it helps lots of artists earn a living) and what I like about CC-NC is that it simultaneously creates a new community, without letting the old community plunder you.

With CC-NC you allow derivatives, but not commercial, for profit use. Another way of putting this is that when you post your YouTube video, or Flickr photo, or CCMixter audio track, you’re saying, “if you want to use it here, in this new community that we are building and sharing together, awesome, knock yourself out, go nuts, give me credit. But, if you want to sell it to old media: The New York Times, NBC, Disney, well then you can come back and talk to me and sure you can pay me some of that money. So in a way I think CC-NC is a great “community building” license.

One reason I personally prefer CC-A is that I’d just like the work to be as easy to go anywhere as possible. I don’t want you to have to wait for me to reply or to have to track me down or to wait till I’ve been dead for 70 years. I’d like my work to be shared as freely as you care to share it any time you like.

When those Martians stuck their DNA on rocks and threw them into space, eventually landing on earth and eventually evolving into Homo sapiens (yuck yuck) they didn’t stamp the rock “call Mars before using” this just threw their “creative” message in a bottle and said, go, do, build a richer universe.

Oh, and since this is the Newbie BLOGGER Initiative, I’d say that you should totally have a page called “About” and it should give all the info on your terms. What your license is, how to be in contact with you for further rights, etc. Oh, and as an aside, your About page, IMHO, ought to have your name. I’m way not Facebook or Google+, I don’t care what name you put on your About page, but give me something to call you. I’m shocked at how many blogs I can’t figure out what to even call the author! 😛

kk, have I confused the living crap out of you yet?
Ask questions below! 🙂

R E L A T E D . M A T E R I A L S

Creative Commons / Choose a License

Logan Campbell’s Heart photo on Flickr

iRez’ About page

Newbie Blogger Initiative


As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

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