If you've listened to podcasts, it's likely you've heard the following: "This podcast is protected by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License." Sometimes the podcaster will explain what this means, and other times he or she just assumes you already know. It's likely that if you've published your feed through Feedburner, you've encountered the question of whether you want to put a Creative Commons License on your podcast.
Creative Commons is an organization that makes licenses that protect your work. When you write a story, draw a picture, or record a podcast, you automatically hold the copyright to the material. This means that no one else has the right to print your story and hand it to a friend, or even burn your podcast to a CD, because that would be a violation of copyright. The other end of the spectrum is public domain, which means someone can take your story off the Web, make your heroic character into a criminal eater of puppies, and sell the story.
To many podcasters, neither of these scenarios are attractive. Most of us want people to entice others to listen to our podcasts, so burning the podcast to a CD and distributing it seems less like stealing and more like helping us with marketing. However, until Creative Commons came along, if we gave people permission to do that, we might be inadvertently allowing them to do anything they like with the work.
Creative Commons is the license that works in the Internet Age. You allow people to take your work and enjoy it, make copies, and distribute it. In effect, you get to choose the rules you put on the license, as follows:
Most podcasts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. This means that you can download the podcast and distribute it, put it on your website, burn it to a CD, or whatever you like. But you must give attribution, telling people who originally created the podcast. You cannot sell it without permission from the podcaster. You cannot modify it in any way. This is the most restrictive Creative Commons License, but there are many others11 possible licenses in total.
Creative Commons allows people to protect their work and still allow easy Internet distribution. It fits the podcasting world quite well.
One of the worst things about understanding copyright is that it's a legal term, with many-worded legal definitions going along with it that most of the population can't understand. The beauty of Creative Commons is that the site has a straight language (or as they call it, "human readable") definition of the rights and restrictions the various licenses give. There are two web comics designed to illustrate Creative Commons. The creators of the site understand that the "normal" populace needs to understand the legalities of these licenses, and the site does a fabulous job in explaining everything.
Author Cory Doctorow released an entire novel on the Internet with a Creative Commons Licenseat the same time the novel landed on the bookshelves through his publisher, Tor. No one had done this before, and Cory and his editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, thought it was a fabulous idea.
Since then, several podcasters have released short fiction and whole novels through podcasting using a Creative Commons License.
For more information, visit the Creative Commons home page at http://creativecommons.org (see Figure B.1).
User-friendly site for Creative Commons.
It is important to understand that Creative Commons is not part of copyright law. It is sort of a handshake agreement stating that although your work is not in the public domain, you will allow certain uses of it.
For more information regarding U.S. copyright law, check http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#cr.