(If you don't know about Creative Commons, it was founded in 2001, with a mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing. They provide tools that let everyone have a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” Poke around the web site and their wiki to learn more about their work and be sure to watch this brief, inspiration video about "Shared Culture.")
The licenses let you pick how to publish your work and grant others the right to reuse it. Three years ago I created that PowerPoint deck based on a discussion I had with Mike Seyfang and Stephen Downes trying to really deeply understand which license to use. I came to the decision that the "By" attribution license was the best for me because I wanted to make it easy as possible to share the work. This licenses means that you don't have to ask permission to reuse, remix, or repurpose the work as long as you attribute the creator.
Last week, I got an email from my one of my blog readers and asking me if my work was copyrighted because one of my original diagrams was used in the attached slide deck shared from a recent Webinar. I replied, my work is licensed under Creative Commons attribution - as long as it attributed that is not a problem. They responded, "But what if the person who reuses your context slaps their logo on it and add a "All Rights Reserved" on the slide. What does that mean?"
I decided to look at how my work was being reused and realized there was a teachable moment about Creative Commons "by" attribution licensing. So, I asked Mike Linksvayer, Vice President, at Creative Commons, Mike Seyfang and Stephen Downes for their thoughts. I also threw some ideas out on Twitter and Dave Cormier, Hildy Gottleib, and Harold Jarche also responded. Since "sharing" is a theme in the book that I'm working on with Allison Fine, we also batted the ideas around as well.
When I first decided to share my work through Creative Commons, my motivation - as I've stated before was that I wanted people to not only re-use the work, but to make it easy as possible for build to build and extend the ideas. I didn't want the barriers of asking for permission or having to retain a "verbaitem" copy because that would get in the way. The conditions of the license is that people can use it - as long as they "provide attribution in the manner specified by the author." The license itself doesn't specifically define attribution.
When I looked at the diagram, I wondered:
- Can they really copyright my work under this license?
- Why didn't they link to the original context?
- Why didn't they include my name and blog name?
- How do you encourage people to build on your work versus cut, paste, and attribute?
Mike Linksvayer gave me an answer to the first set of questions:
I don't think they were trying to pass off my work as their own - perhaps they used "All Rights Reserved" as part of their powerpoint template and it is just added automatically to each slide. But, then again, perhaps I'm being sloppy. I don't have a formal attribution policy. Hildy Gottleib pointed to her policy for her work which grew out of a plagarism issue.
One can create an adaptation incorporating your work and release the former under whatever terms they want (including default copyright/all rights reserved) so long as they give you credit and provide notice of the license you offered (ie that they used your content under CC BY, even if the resulting work is All Rights Reserved).
The licenses offer a fair amount of flexibility to licensors (to specify how to attribute) and to licensees (how to do so in a manner appropriate to the medium being used). See the full license text for exact wording of that -- see 4(b) of creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode -- and maintaining license notice is the previous clause, 4(a).
You could require that attribution include a link back to the specific post where you published the content (ie also where you offered the license).
You'll see a bunch of examples of attribution and you'll see a bunch of examples and a lot of explainers like this one from Molly Kleinman.
It probably should go without saying, but for anyone who stumbles across this, (1) one can always ask the licensor for permission to use outside the scope of the license and (2) one may not need a license at all if your use constitutes fair use/fair dealing or triggers some other copyright limitation or exception, though unfortunately this isn't likely.
All that said, I'm not a lawyer and this is't legal advice!
Having an "attribution policy" where you "demand" attribution is good, but then there is the onerous work of ownership - policing it. That seems like Tower behavior to me.
@davecormier I can't tell what's 'my own content' anymore. think I've decided to stop 'demanding' attribution.
@HildyGottlieb Yes, completely. I WANT people to build on our stuff. I just don't want them saying that our stuff is THEIR stuff! :-)
@davecormier my license says you must tell people i did this sounds very demanding. a teachable moment would be want to use this stuff? click and explain the complexity of ownership.
Hildy, in a follow up email, that she was thinking through how to create a program that actually encourages people to share the stuff, but also build on it and to do so in a way that makes it clear that her organization was the source of at least some of the building blocks.
Stephen Downes' comment was insightful:
"My stuff is all over the web, and I don't really bother looking to see who is using it or in what context. Life's too short. In fact, I think that the agony people get into over copyright and licensing and all that is reflective of a (very successful) propaganda campaign, one that has really convinced that that their creations are completely their own and that they should be militant over the ownership of them. In fact, 90 percent of anything we create is borrowed. It is extraordinarily difficult to show any flash of originality. And such flashes of originality made sense only when embedded in a surround of other people's work."
Allison Fine and I had an interesting email thread, where she pointed out:
We want to create nonprofit sector leadership that values giving credit as much, if not more, than getting it.
We don't want Credit Free Zones we want Credit Full Zones! We want people to be aware that what they're working on is building on the work of others (which they too often haven't wanted to admit to themselves or funders in the past) and they should give appropriate - dare I even say heartfelt - thanks and credit for that work, just as they hope others will do for theirs. People can say how they want their work attributed - or without that the creditor would be wise to be generous and forthright and transparent in their crediting - better in the long run, for their work, for the health of the network, to apply credit generously.
So, here's where I've landed with all of this. Want to use any of this content?
This blog is under a Creative Commons license "By" Attribution. I'm not going to waste precious time policing how you attribute my work or ideas because I am assuming that you will be forthright, transparent, and generous in your attribution. My hope is that you go a little beyond reuse (cut and paste and attribute) and add some value to the sharing chain. I'd love to know how you have reused, remixed, or repurposed my content so I can learn from how you have extended the ideas or added value to the sharing chain, but it isn't a requirement. But please don't be evil and not attribute with my name, blog name, and link to the blog.