What is a Creative Commons (CC) Licence?

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

There is no doubt that Joel Watts attached a CC (Creative Commons) Licence notice to the blog post of his that I copied and reused.

So what IS a CC licence?

The whole idea behind a CC licence (we might even call it the CC philosophy) is to foster a win-win situation in the world of ideas. That is, the person who creates the new work will not lose anything if someone else, who likes that work enough to want to re-use it, picks it up and does re-use it to create something new.

So, for example, if I post a new literary work, all sweated from my own furrowed imagination, like,

I feel so egg-ceptionally, god-blessed smart today that I think you have egg all over your godless dumb face

and you think, Wow!, I like that! — then the CC licence is just for you! But it’s also for me who was inspired to write the original!

It’s for me, since I only need check of the tick-boxes in the CC form to tell the world what I want and don’t want others doing with my inspired words — e.g. do I allow you to make $$$$ from my words? do I allow you to re-use without telling the world I was the original creator of those words?

And it’s for you — you can re-use my words any way you would like within the constraints of the check-boxes I ticked.

So if you take my words and create something that argues against their original intent, and even proves they are shite, no worries! If you have also created your post under a CC then I can take that, re-use it, and argue the exact opposite!

We could even have a dialogue!

And as for Joel Watts’ “(c) rights” that he also included on the same page? That right comes by default with any and every work I or Joel creates. Neither of us needs to go to a Patent Office to claim “sole rights” to every thought we think and write. That (c) right — which is, essentially, a birth-right! — is nuanced by the CC licence we subsequently attach to our work.

So next time anyone reads Joel Watts, MA, trying to tell the world about “the rule of LAW” with respect to CC, direct his attention to:


Or if you’d prefer to read the fine print, go to http://creativecommons.org/




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Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

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2 thoughts on “What is a Creative Commons (CC) Licence?”

  1. What’s more, Joel selected “Non-commercial Share Alike.” The idea behind share alike is that you are sharing your idea freely but someone can’t come and co-opt it. It’s your idea and you are freely sharing it and anyone else who uses it has to also freely share it and works inspired from it. If Neil had taken Watts’ work and duplicated it under a more restrictive license thereby effectively stealing it, then that could be considered an infringement. However, Neil’s use should be considered “fair use” because it was a criticism of Watts’ work, not merely a re-posting of the piece. Neil wasn’t claiming the work under a more restrictive license, he was criticizing the work.

  2. If Joel had first argued that Neil’s CC NoDerivs was more restrictive than his own CC ShareAlike, I think he would have been on stronger ground. He still might have lost on the fair use question but at least he would have had a claim that could be made with a straight face. His “I-crossed-my-fingers-with-all-rights-reserved” defense left a lot to be desired. It’s always best to settle upon your legal theory first so you know which tracks you should be trying to cover.

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