Adventures with Creative Commons

I’ve been using Creative Commons licenses for a long time. These licenses are wonderful in that they give you the freedom to say what are the typical use cases that you consider to be acceptable. And for anything that falls outside the norm, the person can still contact you for permission, just as they would with a regular copyright. Working in higher education, this type of licensing is fantastic because it eliminates the gray around academic fair use. Faculty don’t need to worry about whether or not content can be posted as “e-reserves”; they can just use the content for their courses.

Personally, I’ve always been okay with the idea of people reusing and remixing my content, and historically I’ve used a “By Attribution, No Commercial Use” license, but was never quite sure what would fall under “commercial use”. I know that I would not be comfortable with someone using an image or video that I created in an advertizement, and the idea of a textbook company using some of my content also makes me squeamish. But if a librarian or technologist at a college were to adapt some of my content for a workshop, would that be commercial? Even though the institution is a non-profit, students pay tuition that allows them to attend those workshops. And yet this is a use-case with which I would be perfectly fine.

Apparently the question of commercial vs. non-commercial is common enough that Creative Commons actually conducted a study and released a report defining non-commercial use. Based on that report, and conversations I’ve had with people recently, I’ve changed my mind. Commercial use is okay by me, so long as it is in the spirit of open-source. Hence the new license (“By Attribution, Share Alike”), and a new outlook on copyright.

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