Are you missing out on valuable opportunities to let others do
your advertising for you?
As a business owner or manager, it is tempting to do everything
you can to protect your intellectual property by imposing the most
restrictive licensing terms you can source or have your lawyers
write. The careful application of more relaxed licensing terms,
such as those available from Creative Commons Australia can have
significant benefits for your business.
Creative Commons is an international non-profit organisation
that aims to provide the authors of creative works with free tools
to protect their interests, while providing the flexibility to
allow others to develop and share such works.
Creative Commons Australia is the local affiliate, and provides
free licences tailored to the Australian legal environment, based
on four key elements:
"Attribution" ("BY") lets others distribute
a work as long as they credit the original creator.
"ShareAlike" ("SA") allows derivative works
so long as they carry the same licence as the original work.
"NoDerivative" ("ND") does not allow the
work to be changed. If not specified, the work can be adapted or
"NonCommercial" ("NC") only allows the work
to be distributed for non-commercial purposes. If not specified,
the work or derivative can be distributed for commercial
The comparatively open combinations are more suitable for
non-profit, philanthropic and open source projects.
For each creative work, you should consider the advantages and
disadvantages of each individual element; this will let you
construct the appropriate licence.
Limiting to non-commercial purposes
You should definitely impose the NonCommercial element where
your work is a marketable commodity in its own right, or if
competitors could make use of your work to advance their business.
Examples include graphics designs, photography, standardised
documentation, or a host of other intellectual works.
If your work does not have direct value as product, the
NonCommercial element may be counterproductive. For example
advertising videos are intended to be viewed as widely as possible.
Allowing others to benefit from disseminating your advertisement is
a highly effective tool to expand your audience base.
The value of certain works diminishes over time. If your
business has already received most of the expected return of a
work, then it is worth considering removing the NonCommercial
element to generate goodwill and advertising benefits. For example
in 2009, the news network Al Jazeera made certain video footage
available solely on the Attribution basis, generating a lot of
goodwill for the network.
Allowing derivative works
The NoDerivative element should be included if you are worried
about your work being parodied, and should be considered if you are
presenting a serious message. For example political or general
corporate campaigns are easy fodder for satire.
It has been speculated that reinforcement through derivative
works was partially responsible for the outrageous success of viral
videos such as "Gangnam Style", which achieved 1 billion
views within six months. While this is clearly an exceptional case,
it does demonstrate the point.
To share or not to share
If you do not specify NoDerivative, then you should consider
imposing the ShareAlike element. The ShareAlike element is most
appropriate in an open-source context, where creators and the
community have an interest in encouraging similarly liberal
distribution of modified content.
In a business context, the ShareAlike element is necessary to
preserve a NonCommercial element through to derivative works.
You might be thinking that none of this really applies to your
business, the value of your creative works would be diminished by
any form of external use. This is absolutely valid and Creative
Commons licensing is not appropriate for every business. You still
have recourse to traditional copyright licensing arrangements.
Whether you use traditional or Creative Commons licensing there
will still be times when you need to protect your rights. Often
copyright breaches can be resolved by correspondence to the
offending party, but this should be done carefully and with a view
to lay the groundwork for litigation should it become
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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As a licensor or a licensee, here are some tips you should consider when negotiating your next licence agreement.
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