I am often asked by people if they can re-publish my blog posts. Most of what you read on this blog is original in the sense that I write the stuff and therefore by common convention, automatically the copyright to the material belongs to me. I have the freedom to assign rights to my work to others of course. There is an extremely flexible mechanism which has been developed for this purpose and I think it is worthwhile for us to become familiar with it — or if you already know it to some extent, revising your understanding of it. I am referring to the Creative Commons, an institution which is attempting to (and has succeeded to a marvelous degree) create a lot of middle ground between the polar extremes of “All Rights Reserved” — generally denoted by the (C) sign — and “Public Domain” — where the author has no rights at all.
Quoting from the page linked above:
Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.
Creative Commons is working to revive them. We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare “some rights reserved.”
So what license should one choose? Various conditions are listed on this license page such as “Attribution,” “Non-commercial,” “No derivate works,” and “Share alike.”
Here’s the license that I have chosen for this blog:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
If you click on that last link, you will find a fuller description of what I am actually allowing and what I am disallowing. Note especially one condition: “Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.” So, for example, while I am not allowing my work to be used for commercial purposes, depending on the case, if I am asked for permission, I can easily grant that my work be used for commercial purposes.
I would encourage you to read the FAQ on the Creative Commons.
Finally, an institution such as the Creative Commons, is an excellent example from the set of institutions that form the foundation upon which a modern liberal prosperous society is built. This institution primarily expands the range of choices that people have in presenting their work to society at large. By doing this, it allows greater cooperation between people and thus increases the ability of people to build on prior work. It is also just another example of an innovation that people in the US have achieved. Thank you Creative Commons.
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