The benefits of Creative Commons licenses

What happens when you set your content free with creative commons licensing?:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

Winner of the Creative Commons 2006 Photo Schwag Contest

I believe in setting my content free. It provides a huge return on investment. Here’s why:

A way to crowd source ideas. People can add and embellish your content and if you have access to the remix, it can give you new ideas
It creates a gift economy and that help you build your network
It gets your work out there. My photos and blog posts have traveled around the world!

I use the “BY Attribution” creative commons license. I’ve used this license now for four years because it is simple, direct, and easy. “You are free to use the content, just me credit and/or a link.”

Creative Commons provides an easy way for individuals to control their IP without needing a huge array of lawyers. In fact, it permits one to easily make things available for others in ways that benefit everyone.

I’ve talked about using Flickr as a photo resource. It is easy to provide attribution and a link. Most people are honest and will do this to provide a benefit for those providing the photos. And for those who chose to be dishonest … well the Web has a billion eyes and it is very likely that someone will notice. Openness and transparency can sometimes help provide a reasonable governor on poor behavior.

All of this assumes that people really bother to look at the license, understand it, and respect the rules. I still sometimes see rather blank expressions when I ask about turning to CC licensed resources to find photos. It turns to surprise when they see what is there and it free for the using. Or, I get gasps of horror from some colleagues who more concerned about how to “lock up” their content with “all rights” reserved and hire IP lawyers to help them police and protect their work so no one “steals it.”

The possible benefits outweigh the possible detriments. But it may take a generation (probably only an Internet one, though) to change attitudes. But, as I mentioned in another post, even large pharmaceuticals are recognizing the benefits of opening up some of their IP.

Here’s a few (good) examples of how I have remixed other people’s work or other people have remixed my work.

1. Remix This Powerpoint. The powerpoint slides came from a webinar I did a couple years ago for University Extension professionals. The title was “Ten Steps to Extension 2.0.” The presentation itself is a remix of a remix. I remixed it from an earlier presentation called Associations 2.0 which was based on Marnie Webb’s Ten Ways To Use Web 2.0 to Change The World. It also incorporates cc licensed materials from others, including videos and flickr photos.

The cover is from a remix mashup that Mike Seyfang and I did a couple years back from a conversation about the least restrictive creative commons licensed. That photo is one of my most viewed flickr photos and resulted in a number of inquiries for work.

A difficulty with scientific presentations is that the copyrights of the graphs and figures are not even owned by the person who did the work. Scientists have historically turned over all copyrights to the publisher in order to get published in the first place. If you want to get published, you had to relinquish all rights.

Now this is changing with Open Access but it is still a difficult problem when incorporating data from an article. Most scientists just use the figure, along with attribution. While technically a problem, everyone does it.

You can check the policies of each journal. They are all different. If more papers were published under a Creative Commons license, which they should be since most were financed by public money, it would make it easier for all of us.

2. How Much Time Does It Take To Do Social Media? This was a blog post that I wrote remixing an earlier blog post with the same title from Nina Simon as part of thinking through some of the material for the WeAreMedia project, another open content project. The illustration is a powerpoint slide that I shared on slideshare. It’s been remixed with and without attribution. Many do not add more improvements on the idea itself, but rather just cut and paste. A number of folks have sent back thanks for saving them some time in prepping a presentation.

There was a brilliant example of remix from Morgan Sully who took the idea and remixed it for electronic musicians. Creating a remix that goes beyond cut and paste, takes some time, creativity and higher thinking skills!

Adding context or new information is a great reason for being able to remix. This is still problematic with a lot of scientific information since usually all rights are reserved. What is fair use then?

When I remix someone else’s work, I go to great lengths to give it proper attribution. But, I never know if people who have remixed my work have done so in return. Now there is an easy way to track it.

Attributor Corporation and Creative Commons have just launched FairShare which is now in public beta.

The press release describes it as:

A free service allowing bloggers and individual content creators to understand how their work is shared across the Web. FairShare allows anyone creating text content to submit an RSS feed of their work and choose a Creative Commons license to determine how it can be shared. Users then receive license-specific results via RSS with detailed insights into how and where their work is reused.

The FairShare service enters public beta supporting six Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2001, that promotes the creative reuse of intellectual and artistic works, whether owned or in the public domain. The FairShare service will be integrated with the Creative Commons license selection process and available in each of the 12 languages that FairShare currently supports.

FairShare helps make the Creative Commons “Sharing Economy” vision a reality by enabling millions to reuse content in a way that provides a value back to the original content creator – value that each creator can define for themselves.

As you know, I do a fair amount of listening, so when I using monitoring tools I can see exactly who is using my content and in what context. That is if they mentioned my name or linked to me. My goal in using this tool is not to police my content. Rather, I want to see how it is being remixed so I reap the benefits of the Sharing Economy.

Update: Article in the LA Times

This is a great example of how mashups can use data in ways no one had anticipated. RSS was not designed to do this but FairShare can manipulate the data from RSS to make it not only easier for the creator of content to control their work but also to track ow others are using it. This only serves to foster information flow, helping increase the rate of diffusion of innovation in an organization.

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