Creative Commons Licenses: The New Copyright

By Braden Pemberton
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One day, messing around with your computer, you decide to sing a few lines and record them. Off the cuff, one sunny afternoon and a few hours later, you have a few lines of you singing recorded on your computer. Let’s say a friend hears this afternoon project and wants to remix your voice with other music, chop it up and rearrange it, creating new music from your music. This is a situation that is coming up more and more as the world moves away from isolated communities to one global chat-room, with everyone sharing everything over their blogs and Facebook accounts. If someone wanted to remix, or sample your verses, should they ask your permission? Should they ask your permission if they are then to play this track for friends, or perform this track live with their band? How can you make sure you are protecting your artistic material, while still allowing for the free flow of ideas and recycling of culture to continue?

These questions are extremely important, and should be asked before we all start up our MP3 encoder software to distribute our own remixes. Who wants to create anything if they can’t protect what is theirs? The copyright system was put in place not to swat the hands of kids sharing music on the internet, but to protect and reward those who create art. By providing a monetary incentive and legal protection, we are encouraging individuals to continue to create, and make our society a better place.

But, the lines are not as clear-cut as they once were before the internet and the fluidity of data across the globe. Kids in Russia are bootlegging Jamaican dancehall records released by record labels in the U.K. Things are a little more complicated, and they are happening all over the globe. But thanks to a U.S. not-for-profit, Creative Commons, they are working to help protect our artists in this new global community, and allow us to move our understanding of ownership and recycling of ideas up into the current day.

These Creative Commons licenses can be split into four main categories. These categories act as baseline rights for the individual, and can be combined to provide more specific rights for various situations. The first category is Attribution. This states that the an individual may copy, distribute, display, and perform a work and make derivative works based on it only if the author or licensor gives credit in a manner specified in the license. In our case, if you took the vocals you recorded, you could allow them to be remixed, sampled, and broadcast as long as the one doing the work gave you credit in a manner you specified. The second category is a non-commercial license. This allows for the same rights as the attribution license, but prohibits using the works created from being used commercially. Third is the no derivative license. The user may copy, distribute, display and perform verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it. Fourth, the share-alike license allows for the distribution of the derivative work identical to the license that governs the original work.

These licenses allow for a wide breadth of creativity and sharing, while still striving to support, encourage and reward the creativity of individuals, especially as art and creativity develop in new ways, just as our communities are developing in new ways thanks to the internet.

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