Sunday, September 19, 2010

Notes on Copyright (2): Creative Commons

Last week I mentioned a couple of exceptions to the general rules of what may or may not be copied from The Betty Blog. This week I'd like to expand on the one that applies most often here: Creative Commons.

Creative Commons (CC) allows one to reproduce an item -- to copy someone else's copyrighted text, photos, sound or software files --  without even having to ask. CC poems, etc., are licensed, with permission to copy automatically granted subject to certain conditions (explained in more detail below).

Creative Commons poems can be recognized by the distinctive logo -- the copyright symbol, but with two C's inside the circle -- or the slogan "some rights reserved" (vs. the standard "all rights reserved") -- that they usually bear:
Creative Commons License

You may copy such a poem, even if it is by a living poet. The two poets who currently have CC-licensed poems on The Betty Blog are Ray Heinrich and George Dance. They incorporate some of the most common terms of a CC license: a copier (1) must give credit to the creator (both); or (2) may not copy for commercial purposes (Heinrich); (3) may not use the poem in a derivative work (Heinrich) or (4) if using it in that way, must license the derivative work in the same way (Dance). The explicit terms of each individual license are always given with the applicable poem.

Not all my poems bear CC licenses; but I have already licensed a dozen of them (including my translations of Heine and Rimbaud), with more (including my translations of Saint-Denys Garneau) to follow. My reasoning is simple: I want those poems to be copied so they'll reach more readers. My hope is that the more readers who become familiar with my work, the more there will be who'll want to read more of it.

There is quite a lot of CC-licensed material elsewhere on the Web, as well. Perhaps the most famous is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. All of Wikipedia's text is licensed under CC, and those who write or even edit articles for it must agree to so license their contribution. The same foundation also maintains a free database of photographs and images, Wikimedia Commons, all of which is either public domain or CC-licensed. Anyone may use all or part of any Wikipedia article, or any Wikimedia Commons image, they like.

For instance, rather than give my own explanation of CC here, I could have simply copied in the "Creative Commons" article from Wikipedia. However, because this text is already too long, I'll content myself with giving a link instead for those who wish to learn more about CC. (Update, Feb. June 2011: Due to problems with Wikipedia, I am changing the link. Fortunately, one does not have to rely on only one source; another advantage of Creative Commons:)

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