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Open Content - A Practical Guide to Using Creative Commons Licences/Practical Guidelines: Using Creative Commons licences

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Open Content - A Practical Guide
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4. Practical Guidelines: Using Creative Commons licences[edit]

4.1 Choosing the “right” licence[edit]

The selection of the licence is an essential step in an Open Content strategy. Advantages and disadvantages of the respective licence should be thoroughly balanced before the material is licenced. The prevailing factor for the choice should be the individual intention pursued with the licencing. One should ask oneself: Why do I licence my work under the CC scheme? Which rights do I want to reserve and why?

The potential motivations behind such a decision are manifold. However, in many cases the licence selection is based on intuition: “I do not want anybody to make money with my work, so I use an NC license.” – “It should not be possible for a publisher to adopt the publications of our foundation and generate profit with it.” – “I will not have anybody tampering with my creative work, so I use an ND license.” All of these arguments can often be heard in numerous variations. They are, although perfectly understandable from a psychological standpoint, not a good basis for selecting restrictive licences.

In the sections about the NC, ND and SA clauses, I emphasised that the licence restrictions are always accompanied by the risk of legal uncertainty. They lead to complex legal questions and prevent uses that are actually in the licenser’s interest and/or even actually permitted by the licence (e.g. in cases where interested users are put off by legal uncertainty).[1]

This does not mean that one should decide for CC BY, the most permissive licence, in all cases. As already mentioned, there can be good reasons to opt for a more restrictive licence type. However, as these will generally also have disadvantages for the licenser, it is recommended to carefully weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. This is all the more relevant for broad Open Content publication strategies of, for instance, companies or public institutions.

4.2 Generating the licence[edit]

Attaching a CC licence to a work is very simple. The first step consists in going to the CC website which contains a “licence chooser.”[2] To choose a CCPL4 licence, two questions need to be answered in order to determine the licence elements (ND, SA, NC). After that, the licence chooser displays the respective licence and the respective links to the licence text and the short explanation of the licence features (the CC “Deed”). Moreover, an HTML snippet is automatically generated that can be integrated into the code of websites.[3]

Licence Chooser[4][edit]

The CC licences consist of three layers visualised in a graph on the CC website.[5]

The Three Layers[6][edit]

The Legal Code[7][edit]

The Deed[8][edit]

The ground layer is the “Legal Code,” i.e. the full text of the licence contract, written in “legalese.” This layer is the main element from a legal perspective, although most non-lawyers will never read it in detail. The middle layer is the CC Deed, also known as the “Human Readable Version.” The Deed is a short summary of the most relevant terms and conditions of the licence. The Deed is not itself a licence in the legal sense. It serves only as a handy tool which makes the rules of the licence easily understandable. As CC puts it: “Think of the Commons Deed as a user-friendly interface to the Legal Code beneath, although the Deed itself is not a licence, and its contents are not part of the Legal Code itself.“The upper layer is the “Machine Readable Version of the Licence.” It is a code snippet which will be implemented into websites enabling especially search engines to locate Open Content. In the code, the key freedoms and obligations are summarised in a machine-readable language, the CC Rights Expression Language (CC REL).[9]

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/”><img alt=”Creative commons License” style=”borderwidth:0” 
 src=”https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/4.0 88x31.png”/></a><br />This work is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=
 ”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License</a>.

4.3 Attaching Creative Commons licences to different works[edit]

How to best practically attach a CC licence to a particular work depends on the media the material is published in. The basic principle is simple: The licence should be attached in a way which allows any potential user to recognise the work, or even an entire publication (e.g. a website or a book) as being licenced under a particular CC licence. The licence notice is essential for the granting of usage rights: If the user is not aware that a particular work can be used under a CC licence, and, more importantly, does not know the terms of the licence, no rights would be granted and no licence contract would be concluded. CC does not specify how the licenser should implement a licence in certain situations. Please note that this question is not the same as the question of how third party content must be attributed.[10] Where the licence notice should be located, depends on the use-case. One rule of thumb applies in general: The licence notice should be as evident as possible. The closer it is attached to the licenced work, the more likely it will be found by the user.

The perfect way to apply a licence notice for example to a photo used on a website is to include it in the caption. The least feasible solution would be to include the licence notice in a central place, e.g. a subdomain such as the “About” or “Terms of use” pages. Most users would not find such hidden information and the licence would thus not be effective.

In the following paragraphs some recommendations for typical use-cases will be made. More in-depth information about marking works with CC licences in different contexts can be found in the CC Wiki.[11]

Attaching the licence to web content[edit]

Website providers use Open Content in different ways. In some cases, all of the content on a website is licenced under the same licence. In this case, it might be suggested to implement a general licence notice, e.g. in the footer of each webpage. The wording of this general notice is irrelevant. CC itself uses this notice: “Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.”

The hyperlink leads the user to the CC Deed of the CCPL4 BY licence. In the Deed, anyone can find another hyperlink to the full licence text. In addition, it is recommended to provide the particular licence logo as a banner in order to attract the attention to the licence notice. The full notice on the CC webpages, for instance, looks like this:

The Licence Notice[12][edit]

It should be noted that it may be necessary to apply different notices to some particular material. If someone published a photo on their CC-licenced website which was CC-licenced by a third party under a different licence, this difference would have to be highlighted. In that case, the other licence notice should be as closely attached to the material as possible in order to prevent the assumption that the general licence notice also applied to the particular photo. In fact, it would be appropriate to include the licence notice in the photo’s caption, together with the attribution notices.[13]

This would also be an appropriate approach in cases where the website provider published Open Content only occasionally (rather than licencing all content on the site under the same public licence).

Licence notices in digital documents or books[edit]

If a book or a PDF document contained occasional copies of Open Content works (e.g. an occasional photo, text or graph), the aforementioned approach would also be suitable. Ideally the notices (i.e. licence or, if third party material, attribution) would have to be attached directly to the respective copy, e.g. in a footnote or a caption. In addition, the licence could be embedded into a PDF file by applying the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP).[14]

Alternatively, it might be possible to centralise the notices in an annex, which should be as descriptive as possible.[15] If, however, someone chose such a solution, there would have to be an evident reciprocal connection between the centralised reference register and the particular work.[16] Moreover, the licence notices should include at least a reference to the licence text,[17] e.g. a hyperlink to the CC website. Alternatively, the full licence text could be included in the document or book as well.[18] If the entire publication was licenced under the same licence, a central licence notice would be the best solution. In a book, e.g. the licence notice could be printed in the imprint or another prominent location. Please note that the more hidden the notice, the less likely it will be found and recognised by a potential user, contrary to the interest of the licenser.

Licence notices in videos, music, radio or TV shows[edit]

Giving adequate licence notices in non-textual publications can be tricky. Where should the licence and attribution notices be included in a radio broadcast? Where to put such licences and notices in a video? If such media was published online as well, a simple solution would be to implement the notices into their online source. If not, the notices would have to be implemented into the work itself. Due to the different nature of e.g. video and radio broadcasts, no general answer on how to do it can be given. However, since the original author does not have to comply with licencing obligations,[19] there are a variety of possible solutions.[20] Again, the more prominent and descriptive these solutions are, the more likely they will be noticed by users.

4.4 Finding Open Content online[edit]

Search engines are essential to finding Open Content on the web. Google provides a specific Open Content search function which can be found in the “advanced search” options.

The advanced search option allows users to filter the search results according to usage rights. Several options can be chosen to limit the search results, these include, e.g. “content that can be freely used and shared,” “content that can be freely used and shared also for commercial purposes,” etc. The Google Image Search features the same function.

Usually, users search for certain kinds of content. In this case, the use of content platforms might be more convenient than the use of general search engines. There are several platforms for images, videos or even music which allow searching specifically for Open Content.

Google: Advanced Search[21][edit]

(for an image please refer to http://www.google.com/advanced_search)

A) Searching for Open Content images[edit]

Flickr is the world’s largest photo community. Millions of images are uploaded onto the platform, many of which are licenced under CC licences. To find them, the advanced search offers a respective setting:

Flickr: Advanced Search[22][edit]

(for an image please refer to https://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/)

Another large image archive is the Wikimedia Commons Database. Most of the photos contained therein are published under a public licence or even dedicated to the public domain.

Wikimedia Commons[23][edit]

B) Searching for Open Content videos[edit]

The video platform Vimeo is particularly progressive in the field of Open Content. It enables the user of self-created content to choose a CC licence before uploading the video content to the site. Moreover, if someone searches for certain content, there is a link called “advanced filters” which contains an option to search for CC licenced content.

Vimeo Search[24][edit]

(for an image please refer to https://vimeo.com/)

C) Searching for Open Content with the meta-search-function of Creative Commons[edit]

The CC website features a special search function for Open Content of different types. It allows a user to search on a number of platforms including YouTube, Jamendo (music), SoundCloud (music) or Europeana (multiple kinds of works).

Creative Commons Search[25][edit]

5.Final Remarks[edit]

Open Content licences have the great potential of making it possible to share copyright-protected content with others in a legally feasible and transparent way. However, one needs to be aware of potential pitfalls. This is true for both, the right holder and the user.

Not only to be legally compliant, but also in order to respect the rights of those who share their creative efforts freely with others, every user should be aware of their duties and obligations. On the other hand, those who would like to publish their content under a public licence should take an informed decision about the licence they choose. The tendency to use restrictive licences, e.g. NonCommercial licences, is problematic for the free culture movement in general and can jeopardize the sharing of content, thereby most likely undermining the right holder’s original objectives. It is therefore of utmost importance to think carefully about which licence will best meet one’s own particular intentions.

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  1. See the remarks in chapter 3.5, section a, b, and c.
  2. To open the licence chooser click the link “choose a licence” on the homepage http://www.creativecommons.org. The direct link can be found at: https://creativecommons.org/choose/.
  3. For online publications it is highly recommended to copy and paste metatags into the site’s source code.Proper meta-information is essential especially for search engines in order to interpret the licence information properly and thus create correct search results.
  4. Source: Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/choose/?lang=en.
  5. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/?lang=en.
  6. Source: Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/?lang=en.
  7. Source: Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode.
  8. Source: Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
  9. Find more information about the embedding of licence concerning metadata of licences at: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/XMP.
  10. The initial implementation of the licence is the licenser’s task. The licenser is not the licensee, i.e. they themselves are not bound to the terms of the licence they use for their content. The attribution issue, however, addresses the licensees of other people’s work.
  11. See: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking_your_work_with_a_CC_license.
  12. Source: Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/.
  13. For the attribution requirements for the use of third party material see chapter 3.1, section a.
  14. See: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/XMP.
  15. The chapter could, for instance, be titled: „License notices for third party material.“
  16. One should provide at least the page number, or, if more than one third party work is used on the same page, further identifiers.
  17. Apart from the licence text location, the notice should name the licence and its version. See the example from the CC website in “Attaching the licence to web content” in chapter 4.3.
  18. Such a solution will, however, hardly be suitable if the publication contains content from third parties that was released under a number of different licences.
  19. For the argument see footnote 13.
  20. For the issue of proper attribution in such media, see the CC publications about proper crediting at: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users or http://creativecommons.org.au/content/attributingccmaterials.pdf.
  21. Source: Google, http://www.google.com/advanced_search.
  22. Source: Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/.
  23. Source: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org.
  24. Source: Vimeo, https://vimeo.com.
  25. Source: Creative Commons, http://search.creativecommons.org.