Without paperwork, this method helps determine copyright
(Caption: The Creative Commons logo. Photo credit: creativecommons.org.)
For the past several years the term "Creative Commons" has figured in my teaching, particularly in computer classes.
My initial inspiration for the use of Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org came, appropriately, from another educator who was making materials available through the licensing platform, then very much in its infancy.
Blair Miller, the Surrey educator whose materials I had come across, was kind enough to explain some of the vagaries of Creative Commons at the time, and I was immediately determined to make use of his approach.
Prior to the establishment of the Creative Commons it was very difficult for an ordinary creator of materials to set about licensing them without the use of legal advice and paperwork.
Oh, there was no problem establishing ownership. Under Canadian law anything you write or create is automatically under your copyright. However, proving that and taking any action over a violation is tricky, and may not be worth the effort and cost.
Creative Commons sets about making the protection of materials, particularly those that are digital, transparent, public, and straightforward. There is no need for a lawyer or notary.
Essentially the mission of Creative Commons is to facilitate the legal sharing of materials and works through a series of rights, and where designated allow those works to become the basis for other works and products.
Standard copyright asserts that all rights are reserved for a particular creative work. Creative Commons licensing allows content creators to assign simple, clearly understandable licences to their works.
In the process of licensing works in this manner they become part of an increasingly large digital commons, a vast pool of materials from which anyone can draw.
Recently some numbers have surfaced that give an indication of just how large the "commons" has become. As of the end of 2014 some 882 million pieces of work carry Creative Commons licensing. Around three-quarters of those works permit adaptations or derivative products to be made. A little over half permit the commercial use of the works or products by others.
Photo repository service Flickr has become one of the major sources of works with Creative Commons licensing. By some accounts the number of photographs so licensed is well over 300 million. Recently Yahoo-owned Flickr amended its licensing options to add both a public domain and a CC0 (no copyright reserved) option that effectively remove any restrictions on shared material.
One of the first high-profile companies to make use of the public domain provision was Elon Musk's Space-X, which has quite a collection of images in its Flickr account. Musk had been criticized for not placing the Space-X imagery in the public domain.
He had used the least restrictive of the Creative Commons provisions, CC-BY, which requires attribution in any sharing or derivative works based on the original photos.
To get started with Creative Commons licensing for your own content, say photos that you publish to Flickr, check out the licensing chooser at http://creativecommons.org/choose. By answering two simple questions you will be guided to the licensing appropriate for your wishes.
For instance, if you are content to have nothing more than name recognition as your work is circulated, perhaps even built upon, then the simplest attribution is all you'll need. Your work can even be used commercially. Someone can make money from your work, but it must be attributed to you.
On the other hand, you might want a more restrictive form of Creative Commons licensing. The Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives requires credit to the original artist, and work cannot be altered in any way or used to make money.
As for Instagram users, it turns out there is no straightforward way to license your content. You do retain the copyright on photos you post there, although the company can use them as it sees fit. A third-party tool is available to assign Creative Commons licensing, but it is all or none. Individual photos cannot be assigned specific licences.
Creative Commons has developed a solid platform for licensing digital media. Why not consider using it for the materials you create and make publicly available?
When you search for a photograph to add to, say, your blog post, why not make use of Google or Bing search filters to locate only those materials that carry one of the Creative Commons licences?