Creative Commons: all rights reserved v. some rights reserved


Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that enables users to share their creativity freely and without any hassle by minimizing copyright permission required to use their material. Whenever we create anything, a song, a story, a painting or even a photograph, we automatically receive a copyright with ‘all rights reserved’ against the world at large. This is a good thing generally, but what if we actually want our idea to be used and spread by others, with due credit of course? The hassle involved with each person personally contacting you seeking permission will deter many people from using your creation at all. Here’s where Creative Commons comes in. Many people confuse their objective as being counter to copyright law but that is not the case. They work in conjunction and help users change their default ‘all rights reserved’ to a more pliable ‘some rights reserved’. So now if you want your photograph to be used by bloggers and students but not edited in any form or resold by companies, Creative Commons will create a user license agreement based on your preferences.

Personally, I am a big fan and appreciate their initiative to foster sharing creativity as knowledge begets more knowledge. But I recently came across an insightful blog on the internet by photographer Alex Wild who pointed out, how in particular circumstances, Creative Commons may actually hinder the sharing of created material. Alex was approached by a scientist to use a photograph of his in a scientific paper, which he gladly assented to. But the scientific journal the paper was to be published in is open access and applies a Creative Common license on all content being published. This blanket license would mean that Alex’s photo could then be reused by companies that would otherwise pay to use his photographs. The journal should and could exempt contributed images from the blanket license but open access journals generally as a policy do not do so. In the end even though both the photographer and scientist wanted the particular photo to be used, they could not do so.

Creative Commons policy is not at fault but a play of a number of factors relating to the free spread of information did ironically suppress the spread of such information in this case. There are two sides to every coin and even though in particular circumstances, they may affect otherwise willing people to share their work, at the end of the day I think Creative Commons is doing great work.