Creative Commons Revolutionising Copyright Licenses

"Creative Commons" by Skley is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Creative Commons (CC) revolution created opportunities for users to remix, modify and transform content in creative ways to show a new ideas or messages using digital technology (Lessig, 2004). Building creative culture through accessible, affordable and clear copyright licenses, the effects of CC on all parties involved politically, economically and socially has been transformative. Resources and materials that can be included by this is vast including academic resources, scientific journal articles, music files, image and film files, weblogs and many more (Carroll, 2006). This article will outline the origins of copyright and the internet innovation CC licences as well the implications on current information management. To better understand how a CC license works, watch this short video by Max Noble which shows a clear visual representation.


History of Copyright 

Even though the rise of technology has pushed creativity and provided so many opportunities for new and incredible prospects, the introduction of the legislations governing it has interrupted opportunities dramatically over the past few decades. Traditionally, copyright involved limited regulation of the creative process (Lessig, 20014) however considerably extended since the first copyright term of fourteen years entered the US constitution in 1790 (Lessig, 2004). After many amendments and increases to the terms, the 1976 act was renewed to be the longest maximum average term up to ninety-five years for corporate works (Lessig, 2004).

Another component was that these original copyright laws only protected maps, charts and books which has significantly changed today and covers any tangible form of creative work (Lessig, 2004). Lastly a significant change that aimed to reduce the larger monopolies of copyright was to grant authors instead of booksellers the control to publish which gave more power for creating culture (Lessig, 2004). Overall these legislation changes over time have led us to today where more control over the development of our culture exists because the reach isn’t as narrow (Lessig, 2004).


Foundation of Creative Commons

The high costs and lengthy legal contracts associated with obtaining a copyright license were significant barriers for the reuse of materials created by others (Elkin-Koren, 2006). These needs were identified and inspired the initial creation of Creative Commons in 2001 (CreativeCommons, 2020) as a non-profit United States based organisation (Lessig, 2004) which aimed to decrease the costs associated with creative content use and encourage seamless engagement with creative enterprises (Elkin-Koren, 2006).

The issued CC licenses were a “set of free public licenses that would allow creators to keep their copyrights while sharing works on more flexible terms” (CreativeCommons, 2020).

The initiative CC project uses license agreements to strengthen the public domain by assisting both the original material creator and the new producer with a licensing scheme that benefits both parties (Elkin-Koren, 2006). As the use of digital media today is ever growing, the number of copyright experiences and opportunities is vast, therefore CC licenses are facilitating the coordination and regulation of these though easier contracts (Carroll, 2006).

Creative Commons stems around expressing creativity and encouraging the sharing and distribution of ideas and modern technology has nurtured this and

“inspired a market that builds on this freedom to create” (Lessig, 2004, p. 3).

Overall Creative Commons has cultivated creative sharing and distribution of ideas and materials across digital media today through the liberty to share through the trend of information management.


Benefits of Creative Commons on the Licensor and Licensee

It is clearly recognisable that CC licenses create a mutually beneficial experience for both parties the original creator licensor and the licensee reproducing the work, with reduces costs and increased accessibility being key for both parties. However more specifically:

Benefits of Creative Commons for the licensor include:

  • An increased understanding and knowledge of the proprietary regime and therefore they are prepared with more effective mechanisms to implement their intellectual property rights (Elkin-Koren, 2006).
  • They can ensure limits and provisions are set and clear to avoid exploitation of their materials (Elkin-Koren, 2006).
  • Improved economic wellbeing due to the privatisation of intellectual property resources being efficiently controlled and politically powerful (Lessig, 2007).

Benefits of Creative Commons for licensee include:

  • Easily accessible to users across all platforms and types of materials as the costs are reduced (Elkin-Koren, 2006) and conditions and permissions clear. Simple, clear and easy legal aspects are also clearly beneficial to the licensee.
  • CC can further strengthen social practices related to consumption and production of materials (Elkin-Koren, 2006). As a result, an increase in engagement in securing licenses can occur especially for their own works (Elkin-Koren, 2006) and therefore overall more creative sharing practises occur.

This visual shows a clear representation of the different types of CC licenses which represents the options available for licensor and licensee.

Infographic from EDUWELLS, some rights reserves.


Implications and effects

Another important transformative effect of Creative Commons includes the facilitation and extension of the limitations and restrictions of intellectual property which impacts bilateral and multilateral international agreements and legislations (Lessig, 2007). Therefore, political and economic benefits can be attributed to these situations. Creative Commons is also a practice of political activism and is a social movement that encourages social change (Elkin-Koren, 2006). It aims to modify the social effects of copyright law by representing an alternative approach that enhances access to creative works (Elkin-Koren, 2006) and overall encourages creative content sharing.  Lastly, a huge expansion of Creative Commons license usage across various countries and different user backgrounds who are enthusiastic to contribute (Leonhard & Sigrid, 2008) and share creative content show no differing benefits of experiences across social and cultural groups.


Negative implications and disruptions

Lastly, some limitations and implications of Creative Commons exist including disruption to many industries and the relationships that rely on copyright law (Carroll, 2006). CC as an expansion of copyright law ignores the underlying understanding of digital technologies norms and implied licenses which operate as essential coordinating functions (Carroll, 2006). Therefore, CC can be been seen as too relaxed and not providing enough clarity and management for copyright owners about permissions and events (Carroll, 2006).


Effects of Creative Commons on education and academics

Education and the academic industry are significantly affected with many benefits from Creative Commons and current digital technology. The abundance and variety of new materials which are accessible with little/no permissions or fees is a significant advantage (Kleinman, 2008) and increases possibilities and higher quality education. Lecturers, students, librarians and researchers have access to licensed and free resources through fast, easy and reliable Creative Commons.

Increased licensing restrictions and tightening budgets in current society doesn’t affect the academic industry due to the excellent resource and innovation of Creative Commons (Kleinman, 2008) and I can personally understand these benefits. The immense variety and access to resources due to the prevalence of digital technology today, combined with the free resources provided from Creative Commons allows students the largest access to information ever in history which can then lead to high quality education.



The innovation of Creative Commons licenses has been a powerful force on creative culture and sharing over the past two decades by facilitating new services and the formation of online communities (Carroll, 2006). The overall benefits to all parties involved in a copyright agreement is simple however extremely powerful to provide new opportunities in this digital world today. The impacts on industries including education as well as political, economic and social ideas is predominantly positive and advantageous to future opportunities. Creative Commons will continue to provide and encourage a modern and successful creative sharing culture digitally going into the future benefitting so many parties and overall improving the experience for ordinary internet users.



Carroll, M. W. (2006). Creative Commons and the New Intermediaries. Michigan State Law Review 2006, no. 1, 45-65.

Creative Commons. (2020). Retrieved from 1.1 The Story of Creative Commons:


Kleinman, M. (2009, November ). The beauty of“Some Rights Reserved” Introducing Creative Commons to librarians, faculty, and students. C&RL News, pp. 594-597.

Leonhard, D., & Sigrid, Q. (2008). Epistemic communities and social movements: Transnational dynamics in the case of creative commons. Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

Lessig, L. (2004). The Creative Commons. Montana Law Review Vol. 65 Issue 1, 1-13.

Noble, M. (2015, March). Creative Commons Licensing Explained. Retrieved from YouTube:

About Martha McKenzie 3 Articles
I moved to Sydney from Perth in 2019 and am studying an arts degree majoring in Management and Digital Cultures.