Creative Commons License Launch

Creative Commons finally launched its licenses so people now have a range of choices other than the extremes of putting something in the public domain or asserting complete copyright control over something.

For example, people are regularly writing to ask me to use (sometimes even to quote) things that I have written. As long as they give me credit and it is for noncommercial use, I’m fine with that (in fact, I encourage it — take my content, please). Creative Commons will let me do that using a licensing framework that is a bit more formal.

I’m almost finished with a system so that I can designate which of the 9 Creative Commons licenses I want to apply to a given piece and have that reflected on the site. This is really both the strength and weakness of Conversant.

On the one hand, I don’t have to wait for Seth Dillingham or Macrobyte to create a Creative Commons interface. For this and a wide variety of other uses, I can whip one of my own up relatively quickly using a few macros and some metadata. On the other hand, this wide opened nature of Conversant seems to create a “okay, what do I do next” issue (especially since there are usually multiple ways to accomplish the same thing).

Creative Commons Web Site Goes Live

The Creative Commons web site went live earlier today. Creative Commons is the project started by Lawrence Lessig and others to make it easy for content creators to easily license their work on terms that are more flexible than existing copyright laws.

The obvious analogy to this is the GPL and similar open source licenses. The cool thing about Creative Commons is that content creators will be able to create a customized license based on just how much and under what circumstances the content creator wants to license his or her work.

There are currently going to be options to license only if the creator is given attribution, only for noncommercial purposes, only if no derivative works are produced, only for private duplication and a copyleft-style provision for redistribution. And content creators will get to pick and choose among those options, so if you want to license something only if you get credit and only for noncommercial uses, you can.

Creative Commons will handle creation of these customized licenses with an online application that will generate the license language as well as generate what Creative Commons calls a “Commons Deed” which is a short, easy to read summary of the licensing scheme (both the deed and the license will be stored at Creative Commons which has plans to create a searchable guide of material using the Creative Commons license).

In the future, Creative Commons hopes to have a machine readable standard for this, so a metadata tag in an online essay would indicate the licensing scheme that the essay is covered by.

This is everything I had hoped Creative Commons would be. When they go live with generating licenses in the Fall, this thing is going to rock.

Lawrence Lessig’s Brilliant Idea

He’s still wrong about Microsoft, but Lawrence Lessig has a brilliant idea with his Creative Commons initiative (there’s not much at the web site now, but supposedly it will launch in a few months).

The idea is simple — offer intellectual property licenses that are a) relatively airtight and b) allow people to customize the level of control they want to maintain over their creations. Think of it as a DIY copyright. As a profile of Lessig summarized Creative Commons,

In a boon to the arts and the software industry, Creative Commons will make available flexible, customizable intellectual-property licenses that artists, writers, programmers and others can obtain free of charge to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of their work. The new forms of licenses will provide an alternative to traditional copyrights by establishing a useful middle ground between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain.

That’s something I’d use immediately. I have a pretty liberal reproduction policy for people who want to reprint things I’ve written, but I’d still like to have a more formal license to protect my rights.