CC and IP

Intellectual Property generally refers to works of art and writing, but broadly it covers any kind of idea, and can be protected by patents, copyrights, or trademarks. These laws may seem very similar, there are differences between them.

  • Copyright laws cover artistic creations such as literary work, paintings, and music.
  • Patents cover inventions, giving the creator power over how their inventions are used by others.
  • Trademarks cover goods and services.  For example, companies often trademark icons or logos associated with their products (Such as the McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan).

The concept of such strict laws over ideas contradicts the societal expectation of innovation. It basically says “I had this idea, no one else can use it ever or else.” However, with 7 billion people in the world, I think it’s incredibly likely that more than one person will independently think up the same idea. And what do we do then? Put them in an arena and let them fight for the rights to their idea? (Ok, that might be a little extreme.)


The basic idea of the Creative Commons License is to make it easy to freely share works that would otherwise be straight-up copyrighted. There are multiple types of licenses used to achieve this goal, depending on how available the author wants their work to be.

  • Attribution basically means “do whatever you want with my work, as long as you give me credit for the original stuff.” Users can copy, distribute, and even make derivative work based off of the author’s material. Attribution should be as thorough as the user can make it, including the author and work’s names, any copyrights attached, the CC license attached, and whether or not the user has changed anything.
  • Share-alike gives users the ability to share derivatives so long as they use the same type of license as the original work (so they can’t share a copy under the Attribution license unless the original is also under the Attribution license.)
  • Non-commercial work can only be distributed or shared for noncommercial purposes. Simplistically put this means the user can’t make money off of the copies.
  • No Derivative Works means that a user can copy and distribute the work, but changing anything (even punctuation) is a big no-no. Verbatim copies only.

An author may choose any combination of licenses to suit their needs/desires. I personally would probably use Attribution, Non-commercial, and Share-alike if I were to publish anything that I wasn’t specifically trying to make money off of. Authors also have the option of placing their work under CC0, renouncing all copyrights and making the material Public Domain. The use of Creative Commons completely changes the restrictive nature of Intellectual Property laws, giving more freedom to the audience.

I find this diverse, adaptable form of copyright to be incredibly well suited to internet use. For the most part, people who put their work up on the internet (like on DeviantArt or FanFiction sites) aren’t looking to make money off of it, or to say ‘no I’m the only one who can distribute this’ (if that’s your thought process, you probably shouldn’t put your work up on the internet in the first place). What they really want is just for people to acknowledge their talent. They’re looking for a way to get their stuff out there, and it won’t go very far if others can’t distribute it, but licenses such as Attribution and No Derivative Works gives them the ability to also protect their work from being stolen or altered. In fact, Attribution seems to be so common that it’s kind of just socially expected. There have been so many times where I’ve seen people on Tumblr rant about how those who repost another person’s art without linking to the source or otherwise giving credit are the worst kind of people, simply because they recognize how much work artists put into their pieces and know that it’s downright disrespectful to not give them credit.


4 thoughts on “CC and IP

  1. I really like that your posts are so thorough. You seem to cover all the basic terms and concepts, explaining them intelligently and in a way that is easily understood. I have also seen people complain that an artist didn’t get credit/a link back. In many cases it seems as though people care more about getting credit and gaining a reputation for their creativity, rather than having interest in monetary gain.

  2. This is a very clear and detailed breakdown of copyright and creative commons — exactly the kind of thing I was looking for when I was researching this topic this week. Nice!

  3. I’m so glad you mentioned Deviant Art in this and what its users’ purpose is in putting their work online. I thought it was the perfect illustration to ask the question, “What is my purpose in putting this out there and how do I want it to be protected?” Even though I wrote my own piece about CC, somehow this example sharpened my understanding a little more. You have a very casual writing style that is easy to understand and fun to read. Thanks for explaining CC in the same manner.

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