Image: Sharing music. Roman style by Ed Yourdon, generously made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY NC-SA 2.0) licence. Source: Flickr.

This post is the fourth in a series called Sharing FM.

You write an FM blog. You’d like to incorporate other people’s content – their photographs or diagrams, for example. But you don’t want to trample over other creators’ copyrights. You want to share their stuff ethically as well as legally. If only there were some means by which to do this!

The good news is, there is. The means consists of Creative Commons (CC) licences.

CC: the big picture

Imagine I publish a photograph online. It’s my photo: I own the copyright. Imagine too that I’d be quite happy for bloggers to use it if they wish. I might reason that I don’t lose anything by letting them doing so. More positively, I might be pleased with the photo and want people to see it. How can I signal to you and to other bloggers that you all have permission to use the photograph?

Answer: I can assign a CC licence to the photograph.

In essence, such a licence says, ‘You see this work of mine? If you want to use it in your own work, be my guest! I hereby give you permission. You don’t need to pay me; you don’t even need to inform me (though, of course, it would be nice if you did); and I don’t intend, by virtue of the fact you used my photo, either to pursue you through the courts or to get your blog shut down’.

A more nuanced account

If you think the above is too good to be true, well you’re right. The truth isn’t quite as simple as I’ve so far suggested.

For one thing, CC licences always impose one condition on whoever makes use of the licensed work. Users are obliged to give attribution.

You’ll see, for example, that in the caption below the header image for this post, I’ve given an attribution to the licensor, Ed Yourdon. And likewise you’ll see in the licence at the foot of this post that anyone making use of this post needs to attribute me, Du Malone.

For another thing, CC licences vary. Though they all require attribution to be given, additional requirements may be included.

One restriction that might be added is that the licensee can’t use the licensed work for commercial purposes. Another might be that the licensee can use the work as is, but can’t adapt it (for example, by using Photoshop); and another might be that if a work is incorporated in a further work that is shared under a licence, the original licence must be respected – one can’t, in sharing one’s own work, subvert the conditions of the original licence.

You’ll notice that I’ve characterised the variations between licence conditions in rather breezy fashion. I could go into detail here, distinguishing precisely and comprehensively the distinctions between the various licence conditions, but I’m not going to do so.

For one thing, this is a blog, not a textbook, and I doubt you came here for pages of technical discourse. For another, the CC organisation that supports the CC licences, has a penchant for explaining things, in visual and in verbal terms, simply and clearly.

If you wish to find out more about the range of licences and what each one does and doesn’t allow you to do, you can’t do better than visit the ‘About CC licences’ section of CC’s website:

There you’ll find, in plain English, a brief description of each licence. If you click on the hypertext link from each licence, you will find a fuller, very explicit, statement of what each licence does and not permit. Again, the text is in plain, English, not legalese.

If all this seems to entail hours of desk research on your part, please rest assured it doesn’t: CC’s accounts of their licences are concise and very brief.

Further benefits to bloggers

I hope, in this post and the previous one that I’ve explained the main benefit of CC licences for the FM content community. The licences promote creativity by enabling us to share and re-use each other’s work and, in a nutshell, they help to keep us honest.

There are, though, some additional benefits.

First, I suggest that using and respecting CC licences is a marker that you take your blog seriously: they indicate that, while you may be an amateur (in the best sense of the word), you’re certainly not a rank amateur.

Arguably this is especially so at the present time, whilst awareness amongst the community of CC licences seems pretty limited. A visible appreciation of CC will help to position a blog as belonging to the vanguard.

Sharing other creators’ works that have been assigned CC licences will help the licensors: sharing of their work represents a form of free promotion, through endorsement. Their number of page views (and so on) will likely increase.

Equally, indicating that your work may be shared under a CC licence may help it to get better known — not simply by removing any doubt on the part of the community that they’re free to do so, but also through nudge psychology: inclusion of a CC licence indicator may nudge the reader into thinking, ‘Mm, I hadn’t thought about that: maybe I can recycle this in some way’.

Not just why, but how

I’m hoping I’ve provided some answers to the question of why content creators should care about CC licences.

But there then arises a series of ‘how’ questions. How exactly does an FMer become a CCer?

I’ll provide my suggestions in the next post in this series.


Published under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.

Title:   The silver lining for FM content

Attribution:   Du Malone

Source:        Black Sea FM (

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