If you write it, is it yours?

Today, most people have access to the internet.  We share our thoughts, dreams, desires and day to day experiences with our friends and sometimes with the public, but how safe is it really?

In the late 1980’s United States laws changed so that works get copyrighted automatically the moment they are made!  Everything you write, photograph, paint, post to the web or record is Copyrighted (C).  Copyrighting means “All Right Reserved”.  Anyone else who wants to use it has to get permission to do so legally.  All those who use it without that legal permission can get sued, or their content can be deleted.


That is why Creative Commons (CC) was created.  Creative Commons means “Some Right Reserved”.  It is meant to compliment Copyrights by letting the public make certain use of your copyrighted work, upon certain conditions.  There are a few different types of Creative Commons licenses:

Attribution (CC BY), Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA), Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND), Attribution-NonCommercial (CC By-NC), Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) and Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC By-NC-ND).


Attribution is the most flexible.  It allows other to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.”1  Seems fair enough and very useful.  I imagine it is used a lot by DJs and graphic artists.  Youtube uses this license as a default whenever we post a video.

The rest of the licenses have 3 commonalities, ShareAlike, NoDerivs and NonCommercial.  Knowing the differences between the three can make copyrighting and using copyrighted works a whole lot easier.  All three must credit the creator.  ShareAlike means whatever work is created will have the same copyright as the original.  NoDerivs means there will be no changes to the original work.  NonCommercial means just that, the original work can not be re-used commercially.

Wikipedia uses the Attribution-ShareAlike and the most restrictive license is Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.  Other than Creative Commons, those who want their content to remain completely open can use the Public Domain (CC0), which means “All Rights Granted”.  There are so many options to choose from!

Knowing these facts can make the act of creating a whole lot easier.  From the best song to use for your movie to creating a blog, we should all be informed of our options.  Knowing is only half the battle though.  As creators, we must actively ensure we include appropriate content in our works at all times.  Most websites seek to protect original work from infringements in today’s digital world.  How they will keep up as the world wide web continues to expand is beyond me..

1) About The Licenses – Creative Commons.  Retrieved from: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

(This site uses CC BY)


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