No Limits: How Creative Commons is changing the future of creativity

The Creative Commons organisation—based in Mountain View, California but with teams around the world—has been the most visible and influential group working towards a more flexible copyright culture.

No Limits: How Creative Commons is changing the future of creativity

The sky is the limit-CCLONES 365. Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

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Offering a variety of licenses, anyone who chooses to share their content using a CC licence can communicate clearly both the conditions and restrictions on further use of the work. For example, an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence means the creator has allowed the content to be used and altered by others, as long as the original creator is attributed and the ‘remixed’ work is for non-commercial purposes and shared under a similar Creative Commons licence as the original.

A No Derivative licence, meanwhile, means the work can only be used in its existing form. CC has ensured it’s easy for artists to choose a licence that suits them, and has also created a clear set of guidelines and symbols to communicate usage details to users.

The benefits are clear, offering a more flexible alternative to existing copyright law. For users looking for existing content to use in their artwork or websites (e.g. looking for a picture to accompany a blog post), CC ensures an ever-expanding selection of material to choose from, as long as they conform to the licence guidelines.

Kristina’s Stormtroopers and the Creative Commons logo. Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

For artists and creators, it offers a new way for them to distribute and share their creations, while retaining specific rights of their choice (they can also choose a ‘No Rights Reserved’ option). However, CC’s ideas have also been criticised. Some say the Creative Commons movement fails to address many fundamental issues with copyright law, while others point out it is not suitable for many artists looking to financially support themselves through their creative works.

Regardless of the criticism, few would dispute Creative Commons has become a major and mostly positive force online, with many embracing and respecting the opportunities afforded by the CC licenses. Sites such as Flickr have flourished thanks to their utilisation of CC licences, and it has been invaluable in helping Wikipedia include more photography, audio and video content.

A moment to myself —CCLONES 365 .Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

Kristina Alexanderson is one of the people instrumental in developing and expanding the Creative Commons organisation. She also put the theory into practice with CCLONES 365—a year’s worth of photographs, putting Star Wars stormtroopers and Darth Vader figurines in hundreds of funny, cute and unexpected situations.

Shared using CC licences, Kristina’s photos proved a significant viral hit. She spoke to Newstalk Magazine, telling us about her own role as well as the overall goals of Creative Commons.

You were appointed Project Lead with Creative Commons Sweden and even designed the logo for the latest version of their licence. What’s involved in the role?

I'm the lead for the Swedish team. We work in areas such as outreach and translation of the licenses. We aim to educate and spread knowledge about Creative Commons.

Where and how can people find Creative Commons content on the web?

I would suggest cc-search. This is a web search engine that connects to services that use Creative Commons. These would include the likes of Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Jamendo, SoundCloud, YouTube etc... Or you can also use Google’s advanced search tools.

A swinging Stormtrooper—CCLONES 365 .Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

Your CCLONES 365 project was published through the Creative Commons platform. Tell us how that came about and what the project entails.

I used Flickr as a platform and my own webpage kral.se for the CCLONES 365 project. I shared my pictures under a Creative Commons licence: attribution, non-commercial and share alike.

The idea came from another photographer and his work with two Stormtroopers: a 365 project that he did in 2009 and 2010. I tricked my son into getting some toys for me to use with my camera. By 2011 I wanted to see if I could do a ‘picture a day’ project. My son said I could use his toys if I made them famous. Using the internet, the cc-licence and my photos I gave it a try: a picture a day in 2011.

I never thought my pictures would spread or become well known on the internet. But one day I got a mail from a photo blog that published my work. Then that blog post got reblogged by BoingBoing.net. Suddenly the pictures were going viral.

Which are your favourite photos from this project and why?

My favourite is Out On Town. I love the way it shows ordinary life, family life. I love those photos that have been inspired by ordinary life.

Out On Town—CCLONES 365. Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

How does Creative Commons impact on copyright?

It is a tool that makes it possible to use other people’s work, easily and with permission. The copyright laws are strict but CC helps make them more adjustable. Traditional copyright implies that the creator has all the rights to the work s/he has done. The CC licences make it possible to use others’ work in some conditions, without asking for permission in advance.

There are loads of images, music, text, videos, etc… online that are licensed under Creative Commons and are free to use.  How can we build media and content on data and creations that already exist?

This is a tricky question. I think we need to see that creativity is a result of other people’s creative work, and that the art that builds on other works of art is just as great. So we need a shift in attitude. But we also need the creative work to be good, and easy to find.

A Surprise Gift—CCLONES 365. Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

What does 2014 have in store for you and CC?

We have new licences—Version 4.0—and they need to be translated. We need to inform people about these in English and Swedish. Personally? I hope to produce one or two still lifes, we'll see...

This article originally appeared in Newstalk Magazine for iPad in February, for more details go here.