Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organisation that offers help for authors to release legally protected content in the form of ready-made licence agreements.

Specifically, CC offers six different standard license agreements that can be used in the distribution of creative content to determine the legal conditions. CC itself is neither an exploiter nor a publisher of content and is not a contractual partner of authors and rights holders who wish to distribute their content under CC license agreements. Rather, the CC license agreements are adopted by the authors and used under their own responsibility – to make it clear to everyone what may and may not be done with the content of their websites (which is why such standard licenses addressed to the general public are also called “Everyman Licenses”). Through CC licenses, the owners of copyrights and ancillary copyrights give all interested parties additional freedoms. This means that anyone may do more with CC-licensed content than the copyright law already allows. Exactly which additional freedoms are offered depends on which of the six CC license agreements is used.


Why such ready-made explanations?
The creation of the CC license agreements has given the authors more options.

Previously, they usually only had the choice of either not publishing their content at all or publishing it under the standard legal protection of “all rights reserved”. This protection applies if, when publishing works, no statement is made about what is and is not allowed. Very few creative people have additionally studied law or otherwise gathered enough expertise in copyright law to draft appropriate licence agreements for their own purposes – without the help of specialist lawyers. Only a few can afford legal advice for their own publications, and on the user side, too, countless different license agreements mean that an immense amount of effort must be expended in order to correctly understand this multitude of rules.

Particularly against the background of the triumphal march of digital media, these restrictions have increasingly developed into an obstacle to creativity, which also becomes noticeable for creative people at the latest when they want to build their work on digital content from other creative people. In this case, they are themselves in the user role and often do not know whether content they find on the Internet may be edited, distributed or used in any other way. On the other hand, if the content is CC-licensed, there is less legal uncertainty.

You can already tell by the name of the respective CC license type what the most important conditions are when using the content. The simplest CC license agreement only requires the user (licensee) to name the author/right holder (licensor). However, further restrictions may be imposed depending on whether the rights holder wishes to allow commercial use or not, whether or not adaptations should be allowed, and whether or not adaptations, if allowed, must be distributed under the same conditions.


And what do I get out of it as the rights holder?
Apart from the immediate effects – clearly defined release without giving up copyright protection – there are several conceivable reasons for using CC licenses:

Use of licenses as a pure statement
Some use CC Licences for their works only because they wish to demonstrate their support for Open Access and free access to cultural goods in general. In many communities it is now a matter of course to use open licensing models instead of strictly reserving all rights. For program code, this usually involves the use of software-specific general licenses such as the GNU General Public License.

Special interest in editing
Others, on the other hand, are particularly fascinated by the idea that their works are taken up and reused, and like to watch this process in the vastness of cyberspace. Without free licensing (by means of CC licenses or other standard licenses), any use must first be requested from the author. As this increases the effort for others, content without freedom is often either not used at all or used without permission, which is not in the author’s interest.

Contribution to the multiplication of the material pool
Anyone who regularly makes use of existing digital material, e.g. because their own work form simply requires it (setting videos to music, graphic design, music mixes, …), knows that this pool of material only remains up-to-date and productive if something is not only taken from it but also added to it. A – even if perhaps limited – release of one’s own content supports the mutual multiplication and maintenance of the common material pool.

Increasing the distribution of own works
Commercial considerations may also argue in favour of CC licensing: Young artists in particular are usually dependent on the rapid distribution of their content, but find it difficult to achieve this due to a lack of publicity and therefore remain unknown. A publication under a free license often leads to a noticeably wider distribution of the content, since potential users have free access and can already search for freely licensed content via certain platforms and search engines.

Translated with (free version)