Copyright Schmopyright — Can You Steal My Content?

The short answer is: Yes.

Why I’m Doing This

When I was looking for images to use for my blog, I came across Flickr’s Creative Common licensed collection of images, and I foud out — “Hey, you’re saying I can just… like, save these images and use them on my blog? For free? Neat!”

Then I stumbled across Leo Babauta’s (from Zen Habit) article about why he’s releasing the copyright of his blog’s content, and what he said resonated with me:

“And if someone wants to take my work and improve upon it, as artists have been doing for centuries, I think that’s a wonderful thing. If they can take my favorite posts and make something funny or inspiring or thought-provoking or even sad … I say more power to them. The creative community only benefits from derivations and inspirations.This isn’t a new concept, of course, and I’m freely ripping ideas off here. Which is kinda the point.”

I also agree with another point that he made, that the whole copyright thing has been abused by corporations to the point that it has started to hurt the artists it’s supposed to protect (and has enriched the pockets of thousands of lawyers in the process).

So, It’s Truly a Free For All?

Well, not quite.

Just because someone uses the Creative Commons license it does not mean that they do not own the copyright to their content. It simply means that the content publishers have chosen to modify the blanket “copyright” terms and restrictions for something that’s more open and suited to their personal beliefs of what copyright should mean.

For example, I personally would be hugely flattered if someone would use my photographs or even better, my articles, for their own use. But I would only be ok with it if they promise to:

1. Mention my name somewhere in the credit
2. License the results in the exact same way as I do if they decide to alter/build upon it.

But I choose to opt out of the commercial and the derivative work restrictions. In other words: as long as you follow the restrictions above feel free to use and alter my photos and content on this blog for your own purposes.

Click here to learn more about this blog’s particular licensing.

That’s Neat, Now What is Creative Commons again?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides tools that content publishers (e.g. authors, photographers) can use to

“…enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

What “some” rights are can range from the most accomodating:

“You can do anything you want to my content; alter, display, make gazillion dollars out of it, as long as you give some sort of credit to me.”

to the most restrictive:

“You can use my content, but you can’t change it in anyway or make money out of it.”

This way content publishers can alter their copyright terms to suit their needs and be assured that the license is recognized globally.

Doesn’t it sound like a win-win for everybody? Learn more about the different types of license available.


Check out Leo Babauta’s article about copyright issues and let me know what you think. Do you agree that copyright can and has been abused by corporations, or not? Would you ever consider open sourcing your content?

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