Rethinking CC Licensing

Working with open educational resources (OER) and sharing, I constantly grapple with copyright. I have come to a greater appreciation of explicitly stated licensing. As a consumer of such resources, I often must search, parse, and decipher to determine whether they are OER. This has caused me to reconsider my practices as a content creator.

As I have mentioned in the past, I regard Creatives Commons licensing as an invitation to use and share materials rather than legal protection. It makes my intentions clear so that others need not guess.

This site has had a clear Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license as I mentioned in a post of over a year ago. I have licensed some of my online interactives as CC Attribution Non Commercial Share-Alike. Now I plan to share instructional presentations and need to decide how license them. This has led me again to explore Creative Commons Licenses and their implications.

While I occasionally have used the Non Commercial designation, I will no longer do so. Commercial use is too nebulous. Would use by a private school be commercial? How about the use in a presentation for which the presenter is being paid? Besides, as Karen Fasimpaur tweeted: “do you really think someone’s going to make a ton of $ selling your stuff?” There is a good discussion of the Non-commercial designation in Neal Butcher’s article Open Educational Resources and Higher Education (It also had a great overview of higher education OER sites).

I now realize the Share-Alike endorsement can also pose problems. Share Alike allows individuals to use and remix content with the provision that they license the resultant material with the same terms. This could prevent an individual combining Share-Alike content with material with different licensing from distributing their remix. Again, this is not desirable in my view.

In light of the unexpected consequences with my past licensing choices, I considered Public Domain or Creative Commons No Copyright (CC 1.0 Universal). This would make it as easy as possible for others to use my work. Unfortunately, a lack of attribution lends to a lack of credibility.

In the end, I have chosen the CC-BY license and its simple attribution license  for the bulk of what I do. This site has already been changed to attribution only. I decided to keep it simple so that potential users no longer have to parse out details.



  1. Don Watkins’s avatar

    Interesting thoughts. I learned a lot more about CC licensing as I taught it to my students this year. Some sites make CC licensing easy. How do you sign up for CC licensing like you have? Also do you know if content creators on Youtube have the option to CC license as do those of us who use

    1. Steve’s avatar

      The creative Commons site has a licensing wizard

      There is Creative Commons licensed material on YouTube. While he doesn’t state it on YouTube, Salman Khan, creator of the Kahn Academy videos, has a Creative COmmons BY-SA license prominently displayed on his website.

      Unfortunately he hosts all of his content on YouTube, whose terms of service prohibit downloads. Further most schools block YouTube, so they generally can’t be used in the classroom. YouTube does offer a download service for many of his videos for $1.

      When one clicks the Download for .99 button, there is a clear CC-NC-ND endorsement on the download. Technically one could download the video and having paid the fee, distribute it freely in it’s current form as long as it was noncommercial.
      YouTube Download

      It’s interesting that he appears use 2 variants of CC licensing.

    2. Christine Prefontaine’s avatar

      I mostly use Attribution Share-Alike because I like the idea of creating a chain of sharing and making sure that the commons is continually fed with new content. But you make a good case here. Something to think about. Thank you for taking the time to outline your reasoning!

    3. Stian Håklev’s avatar

      I also usually use CC BY, but I have considered switching to CC 0. I also highly appreciate whenever people cite my work, but I think most people will continue doing so as a professional courtesy, I don’t necessarily think that needs to be regulated by law. An example is plagiarism – if I take your ideas and restate them in my own words, I am not breaking copyright law, but it would be deemed as plagiarism when used in an academic article without attribution. In the same way, I think professional environments can regulate attribution, and if you ever need to use some of my material in a setting where giving attribution is difficult, for example if you create a poster that is a collage of 200 pictures, and the credits would take more space than the finished artwork – then you don’t have to give credit.

      1. Steve’s avatar

        Your post certainly makes sense. I thought about CC 0 too. The way I see Creative Commons is it expresses my preferences. Given the example of the photo collage my contribution of 1 photo in a collage of 200 makes my contribution too trivial to fuss over.

        I may use CC 0 in more circumstances in the future, but for my presentations, interactives, and blog posts, I’ll stick with CC-BY. I don’t do formal academic writing myself, but I do understand your point on the differing standards for plagiarism.

Comments are now closed.