Today, it is virtually impossible to open the newspaper or check the headlines online and not see something referencing either, “copyright”, “licensing”, or the most recent addition, “Creative Commons”. If you are a business owner, or if you take pride in any form of your own creation, be it artwork, writing, song, photography, even web design, then you are well familiar with these terms. But, perhaps you have heard these terms, yet have found yourself having difficulties in understanding both the likenesses as well as the differences between them. If that is the case, this article is meant to enlighten you on precisely that.
Let’s first start with what exactly copyright is, and how it works. Whenever anything is created, whether it is a painting or a website, the creator automatically holds the sole legal copyright (oftentimes referred to as “intellectual property”) to the particular work or creation. The owner, with these exclusive rights is then also the creator of common wealth, which allows them to be compensated for their work, and additionally be able to support themselves financially. In other words, copyright is the legal right which is granted to the owner (or whomever they should assign) to print, film, perform, record, etc. or to allow others to do so as well. The owner also is in turn able to do with their creation whatever they would like, including allowing someone to borrow their work in a form of print or copy. Interestingly, instead of having any person who is interested in the work to come directly to the owner seeking permission to copy or reproduce the work, the owner is able (through copyright) to set terms and agreements in to how they would like to allow their work to be used, copied or reproduced.
This brings us to what licenses are, and how precisely they work. The term license literally means, “to give permission”. Licenses are given based upon the authority in which the owner specifically allows (by means of reproduction, usage, and/or distribution) a person to use their work. A license that is put in motion protects the owner by allowing them to set terms for the usage of their product, while still in turn maintaining sole ownership of their product by way of a copyright. A person who would like to use the work, can pay to use it, but that does not give them ownership of the work in any way. Licenses can allot numbers of usage, bounds of the use, as well as the time and length of use. In addition, the licensor can also grant (under what is known as intellectual laws) a license which would allow licensee to freely use their product free of a claim of infringement from the licensor. Additionally, licensing can be used as a marketing (or brand extension) resource, which can be used by anyone from huge corporations to a newer home-based business. Licensing can also be used to move brands into new businesses without having to make a huge, and often unsettling investment in regards to machines, facilities, or manufacturing processes.
Finally, we have what is known as Creative Commons. Creative Commons is the next generation of “licensing”. What makes Creative Commons so different is that it allows artists to share and use creative materials and knowledge through free legal tools. The website, http://creativecommons.org/, offers free copyright licenses which in turn allows the public access to use and share your work based upon conditions that you, as the sole owner, choose. Creative Commons do not replace copyrights, they simply work with copyrights, which changes “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved”, and allow you to choose and modify your own terms based upon whatever needs you decide are most suitable to represent your work or creation. Licensing is also incredibly simple, as there is no registration required to use Creative Commons. You simply choose from the company’s six licenses that would best fit your creation as well as meets your standards, and finally you mark your work in a manner that shows others that you have chosen to release your work under the particular terms of the license that you specifically chose. Creative Commons licensing can reflect any form of work; for example, music, photography, educational resources, government and private sectors, databases. You name it, and it’s sure to be covered by Creative Commons.
Now that we have looked individually at all three of these aspects, let’s compare and contrast their distinguishing attributes. Interestingly, Creative Commons is more closely related to a license than it is to copyright law. Copyright law gives the creator of the work exclusive rights to alter, copy, distribute, perform, display, and also to allow others to do the same, if they wish. Creative Commons licensing is basically the owner allowing others to do all of those things, by setting certain terms and agreements. Creative Commons licensing make it easy to manage copyright terms which connect automatically to any creative work under a copyright.The main differences between licensing and copyright laws are that while a creator of a particular work owns sole rights to that work, a license in turn grants limited usage of the creators work based upon restrictions set by the owner of how exactly you are able to utilise their work or creations.
While there are a vast number of differences between copyright law, licensing, and Creative Commons, when you are an artist of any kind, or someone who works in a business of any sort, it is imperative that you choose wisely when making your decision to protect your work or creation. As something that has stemmed from your own personal mind, having a stranger take advantage of you and claiming your hard work as their own, in turn leading to a nasty legal battle is the very last thing you want to have to deal with. Do yourself (and your hard work) a favour and protect your copyright before choosing one of these methods to licence it. In the end you will be more than glad you did.