This article aims to answer some of the frequently asked questions about Creative Commons:
If I license my course under a Creative Commons license - am I granting any rights to the Creative Commons organisation?
No, the Creative Commons organisation provides a suite of licences for you to use. They do not take any rights and have no control over your work. That wholly rests with you as copyright holder.
As copyright holder can I use and adapt any Creative Commons license to create my own?
As the copyright holder you can create your own ‘open’ access licence, adopting extracts from CC licence. However this should only be done if the CC licence does not meet your needs. It is not worth putting additional effort into creating another type of open access licence if there is an easily available template. An adapted Creative Commons licence is not a Creative Commons licence and must not be described as such. As you can imagine that would cause confusion and work contrary to the general and international understanding of Creative Commons licensing.
My institution would like to use a Creative Commons license for the course we are planning for FutureLearn. However there are sections of the course which may not be appropriate for CC licensing, and what about clearances for third party content?
From the outset you should discuss the possible licensing arrangements, including CC, with your FutureLearn representative. This will ensure that the most appropriate licence is applied to the content of your course which supports your institution’s objectives. Whilst the FutureLearn terms and conditions provide users with a personal, non-commercial licence, there is also provision to vary the licence terms (to users) to suit the partner institution and individual course. However learners (users) would need to be made aware of any variation and that needs to be conveyed to them within the course (which may be with the acknowledgements or any notification reserved on the course for such information to learners (users)).
Should you select a CC licence for all content, you need to ensure that all third party materials are cleared to that level. In trying to achieve this, it is likely that many publishers and other rights owners will not agree to any form of CC licensing for their works. So you may expend a lot of time and effort trying to harmonise all the content under one licence and end up being disappointed.
However, it’s possible to have a CC licence for all your wholly-owned content and for all third party materials to be excluded from CC licensing terms. This is particularly relevant where users are invited to remix content through a CC licence arrangement. Third party content would not be subject to remixing etc and may only be used in its original context. This needs to be highlighted to users quite prominently by crediting individual steps of course content.
So you can include an appropriate CC licence which can work alongside the FutureLearn terms and conditions. FutureLearn would recommend that you try to keep it as simple as possible and talk to your representative (if you need to) to ensure you make an informed decision about the best and appropriate licence for your course and content.
I am keen to make my work available under a Creative Commons Licence. However my content is not appropriate for remixing. I don’t want it to be made available commercially either. I just want it to be used as is and not adapted even though the ‘open community’ appear to want everything open, available for remixing and with the commercial provision also. Should I not bother with CC licence and leave as is for permission requests to come to me on a case by case basis?
The Creative Commons organisation have provided a suite of licences in order to match copyright owners’ expectations of how they would wish their works to be used. They have put much thought into this and delivered a range of ‘open’ licences. Their aim is to encourage copyright owners to make available to all, copyright works on terms that suit both the nature of the works and the expectations of the copyright owners. As copyright owner and custodian of your work, you should choose the licence that suits you and your work. That still leaves it open to those that wish to use your work in another way, not granted by the licence, to come to you on a case by case basis.
So if you decide to make your work available on the basis that it may be used for non-commercial purposes, and may not be adapted, then you would choose http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/ and attach this URL to your work online.
Ensure you name is on your work as the author and you have the © symbol beside your name also. FutureLearn is happy to work with you to ensure that the appropriate information is displayed in an acknowledgement alongside relevant content on the platform.
For example a possible acknowledgement could be:
Made available under Creative Commons (CC), BY NC ND Licence. © B.Attwell (2013), Shorter Publishing House
How do I ensure that use of my work under a Creative Commons licence is credited to me? I see some works credited just to the licence terms!
If you have a particular acknowledgement you would like people to see when they use your work under the Creative Commons Licence, then place that on your work. For example a possible acknowledgement could be:
Made available under Creative Commons (CC), BY NC ND Licence. © B.Attwell (2013), Shorter Publishing House
Again, FutureLearn is happy to work with you to ensure that the appropriate information is displayed in an acknowledgement alongside relevant content on the platform. If you use works under Creative Commons licensing terms, please ensure you credit appropriately also.
All uses of Creative Commons licensed works require attribution.
I have heard about a CC0 license - 'no rights reserved'. Is this for works for which copyright has expired or ownership is not known?
This type of licence should not be used for works which are already in the public domain through expiry of copyright. Works for which copyright has expired can be used by anyone and do not need any permission or licence. It is not for works for which ownership is not known and still in copyright. An owner or controller of copyright needs to place the work under this or any other licence.
CC0 is another choice for copyright owners who want to put their work to the widest availability permitted by copyright law. In other words the copyright owner wants to waive their rights to the fullest extent and the recipient of such a licence can use the work in any way they choose without further recourse to the copyright owner.
I have discovered that someone has applied the Creative Commons license to my work without permission. Should I contact the Creative Commons organisation in the first instance and alert them to act on my behalf?
Creative Commons have supplied the licences for rights owners to use and are not in control of your work. Nor is Creative Commons a legal firm able to act on your behalf. In the first instance you should contact the person or whoever has infringed the rights in your work and ask them to remove the licence. Depending on the type of breach you may also want or need to seek legal advice or negotiate an appropriate licence.
How do we protect our institutional logo on works which are made available on a Creative Commons share-alike license? Surely we are not expected to make our trademarks available under such a CC license or any CC license? We are keen to share knowledge, enhance our brand, but if the works are adapted and circulated with our logo on, surely that may do more harm than good to our reputation?
Creative Commons licensing is for copyright works only. Logos and trademarks are mostly protected through trademark laws and Creative Commons licensing would not be applicable to them. All uses of Creative Commons licensed works require credit to the original owner (e.g. your institution). If your institutional logo is on any works made available under CC licensing it may be useful to alert users (within course notices or description pages, for example) that CC licence does not include logos.
Our institution has made some of its content available under a noncommercial Creative Commons licence. I now see some of this content (still available under the same licence and our institution still acknowledged) contained in a course which is run by a commercial company. I can access this content for free, but other services around it are subject to payment.
Doesn't that infringe the CC licensing arrangements whose principle is that the work is not to be used for 'commercial' purposes.
If there is an answer to this question, it is less than straightforward. Your licence may have been breached depending upon all the details of the usage. However the solution for your institution may lie in a consideration of your business objectives before you make any of your works available openly under Creative Commons licensing. Irrespective of whether the use of your institution’s work is deemed to be abreach of the licence, it may be the case that when your institution made some of its content available under a non-commercial licence you had a seemingly shared expectation of what non-commercial is. Certainly no money must change hands for the content, but if the content is still available to all under a CC noncommercial licence even if provided by a ‘for profit’ company, that will not necessarily be seen legally as commercialising your institution’s work.
- Does it matter to your institution whether the aim is profit for the user of your work which is wrapped up in other ways?
- Does this form of dissemination still fulfil your institution’s objective of your work being used and made available widely with the licence intact?
- Does it matter to your institution if the company providing the course for a fee is a world renowned and respected provider?
- Would that make a difference to your business objectives – getting your brand to the right places?
- Is your work still fulfilling your institution’s business plans being made available in this way?
- What of an educational institution where students pays fees? Is that commercial?
- Does it make a difference if the user has charitable status – but still charges a fee for the overall content and services which contain your content and preserves the Creative Commons licensing?
The intention of the comments here is to encourage you to focus on your institution’s business objectives and consider the possible ways your content may be used under a ‘non-commercial’ umbrella. You should discuss the ‘what ifs’ prior to making your work available under a non-commercial or any CC licence. You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages to your institution and its business objectives. What do you consider non-commercial? If you are clear, and your definition does not alter the terms of the NC CC licence, a notice on your works may avoid confusion and support your business objectives.
This will help ensure that use under a Creative Commons licence fulfils your business plans, whatever they are. The intention of the CC licence is to make the use as clear as possible and to avoid having to seek legal advice unnecessarily. Ultimately there are risks attached to CC licensing that you need to be aware of, and if these grey areas feel too uncomfortable to you, you should consider using FutureLearn’s default end user licence instead.
Finally, although by no means conclusively, your institution may have come the conclusion that the commercial company has infringed the terms of the licence which may prompt a business decision either to ask the company to remove your institution’s content, leave as is but inform them, or offer them a more appropriate licence. If you consider the issues sensibly you are likely to avoid getting into a knee jerk reaction on perceptions (or otherwise) of commercial uses of your institution’s work.
If you have any more queries in relation to Creative Commons licensing, you may find answers to them on their FAQ page.