Well, since I was asked about this a few weeks ago, I thought that I’d talk about Creative Commons licences today – and why they’re awesome. I’ll also be talking a bit about the failings and shortcomings of traditional copyrights too.
In essence, a Creative Commons licence is something which you can add to any art, fiction, photos, music etc.. you’ve created (provided it is your own original work and isn’t, say, fan art based on something that is still copyrighted) when you release them online and/or offline.
A Creative Commons licence is like a more liberal and enlightened version of a traditional copyright (which, in most places, you get automatically after you create something original), where you can choose what you do and don’t give permission for other people to do with your work.
The licence I tend to use for a fair amount of my art is a “CC-BY-NC-ND” licence. This stands for “Creative Commons – Attribution- Non-Commercial – No-Derivatives” and it is probably one of the most restrictive types of Creative Commons licences out there.
Basically, it means that people can’t sell any art that I make without my permission (I’m not too bothered about people putting my work on small ad-supported websites though. But you can’t use my art in any ads that you make and, if you’re a big corporation, you’ll need to ask my permission to use my art on any of your business-related sites).
This licence also means that people can’t modify my art and claim it as their own (although the “No Derivatives” thing also technically covers fan art too, I’ll turn a blind eye to fan art if it meets certain criteria). Not only that, if anyone uses or displays something that I’ve made in any way, then they have to attribute it to either “C. A. Brown” and/or “PekoeBlaze”. If it’s not possible to display my name beside my work, then just add it to the filename.
It isn’t all bad though – the “CC-BY-NC-ND” licence also means that if anyone wants to share my work online with their friends or just display it on their site (with the proper attribution), then they don’t have to ask permission to do this – although if you’re using my art on your website, then I wouldn’t mind a link to it 🙂
So, why don’t I use a traditional copyright for most of my art? I mean, the licence I use is fairly close to an “ordinary” copyright, so why don’t I just go the whole hog and copyright all of my art?
Because I don’t want to be an asshole. I’m also something of a realist about the internet too.
It’s as simple as that.
People and companies who aggressively and unrelentingly police their copyrights not only tend to alienate a lot of their fans, but they’re also as foolish as King Canute trying to order back the tides.
Computers can copy things in seconds and the internet is specifically designed for sharing and distributing information. So, the idea of trying to prevent people from actually using this inherent feature of our technology is as foolish as trying to sell ice in Antarctica. People are going to share things on the internet, so there’s no point in wasting time and energy trying to prevent this.
If a business or large company is smart enough, they’ll find ways to use this fact to their advantage (eg: like how many bands now mostly make money via live performances, merchandise and streaming services rather than through album sales) and they’ll also use it to advertise their other products for free, attract new customers and stuff like that too.
However, doing things like aggressively cracking down on copyright and adding passive-aggressive things like Digital Rights Management to music, films, games etc.. is just going to alienate paying customers and it will probably drive some people to pirate the works in question out of pure spite alone.
I take a more relaxed view towards my art copyrights because I want my work to be distributed. I want my art and art style to be widely recognised (even though, paradoxically, I’d absolutely hate to be a celebrity). Banning people from sharing my art in any way just seems absolutely pointless to me.
Since I don’t have any kind of traditional publishing deal at the moment and I’m about as far from widely-recognised as I can be, the easiest and cheapest way to get my art to as many people as possible is to – essentially – allow people to pirate it. Allowing people who think my art is cool to display it on their own sites and allowing people to put it on file-sharing sites benefits me as an artist.
And, this is why I use a Creative Commons licence.
So, if you like my CC-licenced art, then feel free to raise the Jolly Roger, get a bottle o’ rum and start putting it out there on whatever file-sharing sites that you young rapscallions use these days. Arrr!
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂