English: Three “Layers” Of Creative Commons Li...

Three “Layers” Of Creative Commons Licenses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A question posed as part of the discussion of copyright options in the Open University’s Open Education (MOOC) is what Creative Commons license students would choose for their blog?

This blog is not written for commercial purposes and as far as I’m concerned, readers are  free to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon any of my posts, even commercially, as long as they credit me, Martin Raybould, as the creator.

I am clearly not alone in this view. In the article Sites of Resistance: Weblogs and Creative Commons Licenses, Clancy Ratliff of the University of Minnesota writes: “The vast majority of bloggers do not get paid for keeping their weblogs at all; they do it in order to freely give and publish their ideas and receive other ideas in return. The bloggers I interviewed, when asked why they got Creative Commons licenses, all expressed desires to share ideas and relinquish some control over their content”.

Ratcliff also notes that “Bloggers are the same people who read about and/or use open source software and upload and download files from peer-to-peer networks”.

Creative Commons (Copyleft) was set up as an alternative to copyright rules that were widely seen as against the fundamental ethos of the internet as a ‘place’ where  sharing, public education, and creative interactivity should be the default position.

In his essay The Case for Free Use, Erik Mollor argues that the ‘non-commercial’ (NC) Creative Commons license is harmful. Given that the potential for financial benefits from distribution online are quite small he writes “The moment you choose any Creative Commons license, you choose to give away your work. Any market built around content which is available for free must either rely on goodwill or ignorance”.

How does this differ from some posting a song, story, painting or photograph?  Not much in my view, even when the intention is to publicise an individual’s talent with a view to making money from other works in the same vein. Once the content is ‘out there’ online, nobody should be surprised or aggrieved if and when it is freely downloaded or copied without asking permission.

When I use images in my blog, for example, I very rarely check beforehand whether I have the ‘right’ to do so. I figure that if someone objects, then they can write to ask me to remove it.

Since I began blogging 6 years ago, I have only been asked once to take down a photograph. This was an image of a Scottish bagpipe player . The bagpiper in question was using this image as his official publicity shot. I agreed to use another image in a post about Glasgow although an alternative solution could have been for me to acknowledge the source of the shot which would have given him a bit of publicity.

When something is online it is accessible to all and this means that it is effectively in the public domain.

Today, in a Guardian interview with James Blake, the 24-year-old musician acknowledges this new reality. He is resigned to the fact that more people are going to download his new album without paying for it  and philosophically reasons that digital piracy is now the norm which make record company staff equivalent to “door-to-door salesmen trying to sell doors”.