Ashley Smith-Hammond

After this month's First Wednesday we’ve been thinking a lot about copyright. Here, we reflect on Creative Commons (CC) licences, why we use them and why we publish some of our own content under CC licences.


Creative Commons is a more flexible kind of copyright that is designed to let content creators share their work. In their own words it helps:

forge a balance inside the traditional ‘all rights reserved’ setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.

CC covers all kinds of intellectual property, from media production to scientific innovation. It’s valuable for science and education as well as cultural production. They’ve even made a nice explainer video.

Creative Commons was founded in 2001 and is very much tied up with how easy it is to share content online. (There’s a great long read from Wired on the history of Creative Commons if you really want to dig in.) One of the clever things about a CC licence is that it is both human- and machine-readable, making it much easier to find online for those that want to use it.

WHY we USE Creative commons

As content marketing becomes more and more important, you might find yourself thinking more and more about copyright and sharing.

If you want people to be able to use or share your work without having to ask, you might choose to publish some of your own works under a CC licence. You might have political, ethical or practical reasons for doing so but the licence works regardless of motivation. If you choose to publish under CC, use their licence builder tool to decide what kind of license is right for your purpose.

One good example of an organisation using CC licensing is The Conversation. It’s a publication that provides a space for academics and researchers to share findings or respond to global events outside academia. Because it has a public good mission, all The Conversation’s journalism is published under CC license and available for republication so that relevant work finds the right audience. To this end and to support this post, we’ve republished a Conversation article by Kristofer Erickson on the economic value generated by the public domain.

Top Tip – It’s often very easy to copy a digital work off the internet, but if you grab a photo from Google and drop it into a blog, presentation or email without acquiring a licence for that picture, then you are breaking the law. If you do this as part of your job, it could create liability for your employer. If choose to start using CC images instead, do make sure you follow the guidelines to credit the work. Essentially that’s how you are ‘paying’ for the work. We like this how-to infographic from Foter on attribution.


The type of licence it’s published under will tell you that. The basic restrictions are:

  • Non-commercial – you can’t use the work for commercial purposes
  • Share-alike – you have to allow those who use your work to publish new work in the same spirit
  • No-derivatives – you can use it but you can’t change it

These can be mixed and matched until the final licence is appropriate for your needs.


This website benefits hugely from using CC images. (See the small print below all of our blogs – that’s where you’ll find all our photo credits.) The vast majority of images that illustrate the stories we write or the content we produce (downloadable resources or slides for talks) are licensed under CC. The music that’s used in our podcasts is a mixture of commissioned, copyright protected music and CC licensed tracks. This is a pragmatic solution, because it doesn’t cost us money to license these works. But it’s not only that.

Culture Republic is a charity whose mission is to support Scotland’s artists, producers and cultural organisations to grow in terms of audience size and audience engagement. To help them serve more people and serve them better. That’s a public benefit with intended positive social outcomes. That means we should be both efficient about how we spend and thoughtful about the nature of the content that we use to meet our ends. We see a wide benefit from the sharing economy.

It also stands to reason that if we are here to support artists and producers that we should also help get their work out there. When we commission work we pay appropriate rates for it. When we use CC work we are strict about following the guidelines laid down within the licence. That means crediting the author and linking back to the work.


All of Culture Republic’s podcasts and photographs are published under CC licences because we want people to use and share them. For examples of how this works see our Flickr and Soundcloud channels. Some of our downloadable resources, like our annual content calendar for example, are published under CC licences. We make this licensing decision on a case-by-case basis based on this type of content.

Finally, we are sending a massive thank you to all the content creators out there who have shared their work over the years so that we can benefit from it.

Main image credit: Sharing by Dick Vos (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)