Creative Commons and Blogging

Copyright and RSS frequently appear to be ill-suited bedfellows. On one side we have the author’s desire to have one’s content distributed as widely as possible. On the other, we have the publisher’s desire to control the way one’s content is used — out of the concern for losing control over one’s work, perceived or real financial loss, or simple desire to be properly attributed. Where in traditional media, publisher and author are usually different (and the most common place those two roles intersected was the vanity press), in “new media,” the same person frequently takes on both roles.
Copyright is often seen as complicated, and for good reason. In the United States, anyway, a work is copyrighted at the moment it is created and may not be reproduced with explicit permission. (The legal concept of “Fair use,” in the United States, is at best murky. It’s a right that does not readily extend to other legal domains. And, it almost certainly does not apply to the wholesale reproduction of items from an RSS feed. But I’m no lawyer.) At the other extreme, the author can explicitly waive copyright — a choice that few authors or publishers would opt for. In the middle ground is licensing the use of content for various uses. This is the sensible middle ground, for most bloggers: some uses of my content are fine while others are not.
However, the challenge arises in setting the language of that license and defining the kinds of use to allow. Doing so in a legally defensible way is complicated (again, I’m no lawyer). So what should the blogger to do? Use Creative Commons. Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit foundation that has written legally valid and clearly understandable licenses that anyone may use. By applying one of CC’s licenses to blog content, the blogger can state clearly what uses of that content are allowed. Can it be reused wholesale? Reused only if the person using it does not make any money from it? Reused only if attribution is given and no changes are made to the original? There are many permutations. (Unfortunately, there’s no standard way to license content in an RSS feed.)
RSS4Lib is now licensed under an Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States license. (Look toward the bottom of the sidebar.)
If you want to learn more about using content — including RSS4Lib — that has a Creative Commons license, I highly recommend CC HowTo #1: How to Attribute a Creative Commons licensed work at my colleague Molly Kleinman’s blog. The first in her planned series of posts is excellent, and I look forward to future installments.

1 thought on “Creative Commons and Blogging”

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