Note, this is work towards my first assignment for the June 2020 edition of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators.


Sit back and let me tell you a little story about Creative Commons (often abbreviated CC).

My introduction to CC was back in the fall of 2003 when Lawrence Lessig was a keynote speaker at OOPSLA 2003. I was the “Internet Technology Chair” on the organizing committee that year and had the chance to speak with Larry for a few minutes before his talk. I was especially intrigued with the relation between Creative Commons and the open source movement as I have always been a proponent of FLOSS (Free and Libre Open Source Software).


Creative Commons was a created to address the tension between the protection and restrictions of copyright with the desire of creators to share their work in the way they would like to have it shared. I remember Larry often using the words in his talk at OOPSLA 2003 “Some Rights Reserved”. This is probably best summed up from the History entry at the Creative Commons Wiki:

Thus, a single goal unites Creative Commons’ current and future projects: to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules.

The Copyright Term Extension Act which is also know as the Sonny Bono (or the Mickey Mouse Protection) Act was passed on October 27, 1998. Lawrence Lessig represented Eric Eldred in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that act, you can find more about the “Eldred vs Ashcroft” case in this Wikipedia entry: which they ultimately lost.

Another useful quote here via the Wikipedia entry for Creative Commons is this one which also quotes Lessig from his 2004 book “Free Culture“:

Creative Commons attempts to counter what Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, considers to be a dominant and increasingly restrictive permission culture. Lessig describes this as “a culture in which creators get to create only with the permission of the powerful, or of creators from the past.”

The loss of this challenge would lead to Lessig (together with Eldred and Hal Ableson) to go on to found Creative Commons with others in 2001.

What is CC?

When we use use the term “Creative Commons” it can mean a few different things depending on context. Creative Commons is a movement of people promoting the use of and sharing of creative works through the use of CC licenses. Those same Creative Commons licenses used to allow “Some Rights Reserved” are the other use of this term. Finally, Creative Commons “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a globally-accessible public commons of knowledge and culture“.

More on those Licenses

I have been using Creative Commons licenses for years and often I change which license I use depending on context or my mood in the ethos of sharing at the time. The CC licenses do not replace Copyright but leverage copyright to give the holders of copyright on works to grant permission for the use of their work under conditions they can specify with the CC license they attach to their work. The options include requiring attribution, limiting derivatives of the work, limiting commercial use, and limiting to works that share alike under a compatible license. Different mixes of these options can be used according to the desire of the creator. A nifty resource to check out is the CC License Compatibility Chart.

I tend to release my works under either a “CC BY” or a “CC BY-NC” license but have used others.

Of course, my work under a Creative Commons license is but a small share of the more than 1.6 billion works currently released under a CC license.

Get Involved

You may be asking how this applies to you and how you can get involved.

I personally make it part of my practice in working with my students and colleagues to promote the use of works and sharing of their own work using a Creative Commons License:

If you like Flickr and are looking for a handy tool to attribute photos there which are released under a CC license, you should check out a nifty tool created by my friend Alan Levine called the “flickr cc attribution helper“. This is a browser bookmarklet that helps you attribute images from Flickr.

You may want to get involved as I am in the CC Global Network or take one of the Creative Commons Certificate courses like I am now. Join us and if you are shy and would like more information from myself, feel free to leave a message in the comments or contact me directly.  You can find my contact information at my website

Audio Version

I have also recorded these words in audio form which I will likely include in an upcoming episode of my podcast “Ask the Flipped Learning Network” which are all released under a Creative Commons license. For now you can listen to the audio version on SoundCloud:

A Note on References

All references are with hypertext links to the original source within this blog post, all links were checked on publication date of this post of June 6, 2020.


Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, Connecting is Learning by Ken Bauer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Featured Image Credit

Image of two children collaborating with the text over the image "Kids naturally do it..", the Creative Commons "CC" logo and the text "Share your stuff"
“Kids Share” flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

4 thoughts on “What is Creative Commons?

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