Creative Commons Sense

Using Creative Commons licensing for protection and advertising.

Are you missing out on valuable opportunities to let others do your advertising for you?

As a business owner or manager, it is tempting to do everything you can to protect your intellectual property by imposing the most restrictive licensing terms you can source or have your lawyers write. The careful application of more relaxed licensing terms, such as those available from Creative Commons Australia can have significant benefits for your business.

Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation that aims to provide the authors of creative works with free tools to protect their interests, while providing the flexibility to allow others to develop and share such works.

Creative Commons Australia is the local affiliate, and provides free licences tailored to the Australian legal environment, based on four key elements:

  • “Attribution” (“BY”) lets others distribute a work as long as they credit the original creator.
  • “ShareAlike” (“SA”) allows derivative works so long as they carry the same licence as the original work.
  • “NoDerivative” (“ND”) does not allow the work to be changed. If not specified, the work can be adapted or modified.
  • “NonCommercial” (“NC”) only allows the work to be distributed for non-commercial purposes. If not specified, the work or derivative can be distributed for commercial purposes.

The comparatively open combinations are more suitable for non-profit, philanthropic and open source projects.

For each creative work, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each individual element; this will let you construct the appropriate licence.

Limiting to non-commercial purposes

You should definitely impose the NonCommercial element where your work is a marketable commodity in its own right, or if competitors could make use of your work to advance their business. Examples include graphics designs, photography, standardised documentation, or a host of other intellectual works.

If your work does not have direct value as product, the NonCommercial element may be counterproductive. For example advertising videos are intended to be viewed as widely as possible. Allowing others to benefit from disseminating your advertisement is a highly effective tool to expand your audience base.

The value of certain works diminishes over time. If your business has already received most of the expected return of a work, then it is worth considering removing the NonCommercial element to generate goodwill and advertising benefits. For example in 2009, the news network Al Jazeera made certain video footage available solely on the Attribution basis, generating a lot of goodwill for the network.

Allowing derivative works

The NoDerivative element should be included if you are worried about your work being parodied, and should be considered if you are presenting a serious message. For example political or general corporate campaigns are easy fodder for satire.

It has been speculated that reinforcement through derivative works was partially responsible for the outrageous success of viral videos such as “Gangnam Style”, which achieved 1 billion views within six months. While this is clearly an exceptional case, it does demonstrate the point.

To share or not to share

If you do not specify NoDerivative, then you should consider imposing the ShareAlike element. The ShareAlike element is most appropriate in an open-source context, where creators and the community have an interest in encouraging similarly liberal distribution of modified content.

In a business context, the ShareAlike element is necessary to preserve a NonCommercial element through to derivative works.

Last word

You might be thinking that none of this really applies to your business, the value of your creative works would be diminished by any form of external use. This is absolutely valid and Creative Commons licensing is not appropriate for every business. You still have recourse to traditional copyright licensing arrangements.

Whether you use traditional or Creative Commons licensing there will still be times when you need to protect your rights. Often copyright breaches can be resolved by correspondence to the offending party, but this should be done carefully and with a view to lay the groundwork for litigation should it become necessary.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.;

This article was produced by ClarkeKann. It is intended to provide general information in summary form on legal topics, current at the time of publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular matters. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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