Feel Free to Share!

Creative Common logo by Hibr on Flickr

In the age of the internet, the accessibility of the internet and the opportunity of sharing is the main direction that the public should be encouraged(Suzor, 2019). Creative common(CC) licensing is a key tool of copyright authorization that had been widely using under the rise of the internet age. The nature of CC licensing brought a brand new idea of copyright which provides a better way of sharing knowledge. From the perspective of socially and culturally, CC produces opportunities to promote the progress of society. On the other hand, from a personal perspective CC license might be present as another story. This study will analyze the rise of creative commons accompanied with the Copyright Term Extension Act(CTEA). Afterward will demonstrate the way how CC license beneficial or disadvantages from the different parties perspective.


The genesis of the Creative Common organization

Creative Common is a non-profit organization that is active globally. In order to allow users to access more materials, CC provides a free license for the creators(Pooling Ideas, 2013). There are a wide variety of different types that can be used under the CC license. Once the work is published with CC license, it indicates that the users can freely access the work along with the role of license that was used.

Figure 1​: U​ .S. Government​, Public domain, via Wikimedia Common

In 1998, a term of CTEA was announced in the US, which extended the copyright duration of work. In the previous stage, the duration of the entire copyright protection lasts for the author’s lifetime and plus 50 years after death, or 70 years that had corporate authorship(U.S. Copyright Office, 2013). However, the existence of CTEA had turned copyright into a debatable state. CTEA aimed to extend the duration of it to nearly double from before to every work, resulting in until now there are still plenty of works that are controlled by the copyright law. In the rise of the information age, the debate on the copyright of creative creation had reached an extreme state. Lawrence Lessig(2005), the founder of CC quoted that

“​a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past.​”

He also countered that the CTEA is unconstitutional, it prevents a large amount of meaningful work that has been stored or not been shared with the public(Lessig, 2005). In order to build a free and democratic relationship between creation and copyright, he aims for more availability of accessing the knowledge on the internet. Therefore, Lawrence created this non-profit organization in 2001, and they published the first set of CC licenses in 2002.

Creative Commons and the open movement

Figure 2: ​Joi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons had played a significant role in the open movement. The open movement refers to the collaboration of open activities such as Open Access(OA), Open source software, and Open Data(Levine & Prietula, 2014). Due to the power of internet communication, it gives society an unprecedented ability to access and share information. The ability of digital culture brought and the copyright law restricted are experiencing a big ​contradiction.​ In another word, CC was created to reconcile the contradiction between these two in the open movement. CC purpose to target the goal of more free works that can be shared on the internet, and make it possible for other authors who want to share, reuse, and recreate the creation freely(Lessig, 2005). Allowing the facts that CC satisfies users’ needs is one of the significant reasons that help to promote the field of the open movement. It covered a variety type of creations that can be used under CC licenses such as photography, music, a book even scientific research. CC licensing in the open movement renovated society’s understanding of copyright.

Impact on Social, Cultural and Economic

As Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that allows everyone globally to access a variety of work freely. This is beneficial from a social perspective, where it provides better ways to supplement the public domain with wide knowledge. CC licenses save the creators and the public from policy constraints while encourages creators to share their works and at the same time maintaining flexible copyright. After CC license spread on the internet, works that fulfill with cultural background and knowledge are widely being used and shared. In this way, CC can be described as a key for the public to opens every single room that fills up with creations. This is the key to sharing information and knowledge around the world. Society would broaden the vision to absorb more inspiration or develop further knowledge. In addition, it also advances to build a stronger society where CC licenses break the barrier of traditional copyright.

Figure 3: ​Dylan Gillis​ on Unsplash

On the other hand, it is economically beneficial for individual users. Allowing the fact that if a work is under certain copyright that requires a ​royalty fee, the royalty fee usually very high which raises the cost for users. Moreover, the user will need to spend time looking for and communicate with the creators. According to the opposition of CTEA, Howard Besser(1998) argued that “new work would not create”, users might refuse to spend time or money on the complicated process of receiving permission from the original creators. This result in monopolized the possibility of knowledge progress further. However, CC license is free which provide better opportunities for the public to reuse and access the work without any complexity. Thus, the convenience of CC license provides better ways to share creations and allows more work enhanced by more creators in the public.

CC licensing reality – Creators

From the perspective of free sharing, a CC license might not beneficial for the creators in certain senses. Although the choice of sharing work with CC license is chosen by the creators, they do not have any authority to control their work after publishing it. According to Creative Commons by Pooling Idea(2013), the CC licenses are differed by 4 elements which are attribution(BY), noncommercial(NC), no derivated work(ND) and share-alike(SA). These are the roles that need to comply with when using the creations but it is versatile.

Figure 4:​ Shaddim; original CC license symbols by Creative Commons, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

However, in the sense of majority thought that the essence of the internet is sharing. This result there are users often infringed on the role of CC license or any other copyright(Diane & Alexis, 2020). In fact, there are numerous works with CC licenses sometimes being abused on the internet. Referrers might not have the awareness of using a work that under copyrights. This possibly leads them to ​plagiarise the idea or content and reuse it. Moreover, pretend that the work is all originally made by him/herself without stating the original creators. This significantly impacts the creators that due to the world of the internet is enormous. It is hard for creators to check when, which and who plagiarise because CC is not informing the creators about the information of the users. Therefore, creators would not know about the information on how his/her work is being used. With the openness and anonymity of the internet, creators are difficult to protect and moderate the use of content once they published.


In conclusion, CC licensing improves the sharing of information not being restricted by traditional copyright. Moreover, CC also rooted in an idea for the public that knowledge and creativity are built up from the cornerstone of culture. Any knowledge and creativity are not valuable market products, it also promotes the spirit of the contribution of every individual. Although the use of creation is being infringed, it still helps CC organization to reinforce its policy to be better. In addition, it produces a better environment of learning and sharing for the public. As a student, CC provides abundant knowledge on the internet that allows better access to educational resources. Hence, CC licensing plays a significant role in internet communication.


Diane, P., & Alexis, M. (2020). Thoughts on “Non-Amicable” Enforcement of CC Licenses. ​Creative Commons​, https://creativecommons.org/2020/01/15/thoughts-on-non-amicable-enf orcement-of-cc-licenses/

Howard, B. (1998). ​The Erosion of Public Protection: Attacks on the concept of Fair Use.Town Meeting on Copyright & Fair Use, Wayback Machine https://web.archive.org/web/20160909044731/http://www.studiolo.org/I P/TTM/BESSER.htm

Lessig, L. (2005). ​Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity.​ Penguin Books. http://www.free-culture.cc/freeculture.pdf

Levine, S. S., & Prietula, M. J. (2014). Open Collaboration for Innovation: Principles and Performance. ​Organization Science​, ​25​(5), 1414–1433. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2013.0872

Pooling Ideas. (2013). ​What is Creative Commons?.​ https://creativecommons.org.au/content/whatiscc1.pdf

Suzor, N. P. (2019). ​In Lawless: the secret rules that govern our lives.​ How Copyright Shaped the Internet. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

U.S. Copyright Office. (2013, January 13). ​Certain Unpublished, Unregistered Works Enter Public Domain.​ www.Copyright.Gov. https://www.copyright.gov/pr/pdomain.html

Jitong Wu
About Jitong Wu 2 Articles
2nd-year USYD student, studying in Digital Culture and Korean Studies.