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Copyright can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it protects other from infringing your work. On the other hand, it also stops others from developing and innovating on your works. How do you go about solving this problem? Creative Commons (CC) licences are public agreements that were created to facilitate the use of copyrighted work. This article will outline the different forms of Creative Commons licences.

What is Copyright?

First of all, to understand the function or purpose of a Creative Commons licence, you need to know a bit about copyright.

In basic terms, copyright is a form of intellectual property that administrated by the Department of Communications and the Arts. Copyright provides an automatic protection of an original expression, when it is put down in a material form (paper or published). The original expression can be a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work that is original.

Purpose of IP Law and Copyright

In Australia, IP law is administered to encourage innovation and protect businesses that develop original IP to have a competitive advantage. Accordingly, infringing someone’s IP rights is vigorously protected in Australia. A person who infringes someone’s IP can incur huge fines and imprisonment.

Licensing of IP

The Government May Grant Licence Rights to Others

The Australian government also recognises the value in licensing IP rights to others. Accordingly, the power to grant licences may lie with a government official, such as the Commissioner of Patents, or with the courts in certain circumstances. One of these circumstances is to help people in developing countries who face life-threatening illness (however this is more relevant in the context of patenting inventions and not copyright).

Owners of IP May Grant Licence Rights to Others

An owner of IP can individually licence their IP for others to use or contribute to. The owner of the IP has the right to negotiate terms and conditions of how they want a user to distribute or remix their work. This will be a licence agreeing on private terms between relevant parties. Usually, the lisensor receives an amount in royalty.
IP licensing gives the licensee the right to use IP but not to own IP.

What are the Creative Commons?

The Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation that was founded in 2001. The CC has an affiliate network where over 79 jurisdictions promote CC activities around the globe.

The CC assists owners of IP to share their IP, legally, by way of a licence. A CC licence is used when an IP owner wants to give others the right to share, use, and build on their work.

Once someone signs up to a CC licence others can use it (within the terms of the selected licence) without approaching the author. The idea behind the CC licence is to “refine” copyright usage and to build a more accessible and innovative world through sharing for free.

The CC Licences in Australia

CC Australia is one affiliate of the CC network. CC Australia offers six Creative Commons licences that are free to sign up to. It is of note that once signed up, the licensor cannot revoke the freedoms (summarised below) as long as the users follow the licence terms.

Below is an outline of the six licences available from CC Australia. Starting from the most liberal to the most restrictive.

1. Attribution (CC BY)

This licence allows users to distribute, remix, build upon a work and create “Derivative Works”. Users can distribute the work for commercial use, provided the user credits the original creators and any other nominated party.

“Derivative Work” is defined in the CC BY licence to mean work that edits, modifies or adapts, a substantial part of a creative work, and/or other pre-existing creative works. The same meaning of Derivative Work is used through all the licences.

2. Attribution-Share Alike (CC BY-SA)

This licence allows users to distribute, remix and build upon work and create Derivative Works. Users can again distribute the work for commercial use, provided the user:

  • Credits the original creators and any other nominated parties; and
  • Under the same terms, license any new creations based on the original work

3. Attribution-No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)

This licence allows others to distribute the work for commercial purposes, as long as the work is unchanged, and the original creators and any nominated party are credited.

4. Attribution-NonCommercial

This licence lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work for non-commercial purposes. Credit must be given to original creators and to any nominated parties.

5. Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike (CC BY-NA-SA)

This licence lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work, but only if it is for non-commercial purposes. Credit must be given to original creators and any nominated parties.

6. Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives

This licence is the most restrictive of the six main licences. It allows redistribution of the creative work in its current form only. This licence is commonly known as the “free advertising” licence. This is because it allows others to download and share the creative work as long as they credit the original creators and any nominated parties and they do not change the material and do not use it commercially.

Users of CC Licenses

A user can be anyone who wishes to use the work of someone who has opted to a CC licence. The user can then remix, distribute and build on work subject to the CC licence in line with the terms the licensor has signed-up for. If a user breaches a term, their licence to use the creative work will be immediately retracted.

Key Takeaways

The Creative Commons licences offers a platform, by way of licence, which allows others to use work that would otherwise be protected under copyright law. Contact LegalVision’s Intellectual Property lawyers to assist you with any questions about creative commons licences. Questions? Call us on 1300 544 755.


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