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This Week In Creative Commons History

Since I’m here at the Creative Commons 2017 Global Summit this weekend, I want to take a break from our usual Techdirt history posts and highlight the new State Of The Commons report that has been released. These annual reports are a key part of the CC community — here at Techdirt, most of our readers already understand the importance of the free culture licensing options that CC provides to creators, but it’s important to step back and look at just how much content is being created and shared thanks to this system. It also provides some good insight into exactly how people are using CC licenses, through both data and (moreso than in previous years) close-up case studies. In the coming week we’ll be taking a deeper dive into some of the specifics of the report and this year’s summit, but for now I want to highlight a few key points — and encourage you to check out the full report for yourself.

Public Domain Dedications Are Gaining Steam

Even within the CC community itself, there is some debate as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of various licensing options like no-derivatives and non-commercial. Here at Techdirt we’ve always encouraged creators to strongly consider the CC0 option that puts their work fully into the public domain (or at least as fully as you can under a copyright system that provides no clear legal mechanism for doing so). In the past year, the use of CC0 has been growing, largely thanks to some specific projects like the the release of a large collection from the Metropolitan Museum of Art which I wrote about a couple months ago, and the public-domain-focused photography platform Unsplash. Hopefully the success and usefulness of these projects drives even more creators and platform operators to embrace CC0 (many content sharing platforms still don’t even give uploaders the option, with CC-BY as the least restrictive license available).

Non-Commercial Licenses Are The Minority

Casting the net a little wider than pure public domain dedications, there’s an even bigger trend away from the more restrictive CC options. We’ve discussed many times in the past how “non-commercial” is an extremely problematic requirement in an era where the lines between commercial and non- are often extremely blurry. Similarly, “no derivatives” cuts of countless avenues of positive, productive use of content, and creates even more uncertainty around exactly what is allowed — and under a harsh copyright regime with hefty penalties for infringement, uncertainty is functionally pretty close to just being blocked altogether. So it’s great to see that licenses which allow remixing and commercial use are continuing to increase as a proportion of all CC licenses, reaching 65% this year.

The Commons Is Huge

In 2016, there were 1.2-billion works published with Creative Commons licenses. Though growth has slowed slightly since the count passed the one-billion mark last year, it shows no signs of stopping. Ten years ago, there were only 140-million such works.

Many of the discussions at the summit are focused on how to push these trends forwards even further, both in specific areas of interest and in the commons as a whole. We’ll have closer looks at some of these ideas soon, but for now check out the full report to learn more — and get ready for the Made With Creative Commons book (a collection of examples of CC work, plus insights from artists on how they have built sustainable open culture businesses, and advice on using CC with your own work) which will be available as a free ebook on May 5th.

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Author: Leigh Beadon

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