An introduction to Creative Commons Licensing for Artists, Crafters and Vendors

August 2010
Copyrights, Licensing & Intellectual Property series for Craft Show, Art Fair & Festival Business- Part 2

The Creative Commons License was started by Lawrence Lessig. He wanted to reform copyright laws. He fought the 1998 extension enacted by the Bono Act, which gave an extension to the copyright law to 95 years. According to Lessig, he stole the concept for Creative Commons Licensing from the Free Software Foundation. He would give free copyright licenses. "Copyright," he says, "is property, the law requires that you get permission before 'use' a copyrighted work, unless that use is 'fair use'". These copyrights have over fifty million link backs to their licenses.

Lessig represented Eric Eldred in a case, Eldred vs. Ashcroft, 2002. There were several works of art that would enter the public domain. Eldred, as an internet publisher, planned to make them available on the internet for the general public. The copyright extension effectively made this impossible. Lessig argued the case on Constitutionality of the limitation of terms of copyright based on the 1790 Act which states, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". He went up against the government, represented by U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Arguing with the U.S. government were the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry of America ASCAP, and Broadcast Music, Inc., as well as the Disney Corporation. The US Supreme Court upheld the Extension Act. The two dissenting Judges were John P. Stevens and Stephen Breyer. They felt that for the common good of all people that copyrights needed to be held at a term limit. The majority opinion cited that the longevity of people today, as opposed to 275 years ago, made it necessary to extend the term of copyright. Lessig, according to reports, regretted that he had argued on precedent rather than how the law weakened public domain.

The intention behind Creative Commons Licenses, as professed by Lessig, is that "artists, authors, educators, and researchers could announce to the world the freedoms they wanted their works to carry."

At this time, there are six core licenses (

1. Attribution (use the work however you choose, but give me credit for the original work)
2. Attribution - Share Alike (use the work however you like but give me attribution, and license any derivative under this license)
3. Attribution - No Derivative (use the work for noncommercial purposes and give me attribution)
4. Attribution - Non-Commercial (use the work for non-commercial purposes and give me attribution)
5. Attribution - Non-Commercial-No-Derivatives (use the work for noncommercial purposes, as is, and with attribution)
6. Attribution -Non-Commercial-Share Alike (use the work for non-commercial purposes, give me attribution, and license by derivative under a ShareAlike license)

The principal author who has used Creative Commons Licensing is Cory Doctorow, a science fiction writer, blogger and proponent of CC. He licenses his work under the A-NC-SA title. He allows free downloads of his work under that copyright. He says he sells more books that way and others can enjoy his work. He says, "I didn't do this because I'm a big-hearted slob." "I did it because I saw an opportunity to make more money." His first book was "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom".

This seems like a great way to counteract the copyright extension act, but many critics believe that it takes away from the real issue. The issue, as they see it, is getting rid of the copyright extension act. The Creative Commons License gives people the superficial sense that they are working to provide meaning to the public domain. Instead, the artists should work towards an equitable and fair copyright law.

Creative Commons is attempting an international forum. It was originally written within the structure of US law. In order to make the licensing more universal, they are porting (looking at the laws within individual countries) in order to have a worldwide copyright.

Our world is changing since the forefathers founded the United States. We are a part of a global community. The Sonny Bono Extension Act benefits large corporations. It gives them a monopoly on popular culture worldwide. It is not acceptable. There must be a new way to devise international copyright as more people use the worldwide web.


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