Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. An easy to understand one-page explanation of rights, with associated visual symbols, explains the specifics of each Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright, but are based upon it. They replace individual negotiations for specific rights between copyright owner (licensor) and licensee, which are necessary under an “all rights reserved” copyright management with a “some rights reserved” management employing standardized licenses for re-use cases where no commercial compensation is sought by the copyright owner. The result is an agile, low overhead and cost copyright management regime, profiting both copyright owners and licensees. Wikipedia uses one of these licenses.
The organization was founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with support of the Center for the Public Domain. The first article in a general interest publication about Creative Commons, written by Hal Plotkin, was published in February 2002. The first set of copyright licenses was released in December 2002. In 2008, there were an estimated 130 million works licensed under Creative Commons. As of October 2011, Flickr alone hosts over 200 million Creative Commons licensed photos. Creative Commons is governed by a board of directors and a technical advisory board. Their licenses have been embraced by many as a way for creators to take control of how they choose to share their intellectual property.
Creative Commons licenses consist of four major condition modules: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author; Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative works under the same or a similar license (later or jurisdiction version); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives. These modules are combined to currently form six major licenses of the Creative Commons:
Attribution (CC BY)
Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA)
Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)
Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)
As of the current versions, all Creative Commons licenses allow the “core right” to redistribute a work for non-commercial purposes without modification. The NC and ND options will make a work non-free according to the Definition of Free Cultural Works.
An additional special license-like contract is the CC0 option, or “No Rights Reserved.” This license dedicates a work to the public domain (or an equivalent status in jurisdictions where a dedication to public domain is not possible). Compared with a “public domain” statement added to the work, a CC0 statement is less ambiguous and achieves the desired effect on a global scale, rather than limited to some jurisdictions.
For software, Creative Commons endorses three free licenses created by other institutions: the BSD License, the CC GNU LGPL license, and the CC GNU GPL.
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