Perspectives in Digital Culture/Creative Commons and Participation

Creative Commons and ParticipationEdit


Creative Commons was conceived in 2001 as way of modernising copyright laws when it became apparent that they had becoming outdated, having been set up for the media and creativity of the 20th century.[1] By the beginning of the 21st century, a 'digital infrastructure' existed which allowed for 'a wide range of sharing, remixing and publishing'. [2] In co-founder Lawrence Lessig's 2007 TED talk 'Laws That Choke Creativity', Lessig clarified, "It's important to emphasise that what this is not, is not what we call 'piracy'. I'm not talking about nor justifying people taking other peoples content in whole-sale and distributing it without the permission of the copyright owner. I'm talking about people taking and recreating, using other peoples content, using digital technologies to say things differently."[3]

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons is described by Lessig as a nonprofit organisation which provides copyright licenses to artists who can directly control what level of freedom they wish their work to have, writing it should be thought of as 'not "All Rights Reserved" but "Some Rights Reserved"'.[4] The concern of the Creative Commons co-founders was that a conflict between traditional copyright and digital media usage would result in copyright being either further tightened or abolition, and so sought a middle ground. Their mission states: 'Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation'.[5] The Creative Commons website explains, 'Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs."[6] Instead of adding to or supporting Open Content licenses already in existence, Lessig stated it was important to develop a new one because they felt it was important for artists to be able to understand their own licenses, stating they needed to be 'human-readable [but also] legally enforceable'.[7]

Copyright owners who decide to release any of their works under a Creative Commons license disown part of their automatic protection that is attached to the work, under statutory law. This means that people who use this type of license are changing their 'property right' in a contract right, by federal law, by the terms and agreement.[8]

Creative Commons provides a variety of licenses to suit the needs of the creators using them.(see below). While a strong emphasis is placed by Lessig on openness and free culture, he also acknowledges that there can also be a need for stricter control over works. He cited, as an example, a Davis Guggenheim film which was filmed in a school and featured children. The filmmaker felt a need to protect the people featured in the film and so opted for the most restrictive of the licenses available. Lessig stated that the licenses allow for artists to choose one which reflects their personal values.[9]

As of 2014, there are 882 million works and nine million websites using Creative Commons licenses. They are used all around the world, with North America and Europe having the most published works.[10] Websites which use Creative Commons include YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr and Scribd. Individual artists who use Creative Commons include musicians Amanda Palmer and Jonathan Coulton and podcaster Wil Wheaton.[11]

Main ConceptsEdit


The concept of commons was around long before Creative Commons came into existence. 'Commons' was originally a colloquial term derived from the English legal term “common land” which referred to an area of land subjected to different forms of use to “private land” at the time. Commons refers to the basic human resources that can not be owned privately and are available to all members of society.[12] Similarly, this phrase has been used to present political platforms, the House of Commons, and environmental ownership.[13] Digital commons can be defined as, "an information and knowledge resources that are collectively created and owned or shared between or among a community and that tend to be non-exclusivedible, that is, be (generally freely) available to third parties..." [14] It has allowed the creation of new technologies, as well as the expression of ideas. [15]

Creative Commons draws upon the idea of commons by providing a simple and standard way to give public permission to share and use the creative work of those who decide to use the license. [16]

Background to the notion of CommonsEdit

An important moment in the history of 'commons' was that of the 'tragedy of commons'[17], a metaphor from the 18th that showed the concept was not without opposition. The main basis for their criticism of the law governing common land was that anything that is shared by everyone isn't used or looked after properly, quoting Aristotle's belief that "the most common good is the least guarded".

The German scholar Joachim Radku claimed there was in fact no apparent relation between the statements made regarding the practical negative impact of the 'tragedy of commons', instead it was an excuse to promote the prevalence of private property. Actual 'common' ground showed no signs of the acclaimed uncontrollable failure.[18] Studies conducted by the late American political economist Elinor Ostrom confirmed Radu's opinion, finding instead a correlation between communal resources and successful resource management.[19] She attributed it largely to four factors; Firstly, any resource within a definable boundary (for instance assigned common land) is much easier to preserve. Secondly, dependence on the resource with no viable alternatives promotes careful resource management. Thirdly, the presence of a community that is reliant on this resource which thus promotes a conservative mindset. Lastly, that the community in question implement rules accordingly, with both incentives and punishments to ensure the rules are followed. It is in this final step that the idea that shared ground is mistreated ground is disproved.

Types of licensesEdit

Each license has a 'three-layer' design. They begin with a Legal Code, with the kind of text and language mostly understood by lawyers. A more accessible version is the 'human-readable' format, which summarises the most important terms and conditions in an easily understood way. Finally there is the 'machine-readable' format, with a summary being written in a way that search engines and other forms of technology will be able to understand. [20]

Current LicensesEdit

Each of the available licenses available under Creative Commons has the same general principles. They all have the purpose of ensuring that creators get the credit that they deserve for their work, whilst also letting others make use of it. The licenses all work worldwide and last for as long as applicable. [21] There are six different licenses with slight variations, allowing the creator to choose the one that best suits their needs.

Attribution (CC BY)

The most accommodating of all the options, this license allows others to distribute and build upon the original work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. [22]

Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

This license is similar to Attribution, with the additional point that anyone who uses your work must license their work under identical terms. It is often compared with Copyleft, and is the method that is adopted by Wikipedia in protecting their work. [23]

Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

Under this license users are allowed to redistribute your work both commercially and non-commercially, provided that it is left unchanged and credited to the original creator. [24]

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

Others are allowed to build upon your work non-commercially, and although they must acknowledge your original work they do not need to license their creation under the same terms. [25]

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-CA)

This license allows people to remix your work non-commercially, as long as they license their creation under identical terms and credit you for the original work. [26]

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

The most restrictive option, this license allows others to download and share your works provided that they give you credit. However, it does not allow them to use them commercially or to edit them in any way. [27]

Although it's not officially a license, Creative Commons also operates CC Zero (CC0) [28] a legal tool which allows users to completely surrender copyright rights and place their work in the public domain. This is also an option for those who had copyright and want to remove it from their work. The law makes it almost impossible to completely waive copyright, and so this tool is an option which may be used instead. [29]

Retired LicensesEdit

Lawrence Lessig has always believed in the need to keep the family of licenses as simple as possible. [30] As a result of this a number of licenses have been removed over the years, largely due to lack of demand. The URLs for the licenses still exist, meaning that any existing work can still maintain the same license. However, they will not be offered to any future works. [31]

Sampling+ [32] - This license was retired in 2011 as it was incompatible with other CC licenses, and there was a lack of demand.

NonCommercial-Sampling+ [33] - Due to inadequate demand, this license was retired in late 2011.

Public Domain Dedication and Certification [34] - This license was US-specific and has since been replaced with the CC0 Public Domain Dedication and the Public Domain Mark, following its removal in 2010.

DevNations [35] - This license did not allow non-commercial verbatim sharing, and was removed in 2007 due to lack of demand.

Sampling [36] - The Sampling license was removed for the same reasons as DevNations.

In addition, all licenses lacking the Attribution element were also retired.

Creative ParticipationEdit

Definition and HistoryEdit

Creative Participation was originally a term coined by the French scholar Lucien Lévy-Bruhl [37] in the 1920s in order to describe the position of the observer towards the observed. His work in anthology is widely regarded as very important and has been retouched by famous philosophers such as Carl Jung. In his essays he explains the difference between “western” and “primitive” mindsets.[38] In very basic terms, according to him social interactions within an observed group of “primitives" can be studied best not by observing from the outside in a disconnected viewpoint, but by participating in their society and observing through the empirical gaining of knowledge - a process he called creative participation. In his opinion the primitive mind mixes the supernatural and the natural, changing the world by manipulating others into thinking there is such a thing as “mystical participation”, allowing multiple reasonings for one event to coexist. This then later develops into logical thinking, which is why he calls the primitive mind “pre-logical”. The “civilised” western mind is, for Lévy-Bruhl, therefore considered to be an evolutionary development towards logical thinking. Lévy-Bruhl's work was later picked up by German ethnologist Volker Dahlheimer [39], who states "Creative participation means more than the collecting of evidence; it means creating and acknowledging its own cultural footprint, as well. The creative participant is entering into a situation with an inherent risk - the risk of becoming a part of the things that are going on around him and which are co-created by his or her presence. There is no convenient non-responsible observer position left anymore, but an interwoven entanglement with all and in everything – and this entanglement makes one able to feel what reality is about- even if one cannot put it into words, on film or even express it in thought.”[40] Dahlheimer insists that information on society cannot be measured or analysed by observing without feeling, and can only be proven by experience and involvement. His personal project, the Muringa Vila in Kovalam, India [41] works under the concept of creative participation, it "is a private development project, undertaken by local people in cooperation with foreign inspiration.”

In PsychologyEdit

In consumer psychology Creative Participation is when consumers co-create valuable products or ideas while consuming themselves. Examples for these are mostly found when consumers cannot find products they need or are looking for unique products that suit their personal choices and they decide to create them themselves out of frustration for the lack of product available.[42]

In PoliticsEdit

In politics Creative Participation is equivalent to Political Participation. This includes any activity that influences the political sphere, so anything from voting to terrorism. There are three types of participation[43]: Conventional participation is any form of political activity that is legal and appropriate. This includes voting, campaigning and joining activist groups. Activities can range from once every few years to regular basis, depending on the persons commitment to politics. Unconventional participation is still legal, but is often considered inappropriate. Young people and students tend to show political participation in unconventional ways, such as signing petitions and staging demonstrations or protests. Illegal Participation is anything that breaks the law, which in most cases occurs when all legal matters have failed the cause the people are supporting. This includes acts of terrorism, political assassination and sabotaging. However, since the invention of the internet, conventional forms of participation have been on a steady decline, as people have begun to use less “orthodox” forms of political participation, especially within Europe. Internet campaigns and protests organised online have been changing the face of political activism, and changed political consumerism through mass participation.[44] Andrew McFarland calls this “new modes of cooperation to obtain a public good”. [45]

The Participation ParadoxEdit

Theorists like Anthony Downs [46]have argued that participation is a difficult concept to justify and is overall irrational. The concept of voting for example only makes sense if the voter believes his vote matters and makes a difference. However, in the grand scheme of a country's population, one vote does not count as it would never be enough to decide the outcome of an election. Therefore for the single person, the costs of participation (as for example learning the candidates positions, going to vote, staying up to date with the campaigns) outweigh the benefits. If all participants were to act rationally and were voting, the entire system would crash, as democracy cannot function without people voting. This concept is called the Participation Paradox and is applicable to a lot of fields, participation on the internet included. While looking at Creative Commons, the entire system only works if everyone is involved and participates, as the question remains whether or not costs outweigh the benefits for the people licensing their original content for other people to use.


Public PolicyEdit

It is agreed among governments that through sharing publicly funded resources, the quality and quantity of public education and scientific research could be greatly increased, but it is certainly difficult for open policies to be carried out if there is not clear support. Therefore at the Creative Commons 2011 Global Summit in Warsaw, Poland, affiliates from 35 countries called for a central hub where open policies could be shared and discussed.[47] Through their Open Policy Network , Creative Commons aims to provide legal frameworks for information that is publicly funded and in the public interest, to be of access to the public. Furthermore, allowing knowledge and resources to be used for a variety of different practices, whether they be commercial or non-commercial, or for use in a number of different sectors of society, such as education, science and culture. screenshot

Creative Commons are utilized by a large amount of government bodies and public sectors and continues to increase. At the start of 2010, the British government made new steps forward to allow its data to be used under the CC BY license, known as the Open Government License. As a result, a large amount of information and data held by government organizations in various levels are available and usable by the public on the UK Governments website at, including those from The Ministry of Defence, The National Archives (United Kingdom), The HM Land Registry, etc. However, for privacy and various other reasons, the OGL does not cover certain types of information like military insignia and identity documents.


Creative Commons is responsible for minimising restrictive copyright laws and incompatible technologies that may limit access to educational resources. As stated on their website, their vision is: 'nothing less than realising the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity'.[48] Focusing on this vision; their main aim is to support open educational resources (OER) and the benefits associated with these. This is done by ensuring that when educational resources are digitised and fully licensed by Creative Commons, they are able to be shared and customised for free - hence embracing the effective outcome of interlinking education with the internet. The availability of textbooks, courses and lesson plans are made accessible for users such as students, teachers, universities and publishers, therefore making learning experiences more flexible to suit the everyday lives of these people. [49] 14 countries, including the UK, have made commitments to open education, leading to the improvement of open educational resources and saving students over 100 million dollars. [50]

Logo OER

The success and popularity from enabling these licences has been notable since they were initiated in 2002, giving users control and the ability to choose licences that will reflect how work can be used and recognised for future references. [51] Since the introduction of the revolutionary OER, Creative Commons concerns itself with a number of education-based programmes which have originated from all over the world. Projects that are currently using Creative Commons licences for education purposes include: OER Africa, CK-12 Foundation, Connexions, Open Courseware, OER Commons, Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), Curriki and Khan Academy.

Interesting articles have before depicted the modern thinking of Creative Commons, with the growing use of group work and participation activities for module assessments, to this continuing farther and involving social media via closed Facebook forums for certain topics.[52] The idea of sharing and contributing is made easy with licences such as Attribution (CC BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA), in an attempt to abolish the idea of 'cheating' and facilitate successful research. Oxford University is one leading institution which provides open content in the form of podcasts under a Creative Commons licence for free reusing, remixing and redistributing. [53]

Another example of Creative Commons innovation and synthesis with primary education can be seen in Poland. The Polish Digital School is a contemporary program, dedicated to education in Information and Communication Technologies across 380 primary schools for children aged 9 to 11 years old. The program aims to provide teachers with the tools and skills to properly educate their students in ICT, improving both teacher and pupil with online and computing literacy. The federal government provides 80% of funding with local governments producing the other 20%, the funding provides teachers with training from specialised e-teachers, as well the majority of funding being pushed into e-textbooks and online educational resources (OER's). As, "the first major governmental OER program in Poland” [54], the Digital School ran its pilot between 2012-2013 to enthusiastic reception, and resulted in the need of a greater focus regarding online resources.

Traditionally textbooks in Poland are written and published commercially, to be selected by teachers for parents to purchase. Approximately 15% of textbook costs are covered by the government; by implementing e-resources for educational purposes would provide an alternative to traditional textbooks, saving approximately 56 million Polish Zloty (£320 million approx). The criteria for licensing of OER's under the program are that they must be readable, reusable and modifiable. Online textbooks are licensed under CC BY SA, and the Council of Ministers have resolved that all content funded by the program will be made available via WCAG 2.0. Further e-resources will be created for Scholaris, a national educational website for teachers, as well as educational TV programs made by TVP. Initially however the plans for using OER textbooks was rejected by the Polish Prime Minister at the time, Donald Tusk. After consultation between the Modern Poland Foundation and Open Education Coalition with the public, e-resources were reinstated at the last minute.

The program has been criticised by commercial educational publishers who argue that OER's are of a lesser quality to traditional textbooks and have further suggested their implementation will create a monopoly. Until the new term from 2015 – 2016 begins with its integration of Creative Commons open licensed educational material, further results of the innovative Digital School will prove interesting to follow.


Creative Commons have expanded use of their Attribution licenses since 2004 into various fields, including scientific and technical research.[55] By encouraging the scientific community to publish their work under various Creative Commons licenses, efforts focused on research are thus granted access to data and results otherwise inaccessible.

Open Access PLoS

A number of institutions and online databases are utilizing the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licenses as a means to promote the sharing of data and results without jeopardizing ownership. These include the Public Library of Science (PLOS), BioMed Central, and Personal Genome Project to name a few. A full list of affiliated groups is listed here.

Creative Commons play a vital role in the Open Access Movement, which aims to make scholarly articles and journals more widely available online. Integral to this movement is making this material freely available to everyone, which they call Open Data. The open access is provided with two different degrees, gratis open access and libre open access. Gratis open access is a totally free online access, while libre open access is also free online access but with additional usage rights[56] which are usually granted through the application of particular Creative Commons licenses. The authors can choose to provide the green open access, by self-archiving their works in a free access repository, or the gold open access, by publishing in an open access journal.

Creative Commons have furthered this co-operation within the field by implementing The Biological Materials Transfer Agreement Project[57] which aims to cover the costs transferring biological materials between non-profit institutions, and transfer between non-profit and for profit institutions. This integrates a web-based system that stores a database of materials with a transaction system, allowing researchers to discover and order materials and ensure that scientists can find and obtain everything they need and begin work as soon as possible.

Creative Commons have also expressed an interest in becoming more involved in legislating the growing field of 3D printing as detailed in an article on the official Creative Commons website. The Creative Commons group seems to be backing the use of shared 3D printing schematics in a business setting, but as the technology is still in early development, no solid Creative Commons licensing has been put in place concerning the legality of personal object replication. The implications of a device that can not only print any number of physical objects using only an easily shareable online model file, but that also has the potential to replicate itself, as can be seen in the RepRap Project opens up an entire new debate on the use of Creative Commons in relation to production of physical objects, and whether or not individuals should have the freedom to download and create a product for free that they may otherwise have had to pay for.[58]


Creative Commons within culture has evolved from the access of free information distributed through online sources. Wikipedia, Google and various online blog and profile sites have given the public and modern culture a way of sharing private and public information to one another. This however creates issues with privacy and copyright laws, although these sites have maintained strength and growth through public contribution, these sites are protected but issues that infiltrate privacy, copyright and exploitation are usually policed upon by the sites interactive system.

Wikipedia migrated its licensing structure from the GNU Free Documentation License to a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. The world’s largest and most cited collaborative encyclopedia made this move via a community vote and for good reason. By changing to a CC BY-SA license, Wikipedia (and the entire collection of Wikimedia sites) allows content to legally flow in and out of the site with ease, enabling one of the great cultural resources of the digital revolution to legally interact with an endless array of similar cultural institutions. [59]

Google has utilized CC licenses in a variety of instances throughout their digital services. Either by enabling CC-search capabilities through their main search engine, image search engine, and book search engine, or by allowing users to CC license their own content in Picasa, Google Knol, and documentation at Google Code. YouTube, which is Google-owned, has also used CC-licenses in their audio-swap program, allowing users to swap “All Rights Reserved” music for similar-sounding CC-licensed tracks, as well as enabling CC-licensing for select institutions. [60]

The band Nine Inch Nails released Ghosts I-IV, a collection of 36 tracks, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License. Allowing the band to act more freely due to what Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails described as "The end result is a wildly varied body of music that we’re able to present to the world in ways the confines of a major record label would never have allowed – from a 100% DRM-free, high-quality download.” [61]

Culture today has developed around the freedom to express, contribute and learn from other contributors to the internet. Contributing allows cultures to interact and learn from one another, which was impossible during the television and radio age of the 20th century. The ability to learn from the internet has given creative commons and participation the ability to engage cultures with other cultures in a legal and interactive way.

The Silicon ValleyEdit

The Creative Commons was founded in "Mountain View, California", which is located in the heart of "The Silicon Valley". The Silicon Valley has been a hub of technological innovation since the beginning of the 20th century. The boundaries of this "valley" are unclear as tech companies have sprung up all around the "San Francisco Bay Area". However, historically, "Stanford University"'s graduates were the pioneers of those huge companies that still prevail today: "Intel", "Hewlett-Packard", and "Apple", to name a few. Along with those newer internet-based companies that are now known world-wide, such as: "Facebook", "Netflix", and "Google". Many of these tech companies have roots in, or are based in, Mountain View. The "dot-com boom", or the "dot-com bubble", was a period of extreme technological expansion into internet-based companies from around 1997-2000. This 'boom' had a profound effect on the economy of the residents of those cities included in the Silicon Valley, turning many into seemingly "overnight" millionaires. This environment was the perfect petrie dish of innovation in technology to be the location of the head quarters for Creative Commons. [62]


Social mediaEdit

With Creative Commons participation with Social Media Platforms today is considered a grey area for licensing and protection. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Bebo all enable people to share a lot of creative outputs throughout the internet. This has transformed the means of communication for those who use it, as it provides the public to publish and publicize almost anything, providing mass publication of content including anything from tweets, photos and blogs. CC also use these social media platforms to publish their own findings as well due their popularity.

Since anyone can view anything on Social Media and it is all free puts into perspective that licensing and copyright protection is key to corporations and companies and yet it is a cheap way for independent filmmakers, musicians and artists to promote their work when they would normally struggle to otherwise. Although there are many positives for those who wish to promote their work, there is also a lot of problems they may experience online. Often online users may steal their work and claim it as their own, also their work might simply not receive the credit it is due as incorrect information is shared. The plus side to sharing on social media is that it is a key source today for advertising because almost every teenager, student and adults are logged into one of these social media sources therefore it is a strong place to advertise, music, art and creativity. New laws are now being developed which could mean social media companies may be held accountable for the actions of their users, this would happen when a social media site encourages copyright infringement from its users.

YouTube and VimeoEdit

YouTube is one of the organisations which provides a Creative Commons license for its users. This enables other users to add to their work or even use it commercially by using the YouTube Video Editor. The videos will be marked with a Creative Commons CC BY license. A video that is uploaded which is licensed with a CC BY license will source the origin content underneath the web player.[63] Since 2011, Users have been able to license their videos under the 'Creative Commons Attribution license' as well as change the license of existing videos from a Standard Youtube license, to a CC license.[64]

Not everyone is eligible to use this license. There are certain elements which can prevent users from being able to use it: Community Guideline strikes, copyright strikes and having more than one video blocked worldwide by Content ID. Users will only be able to mark their videos with a CC license if all of the content belongs to them. Videos which are in the public domain are also eligible for the license. The public domain consists of videos which have lost their copyright protection over time and are now free for anyone to use. [65]

Youtube also has a system for it's content creating users that allows channels that qualify for, and are accepted into, its partnership programme to join multichannel networks that allow users to post their own content on these MCN's. These networks obtain this privilege via deals with the parties that would claim copyright on the content, usually by promising free publicity for the product or by taking part in a paid advertising brand deal. Companies like RoosterTeeth and Machinima are MCN's, which devolve power to more people over a number of Youtube channels and allow further expansion of their networks. In recent years however, MCN contracts have been questioned as to their fairness, with further regards to individual content providers rights over their videos. As these networks grow, they too can become exploitative; often individuals will be signing a contract for several years and having a percentage of their advertisement revenue taken by the MCN. Youtubers Seananners, The Syndicate Project and 3BLACKDOT have began work on creating their own Multi-channel network called Jetpak[66], who aim to offer a secure and transparent alternative for Youtubers looking to be part of a bigger network. This new MCN provides a variety of different services; from core principles such as 100% ad revenue on all videos produced and monthly unfiltered billing, to more expensive benefits, such as dedicated email and phone support. The most promising aspect of Jetpak is that it does not take any percentage of any members ad revenue; it asks only a fixed rate for one of its three service packages, which are paid for on a monthly basis, allowing users more freedom with their contract. Although both Youtubers and 3BLACKDOT are from the gaming sector, their business is open to all people who create content for Youtube. As the projects main founders are online veterans who have been part of MCN contracts before, Jetpak is a highly promising step forward into creating greater transparency and a more comfortable environment for users to produce their content, whilst being under the aid and protection of a bigger network.[67]

As of the week of July 25th, 2012, over 4 million CC licensed video have been uploaded onto Youtube. [68]

Like YouTube, Vimeo allows users to share, rework and reuse videos. There is a whole section on the website solely dedication to videos which have a CC license, and is split into the different types of licenses so users can pick what types of video they use to their preference. There are arising complaints around Youtubes distinct lack of Creative Commons licensing support. Only supplying the CC BY licence for videos, potentially content intended for non-commercial use, can be taken from a Youtube channel, re-uploaded and monetized for that individuals own gain.[69].

In February 2015 a Fan film of the 90's kids show Power Rangers was released and was met with serious controversy as Saban Brands, the company owning the rights to Power Rangers, claimed copyright and ordered the video removed from both YouTube and Vimeo. Although both Saban Brands and the film-makers came to an understanding, and the fan film was allowed to be put back up onto both sites, this is a good example of how not all videos on both YouTube and Vimeo are protected by Creative Commons as, previously stated, all the content needs to belong to them. [70]

There have been attempts in the past to regulate online content, seeking to pursue illegal torrenting or downloading of copyrighted property. Legislation such as the SOPA Bill, are proposed to further combat online piracy, but are not an effective means of doing so. The Bill argues that it would only target small non-Western torrenting sites, however its fine print would undoubtedly lead to abuse and have devastating consequences. SOPA's proposal of online regulation would result in Internet Service Providers becoming forced to have flagged content removed within five days or challenge the request in court. As long as studios claim in “good faith belief” that a user had stolen content, legally ISP's have to abide; meaning that many websites and video services could potentially be taken down or heavily regulated according to the SOPA Bill. [71]

Fan FictionEdit

There are a growing number of authors who use Creative Commons to legally permit derivative work (e.g. Mercedes Lackey [72]). This option is especially used amongst lesser-famous authors, as this can help with gaining exposure [73]. The Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License is most suitable for this type of work [74] as it allows the adaption of original material. Attribution must be given and the work must be distributed under the same license as the original. It does not allow for commercial-use.

Creative Commons - “One of these issues is copyright. In short, if work is the subject of fanfiction, who owns the rights to the resulting writing? We aren’t talking here about the right to be recognised for having created a piece of writing, but to exploit that piece for profit.” Creative Commons understands the implications between authors rights and their fans interpretation of their work. A widely know example is Fifty Shades of Grey being a fan fiction creation of Twilight, it then went into issues of copyright and was criticised for its sexual narrative. The same author then adapted her fan fiction into the international bestseller. Creative Commons deals with issues like this by allowing people who just want to do it for fun and access work they love, without compromising the right of the original authors to profit from their creations. They deal with this under agreed terms, users simply acknowledge the source of the original material. But they also enforce either restraints to the fan fiction or restrict where and how the fiction is shared online. If the fan fiction is kept under fairly low radar then the fan fiction author can share it under CC.

Some renowned authors, such as J. K. Rowling, allow this type of work under certain conditions (i.e. Rowling forbids pornographic or sexually explicit material [75]). However, many authors, even those who allow them, do not license fan fiction under Creative Commons license. Authors can therefore, under the Copyright Act of 1976, take actions to remove derivative work [76] [77].

George R.R. Martin however considers fan fiction to be a breach of copyright. He states that fan fiction harms the worlds that writers spend time and energy creating. Martin suggests that fans should take inspiration from his work in order to create their own stories rather than create ones about his characters in Game Of Thrones, who are already well charactered and established [78]. He states that characters are the authors own creation which should not be tampered with and telling fan fiction writers to stop borrowing his world 'without authorisation" [79].

The legal issues surrounding fan fiction is first and foremost dependent on the copyright owner. Creative Commons only facilitates the sharing of copyright work [80]. It is important to be aware which author explicitly forbids this type of work (a list of this can be found here and here).


Flickr wordmark

Flickr features the option to use one of the six CC default licenses as an alternative to full copyright for images [81]. Meaning that if a user has applied a CC license, these photos can be downloaded and potentially used by anyone as long as credit is attributed.

Flickr was one of the first major online communities to incorporate Creative Commons licensing options into its user interface. Allowing photographers globally an easier method of sharing photos. [82]

In 2007 Virgin Mobile Australia featured an image downloaded from Flickr in an advertisement campaign. The advertisement depicted the teenager Alison Chang with the campaign slogans, "Dump your pen friend," printed over her picture. Wong, Alison’s youth counsellor, uploaded the image of the teenager under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license, allowing reuse of work with attributed credit [83] [84]. Virgin upheld the licenses restrictions by printing the URL page on the advertisment. Chang’s family and Wong filed a lawsuit against Virgin Mobile and Creative Commons. CC Corporation was accused of not adequately educating the users about their license. The lawsuit added that the image was used without prior knowledge or consent of Alison [85] [86]. Both lawsuits were later dismissed on procedural grounds in 2009 [87].

Fan ArtEdit

DeviantArt, a website dedicated to art created by many different audiences, allows people to upload their work under any of the CC licenses. Even though fan art is building upon an original idea, it is allowed as long as people don't copy the creative element of it. DeviantArt's partnership with Creative Commons allows those artists who wish to work with authors to use their ideas and scenarios in their artwork and to help set guidelines for how this work should be used within that partnership. It also allows artists to define exactly how they do and do not wish their works to be used by other artists.[88] Despite this, "DeviantArt allows as little sharing as possible and is the very opposite of the intent of Creative Commons" [89]. People can commercially use other people's work or allow modifications, but if there is a specific artistic integrity to it, then this is not advised.

DeviantArt uses a number of buttons to allow users to choose how their work will be used. Users are able to "Use a creative commons license", which allows people to copy their work, as well as share it with friends. However, no changes can be made, and it may be used commercially. Users can also "Allow commercial use of work", which removes the 'non-commercial restriction' and allows the users work to be used along with any commercial endeavour. This is not advised for those who intend on selling their work in the future. User who upload work to the site can also choose an option called "Allow modification to your work". This option gives users the option to allow people to modify their work, but as previously stated, if there is specific artistic integrity, it is not advised. Along with this, users have the option to choose "Yes, as long as they share alike" which means that users can let those who share the same creative commons license modify their work. [90]

Use of Creative Commons licenses through DeviantArt allows artists and photographers to have a physical means of defense against art theft and plagiarism. Whether or not the work is original or fan art, Creative Commons allows legal steps to be taken if the public abuses its rights in regards to use of these creative works. By use of these licenses, creative and artistic integrity is more easily upheld.



Creative Commons allows bands and artists to release music under a range of licenses, creating an abundance of music content which can be edited and shared by anyone, legally.

Most sites featuring this type of content are fairly niche and therefore not very well known. For example BandCamp and ccMixter. All of these sites include Creative Commons licensed music, with many of them connecting the artists/bands with those in the music business.

The Free Music Archive is a collection that brings together music that is free to use and listen to by everyone, and though not all is protected under a Creative Commons license, the vast majority is.

FreeSound is a similar site, however it focusses on sound effects, mostly produced using musical instruments, with some using synthesised sounds. As well as having access to these sounds legally and for free, you can also upload your own creations once you have made an account on the site.

Most bands and artists who release their music under Creative Commons licenses are relatively unheard of. Some reasons for this being that they are generally new to the music industry, independent artists (or with independent record labels) or not yet commercially successful. Releasing music under these licenses can be a good way for these artist to break out into the mainstream and gain more success.

There are artists however that do make their repertoire free to acquire, such as the composer Kevin Macleod, founder of the website Incompetech on which he releases his arrangements for usage under a Creative Commons licence. Although the website does contain a donation system, Macleod makes all the pieces on the site completely free, although those who use his music must ensure both he and the website are credited.[91]

Another prominent band, Nine Inch Nails have released Ghosts I-IV and The Still under Creative Commons licences. This was a new way of getting their music out there and as their frontman said during an interview "I can give you free music and in my opinion that may contribute to more people showing up to a show and when I say I give you free music it’s not really up to me to give you free music, it’s free anyway."[92] By saying music is free anyway he is referring to how music can be downloaded for free by anyone and that's what many people are doing, but by using a CC licence and giving the music away for free they are expanding their fan base and therefore monetising NIN in other ways such as concert tickets and merchandise. When Ghosts I-IV was released it could be downloaded for free from Nine Inch Nails website however there were also limited addition CD's and records going right up to a $300 premium boxset which netted $750,000 profit[93] proving that just cause something's free doesn't mean it can't make money and demonstrating the usefulness of a Creative Commons licence's flexibility to musicians.


Creative Commons licenses in a variety of different ways in terms of labels, from non-profit, to free downloading, donations and also profitable labels. Many new upcoming artists find distributing difficult for stock shares but allowing a label or free music website there music can be given to any who desire them, from students, filmmakers, musicians, and computer video gamers. For example MacLeod decided to release his music under Creative Commons licenses in order to maximize the number of people who find, hear and use his music. His most popular license is the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) - as long as he receives credit, his music is free to use. This is true of Independent Music Labels too, Creative Licences are brought forward to protect copyright but is rather generous for students creating films, games and music today.

CASH Music (Providence, Rhode Island) is a non-profit label organisation which focuses on educating new musicians and currently enables digital purchases, secure downloads and social feeds. The webpage has third party resources such as MailChimp, Goggle Drive and PayPal. This enables the webpage to be distributed throughout the independent market and free music for all and for others to contribute. Signing up to CASH Music is available here Other webpages include Test Tube, Bad Panda Records, Resting Bell and Magnatune all promote records and upcoming artists who have trouble distributing their music and keeping the rights.

In addition ton music communities such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, there are also various record labels which act under Creative Commons. One of these record labels is Records on Ribs, a Newcastle based record label which started in 2008. Unlike many of the music communities, which allow new and upcoming artists to state their own price, Records on Ribs’ goal is to give away all of their music on their website for free, stating that ‘To sell music for profit is to deny its worth. It is to reduce it to numbers, spreadsheets, targets. Desire cannot be quantified thusly.’[94] Records on Ribs provides a similar starting point for many new artists that Bandcamp and Soundcloud can give, but without the pressure of money and making a profit from their music. Another record company that uses Creative Commons licencing is No Weapon , a Canadian record label. No Weapon make music for artists to take, remix, or use during theatre productions or art shows, and they are also for non profit. Almost all of the Creative Commons record labels ask the artists and those who use the music to credit them in their work and not to use the music for profit. This is where the music communities and record labels differ, while on Bandcamp a new band or artist can chose to sell their music for free, with many of the record labels they would have to give away their music for free. Some record labels, like QuoteUnquote do seek donations to the website for the use of the music. Most of the record labels work under a BY-NC-SA licence, wherein people are allowed to adapt and share the music, and it is non profit. Some record labels, like Headphonica may have slightly different licences for different works, but those instances are clearly stated. German based record label Resting Bell, Vancouver, CA based record label Pepper Mill Records and Spokane based label Luxus Arctica all act under a BY-NC-ND licence, this licence is more for those labels who simply want to share the music and not to have it edited by other artists.



In 2008, the online music streaming service SoundCloud introduced Creative Commons licensing on their site. With the change allowing uploaders to choose the options of 'All Rights Reserved', 'Some Rights Reserved' and 'No Rights Reserved', users were granted the ability to control how the content, they uploaded to site, is used [95]

Users are able to change the license they choose on the sound they upload via the settings, meaning that users can change their mind or correct errors in how they license their work. SoundCloud also enforce that under a Creative Commons license, people but give credit to the original author of the work if they intend to share or reuse their work in any way. Work that is licensed with a Non-Commercial term means that that work can only be used in a non-commercial setting. Moreover, a No-Derivatives term means that users cannot create work that is based or includes the original sound, whereas, the Share-Alike terms allows users to upload work, but does not allow others to use the original work without using the same license. [96]

Although SoundCloud downloads are free, in order to access certain tracks you have to 'like' the Facebook page of the artists. This is a good way for less well-known bands/artists to get a larger social media following.


In 2009, Al Jazeera became the first big news organisation to use Creative Commons. At this time when the Israeli military in Gaza stopped international news channels from reporting within the strip, Al Jazeera took the advantage of being able to access it and made the footage available to be used and translated by other broadcasters. A few years later this advantage was used again when a similar situation was happening in Syria. [97] In a letter to Creative Commons in 2009 Mohamed Nanabhay, Head on online at Al Jazeera, says "A large part of embracing free culture is accepting the fact that you are forsaking control in exchange for something greater – the empowerment of the creative community. This means that you never quite know where things will lead." [98] Al Jazeera had only expected news organisations and documentary filmmakers to use their footage, however because of it's usability due to the CC licence, stills started being taken from the videos to be used on wikipedia pages, and then it became used by a much wider group of people from educators to video game developers.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund produces watchdog journalism by reporters who are from big organisations such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post and all of their content is posted under a Creative Commons Attribution- No Derivative license. [99]

Video GamesEdit

Creative commons rights in video games is quite different to other forms of media due to the way any given user interacts with it as each interaction holds some form of user input in a way that listening to a CD or reading a book does not. It is the unique nature of this interaction that has given rise to some new, increasingly popular forms of media called 'Let's Play' and live streaming. These happen primarily on two platforms, YouTube for Let's Plays where videos can be arranged and edited to the users desire prior to the upload which can be considered an aspect of participation. is the primary domain for live streaming in which users upload a real time video of themselves to the viewers of them playing a game, often with live commentary or music. The nature of streaming allows real time interaction with viewers via a chat box. It could be considered an unmoderated form of a Let's Play depending on the game in question. Both services allow monetization of any created media through adverts.

The term Let's Play was introduced in 2007 on the Something Awful forums[100], it refers to the act of recording ones self playing a game. The participation element comes in the human reaction to and interaction with the game, either in the form of emotional reactions, critique or commentary, all of which could be considered an individual and separate contribution to the original media. Users will often upload a sequence of videos covering their engagement with the game from beginning to end, allowing viewers to experience the game to some extent without having played it.

Streaming shares many similarities with Let's Play in as much as it allows users to follow the progress of a 'streamer' (someone who uploads a live stream to sites like Twitch). The platform is also increasingly used by professional gamers, who generate views by being extremely talented at particular games, and as the preferred platform for streaming gaming tournaments.

Issues With Creative Commons in Video GamesEdit

The nature of creator participation with regards to games as a form of media is highly ambiguous with reactions to such uses of the media varying from games developer to games developer. Whether using Twitch or Youtube, the person providing the content generates revenue from adverts but the attraction to the content itself could be the game in question, the personality or a combination therein. It's also inescapable that without the game, the person using the media would be without their content but simultaneously the character and actions of the person are what separates it from the original medium and watching a video of a game couldn't really be thought of as an alternative to playing the game. It's in these ambiguities that lie the uncertain nature of creative commons with regards to games as both parties could be considered deserving of the money.

YouTube chose to distance itself from the issue, providing networks with an automated claims system that allows them to to immediately apply a copyright claim onto any video they deem to use their content inappropriately, leaving the creative commons decisions to the creators. Any copyright claim made by a network on their 'own work' removed the video immediately from YouTube and places a strike on the account that uploaded the video, three strikes bans the account from any future uploads. Whilst avoiding a lot of work discerning which videos are and aren't within the grounds of creative commons, it 's a system susceptible to abuse from the creators which has been exhibited in the past.

In December 2013, many Let's Play videos were blocked as a result of YouTube's change in their Content ID policy.[101] Companies such as Ubisoft, Blizzard, Capcom, Paradox Interactive and Deep Silver responded by working with YouTube in order to make sure that those videos would not be blocked.[102] Ubisoft stated that users are "free to monetize your videos via the YouTube partner program and similar programs on other video sharing sites (for as long as you follow the specific guidelines of those individual programs)." as a protest response to Nintendo short-circuiting individual user monetization of YouTube videos.[103] Nintendo later introduced their Nintendo Creators Program that allows video creators to use Nintendo-copyrighted content. Nintendo claims advertising revenue on those videos and will then split the profit with the user.

One example of abuses involves a prominent self employed games critic on Youtube, John Bain, who appears under the pseudonym 'TotalBiscuit'. A well respected games journalist in his field with his talents focused on a series of first impressions videos called “WTF is...”, his primary encounter with an abuse of this system was through a claim made by a company called Wild Games Studio. The incident is documented in a Youtube video he posted shortly after the claim[104], detailing at length the faults not only in the behavior of the company but in the system that allows such claims to be made. In this video he also makes a reference to SEGA Japan performing the same way, using the weakness of the system for personal gain. It seems that the uncertainty of the creative commons aspects of video games renders it unable to clearly set boundaries around works in the industry.


Due to the unusual methods of distribution utilised by many of the artists that operate under the Creative Commons system, there has been a large degree of backlash against it. This largely centres around the idea that people are obtaining this artistic content for free, which some groups have claimed encourages piracy, especially in the film and music industries. There are also political connections to the argument, with many critics claiming the system is anti-capitalist or even accusing it of having leanings towards communism. One blogger claimed that Creative Commons "destroys copyright protection and commerce, destroys value, and does not help artists to survive"[105].

There is also some criticism revolving around the cost of running the Creative Commons system. Creative Commons itself is officially stated as a non-profit organisation, and so relies on public donations to keep afloat. 85% of the donations go towards what the website labels as "Program Services (includes: Culture, Education, International/Affiliates, Legal, Science, Technology)" whilst the rest goes towards fund-raising and paying administrative costs[106]. Reportedly this means that Creative Commons needs to raise approximately $9 million a year [107] in order to preserve the system. This has raised questions as to whether or not Creative Commons is a good option, considering how much it costs to run and also the fact that many content creators would prefer to use more well established and potentially even more restrictive systems. Even authors that use Creative Commons often tend to lean towards using variations of the system that allow them to maintain the most control over their work as possible. For example as of 2013, 80% of online scientific journal Cell Reports authors chose the CC-BY-NC-ND model for their usage of Creative Commons, the most controlling model available, allowing people to download and share their work, but not to alter it in any way or make any profit[108].

Rock and cabaret musician Amanda Palmer was a key figure involved in this controversy after her own usage of Creative Commons. Following the 2008 hiatus of her previous band The Dresden Dolls with drummer Brian Viglione, Palmer left her label Roadrunner Records after disputes regarding the treatment of fans. Currently Palmer releases all of her music that she is legally able to through Creative Commons in tandem with a "pay what you want" scheme causing uproar amongst those holding onto the more traditional methods of releasing art. Tensions only grew in 2012 when Palmer's second solo album "Theatre is Evil" was released after a successful run on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The project quickly broke it's $100,000 goal and was given $1,192,793 by it's backers. The album was then released through the same Creative Commons system as the rest of her music, which led to further distaste from critics. Palmer has frequently commented on the controversy, remaining adamant that the system allows for a greater connection with her fanbase.

An example of the controversy surrounding Creative Commons in the world of monetised content creation was video game company Nintendo's decision to charge YouTube content creators for using footage of any of their games. This declaration meant that not only would Nintendo be entitled to percentage of the income amassed from a video that they claimed footage of their games was in, but also that Nintendo would delay that income to the uploader of the video for up to three months. This sparked a lot of concern from many prominent YouTube personalities as time delays on payment in a profession that relies on the expedient creation and monetisation of content could eventually lead to content creators choosing to stop making videos featuring Nintendo's games, leading to less online traffic from fans of a recognisable brand for YouTubers and less publicity for Nintendo. One of the YouTube personalities, the gaming critic Jim Sterling, uploaded a video in his Jimquisition series where he states one of his criticisms, that "Nintendo has a long history of 'not getting it' when it comes to YouTube and the new age of transformative work."[109] Another criticizer of Nintendo's service comes from the most subscribed YouTuber and gameplay entertainer PewDiePie who argued in his article that the YouTube user's subscribers are theirs, not Nintendo's and that they should let the YouTubers do their thing independently.[110] Another gaming related controversy is the gaming reviews on YouTube which was highlighted when YouTube profiles such as TotalBiscuit (John Bain) and Boogie2988 (Steve Williams) revealed that they had been offered promotional copies of the newly released game Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor in exchange for carrying out specific tasks in the review.[111] This raises the question of how many and which reviews were made by having been paid for.

When publishing anything the question arises about the breaching of a Creative Commons licence in a court of law. The Creative Commons website is very clear about this Creative Commons licences are drafted to be enforceable around the world, and have been upheld in court in various jurisdictions. To Creative Commons’ knowledge, the licences have never been held unenforceable or invalid. This needs to be addressed within the digital media due to ever increasing problems with computer hacking, illegal downloading and copyright theft. The Creative Commons website encloses that "Although Creative Commons licences have been used extensively in scientific open access publishing, they have been developed to cover a much broader area including data, databases, photography and the written word, regardless of discipline."


Similar to the original notion of commons in land being criticised, the notion of creative commons is also under criticism from multiple perspectives. Péter Benjamin Tóth, a director at the Hungarian royalty collector bureau ARTISJUS, believes copyright provides adequate coverage of the nuances of creative commons. He says The 'some rights reserved' concept is therefore not an alternative to, but rather the very nature of classical copyright." [112] Other critics believe Creative Commons will serve to erode copyright overtime,[113] and others that "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." [114] Some critics are concerned about how useful Creative Commons licenses really are for the artists in question as they fail to meet an adequate standard for financial compensation and acknowledgement.[115] There is also concern that the lack of adequate compensation may dissuade artists from from publishing their work in the future.[116] Others are concerned that Creative Commons negates potential motivation for producers to modernize current copyright laws [117]


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The basic human resources that can not be owned privately and are available to all members of society.



To authorise the use, performance, or release of something.


Open Educational Resources (OER)Edit

Educational resources that are freely online-accessible and licensed by the Creative Commons.

Open policyEdit

Publicly funded resources are openly licensed resources.

Open Policy NetworkEdit

An organization that aims to foster the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations and policy makers, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information. [1]