Is Creative Commons Right for Your Blog?

Creative Commons Work LogoIf you surf around the Internet long enough, you will no doubt notice many sites Creative Commons badges or other integrations of their licenses.

Several larger sites, including Flickr and have integrated Creative Commons support into their offerings and even Google has integrated Creative Commons into it search tools to make it easier to locate such works.

But with Creative Commons being so popular and on so many sites, many bloggers are wondering if a CC license is right for them and their site.

The answer, however, isn’t straightforward and it’s a decision every blogger needs to make for themselves. But, with a little bit of information, the choice should be an easy one to make, letting you get back to running other parts of your site.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a licensing system by which bloggers, artists, photographers, musicians and other creatives give others permission to copy and reuse their works, under a certain set of restrictions.

The reason this is useful is because copyright law makes it so that all works of creative authorship are copyrighted by default and that protection prevents others from doing certain things with the work, including republishing it on their site or making a derivative work based upon it.

However, all of those rights can be given away with permission. But getting permission from copyright holders can be a terrible pain. The time it takes to ask permission, wait for a response, negotiate the terms and then act on it is often too long to be practical. Worse still, this places o burden on the copyright holder who has to handle all of the permission requests one at a time.

Creative Commons is a way to streamline this process. The creator, who is comfortable with the idea of others reusing his/her work, simply gives blanket permission to others for them to use it.

To accomplish this, creators choose a set of licensing terms, specifically whether commercial use and derivative works are allowed and generators a semi-custom license for their site. (Note: All current CC licenses require attribution.)

Creators then display the license next to their work. This license includes a human-readable version, a machine-readable version and a legalese full license version. The idea then becomes that others wishing to use the content will not need to ask for permission and can simply go ahead with their desired use. Furthermore, it makes such works easier to locate, helping searchers find content they can repurpose for various uses.

But as great of an idea as Creative Commons is, it still is not right for every creator. Many would be put in a very bad spot if they used a CC license and others will actually see a lot of benefit from the use of a such a license.

Finding out which is true for you is a matter of soul searching as well being honest about your work and your goals with it.

Is a Creative Commons License Right For Me?

As we talked about in our intro to content licensing article back in April, there’s a lot of ways that you can license your work and give permissions for certain uses. Not only can you do it directly one-on-one, but you can also give an implied license through your actions.

However, using a Creative Commons license inevitably gives away far more rights to your work than any of those options and it does so in a far more broad way.

With that in mind, there are many reasons why Creative Commons may not be right for you and your site. Here are just a few of the factors that you should consider.

  1. Emotional/Personal Issues: How would you feel with other sites displaying your work with attribution? Would you be happy that work is reaching new audiences or upset that others are gaining benefit from your work without anything more than a link? Are you comfortable with the use of your full work would you prefer it to be left to thumbnails and quotes? A lot of this stems from how personally attached you are to the work.
  2. Business Issues: Are you trying to sell copies or access to your work? If so, Creative Commons probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if your business or personal goals are better met by having your work in front of as many eyeballs as possible, it may be a good choice.
  3. SEO Issues: Having many copies of your work out there can hurt your SEO as other sites may ran better for your creations than you do. While this is mitigated some by linking requirements, it’s still a real risk to consider.

It’s also important to factor in your audience and your content types. Creative Commons will work much better with a tech-savvy audience that is familiar with the licenses and how they work than it will with an audience that’s never heard of them.

Likewise, certain types of content are just better for the licenses as the are easier to share and modify. Anything with a huge file size, for example, won’t get as much benefit out of a CC license. On the other hand, images are generally the most-used media under CC licenses, not only due to Flickr, but that many blogs look for CC images to use with their posts.

All in all, if you have have personal or business issues with using a CC license, you shouldn’t do so. Following the pack in this area can be dangerous. But, if you don’t have any reason not to use it and can see some potential benefit, it’s likely worthwhile.

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In the end, that is likely true for most of the content created by bloggers, though everyone has to make their own decisions.

Bottom Line

In truth, there’s no right or wrong decision when it comes to choosing whether you want to use a Creative Commons license or which license you want to use. Having or not having a CC license will never make you a better blogger.

Instead, a CC license is part of a larger content strategy, about how you want others to use your work and how your content can best serve you.If CC fits into that strategy, great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

Either way, your first priority is determining how your content can best help you and if you’re better off restricting its use or letting it go and, if so, how far.

Once you know that, the choice is clear when it comes to Creative Commons.

In short,

Your Questions

Have a question about the law and freelance writing? Either leave a comment below or contact me directly if you wish to keep the information private (However, please mention that it is a suggestion for The Blog Herald. This column will be determined largely by your suggestions and questions so let me know what you want to know about.


I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice.

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