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FAQ on Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is an addition to traditional copyright for the digital age. It enables authors, artists and musicians to define themselves how they want to publish their work on the internet and which rights they want to reserve for it. Has the work to be attributed? Is it allowed to modify the work? Can it be used commercially? Creative Commons offers six different forms of license contracts for creative content of all kind. It replaces the previous principle forms "all rights reserved" with "some rights reserved". The use of the licences is free of charge. The conventional copyright in Germany remains valid.

Why does the German Commission for UNESCO licence its contents under Creative Commons?

In the resolution "Using the Potentials of Social Media for UNESCO’s Goals", the German Commission has committed itself to put its own publications under free licences. Its main aim is to promote the utilisation of open content and open source licences. The background is as follows: UNESCO supports the development of knowledge societies, in which four principles are to be realised – freedom of opinion and freedom of press, general access to information and knowledge, education for all and cultural diversity. UNESCO considers social media to have the potential to foster knowledge societies worldwide.

What are the licence terms for the works of the German Commission for UNESCO?

For its own contents, the German Commission for UNESCO uses the Creative Commons licence "Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported". The chosen licence allows visitors of the website to use content, unless otherwise noted, under the following conditions:

  • Attribution: you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (German Commission for UNESCO)
  • Noncommercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes
  • Share alike: If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar licences to this one.

In attributed articles, the authors are holders of the copyright. Additionally, the Creative Commons licence does not apply to the pictures on the website.

Why is the German Commission for UNESCO not licensing all content of its website under Creative Commons?

Only if the German Commission for UNESCO holds all rights over a work, it can be licensed under Creative Comments. In many cases though, the authors are the copyright holders of the particular content. If so, it is not possible to use a Creative Commons licence.

Why was Creative Commons developed?

Photographs, movies, computer games or books – they are all protected by copyrights. These copyrights were created long before the digital age, when copyrighted works were primarily distributed in a commercial context. The copying of records, videos or tapes was difficult and lead to a significant loss of quality and content. Nowadays, many artists and companies see their rights at risk. Computers, hard disks and file sharing platforms enable everybody to copy movies, music and books in great quantities without any notable data loss and to share them with other internet users worldwide. Creative Commons was developed in order to simplify the access to creative works in the age of the internet. For users, the copyright becomes more transparent and authors, artists and others are able to adapt the copyright terms to their needs.

Who’s behind Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation headquartered in Mountain View near San Francisco. The concept of Creative Commons was developed by the American constitutional lawyer Lawrence Lessig and other jurists and network activists. Creative Commons is an addition to the rather restrictive conventional copyright. It follows the basic principles of openness and participation. In Germany, the European IT Academy of Rights (EEAR) and the Institute for Law and Informatics of the Saarland University are responsible for legal advice in this field. Until 2011, Creative Commons has been adapted to the legal systems of over 70 countries worldwide.

Where do I find Creative Commons content?

The licensing is designed in such a way that content can be found via search engines. Google or Yahoo allow to search for Creative Commons content and the website of CC provides its own search engine.

Why use CC?

Motivations are diverse; authors, musicians or filmmakers want to reach more people and share their ideas, want to inspire and motivate with their works. Others use Creative Commons to assure the distribution of their creative works, which would not be possible if they were protected more strictly. The internet serves as a stepping stone for many artists who usually would not have a chance on the commercial entertainment market. The most popular CC licence prohibits a commercial use of the given content and guarantees the artists the right to sell the respective work.

Who uses CC in Germany?

By now, there are different institutions using CC in Germany. Contents of Wikipedia, netzwelt.de or flickr are equipped with CC licences. The Federal Archive provides more than 100.000 photographs under CC licences. Also public TV and radio broadcasting services offer contents under Creative Commons licences. CC also plays a major role in the distribution of digital music on soundcloud.com.

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