Creative Commons: To share or not to share…tough question


crative commons logo. Black letters spelling out creative commons on a white background. THe letters cc on a circle areplaced on the left side of the words

The Creative Commons logo by John Randell is licensed under public domain

Give credit where credit is due – Proverb

Picture this:

You saved a really cute image from Twitter on your phone only to tweet it out in a new post days or even months later. Did you remember to record where you got the picture from originally? Did you credit the original author? Did you happen to alter the image a bit before sending it back out in to cyberspace? Did a bunch of strangers virtually chastise you for forgetting to do so?

Yup, me too.

I try not to do that anymore…mostly.

During one of my classes in grad school, I stumbled across the usage rights tab in the search tools of Google. There were lots of options for filtering which images could be used for what.  At the time, none of them made sense to me, and I pretty much used what I wanted. I now know that was not the best choice.

This is where Creative Commons comes in.

This non-profit organization with a simple Mission Statement

“Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.”

And a simple vision

“Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”

Basically, this organization wants to “save the world from failed sharing”.

Check out this video for more information:

Copyright laws were created well before the invention of the Internet. Back then, creative works were much easier to share, track, credit and monitor. The reach of the print media was small, to say the least.

Then came Google. And Twitter. And Instagram. Just to name a few.

Social media and the Internet have turned our ideas of sharing an image on its head. Today, a single image can circumnavigate the globe in minutes. Almost instantaneously, a user can download, modify and share a post without giving any thought to the wishes of the original author.

Anyone with a decent Wi-Fi connection can:

  • Turn a grouchy looking cat into a viral meme
  • Put their nephews head on Bob the Builders body
  • Use a cool ocean photo as the header of their new blog, hmm

Research and honor the copyright requests of the creators before any modification occurs. It is the responsibility of the end user to be aware of the licenses and limitations.

Only by respecting the wishes of the original authors can we ensure that Universal Access to images online continues to flourish. By retaining control over their creations, authors are more likely to share their works in the future.

Publishing my own works

At the same time, I firmly believe that I would publish my own original works under a creative commons license. Creativity is encouraged and can even flourish through a shared culture where all users respect the rights of each other.

I don’t think that I would allow my works to be used without restriction. Since all derivatives of a work can be traced back to the original author, I would want to make sure that any modifications or other uses would not be harmful to my reputation in the future. That balance may be hard to find when putting anything out into cyberspace.

So, in the end,

Let your creative juice flow


Give credit where credit is due

And then…

Share and share alike. Pay it forward. Carefully.

I think that’s enough clichés for one post, right?



2 thoughts on “Creative Commons: To share or not to share…tough question

  1. Very nice summary of Creative Commons and discussing how easy it is for us to manipulate images without thinking about the consequences of stealing images. I think the issue is that many people don’t see it as a problem. The philosophy is: “Well, it’s available for free to me on Google, so I can do whatever I wish with it.” This makes me think about memes. Did the people being used in these memes know their photo was being used before it went viral? Did they give persmission? Are they compensated?


    • Good point about the memes. I doubt that many of the subjects of these little cartoon are even aware of their existence. It is such a hard thing to moderate and will be more difficult as the Internet continues to grow. Thanks for the reply

      Liked by 1 person

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