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Monday, April 28, 2008

Creative Commons

Addressing the key concerns of rights and licenses for image usage, an organization has proposed a revolutionary solution all pros should know

This Article Features Photo Zoom

creative commonsDigital photography has fueled a revolution in online media consumption. As Internet use has evolved, online users have become increasingly dependent on photography. The expansive use of online imagery has rapidly changed the expectations of both image viewers and publishers. With the tremendous number of photographs making their way online, photographers need to have a firm understanding of the risks and rewards of publishing images on the web. To protect against the risk of copyright infringement, photographers have copyright law on which to rely, but is this protective legislation compatible with the fast pace of the online world?

Professor Lawrence Lessig, codirector of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, has been working to address this question for more than five years. His nonprofit organization Creative Commons (CC) has been working to create standardized legal licenses for creative-content authors inclusive of photographers. These standardized licenses facilitate quicker, more optimized interaction to grant permissions to photo publishers such as bloggers and commercial media. Professor Lessig has built CC around two key principles: adapting copyright use to the 21st century and enabling content authors to provide freedoms to others to enrich the online culture or other forms (e.g., print publishing).

What makes up a Creative Commons license? As explained by Professor Lessig in a recent interview, CC licenses come in three layers, all of which are intricately tied together.

creative commons

Figure 1

The first layer is a “machine-readable expression” of the freedoms associated with the content that helps search engines and other applications identify work by its terms of use. This layer has no legal force; it's just a means to identify content on the basis of certain freedoms.

The second layer is the “commons deed,” which provides a simplified summary of the license with corresponding icons (Figure 1). Again, this layer has no legal force; it's just a means to identify what the license is trying to do.

The third layer is the license, written by lawyers for lawyers, detailing legally enforceable terms (Figure 2).

In many regards, the Internet is the Wild West of intellectual property. Venturing out into this space requires awareness and acceptance, which those viewing your photography likely will lack, as well as an understanding of what certain copyright protections mean. CC looks to clearly identify the copyright holder and to simplify the understanding of these standardized terms for the layperson. Also, enforcement of these licenses is promoted and pursued by the CC community.


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