A Look at Creative Commons and Whether You Can Use Certain Images
What is Creative Commons?
Their story is best told by them:
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.
But this is not copyright! Instead, the concept exists to work with copyright, in order to help you refine the rights in your work. Also, it can work to help you understand the nuances of rights in others’ works. But which others? Cover artists and songwriters, to name two.
Can I Use All of the Images That I Find Online?
Absolutely not. Just because you can right-click an image or take a screenshot does not mean you have the right to just take it. And do not get me started on wiping off someone else’s photographic watermark.
Just don’t do it. Don’t be a jerk.
It doesn’t matter if everybody else is doing it.
Currently, CC specifies six separate types of licenses. So be sure to click and read the specifics!
- Attribution CC BY – this is the most open of the licenses. It allows others to do nearly anything to a creative work. “This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.”
- Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA – this one is similar to CC BY. Except, it requires you attribute to the original artist. Wikipedia uses this one!
- Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND – you can pass along the work. But you can’t alter it. And you must credit the creator.
- Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC – you can alter the original work, but you must credit the original artist. Furthermore, you can’t make any money from the work.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA – this one is the same as CC BY-NC. Except, you must license any new creations under identical terms.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND – this is the most restrictive license, allowing for sharing. But attribution is required. Also, you cannot make any changes. Further, the sharer can’t make any money off the creative work.
Takeaways: What Does Creative Commons Mean to Us Writers?
Probably the biggest and most important way it matters is when we look for images for covers, or we hire a cover artist. If you don’t know where an image comes from, or you aren’t sure, change it. If the cover designer balks, then your remedy is clear.
Find another cover designer.
I recognize that covers in particular are rather expensive. You may be tempted to cut corners.
So, don’t come crying if someone does the same to you.
Creative commons also matters when it comes to music. Are you creating an author teaser trailer for YouTube? Is it monetized? If you’re not providing attribution as needed, or if you don’t have permission to use music, then don’t.
Here, the remedy can actually be pretty cheap. There are a number of public domain music sites out there. You’ll have to do some digging in order to determine which one is best for your purposes.
And finally, respect other artists—writers, singers, songwriters, musicians, artists, etc.—as much as you want them to respect you.