Creative Commons (CC) licenses are among popular examples of open access sources. The Creative Commons was founded by Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig and others who believed in sharing their intellectual content for free for noncommercial purposes such as personal, educational, and nonprofit environments. Professor Lessig’s research is focused on law and technology, especially as it affects copyright. Lessig supports Fair Use in a digital world where these rights appear to be eroding. He outlines music sampling related to Fair Use @ The Creative Commons promotes universal access with a “a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws.” Not intended as a substitute for copyright, Creative Commons offers a free registration infrastructure for creators to file a license deed. This permits others to locate, recognize, and freely use their registered works in exchange for posting author attribution.

The CC license options are combinations of one, two or three of the following four elements:


Attribution (BY): You allow others to use your work but only if they attribute you in the manner that you request. Attribution is required for all Creative Commons licenses.

Non-Commercial (NC): You allow others to use your work, but for noncommercial purposes only. This does not mean that works cannot be used for commercial purposes, but a separate license must be obtained by a user who wishes to utilize the work commercially.

Non Derivative (ND): You allow others to copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works. The right to make adaptations can be licensed with a separate agreement.

Share Alike (SA): You allow others to make derivatives from your original work but they are allowed to distribute derivative works only under the same terms as the license of your work, or a license which is compatible with your terms. SA is used to prevent others from taking something from the commons and then blocking it with a more restrictive license.

NOTE:  Creative Commons licenses are based on copyright law, and are thus applicable only to copyrightable works.

Project Gutenberg and Wikimedia Commons are other examples where public domain or open access materials may be found. Project Gutenberg has provided free full text books since 1971, while Wikimedia is a media file repository offering public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) for all to use for free.

Orphaned Works. Orphaned works are copyrighted works whose copyright holders cannot be identified or found. If passed into law, the Orphan Works Act may address a universal challenge in finding copyright owners for permission to use after a realistic good faith search. The pending act may limit the copyright owners in demanding only reasonable reimbursement at a later date, so long as the work utilized has provided attribution. Further, there may be no infringement damages or attorney fees for the orphaned work used.

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