Creative Commons: Free, Frictionless Marketing

A Creative Commons license is a way to legally share content. The significance of such a license is that current copyright law prohibits the exchange of ideas by prohibiting the reproduction of original work. The laws are outdated for 21st century because on the Internet, the transfer of any work requires its reproduction. When you save an image, you’re copying it. When you forward an email, you’re copying it. When you remix a variety of clips into a video, you’re copying each every one of those works. According to the law, an original work is copyrighted upon creation. To press charges against someone who has stolen that intellectual property, the work must be registered with the Copyright office, however, it is still technically illegal for someone else to reproduce a work without the author’s permission. The effects of this tension between law and the nature of the Internet results in a particular kind of culture. This culture’s defining characteristic is that they are violating the law. Copyright law does not reduce illegal reproduction. All it does is beget a culture of so-called “piracy,” so that sharing information is not hindered, but instead is villainized. It creates antagonism between citizens and the state.

The Creative Commons are a private solution to this public problem. Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, saw this inadequacy of the legal system. After losing a case involving the long-standing copyright of Mickey Mouse, Lessig decided to work from the outside. He applied his legal expertise to develop the Creative Commons.

The way it works is that a CC license is appended to the existing copyright on a work. It provides a standing permission from the author for others to share the work. A variety of stipulations can be added, such as attribution and non-commercial use. This way if the work is shared, the reproducer must attribute the work to its original author and they may not use it for monetary gain. The licenses are completely customizable, so the author has broad control over their work is used. They are free and easy to generate.

The result of such a framework is that Internet users now have a way to legally share content. The value of this for entrepreneurs is that they can allow their content to go viral. Without the default legal prohibition to disrupt the free flow of their ideas, entrepreneurs can gain a greater scope of influence. The idea of importance of mastering the ability gain a foothold in the world of ideas is described in Seth Godin’s Ideavirus. Notice that it was published in 2000, while the Creative Commons was founded just a year later in 2001. The Creative Commons enables people to spread their ideas, which is the fundamental goal of marketing. Thus, all Internet entrepreneurs should know about it.

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