What Bugs Me About Creative Commons…

…and it’s not the concept.

It lies in how it’s used or rather, abused.

Read about the concept at the Creative Commons’ website “about” page.

In fact, this blog is licensed by me under Creative Commons.  Just click the “About Doug and This Blog” link above and scroll to the bottom.  You’ll find this:

Creative Commons License

doug – off the record by Doug Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.

You’ll find a similar note on my Professional Development Wiki.

I do believe strongly in the concept.

So, why the rant?

Well, yesterday, I was on a newspaper website where the “entire contents are copyright by…”.  That’s fine.  That’s the way that they’ve traditionally done their business and it appears that they will continue to do so.  More power to them.  They make their money by selling their content.  I get that.

But, in the middle of the story, there was an image that said it was “licensed under Creative Commons”.  Now, that could still be legit but I thought I would check it out.  It turns out that the Creative Commons license used was very similar to mine – it includes the restriction of “NonCommercial”.  It was a hot day and I was inside anyway so I thought that I’d send off a message to the reported author of the article.  I doubt that I’ll hear anything back but somehow I feel a bit better for it.

I started to think about how people would understand the whole concept anyway.  In particular, teachers and students.  I think of the number of presentations that I’ve seen over the years.  “Hey, Creative Commons gives you access to free stuff that you can use on your blog”.  Then, the session goes into the mechanics of how you physically get content from Flickr and put it into your blog.  I even saw a presentation once where the comment “the blog isn’t complete until I’ve included a picture and I always just go to get something from Creative Commons for that purpose.”

Sadly, that seems to be the extent of it.  It’s a place to get free pictures or maybe even free music for your work.

Why don’t we focus on the other side of the issue.  Someone actually had to create that great content in the first place.  I know some folks who do this and they’re some of the most creative people I know.  That’s why I admire the work of my photography friends – @gingerpatti, @pbeens, @windsordi, @aforgrave, @Ron_Mill.  I can say this because I know my limitations.  I have such limited abilities when you put a camera in my hands.  I remember an email I got from my son when I posted an image to Facebook.  “Ahem…hello, horizon”.  He’s right; there’s a big difference between someone who can take a picture on an angle and make it look good and someone who just can’t hold a camera straight.

In the classroom, rather than a push for Creative Commons to finish a project, I’d like to see the tables turned and use it as an opportunity to promote publishing and contributing back to the community – whether it be photography, music, writing, video, or any of the other ways that students and teachers create content.  It’s sort of like those “take a penny, leave a penny” dishes that you see at checkout counters.  Perhaps you don’t have the ability to create what’s needed for your project at the moment.  Great, use an appropriately licensed resource but upload one or two of your own in return.  There may just be another great creator in the audience who just needs the environment to make it happen.

There’s far more power in the giving than the taking.

5 thoughts on “What Bugs Me About Creative Commons…”

  1. Doug, thanks for the shout out! I love your idea of “take a penny, give a penny” pay it forward creativity. I just experienced that phenomenon this past week actually. A friend’s talented, creative daughter painted an extraordinary landscape of Peggy’s Cove based on a recent photo I took there. I could not have been more touched! Here’s the story: http://www.vagabondphotography.ca/blog/

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  2. Exactly. This is what I find I’m struggling with, both with my colleagues, and my students. They are starting to wrap their heads around getting content from Creative Commons (notice I said “starting”), but they’re really not there yet on the putting something back in. So, I need to start responding to the “but there’s no pictures of…”, complaint with “and how are you going to start to fix that?”. It is about giving back, and I want to make that a key part of my teaching next year.

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  3. What qualifies as Non-commercial? Does it mean not at all work related? Or can I use images with a Non-commercial CC licence in my classroom. I don’t sell the materials I make on those teachers sell to other teachers sites (I also don’t think much of the teachers that do sell things there). I post materials I create for other teachers to take and adapt for their own classroom. I use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License, because I’ve been assuming that Non Commercial meant you don’t sell it but you can use it in a lesson. have I been wrong?

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