Creative Commons: What Is It And How Can It Benefit You?

This is a cross-posting from The Creative Penn site, where it appeared on 9/13/09.

I went to a fantastic workshop this weekend at the Brisbane Writers Festival on Creative Commons. It was presented by Elliott Bledsoe, who is Project Officer at Creative Industries and Innovation in Australia and a wealth of information in this area. (You can find him on Twitter @elliotbledsoe). All the detailed information is at:

This is such important information for authors online so please read and share!

What is Creative Commons?

  • It is a version of copyright licensing, and it relates to your creative works. The basic Copyright law says that no one can copy or distribute your work, or use it, remix it or profit from it. This law becomes impractical in the digital environment where sharing, remixing, distribution and marketing are so important. Creative Commons licensing is a license you can put on your work to allow some of these things and make Copyright work for you and your creativity. Read this for the full lowdown on Creative Commons.
  • You can license your work for different purposes. The main aspects are Attribution (you let others use/distribute your work but you must be attributed as the creator), Share Alike (you can use my work but you must share your own work too), Noncommercial (you can use my work but you can’t profit from it), No Derivative Works (you can use my work verbatim but you can’t remix it or change it). For more on the different licenses, read this. People can approach you for options beyond the license e.g. you have a novel released under Creative Commons which is Noncommercial but someone approaches you with a movie idea based on it that will be sold. You can still allow them permission.

How can it benefit you as an author?

  • On Piracy vs Obscurity. You need to make your own decision as to whether you want your ideas to be out there and used (and potentially pirated), or whether you want to keep them in a drawer where no one will discover them. If you want to be a successful author who sells books, you need to be known and the internet is the place to build your global presence. The risk of piracyis nothing compared to being unknown. Cory Doctorow addresses this in “Giving it away”, a article where he describes giving the ebook versions of his books away for free under a Creative Commons license. His sales increased but his books were also translated by fans and his ideas spun into new creativity.
  • “Share your creative wealth and accomplish great things”. This is a quote from the video at the bottom of the page which explains Creative Commons in a great way. The internet has changed the way we produce and consume information. We all find ideas everywhere now. We put our thoughts and text online in the hope of building an author platform, or selling our books/products or finding an audience. Other people may get ideas from our work, and Creative Commons enables a legal way for them to re-use or remix it. This has started in mainstream books now with the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a remix of Jane Austen. Is it fan-fic or a remix of a Public Domain book?
  • Collaboration and Creativity. Expanding the theme of fan-fic and remixes, licensing under Creative Commons gives people the ability to take your work and recreate it in different ways based on your ideas. This could spread your work much farther than you could do on your own and may lead to some extraordinary ideas you can take and reuse in your turn. Is your idea your own? or can you release it and see what happens to it out there in the big wild?

How can you license your work as Creative Commons?

  • Advice from Elliott was: Have a really good think before you do license as Creative Commons. Are you really happy for people to use your work? Can they make money from it? Can they remix it? Only license once you are sure.

How do I find other authors and creatives using Creative Commons?

  • You can find works licensed under Creative Commons by including it as a Search term on sites like Google and Flickr. Many of the images I use on this site are Flickr Creative Commons and I add Attribution to each one. Use the Advanced Search option. You can also use
  • I have now licensed this site under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License, you can see this on the sidebar under my books. This license applies to the blog content and does not currently apply to my workbooks, Author 2.0 material and published books. This means that you can use my posts on your own websites, books and projects as long as you attribute me and this site as the original creator, share the work derived from it and don’t make income on it. Start with this one and spread the word about Creative Commons! You can see all the international licenses here