Creative Commons in Court
How U.S. courts are enforcing copyright laws
Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Melody Herr, PhD. Melody has more than 20 years of professional experience in scholarly communications and scholarly publishing. Formerly an acquisitions editor for the University of Michigan Press, she currently heads the Office of Scholarly Communications at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She recently published Writing and Publishing Your Book: a Guide for Experts in Every Field (2017).
Creative Commons released the first version of its eponymous licenses in 2002, in protest against what its founder, Lawrence Lessig, termed the “permissions culture.” Arguing that media corporations barricaded cultural works behind copyright law and granted access only through complex, costly licensing agreements, he called for a “free culture” where the creation-use-creation cycle flourishes. In his vision, Creative Commons licenses serve as entrance passes to a hospitable “semi-commons” where creators set the rules governing use of their works and users may safely graze (Lessig, 2004).
Creative Commons (CC) licenses do not introduce a new regime. Not at all. They assume that particular rights in a work exist, that its creator owns these rights, and that the creator may transfer them to another party – all assumptions established by the U.S. Copyright Act. I’m not the first to make this observation. Legal scholars warn that the CC licensing system does not substitute for legislative reform and, indeed, may reinforce the commodification of creative works (Dusollier, 2006; Ekstrand et al., 2013; Elkin-Koren, 2005).
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