It is so easy nowadays to steal another’s work. Music is especially thieved through many different websites, mp3 converters, and a multitude of file sharing techniques. Whereas when our parents were growing up, in order to make a mixed tape, one would have to insert a blank tape into their radio, wait for the station to play the song he or she wanted, and then hit record. It could take days to complete a mixed tape, when now I could potentially download an entire album in under 5 minutes. Because of this, rules have to be in place for people who do not want their work stolen or misused against the creators’ wishes. Copyright and Creative Commons Licensing Laws are currently in place for this reason. Knowing the difference between these two entities could mean the difference between you creating good content that you can share and a lawsuit.
Copyright is the strict older sister to Creative Commons. It is very restrictive, it is very complex, and it is very punishable. However, it is the most protective. Generally speaking, copyrighted material can only be used, reproduced, and distributed by the holder of the copyright for the material in question. For instance, a singer that creates an original song may choose to copyright it so that no one else can lawfully use his or her material without asking for permission. This works out great for more famous or popular artists because their songs are being more widely heard, and therefore, more likely to be reproduced or shared against the artists’ wishes.
Creative Commons is a far less rigorous and regulated practice. A Creative Commons License is given to those artists, authors, or content creators of any kind who want protection for their work, but would like to have more of a say in how. There are several categories from which a person may chose the best option for his or her work. The following list depicts these categories:
- Attribution – This is the least restrictive license that allows any person, group, or organization to use, manipulate, alter, or add to your work, so long as they give credit to you in the manner the you see fit.
- Attribution Share Alike – Similar to the Attribution license in how an original work may be used and cited, but this particular license stipulates that the person who uses your original work in his or her own work must allow for the same usage policies. So, people using your work within their own may not apply more restrictions onto their work than you applied to yours.
- Attribution No Derivatives – Under this license, people are allowed to distribute your work, even commercially, if the credit you in the way you see fit, but they may not change, alter, or tamper with the original in any way.
- Attribution Non-Commercial – Others are allowed to do what they wish with your work, as long as it is not for commercial reasons and still credit you in the manner you would like.
- Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike – This is the same as the Attribution Share Alike license, except people cannot use your work for commercial reasons.
- Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives – This license is the closest to owning a copyright. People may distribute your work, as long as it is whole and unchanged, you are credited, and is not being used for commercial purposes.
People may choose any one of these options for their work. At my place of employment, much of this isn’t applicable to what we do, since we are an on-campus department of a University. This is because the logos, the titles and the names we use are already copyrighted by the University, and we simply have permission to use them. However, I do have some friends in the art and production world, all of which are creating beautiful works that took a lot of time an energy to create. So, I would recommend that they acquire one of the Creative Commons licenses, particularly either the Attribution Share Alike or the Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike depending on their preference. I believe these are the best options, because they should provide protection for their work and should require that anyone who uses their work to do the same. However, since they aren’t big time artists or producers, theyshould maybe not require their work to be kept whole. I believe this because from a marketing standpoint, I would want their name and their work to get around in any way possible, even if it is altered. As long as they are being credited appropriately, I think these options are best for now.
We have millions upon millions of original work at our fingertips at all time. We come across it all the time. As we’re scrolling through Tumblr and see a beautiful picture we would like to use in a school project, or as we’re on YouTube and come across an artist with a song that would work SO WELL as the background music for our own video, we have to constantly be aware of the time and energy creators put into their work. And, we must respect their wishes regarding how they would like their work utilized outside of their own efforts. Understanding the above concepts and practices will help to stay out of trouble, and to create original work that does not infringe on the work of others.