Don’t Forget Licensing!


Why are institutions and companies so interested in social media right now? Well, lots of reasons, but boils down to getting your message out and communicating with people about your message. At the same time, it is YOUR message, right? You don’t want someone else getting credit for your work or ideas, but if you stop the man in the street from talking about it you might as well lock the idea up in a safe and forget about it. What to do, what to do?

The same sort of questions are arising in the educational and research communities as well, but with a little different slant. Many educators and educational institutions have expressed concern about rising prices for access to published information, lack of access to scholarly resources, prohibitive licensing fees, and the need for students working towards developing their own research projects to have access to a substantial cadre of high-quality low-cost scholarly resources. In research the same problems have led to the NIH mandate for open access, the building of open science and science 2.0 communities, the creation of new publishing models such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS), PubMedCentral, and BioMed Central.

Well, we aren’t the first to encounter these issues, and some really smart folks have figured out a solution that is actually working really well for a lot of people — Creative Commons.

Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/
Creative Commons

The United States government has renewed their commitment to transparency and freedom of access to government created information, including the formal adoption of Creative Commons licensing for their works. The USA isn’t the only government adopting open licensing either. Just check out the list!

Creative Commons: Wiki: Government Use of CC Licenses: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Government_use_of_CC_licenses

You’ve figured out by now that this is a significant national and international trend. Ok, thinking, thinking, but … does this mean to get the benefits of social media I have to give up my rights? No way, that is not what is going on at all. Use of Creative Commons licensing in no way implies that you are giving up your copyright unless you specifically state that is what you want to do. What it does it make it easier for other people to know what you are willing to allow or not, and what types of uses mean they should ask permission. You define what you allow. If they do something else, and you can’t work out a gentleman’s agreement or get a ‘cease and desist’ accommodation, you can always sic lawyers on them. That’s your right, and use of a Creative Commons license doesn’t change that.

How are you going to do this? First step, think about your social media plan, your goals, how do you want to use your information later and how do you want others to use it. Melissa Levine, the copyright expert for the University of Michigan libraries suggested in conversation today that we generate a “laundry list” or “wishlist” of how we imagine our information might be used, how we want to be able to use it ourselves, and then use that list to decide which license feels right for us. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so wanted to share it with you. Here’s another thought from Melissa. While you are brainstorming how your information might be used or reused, take a look at the SPARC author guidelines and Creative Commons Network to get ideas of problems and solutions that other authors have encountered.

SPARC: For Authors: http://www.arl.org/sparc/author/
Creative Commons Network: http://creativecommons.net/

So, you are thinking about all the potential uses (and be wildly imaginative, so that you aren’t surprised later), but what license fits? Creative Commons has a handydandy tool for selecting your license, and it walks you through the main issues and concerns.

Creative Commons: License Your Work: http://creativecommons.org/choose/
Creative Commons

Here are other advantages of Creative Commons (CC) licensing. Let’s imagine that you put out some information you what folks to use, and applied a CC license to your open access articles stating folks can use it, but not change it and they have to give attribution (say that you are the creator of it). You have a competitor who is working on similar material who has all their material in commercial research journals that use standard copyright. A journalist for the New York Times or some other major journalism publication is writing a news article about your topic, and they are under a really tight deadline without time to phone and interview the experts, but they want some good solid soundbytes with some real expertise behind them. The journalist can search for CC licensed materials instead of wasting their time digging through general search results to find out if they need to request permission.

Wait a minute – you can do that? Yep, you betcha. Not only are CC search tools popular with journalists but also with students, people giving presentations that may be broadcast or preserved in the public media, and teachers whose works are going into Open Educational Repositories like OpenMichigan, as well as others. Here are just a couple ways people search for Creative Commons licensed resources.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons Creative Commons
Creative Commons

There are specific CC search engines for educational content, web pages, images, videos, and much more. Above you see the main CC search page, the ccLearn search tool for educational content, and Google Web Advanced search with licensing options.

Here are a few more reasons why you should consider using a CC license for media and content related to your message.

– Ease of use
– CC licenses are so common now that they are in many places a community standard
– Free marketing – you get wider dissemination when other folks repeat your message
– Protection of your identity and rights through attribution
– Protection of your repution (if it is used right, in the context of a strong vision and good social media plan)
– If you make it easy for people to repeat your message with your attribution, they are less likely to do the work of trying to steal it.

I am neither a lawyer nor a licensing expert, so I bet there are folks more expert than I who will have some great ideas to share here. If you aren’t convinced that there is potential in this more open approach, consider the following case study of how the J&K Wedding Dance Video on YouTube has, with the permission of the music creators and publishing company, given a tune a new life with drastic increases in sales.

Google Blog: I Now Pronounce You Monetized: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-now-pronounce-you-monetized-youtube.html

One response to “Don’t Forget Licensing!

  1. Pingback: If It’s (not) Good Enough for the Marines: Social Sites and Security « Emerging Technologies Librarian

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