Editors Note: This is not legal advice. This is my current opinion. It is subject to change. As is the grammar and editing.
Creative Commons in Brief
The Creative Commons (CC) is almost awesome. It is a licensing scheme that lets creator users protect some of their rights while assigning other rights for free use.
Traditional copyright works under an “all or nothing” model. Either you reserve all rights or none. After asserting copyright, you may later license those rights to allow limited use. The scheme worked great back when everything was printed or in a tangible fixed medium. Not so much when copyrighted material consists of data that can be created and shared instantly. I realize that it is impractical to hire me every time a person wants to share a photo on the web without giving up all rights in that photo. This is where Creative Commons comes in. According to their website:
The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.
Searching for Creative Commons Licensed Content
Luchadors by Revelateur Studio is licensed under CC by 2.0.
According to Flikr, it was created by Revelateur Studio on August 6, 2006 under a Creative Commons 2.0 Agreement.
Proper Citation under the Creative Commons 2.0 Agreement
The Creative Commons Best Practices for Attribution says that an “ideal attribution” includes (1) Title, (2) Author, (3) Source, and (4) Licensce. Following their best practices, the luchador photo should be cited as follows:
And there you have it: a properly cited Luchador image under Creative Commons 2.0.
My Thoughts on Creative Commons 2.0
The nuanced nature of Creative Commons makes it content creator friendly. The core strength Creative Commons licensing is it allows content creators to establish sharing rights at the get-go and not worry about having to drafting subsequent licenses each time they want to share their creations. Do you want to let people use your photo however they want for free but attribute its creation to you? There is a Creative Commons agreement for that.
The various flavors of Creative Commons licenses may confuse the content users and make rights tracking too complex for practical large-scale use. Traditional copyright is binary. When you initially assert a copyright, you reserve all your rights. Not so with Creative Commons. Currently there are six different flavors of Creative Commons licenses. Each CC license reserves different rights to the licensor. The CC licensee needs to research which specific Creative Commons license applies. Can they copy the image but not alter it? It is easy to imagine a situation where an image user violates a CC license because they thought a different flavor of CC license applied to the image. Tracking rights quickly and easily is key to any content-based venture. As currently implemented, I find the existing Creative Commons adds complexity to rights tracking in comparison to traditional copyright. That complexity may add risk of confusion and delay in related transactions and risk management.
Perhaps Creative Commons will create icons or symbols that inform licensees which content rights are reserved. For example, perhaps a printer icon will denote the right to freely copy the content.
The labor-intensive citation process may limit citation efforts by users. Citing to Creative Commons was not easy. It required cutting and pasting several links into the citation to complete it as their best practices suggested. I cite for a living so complex citations are not unusual for me and I suspect it will get faster in time. I do worry, however, that other users of CC licensed materials might just skip the process all together assuming a simple link is enough.
Hopefully content servers such as Flikr will institute technological solutions so citations can be cut and pasted easily or attached automatically. Such solutions may already exist and I was just unable to find them.
Creative Commons licensing is getting better with each iteration. Creative Commons is much better than it was. I will use Creative Commons lincenses for my personal use and for other very limited circumstances. I hold out hope that Creative Commons licensing scheme will evolve to a point where I can recommend it freely to my clients. Currently, the potential for confusion regarding rights management and citation will keep me from recommending it in most complex and content heavy transactions or for large scale commercial usage.
Why Luchadors. What imagery is relevant to data law? The answer of course is lucha libre. Is there a better analogy for the conflict between innovation and law than two masked wrestlers locked in a battle for supremacy? Probably. Still, I went with masked luchadors. Why? Because luchadors!