Copy Right & Left: Understanding Creative Commons

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Public domain means that nobody owns rights to a particular work and anybody is free to do whatever they want with it. You can take a public domain image Concerned About Copyright? A fair amount of understanding makes it easier. If you're wondering under what circumstances you can use someone else's creative work -- expect some answers here. Read More , modify it, and then sell it under your own restrictive license. You can take MIT-licensed source code, modify it, and release it under a stricter license.

Such licenses ensure that copyleft freedoms remain even in derivative works. In other words, you might not be able to acquire a certain copyleft work without first paying for it. The Creative Commons organization offers two copyleft licenses that creators can use when distributing their works. Creative Commons is a set of licenses which automatically give you permission to do various things, such as reuse and distribute the content. Let's find out more about it and how to use it.

Read More. The only reason to endure such disadvantages is if you truly believe in the copyleft mission: freedom for users. These Online Resources Can Help It's a confusing subject, yes, but it's important that you wrap your head around it. If you're involved in any sort of creative work, these resources will help you do just that. Under European tort law and other regulations, it is not possible to fully exclude all liability for damages and negligence. Whether such a severability or: salvatory clause can sustain an most probably ineffective liability clause, might be arguable.

However, even if the liability rules in CCPL4 were invalid, the liability for damages arising from the provision of CC material and Open Content in general would most likely be minimal. Although the actual standard of liability will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, all liability regimes will consider the fact that Open Content is shared without compensation.

The contractual liability for contracts without consideration is generally very limited. Under German law, e. Hence, the level of liability is the lowest possible under German contract law. Due to a mandatory provision in the European Copyright Directive, [59] the circumvention of effective TPMs is prohibited in all EU member states and under any circumstances. This means, e. Section 2. The effect is that any licencee is allowed to conduct whatever technical modification of the copy of the work is needed to be able to use it according to the licence terms, even if it required the circumvention of an effective TPM.

CC licences are concluded perpetually section 6. After all rights expired, the material becomes part of the public domain and there is no longer a need for a licence. Furthermore, the licence grant is irrevocable section 2. Hence, the licenser cannot actively terminate the licence contract. However, the licence terminates automatically upon any breach of the licence conditions section 6.

Uses which are conducted after the violation has occurred are copyright infringements for which the user can be held liable. For example, if a user failed to attribute the author or did not provide a notice referring to the licence text, they would forfeit their right to use the material. As previously explained, without a licence they would be liable for copyright infringement, just as any other person who uses a protected work without permission. Licences of third parties, however, are not affected by the termination.

Alternatively, the licenser can reinstate the licence expressly section 6. However, according to the CCPL4 FAQ, the user is liable for any non-compliant uses which were conducted before the licence was reinstated. Besides the abovementioned obligations and restrictions which are valid for all six types of CC licences, the NC, ND and SA licence elements — which are part of only some of the CC licences — are also subject to some specific requirements which a licensee should be aware of. Three of the six CC licences contain the NC element.

NC means that the licenser reserves the right to exploit the material commercially. Any user who wishes to use the work for commercial purposes needs additional consent i. NC licences are widespread and very popular among the CC licence suite, at least in some areas. Indeed, there can be good reasons to choose an NC licence in particular cases.

However, in most situations, the NC versions lead to significant and often unintended drawbacks. For these and other reasons, NC licences are highly disputed in the Open Content community. It is not the task of this guide to resume or comment on these discussions and its various arguments. Below, however, some of the arguments are taken up to explain strategic aspects regarding the selection of the appropriate licence for different cases.

In the recent versioning process for CCPL4, it was debated whether, and if so how, the definition of the term NonCommercial should be clarified in the licence text. In the end, CC decided against any change of the definition. For purposes of this Public License, the exchange of the Licensed Material for other material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights by digital file-sharing or similar means is NonCommercial provided there is no payment of monetary compensation in connection with the exchange. Obviously, this definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons

The clause only mentions one specific use: Peer-to-peer file-sharing is deemed non-commercial. Thus, it is impossible to give an objective and general answer to the question of when a use is commercial or non-commercial. Being a contract, the licence has to be interpreted from an objective point of view considering the views of both, licenser and licensee. Moreover, due regard must be paid to the applicable law in the particular case.

Using this guide

Concerning borderline cases and specific questions, however, the results of the study were not very conclusive. Altogether, the survey can serve as an interesting pool of information, as it reflects similarities and differences in the views of different stakeholders. However, due to its limited scope and non-representative character, the study cannot be used as a reliable source for legal interpretation.

On the whole, there is no unitary interpretation of the terms commercial and non-commercial, and with regard to the different jurisdictions, cannot be expected to exist. The distinction given here between commercial and non-commercial is based on two general factors: user-related aspects and use-related aspects.

In addition, the two general factors, combined with further indicators, should give a good overview about a number of typical use-cases. It is based on the following assumptions:. As mentioned before, NC licences have several drawbacks. As such, the decision to take such a restrictive licence should be carefully thought through.

This motivation might be understandable from a psychological point of view. However, in many cases it leads without any good reason to a lose-lose situation. The licenser loses many potential users and uses that would in actual fact serve their interest — broad distribution and widespread attention to the work. Many users cannot, or at least dare not because of legal uncertainty make use of the work not even for purposes the licenser would not object to.

The NC element might also affect uses for educational and academic purposes, as the question whether NC content can be used in tuition-based courses see the chart is highly disputed. The same is true for scientific uses within public-private-partnerships or even publicly funded research.


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Would a right holder actually like to prevent these uses? Is it likely that such users would seek individual permission when their use might not be permitted by the licence? Would they conduct an in-depth legal examination to ascertain whether their use is legitimate or not? An objective evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of NC licences leads to the conclusion that their disadvantages outweigh the benefits for both creators and users in the great majority of cases.

From an objective standpoint, the selection of an NC licence is only appropriate if there are realistic prospects that commercial users will pay to use the material. In many cases this is above all in relation to online content highly unlikely, especially without an elaborate marketing strategy. Moreover, if the licenser is not willing or not able to enforce potential violations of the NC restriction by taking legal action, it hardly makes sense to impose it in the first place. When choosing a licence, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the reasons why a particular Open Content licence is chosen.

In the majority of cases, careful consideration will reveal that non-pecuniary motives prevail. There are altruistic reasons, such as the wish to contribute to a cultural commons or to inform people about important subjects. However, the majority of considerations will be of a rather egoistic kind. Attention can result in engagements, popularity or even fame. If, for example, the creator is not able or willing to establish and maintain a professional commercial distribution strategy themselves, why not enable others to develop a channel and reach out for an audience which they could not reach themselves?

For corporate licensers and creators who are already well known and successful, NC licences can be a good choice, provided they are employed as a tool to support an elaborate marketing strategy. Musicians, for example, can use NC licences to draw attention to their work by publishing some of their works on websites or platforms. Should they be able to attract significant commercial interest, no publisher could exploit their work without negotiating individual terms.

However, it is very likely that publishers would contact creators and musicians before investing into the distribution and marketing of their works anyway, i. Akin to the publishing business especially fiction publication , a successful music distribution requires a close liaison between creators and commercial exploiters. If the music distributor wanted to establish a successful band, they would have to arrange concerts, interviews, media coverage, merchandising and so on.

Without cooperation between artists and publisher, this would be impossible. In other words, the possibility of using the music without individual consent will in most cases not prevent a commercial exploiter from having to negotiate individual terms. That said, NC licences are generally only advantageous for professional publishers who can afford to create and deploy complex marketing strategies and who are willing and able to pursue licence violators.

NC licences enable price differentiation and so-called dual licencing business models. Whether such strategies are feasible should be evaluated thoroughly weighing up the pros and cons. On the whole, the number of situations where the use of NC licences is the best choice is very limited. However, commercial users such as publishers or music companies would be reluctant to use SA content without additional permission because they could only do so under the same licence CC BY-SA. To arrange a commercial i. Furthermore, if a commercial distributor included SA material in their own works, e.

As any licence restriction, the ND element does not mean that the material cannot be adapted or modified at all. It rather means that the right to modify the work is reserved, i. Intent and purpose of the restriction is to protect the integrity of the work. For purposes of this Public License, where the Licensed Material is a musical work, performance, or sound recording, Adapted Material is always produced where the Licensed Material is synched in timed relation with a moving image.

Hence, the ND restriction only applies when the adapted material is shared; its production and private use is still allowed. As such, there is no difference between the licence versions. There are some examples in the legal code of uses, which are to be considered adaptations and uses, which are explicitly excluded from this definition. The latter means that format shifting is not considered an adaptation nor is the digitisation of a non-digital work. In these cases, the work itself remains unchanged. The digitisation of a printed novel, for instance, does not change the novel the work , but only the media in which it is embodied.

Therefore, it is not considered an adaptation or modification under copyright law but simply a reproduction of the work. To determine which uses are adaptations is much more difficult. Also, the act of synching music with other works, e. Apart from these explicitly mentioned acts of modifications, no further explanation is given. The licence directs the user to the applicable law. To which extent licensees can republish adapted material, will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

This is even true for different jurisdiction within the European Union, as the European copyright acquis communautaire has not yet harmonised the modification right, i. Whether users of ND content need an additional licence for certain kinds of use depends on several aspects. Modifications of the work itself, e. This applies irrespective of whether the adaptor owns the copyright in the modified version, because the modification itself is subject to copyright protection. More complex questions arise when verbatim copies of the work are used in a new context.

Can, for example, an ND photo be used in a book where it is framed by an article? Can someone publish a collection of photos of different origin, including ND images, on a website? Can someone include an ND text in an anthology combining articles written by a number of authors? Can someone exhibit an ND video in an artistic video collection? Can someone combine several media, including ND sound recordings, in a multimedia installation and sell them?

All these questions can only be answered on a case-by-case basis under consideration of the applicable law. The legal situation for Italian users can thus be different from the legal situation for German users. As the legal terms adaptation or modification need to be interpreted, it is very important to know the applicable national case law to assess the issue in question.

The distinction between collections and combinations of works will most likely be an important factor under every jurisdiction. In a collection, e. The different contents stand alone as separate and distinguishable works, so their identification and the identification of each author are unproblematic. Hence, to include a work into a collection will usually not be considered an adaptation. Depending on the technique, work combinations tend to display their own aesthetic expression which differs from the individual works which were used.

One determining differentiator between collections and combinations is whether the individual works remain separate and distinguishable in the given context. If the work itself was modified, e. If a verbatim copy of the work was, however, simply grouped with others, the result would in many cases be a collection rather than a combination, i.

Examples for this would include the use of a copyright-protected image in a movie, the use of a copyright-protected cartoon character in a video or the above-mentioned use of music tracks in moving images.

In light of the above, it would seem appropriate to adopt the following principle as a general rule of thumb: Every time existing material is merged into a larger work which has a character of its own, the works are adapted in the terms of copyright and the CC ND restriction. Following this distinction, it is possible to make a relatively clear cut between adaptations which are not permitted under ND, and mere reproductions, which are. Some typical constellations are explained in the chart above.

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Some projects using ND licences might offer their own explanations. If this is the case, it is always recommended to follow the guidelines of each particular project. Whether ND licences are the best licence choice depends very much on the particular situation. From an objective viewpoint, one might have to concede that if the licence does not permit modifications, the positive effect for the cultural commons cannot be achieved.

In fact, the ND licences share several drawbacks with the NC and other restricted licences. First of all, as already mentioned in the NC section, it is pointless to opt for an ND licence if it is impossible to enforce any potential violations of the restriction. Furthermore, one should consider the detrimental effect of the legal uncertainties which come with licence restrictions.

Users who might have wanted to use the content might be discouraged by the vague ND restriction. Finally, many of the generally beneficial effects of Open Content could not be achieved with ND-licenced content, as an individual agreement a licence deal would be needed in order to be able to merge the material with other content.

Otherwise it could not be improved, updated or translated; music could not be remixed or sampled, video sequences could not be mashed. Whether it is in their interest to prevent creative uses or uses which might improve their work, is for the licenser to decide. For some types of works and some publishing purposes, ND licences are more appropriate than for others; the same applies for different types of publications.

Material with an informative purpose, for example, can benefit greatly from the possibility of modification. Modifications can improve or update the information contained therein or even iron-out mistakes. A project such as Wikipedia, for instance, could not function under an ND-licence regime. Educational resources need to be modified and translated in order to make them useful in other parts of the world or for different target groups.

Whether they are good or not is in the eye of the beholder. However, if someone would like to advocate or contribute to a cultural commons, an ND licence is not an appropriate option. Anytime ND-licenced contents are combined with others in whichever way, the use will be characterised by legal uncertainty. In some cases, although much less often than most people would expect, it can be reasonable or even necessary to protect the integrity of the work with an ND licence.

This includes, e. ND licences can also be used to support certain business models.

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It might, for example, be possible for somebody to publish a generic version of textual information which needs customising to be useful or applicable in particular cases. By using an ND licence, the publisher reserves some kind of exclusivity on customisation, whereas under a licence automatically permitting the publication of adaptations others could be encouraged and would be allowed to spread such customised versions free of charge.

These examples show that objective factors suggesting the use of ND licences are rather rare. Of course, anyone is free to decide that their work should not be modified without individual permission. Such a decision should, however, be weighed against the mentioned drawbacks of these licences. Two CC licences contain the ShareAlike element.

SA means that adapted material can only be published under the original or under a compatible licence. In short, this means that the adaptor who publishes a modified version of the material is bound to use the licence conditions chosen by the original licencer. A record company could, e. SA applies to the publication of adapted material. Hence, the rule applies only when a the material is adapted and b it is shared. SA does not oblige anybody to share adapted material.

On the contrary, adapting the work and keeping it to oneself is perfectly legitimate. There are three options to licence adapted SA material, i. According to section 3. In other words, if an adaptor used the initial licence e. As explained above, SA requires adaptors to re-licence their modified material under the same licence. Hence, both licences are incompatible.

In other words: The adaptor either violates one licence or the other. Disclaimer While the resources on this guide all aim to provide access to Creative Commons and public domain resources, please note that we cannot guarantee that all of the resources found on these sites will not violate copyright. Public Domain The following resources allow users to find public domain images for use in their projects. Bing Once you run a search using Bing Images, you can limit your results to Public Domain images by clicking on "License" in the menu below the search box and selecting Public Domain.

British Library on Flickr This is a collection of public domain resources from the British Library's collection. The albums included on this page are a great resource for inspiration and reuse. Though currently only a limited number of items bear this mark, this content is sure to grow over time. In almost all cases, the images have already entered the Public Domain for one reason or another. Users can limit their image searches to a specific institution by navigating to an institution's photostream and then selecting that option from the dropdown options that appear as the user types a search into the search box.

Getty Open Content Program The Getty recently started an Open Content Program to "share images of works of art in an unrestricted manner, freely, so that all those who create or appreciate art…will have greater access to high-quality digital images for their studies and projects. Metropolitan Museum In early , the Met Museum implemented an open access policy, assigning a Creative Commons Zero CC0 to any images of artworks the Museum believes to be in the public domain, or those to which the Museum waives any copyright it might have, for any purpose, including commercial and noncommercial use, free of charge and without requiring permission from the Museum.

See the link for more info about searching for and identifying these images. NASA NASA's website offers access to many of their images, audio files, videos and other media, which are generally not copyrighted and freely available for use. National Gallery of Art U. On this website you can search, browse, share, and download images. A standards-based reproduction guide and a help section provide advice for both novices and experts. More than 45, open access digital images up to pixels each are available free of charge for download and use.

NGA Images is designed to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration As government images, almost all of the images in this collection are in the public domain, though the website states that you must credit NOAA if you use one of their images. They especially encourage educational use. Public Domain Image Resources Wikipedia maintains a page of online resources for finding public domain images and other content online.

While not all of the sites include exclusively public domain images, this list is a good place to start looking for content, particularly if you are looking for more specialized items. The Public Domain Review This resource curates a collection of images, books, films and audio files that are available in the public domain. The collection can be browsed by medium, time period, tag and source. Once you are in a collection, you can also sort by the type of public domain rights that apply to the items for example, whether it is in the public domain everywhere in the world.

Rijksmuseum Images on the Rijksmuseum website are fully searchable and downloadable. Each item that has entered the public domain includes this information in the section of the item description entitled acquisition and rights. Over , images are available. Available in both English and Japanese. Department of Agriculture Image Gallery The United States Department of Agriculture maintains a database of images pertaining to their work and areas of purview.

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Because the images were mostly taken for the government, virtually all are in the public domain. Any images that are not in the public domain are marked as such. You can find more information on properly attributing images on the Art Gallery's Terms of Use page. Bing As with Google, not all images available via Bing's image search are available under a Creative Commons license. However, once you run a search using Bing Images, you can limit your results to appropriately licensed images by clicking on "License" in the menu below the search box.

Though users are not able to limit by specific types of Creative Commons licenses, there are definitions of their categories to help you match the license to your needs. You can also limit by Public Domain images. Compfight Compfight is another tool that shows both commercial and Creative Commons images, but it sets off the non-Creative Commons images in a separate section to make the distinction clear. Once you have run a search, you also have various facets in the left menu that can help you narrow your results by license type along with other features of the image.

Creative Commons licences explained