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Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that provides licenses for use of creative works; licenses that span a variety of different restrictions and freedoms in an easy-to-access form model that allows people without legal backgrounds or representation to easily license their work. Their work is based on the idea of a `commons', ``resources that are not divided into individual bits of property but rather are jointly held so that anyone may use them without special permission. Think of public streets, parks, waterways, outer space, and creative works in the public domain'' [Creative Commons, 2008b]. Thus the licenses allow the holder to retain their copyright, but allow people to distribute, modify, and/or copy the work, providing that due credit is given (depending on the specifications chosen by the user).

The Website allows users to choose a license after answering a series of questions, such as whether to allow commercial uses or modifications of the work, and the jurisdiction of the license, and then presents it in an easy to understand manner, an example of which is included in Figure 4.3.

Figure 4.3: An example of a Creative Commons License, with easy to understand icons and explanations. The example here is for the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia license.
Image creativecommons

Note the use of icons, similar to the type Garfinkel would like, to allow for an easier understanding and a more immediate recognition of the requirements of the license. The standardisation of the licenses, too, makes it easy for people wanting to use the work to know what requirements they need to fulfil, and allows them to have a very good idea of the sorts of requirements without having to read much fine print, simply because of the third party nature of the Creative Commons organisation; an organisation that is not simply acting on the copyright holder's behalf, but has put in a large amount of effort to make the licenses and license procedures understandable and fair to the user.

Another positive side to the Creative Commons approach is the easy-to-use form. A copyright holder can have a license drawn up within a few minutes that has a solid legal foundation and a high level of social acceptance. This independent, non-profit, unbiased third party runs from donations and has a strong grassroots advocacy organisation with a large support network [Creative Commons, 2008a]. In this way it has attracted many of the newer Websites, particularly social networking and media sites such as Flickr, Google, Yahoo!, and others [Creative Commons, 2008b], and with them, many users of the Creative Commons licensing system. With this large industry backing, Creative Commons is a good case study for reasonable ways to approach change in culture within the information technology industry.

Although there is the potential for misuse of the Creative Commons labels, like with the TRUSTe problem, because the use is within copyright and contract law, misuse could be backed up by legal action. The situation is different with TRUSTe, which has no legal backing beyond striking a certificate from its list. What Creative Commons does differently is not simply act as some sort of third party auditor, but provide a service with which users and companies can create licenses with which to claim their own legal rights.

It is with this in mind that I move on to my recommendations for practical implementation of informed consent reform within End User License Agreements.

next up previous contents
Next: Recommendations for Practical Reform Up: Some Recent Suggestions for Previous: TRUSTe   Contents
Catherine Flick 2010-02-03