History of Creative Commons/Goals of Creative Commons

Creative Commons seeks to resolve the tension between copyright law and technologies that make it easy to share and remix materials.

The first United States copyright law was the copyright act of 1790. The first copyright laws were very limited in both scope and term; they covered only specific materials and lasted for fourteen years, with the possibility of one renewal. The copyright act has been revised repeatedly since that time, extending protection to all kinds of authored materials and extending the copyright term.[1]

By Vectorization: Clorox (diskussion), Original image: Tom Bell. - Image:(C) Term by Tom Bell.gif, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26316308

Additionally, copyright is now automatic. The creator of a work need no longer apply to the United States government in order to hold copyright in that work.[2] Because all works are automatically granted the maximum possible protection under copyright, creators who want their works to be reused, remixed, or widely distributed need to specifically take action to allow these uses!

At the same time that it has become more difficult to remix or republish creative works from a legal standpoint, digital technology in the form of the internet has made such remixing easier than ever from a technical point of view. Digital copies are very inexpensive to produce, and do not degrade, no matter how many times they are copied.[3]

Creative Commons bridges this gap by making it easy for creators to license their works for reuse and remixing. Several Creative Commons licenses are available; creators can specify whether other people can create derivative works, whether they need to make the work available under the same license, and commercial uses are allowed. By applying a Creative Commons license to their work, creators clearly signal what uses others are allowed to make of it.[4]


  1. Association of Research Libraries. "Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States." ARL.org, Copyright & IP. http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/copyright-ip/2486-copyright-timeline#.W7iK_3tKjIV
  2. United States Copyright Office. "Copyright Basics." September 2017. https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
  3. Blake, David. "Why Open Education Matters." YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWbVt2Nc-I
  4. Creative Commons. "Frequently Asked Questions." Creativecommons.org. August 29, 2018. https://creativecommons.org/faq/#what-is-creative-commons-and-what-do-you-do