Creative Commons

Last updated
Creative Commons
FoundedJanuary 15, 2001;19 years ago (2001-01-15) [1]
Founder Lawrence Lessig
Type 501(c)(3)
FocusExpansion of "reasonable", flexible copyright
Method Creative Commons license
Key people
Cable Green (CEO)
Revenue (2017)
Decrease2.svg $1.6 million [2]
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. [3] The organization has released several copyright-licenses, known as Creative Commons licenses, free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy-to-understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright but are based upon it. They replace individual negotiations for specific rights between copyright owner (licensor) and licensee, which are necessary under an "all rights reserved" copyright management, with a "some rights reserved" management employing standardized licenses for re-use cases where no commercial compensation is sought by the copyright owner. The result is an agile, low-overhead and low-cost copyright-management regime, benefiting both copyright owners and licensees.


The organization was founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred [4] with the support of Center for the Public Domain. The first article in a general interest publication about Creative Commons, written by Hal Plotkin, was published in February 2002. [5] The first set of copyright licenses was released in December 2002. [6] The founding management team that developed the licenses and built the Creative Commons infrastructure as we know it today included Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Glenn Otis Brown, Neeru Paharia, and Ben Adida. [7]

In 2002 the Open Content Project, a 1998 precursor project by David A. Wiley, announced the Creative Commons as successor project and Wiley joined as CC director. [8] [9] Aaron Swartz played a role in the early stages of Creative Commons, [10] as did Matthew Haughey. [11]

As of May 2018 there were an 1.4 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses. [12] Wikipedia uses one of these licenses. [13] As of May 2018, Flickr alone hosts over 415 million Creative Commons-licensed photos. [14] [15]

Purpose and goal

Golden Nica Award (2004) GoldenNica CreativeCommons.jpg
Golden Nica Award (2004)
Lawrence Lessig (January 2008) Lawrence Lessig (9).jpg
Lawrence Lessig (January 2008)
Creative Commons Japan Seminar, Tokyo (2007) Creative Commons Japan Seminar-200709-1.jpg
Creative Commons Japan Seminar, Tokyo (2007)
CC some rights reserved CC some rights reserved.svg
CC some rights reserved
A sign in a pub in Granada notifies customers that the music they are listening to is freely distributable under a Creative Commons license. Creativecommons spanien.jpg
A sign in a pub in Granada notifies customers that the music they are listening to is freely distributable under a Creative Commons license.
Made with Creative Commons, a 2017 book describing the value of CC licenses. Made-with-cc.pdf
Made with Creative Commons, a 2017 book describing the value of CC licenses.

Creative Commons has been described as being at the forefront of the copyleft movement, which seeks to support the building of a richer public domain by providing an alternative to the automatic "all rights reserved" copyright, and has been dubbed "some rights reserved". [16] David Berry and Giles Moss have credited Creative Commons with generating interest in the issue of intellectual property and contributing to the re-thinking of the role of the "commons" in the "information age". Beyond that, Creative Commons has provided "institutional, practical and legal support for individuals and groups wishing to experiment and communicate with culture more freely." [17]

Creative Commons attempts to counter what Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. Lessig describes this as "a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past." [18] Lessig maintains that modern culture is dominated by traditional content distributors in order to maintain and strengthen their monopolies on cultural products such as popular music and popular cinema, and that Creative Commons can provide alternatives to these restrictions. [19] [20]

Creative Commons Network

Until April 2018 Creative Commons had over 100 affiliates working in over 75 jurisdictions to support and promote CC activities around the world. [21] In 2018 this affiliate network has been restructured into a network organisation. [22] The network no longer relies on affiliate organisation but on individual membership organised in Chapter.


Creative Commons Japan (CC Japan/CCJP) is the affiliated network of Creative Commons in Japan.

In 2003, the International University GLOCOM hold a meeting for the CC Japan preparation.

In March 2004, CC Japan was initiated by that University, that which is the second CC created among the world ( the first one is America).

In March 2006, the CC Japan become the NPO and be in motion. In the same month, the CC founder Lawrence Lessig came to Japan to be one of the main holders of the open ceremony. Within the same year, between May and June, different international events hold in Japan which include iSummit 06 and the first to third round of CCJP was held.

In February 2007, the ICC x ClipLife 15 second CM competition was held. In June, iSummit 07 was held. In July, the fourth CCJP was held. On July 25, Tokyo approved Nobuhiro Nakayama (in Japanese: 中山信弘) to become the NGO chairman of CCJP.

In 2008, Taipie ACIA joined CCJP. The main theme music which was chosen by CCJP was announced.

In 2009, INTO INFINITY shown in Tokyo and Sapporo. iPhone held the shows with Audio Visual Mixer for INTO INFINITY. (Apple joint research and development with CCJP)

In 2012, the 10th anniversary ceremony was held in Japan.

In 2015, Creative Commons 4.0 and Creative Commons 0 was released in Japanese. [23]

South Korea

Creative Commons Korea (CC Korea) is the affiliated network of Creative Commons in South Korea. In March 2005, CC Korea was initiated by Jongsoo Yoon (in Korean: 윤종수), a Presiding Judge of Incheon District Court, as a project of Korea Association for Infomedia Law (KAFIL). The major Korean portal sites, including Daum and Naver, have been participating in the use of Creative Commons licences. In January 2009, the Creative Commons Korea Association was consequently founded as a non-profit incorporated association. Since then, CC Korea has been actively promoting the liberal and open culture of creation as well as leading the diffusion of Creative Common in the country.

Bassel Khartabil

Bassel Khartabil was a Palestinian Syrian open source software developer and has served as project lead and public affiliate for Creative Commons Syria. [26] From March 15, 2012 he was detained by the Syrian government in Damascus at Adra Prison. On October 17, 2015 Creative Commons Board of Directors approved a resolution calling for Bassel Khartabil's release. [27] In 2017 Bassel's wife received confirmation that Bassel had been executed shortly after she lost contact with him in 2015. [28]


All current CC licenses (except the CC0 Public Domain Dedication tool) require attribution, which can be inconvenient for works based on multiple other works. [29] Critics feared that Creative Commons could erode the copyright system over time, [30] or allow "some of our most precious resources – the creativity of individuals – to be simply tossed into the commons to be exploited by whomever has spare time and a magic marker." [31]

Critics also worried that the lack of rewards for content producers will dissuade artists from publishing their work, and questioned whether Creative Commons is the commons that it purports to be. [32]

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig countered that copyright laws have not always offered the strong and seemingly indefinite protection that today's law provides. Rather, the duration of copyright used to be limited to much shorter terms of years, and some works never gained protection because they did not follow the now-abandoned compulsory format. [33]

The maintainers of Debian, a Linux distribution known for its strict adherence to a particular definition of software freedom, [34] rejected the Creative Commons Attribution License prior to version 3 as incompatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG) due to the license's anti-DRM provisions (which might, due to ambiguity, be covering more than DRM) and its requirement that downstream users remove an author's credit upon request from the author. [35] Version 3.0 of the Creative Commons licenses addressed these concerns and, [36] except for the non commercial and no-derivative variants, are considered to be compatible with the DFSG. [37]

Kent Anderson, writing for The Scholarly Kitchen, a blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, criticizes CC as being dependent on copyright and not really departing from it, and as being more complex and complicating than the latter – thus the public does not scrutinize CC, reflexively accepting it as one would a software license – while at the same time weakening the rights provided by copyright. Anderson ends up concluding that this is the point, and that "Creative Commons receives significant funding from large information companies like Google, Nature Publishing Group, and RedHat", and that Google money is especially linked to CC's history; for him, CC is "an organization designed to promulgate the interests of technology companies and Silicon Valley generally". [38]

License proliferation and incompatibility

Mako Hill asserted that Creative Commons fails to establish a "base level of freedom" that all Creative Commons licenses must meet, and with which all licensors and users must comply. "By failing to take any firm ethical position and draw any line in the sand, CC is a missed opportunity. ... CC has replaced what could have been a call for a world where 'essential rights are unreservable' with the relatively hollow call for 'some rights reserved.'" He also argued that Creative Commons worsens license proliferation, by providing multiple licenses that are incompatible. [39]

The Creative Commons website states, "Since each of the six CC licenses functions differently, resources placed under different licenses may not necessarily be combined with one another without violating the license terms." [40] Works licensed under incompatible licenses may not be recombined in a derivative work without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. [41] [42] [43]

Richard Stallman of the FSF stated in 2005 that he couldn't support Creative Commons as an activity because "it adopted some additional licenses which do not give everyone that minimum freedom", that freedom being "the freedom to share, noncommercially, any published work". [44] Those licenses have since been retired by Creative Commons. [45]

License misuse

Creative Commons guiding the contributors. This image is a derivative work of Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix. CC guidant les contributeurs.jpg
Creative Commons guiding the contributors. This image is a derivative work of Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix.

Creative Commons is only a service provider for standardized license text, not a party in any agreement. No central database of Creative Commons works is controlling all licensed works and the responsibility of the Creative Commons system rests entirely with those using the licences.[ citation needed ] This situation is, however, not specific to Creative Commons. All copyright owners must individually defend their rights and no central database of copyrighted works or existing license agreements exists. The United States Copyright Office does keep a database of all works registered with it, but absence of registration does not imply absence of copyright, and CC licensed works can be registered on the same terms as unlicenced works or works licensed under any other licences.

Although Creative Commons offers multiple licenses for different uses, some critics suggested that the licenses still do not address the differences among the media or among the various concerns that different authors have. [32]

Lessig wrote that the point of Creative Commons is to provide a middle ground between two extreme views of copyright protection – one demanding that all rights be controlled, and the other arguing that none should be controlled. Creative Commons provides a third option that allows authors to pick and choose which rights they want to control and which they want to grant to others. The multitude of licenses reflects the multitude of rights that can be passed on to subsequent creators. [33]

Criticism of the non-commercial license

"Defining 'Noncommercial'", a 2009 report from Creative Commons on the concept of noncommercial media Defining noncommercial Creative Commons 2009.pdf
"Defining 'Noncommercial'", a 2009 report from Creative Commons on the concept of noncommercial media

Various commentators have reported confusion in understanding what "noncommercial" use means. Creative Commons issued a report in 2009, "Defining noncommercial", which presented research and various perspectives. The report claimed that noncommercial to many people means "no exchange of money or any commerce". Beyond that simple statement, many people disagree on whether noncommercial use permits publishing on websites supported with advertising, sharing noncommercial media through nonprofit publishing for a fee, and many other practices in contemporary media distribution. Creative Commons has not sought to resolve the confusion, in part because of high consumer demand for the noncommercial license as is with its ambiguity.

Personality rights

In 2007, Virgin Mobile Australia launched a bus stop advertising campaign which promoted its mobile phone text messaging service using the work of amateur photographers who uploaded their work to the photo-sharing site Flickr using a Creative Commons by Attribution license. Users licensing their images this way freed their work for use by any other entity, as long as the original creator was attributed credit, without any other compensation being required. Virgin upheld this single restriction by printing a URL, leading to the photographer's Flickr page, on each of their ads. However, one picture depicted 15-year-old Alison Chang posing for a photo at her church's fund-raising carwash, with the superimposed, mocking slogan "Dump Your Pen Friend". [46] [47] Chang sued Virgin Mobile and Creative Commons. The photo was taken by Chang's church youth counsellor, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, who uploaded the image to Flickr under the Creative Commons license. [47]

The case hinges on privacy, the right of people not to have their likeness used in an ad without permission. So, while Mr. Wong may have given away his rights as a photographer, he did not, and could not, give away Alison's rights. In the lawsuit, which Mr. Wong is also a party to, there is an argument that Virgin did not honor all the terms of the nonrestrictive license. [47]

On 27 November 2007, Chang filed for a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit against Creative Commons, focusing their lawsuit against Virgin Mobile. [48] The case was thrown out of court due to lack of jurisdiction and subsequently Virgin Mobile did not incur any damages towards the plaintiff. [49]

See also

Related Research Articles

Open content creative work that others can copy or modify

Open content describes any work that others can copy or modify freely by attributing to the original creator, but without needing to ask for permission. This has been applied to a range of formats, including textbooks, academic journals, films and music. The term was an expansion of the related concept of open-source software. Such content is said to be under an open licence.

An open-source license is a type of license for computer software and other products that allows the source code, blueprint or design to be used, modified and/or shared under defined terms and conditions. This allows end users and commercial companies to review and modify the source code, blueprint or design for their own customization, curiosity or troubleshooting needs. Open-source licensed software is mostly available free of charge, though this does not necessarily have to be the case. Licenses which only permit non-commercial redistribution or modification of the source code for personal use only are generally not considered as open-source licenses. However, open-source licenses may have some restrictions, particularly regarding the expression of respect to the origin of software, such as a requirement to preserve the name of the authors and a copyright statement within the code, or a requirement to redistribute the licensed software only under the same license. One popular set of open-source software licenses are those approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) based on their Open Source Definition (OSD).

<i>The Future of Ideas</i> Book by Lawrence Lessig

The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (2001) is a book by Lawrence Lessig, at the time of writing a professor of law at Stanford Law School, who is well known as a critic of the extension of the copyright term in US. It is a continuation of his previous book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, which is about how computer programs can restrict freedom of ideas in cyberspace.

Creative Commons license licence for use of a work

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted "work". A CC license is used when an author wants to give other people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility and protects the people who use or redistribute an author's work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.

Share-alike conditon for works or licences that require copies or adaptations of the work to be released under the same or similar licence as the original

Share-alike is a copyright licensing term, originally used by the Creative Commons project, to describe works or licences that require copies or adaptations of the work to be released under the same or similar licence as the original. Copyleft licences are free content or free software licences with a share-alike condition.

Remix culture society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining or editing existing materials to produce a new product

Remix culture, sometimes read-write culture, is a society that allows and encourages derivative works by combining or editing existing materials to produce a new creative work or product. A remix culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders. While a common practice of artists of all domains throughout human history, the growth of exclusive copyright restrictions in the last several decades limits this practice more and more by the legal chilling effect. In reaction, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig who considers remixing a desirable concept for human creativity has worked since the early 2000s on a transfer of the remixing concept into the digital age. Lessig founded the Creative Commons in 2001 which released Licenses as tools to enable remix culture again, as remixing is legally prevented by the default exclusive copyright regime applied currently on intellectual property. The remix culture for cultural works is related to and inspired by the earlier Free and open-source software for software movement, which encourages the reuse and remixing of software works.

Free-culture movement social movement promoting free content

The free-culture movement is a social movement that promotes the freedom to distribute and modify the creative works of others in the form of free content or open content without compensation to, or the consent of, the work's original creators, by using the Internet and other forms of media.

Public-domain-equivalent license

Public-domain-equivalent license are licenses that grant public-domain-like rights and/or act as waivers. They are used to make copyrighted works usable by anyone without conditions, while avoiding the complexities of attribution or license compatibility that occur with other licenses.

The public domain consists of all the creative work to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived, or may be inapplicable.

GNU Free Documentation License copyleft license primarily for free software documentation

The GNU Free Documentation License is a copyleft license for free documentation, designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project. It is similar to the GNU General Public License, giving readers the rights to copy, redistribute, and modify a work and requires all copies and derivatives to be available under the same license. Copies may also be sold commercially, but, if produced in larger quantities, the original document or source code must be made available to the work's recipient.

<i>Remix</i> (book) book by Lawrence Lessig

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is Lawrence Lessig's fifth book. The book was made available for free download and remixing under the CC BY-NC Creative Commons license via Bloomsbury Academic. It is still available via the Internet Archive. It details a hypothesis about the societal effect of the Internet, and how this will affect production and consumption of popular culture to a "remix culture".

Creative Commons is maintaining a content directory wiki of organizations and projects using Creative Commons licenses. On its website CC also provides case studies of projects using CC licenses across the world. CC licensed content can also be accessed through a number of content directories and search engines.

<i>RiP!: A Remix Manifesto</i> 2008 film by Brett Gaylor

RiP!: A Remix Manifesto is a 2008 open-source documentary film about "the changing concept of copyright" directed by Brett Gaylor.

A Rights Expression Language or REL is a machine-processable language used to express intellectual property rights and other terms and conditions for use over content. RELs can be used as standalone expressions or within a DRM system.

Definition of Free Cultural Works add free

The Definition of Free Cultural Works is a definition of free content from 2006. The project evaluates and recommends compatible free content licenses.

A free license or open license is a license agreement which contains provisions that allow other individuals to reuse another creator's work, giving them four major freedoms. Without a special license, these uses are normally prohibited by copyright law or commercial license. Most free licenses are worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, and perpetual. Free licenses are often the basis of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding projects.

Bassel Khartabil free culture and democracy activist, Syrian political prisoner

Bassel Khartabil, also known as Bassel Safadi, was a Palestinian Syrian open-source software developer. On 15 March 2012, the one-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising, he was detained by the Syrian government at Adra Prison in Damascus. Between then and 3 October 2015, he had been transferred to an unknown location, probably to be judged by a military court. On 7 October 2015, Human Rights Watch and 30 other human rights organizations issued a letter demanding that Khartabil's whereabouts be disclosed. On 11 November 2015, rumors surfaced that Khartabil had been secretly sentenced to death. In August 2017, his wife made public that Khartabil had been executed by the Syrian regime shortly after his disappearance in 2015.

A public license or public copyright licenses is a license by which a copyright holder as licensor can grant additional copyright permissions to any and all persons in the general public as licensees. By applying a public license to a work, provided that the licensees obey the terms and conditions of the license, copyright holders give permission for others to copy or change their work in ways that would otherwise infringe copyright law.

Creative Commons NonCommercial license

A Creative Commons NonCommercial license' is a Creative Commons license which a copyright holder can apply to their media to give public permission for anyone to reuse that media only for noncommercial activities. Creative Commons is an organization which develops a variety of public copyright licenses, and the "noncommercial" licenses are a subset of these.


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