Please note that Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand does not provide legal advice, so while this FAQ is designed to be helpful in raising awareness about the use of CC’s licences, it is by nature not a complete discussion nor a substitute for legal advice. It may not cover important issues that affect you and, depending on your situation, you may wish to consult with a lawyer.

Below is a long list of commonly asked questions about Creative Commons. There is also an official Creative Commons FAQ, which covers some issues not addressed here.

CC in New Zealand

Creative Commons in New Zealand:

What is Creative Commons, and what is Creative Commons in New Zealand?

Creative Commons (CC) is a worldwide organisation that offers copyright alternatives (beyond the traditional ‘all rights reserved’) to teachers, scholars, scientists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, graphic designers, Web hobbyists, artists, and other content developers for use anywhere in the world. More information about Creative Commons can be found on the international Creative Commons portal.

The Creative Commons project in New Zealand was initiated Te Whainga Aronui The Council for the Humanities, and is now administered by The Royal Society of New Zealand. Australia has its own CC project, and there are many others through the world.

Why use a Creative Commons licence?

There are a variety of reasons for allowing others to reuse, distribute, and should you wish, modify your creative work:

  • To maximise exposure and increase distribution
  • To rely on innovative business models rather than fully fledged copyright to secure a return on your creative investment
  • To contribute to and participate in the public sphere

What problem does Creative Commons help solve?

In New Zealand, copyright exists in creative works as soon as they are created (thus the moment an artist lifts a pen from a doodle). The problem is that no copyright notice is required to be attached, so it is difficult for creators to declare their copyright intentions. It is also difficult for people who want to use and reuse creative works to identify how such works are available. To solve both problems, CC provides the following tools:

  • A set of free public licences sturdy enough to withstand a court’s scrutiny,
  • Simple enough for non-lawyers to understand and use
  • Yet sophisticated enough to be identified by various Web applications

So what, exactly, does Creative Commons plan to do?

The primary task is to offer artists and creators of intellectual work of any kind a set of copyright licences to be used free of charge. These licences help content creators define the conditions in which their copyright works can be used by others.

What are the steps to adopting/using a Creative Commons licence?

When you have made your choices, you will get the appropriate licence expressed in three ways:

Commons Deed. A simple, plain-language summary of the licence, complete with the relevant icons.
Legal Code. The fine print that you need to be sure the licence will stand up in court.
Digital Code. A machine-readable translation of the licence that helps search engines and other applications identify your work by its terms of use.

Whom does Creative Commons serve or represent?

CC hopes that teachers, scholars, scientists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, graphic designers, Web hobbyists – as well as listeners, readers, and viewers – can all gain from the use of CC’s tools. CC serves the public interest by providing the framework for a robust exchange of expression, knowledge, and art. CC will help people who want to license their work on generous terms, people who want to make creative uses of those works, and those who benefit from this symbiosis.

Who started Creative Commons?

The CC movement was begun in 2001 by US cyberlaw and intellectual property experts James Boyle, Michael Carroll, and Lawrence Lessig, MIT computer science professor Hal Abelson, lawyer-turned-documentary filmmaker-turned-cyberlaw expert Eric Saltzman, and public domain Web publisher Eric Eldred. CC International was started as an offshoot of the original licensing project, in order to oversee the internationalisation of the Creative Commons idea.
The CC Licences

The Creative Commons Licences:

Will works that use Creative Commons licences be in the ‘public domain’?

If you want to put your work in the public domain – the realm of creative material unfettered by copyright law – CC can help you do that. If you want to keep your copyright and a measure of control, you can use one of CC’s licences. These licences will not release your work into the public domain, but they will encourage creative re-uses of your work in ways that full copyright protection does not.

If I choose the noncommercial licence option, can I still make money from my licensed works?

Yes, absolutely. The ‘noncommercial use’ condition applies only to others who use your work, not to you (the copyright holder). When other people use or trade or copy your work, they cannot do so for ‘monetary compensation or financial gain’, unless they get your permission.

One of CC’s central goals is to encourage people to experiment with new ways to promote and market their work. In fact, CC designed the noncommercial licence option to be a tool to help people make money from their work, by allowing them to maximise the distribution of their works while keeping control of the commercial aspects of their copyright.

Take this example: You license your photograph with a noncommercial licence and post it on your website. An editor at Spectacle, a for-profit magazine, comes across your photo and wants to use it for the next issue’s cover. Under the noncommercial term, the editor could copy your photograph and show it to her friends and co-workers, but she would have to strike a separate deal with you (for money, if you are smart) to use it for the magazine.

However, you need to be careful: once a copy of your work is out under a CC licence, you CANNOT STOP its further distribution for noncommercial purposes for free. This means that if you are to make money you have to find a way to do it while people can find copies of your work on the Internet for free.

I am registered with a royalty collection organisation. Does this mean that I cannot use Creative Commons to publish my work?

The ‘noncommercial’ licences allow for royalties to be collected for commercial use, so they do not affect any of the commercial rights of the author; they are non-exclusive, and allow you to licence your work commercially in parallel. The ‘commercial use’ licences, however, do not do so; they allow royalty-free use by anyone. Thus, in practice, only work issued under a ‘noncommercial’ form of licence could also be registered with a royalty collection organisation. However, it is a matter for people to clarify with particular collection organisations, not all of which have the same policies. Accordingly, individual artists who are registered with a collection organisation should consult with it to establish their rights.

Are some combinations of the custom licence options incompatible?

Yes. There is one combination of options that does not make sense: No Derivative Works combined with Share Alike. This combination does not work because the Share Alike condition applies only to derivative works (called “adaptations” in the New Zealand Copyright Act). If you choose both options, CC will give you a friendly reminder about this and ask that you please make your selection again. Note that every CC licence requires licensees to attach the original licence terms to every verbatim copy they distribute. So if you copy a music file licensed under a noncommercial licence, you must tell the world that your copy of that file is also licensed under a noncommercial licence. The Share Alike option simply extends this requirement to all derivative works as well. So if you were to use that same noncommercial MP3 in a documentary film, the Share Alike provision would oblige you to license your film under a noncommercial licence, too.

I am using a generic Creative Commons licence; should I switch and use a New Zealand licence?

You may well feel that you don’t need to take the trouble; both sets of licences are designed to give the same bundle of rights as the generic licences, so that they can be used worldwide. However, CC feels that there are advantages to switching to a New Zealand licence if you live in New Zealand. These licences have been designed to be fully compatible with national contract and copyright law. Some benefits from using a New Zealand licence would be:

  • their plain English language; easier to understand than the American legal language of the generic licences;
  • because they follow national contract and copyright law, they offer explicit protection of your ‘moral rights’;
  • the support offered by the New Zealand project;
  • in the very unlikely event of any dispute over the terms of the licence, they provide that this should be heard in the courts of your own country.

About Copyright

About Copyright:

What is the ‘public domain’?

In copyright, the realm of works that are not protected either because their term of protection has expired, or because they were released by the creator without intention of claiming copyright, is known as the public domain. Works in the public domain can be appropriated by anyone without liability for infringement.

What are exclusive or monopoly rights?

Exclusive rights in copyright, include

  • the right to produce or reproduce a work or any substantial part of a work, in any material form;
  • the right to perform a work, or any substantial part, in public;
  • to publish an unpublished work or any substantial part;
  • the right to translate a work; to convert a dramatic work, i.e. a play to a novel; to convert a dramatic work by way of performance, i.e. to convert a novel to a play;
  • to make any sound recording;
  • to adapt a work as a film, i.e. a novel to a movie;
  • to broadcast the work by cable or wirelessly by television or radio to the public;
  • to show a work in public;
  • to authorise somebody other than the copyright holder to do any of the above acts.

What are moral rights?

An author of a work has a right to the integrity of their work (i.e. not to have his/her work subjected to a “derogatory treatment”) and to be associated with their work by name, unless they choose otherwise. Unlike exclusive or monopoly rights, moral rights cannot be assigned to another person, but they can be waived in whole or in part.
Applying an NZ CC Licence

Applying a New Zealand Creative Commons Licence:

How do I apply a New Zealand Creative Commons licence to my work?

For online works, you apply a Creative Commons license by selecting the license from this site that suits your preferences. During the selection process, you will be taken from this site to the international ‘home’ of Creative Commons where you will be given tools to display the license. In some cases, the international site offers a drop box where you can choose a jurisdiction based on nationality. Be sure to select ‘New Zealand’ from the menu in order to receive a specifically New Zealand Creative Commons licence (if it has not yet been selected).

How do I display my Creative Commons licence online once I have chosen it?

Once you have selected your license, and if you are applying it to online material (such as your blog or website), follow the instructions to include the html code in your work. This code will automatically generate the “Some Rights Reserved” button and a statement that your work is licensed under a Creative Commons license. The button is designed to act as a notice to people who come in contact with your work that your work is licensed under the applicable Creative Commons license. The html code will also include the metadata that enables your work to be found via Creative Commons-enabled search engines.

How do I display a licence on a print publication, or something that is not on the web?

If you want to attach a CC logo and licence to a plain text document, you simply need to cut and paste the appropriate information into your work. Once you have chosen a licence, you will be directed to a page called ‘Licence Your Work’ that gives you tools to let others know that your work is licensed.

On the right hand side is a link titled ‘mark a document not on the web, add this text to your document’ that you can click on. Here, a pop-up box provides you with ready-made text (specific to your chosen licence) that you simply copy and paste to your own document.

If you would like to incorporate a licence logo as well, copy and/or drag one of the logos provided on that same ‘Licence Your Work’ page to your own document.

I don’t know about html, or I don’t have access to the html of my webpage. Can I still licence my work online?

Yes. While it is better to use the html code Creative Commons provides when displaying your licence, it is not essential. If you can’t use the embedded licence information, simply follow the cut and paste option described in the previous question, making sure you link to your chosen licence deed.

What hosting sites can offer me Creative Commons licences automatically?

The international Creative Commons website has a list of hosting sites like Flickr and the Internet Archive that automatically offer users Creative Commons licences.

I want to incorporate the Creative Commons logos into my site or work, can I?

You are welcome to incorporate the Creative Commons logos into your site or work if you do so in accordance with our policies page. Basically, we only authorise use of the Creative Commons corporate logo (that is, the name Creative Commons and the “CC” in a circle) to link back to our website; and our “Some Rights Reserved” and “No Rights Reserved” buttons and our licence element buttons (ie. the Attribution license button, the Noncommercial licence button etc).

Can I change the Creative Commons logos so that they look better on my site or with my work?

Please don’t change our logo so that it works better with the look of your site or work. Our “Some Rights Reserved” and “No Rights Reserved” buttons need to be used consistently because they are our trademark and a core part of our licensing system. You can also use the licence elements buttons that are in black and white to signal that your work or site is licensed under the relevant Creative Commons licence; this is also explained at our policies page.
Using a CC Licensed Work

Using a Creative Commons Licensed Work:

Will Creative Commons give me permission to use a work?

The permission isn’t ours to give. Creative Commons simply makes available licences and tools to enable creators and licensors to licence their works on more flexible terms. By applying a Creative Commons licence to a work, the creator or licensor has decided to clearly signal to members of the public, such as you, that you may use the work without having to ask for permission—provided that you use it consistent with the licence terms.

Does Creative Commons determine what content is released under its licences?

Creative Commons, as an organization, does not control how the licences are used and does not check or verify whether a Creative Commons licence has been correctly applied to a particular work. Creative Commons does not endorse or certify any use of its licences.

Instead, Creative Commons provides the licences as a tool that may be adopted (or not) by members of the creative community. Creative Commons does not determine whether the use of the licences is appropriate for your situation or for a particular work.

What are the terms of a Creative Commons licence?

The key terms of the core suite of Creative Commons licences are: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works and Share Alike:

Attribution=you must attribute the author and/or licensor in the manner they require.
Noncommercial=you may not use the work in a manner primarily directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.
No Derivative Works=you may only make verbatim copies of the work, you may not adapt or change it.
Share Alike=you may only make derivative works if you license them under the same Creative Commons licence terms.

For an overview of our licences and links to the Commons Deed and Legal Code, check out our Licences Explained page.

So “Noncommercial” means that the work cannot be used commercially?

Not quite. The “Noncommercial” licence option means that you do not receive the commercial rights via the Creative Commons licence. You can always approach the licensor directly to see if they will separately license you the commercial rights.

What happens if I want to make a different use of the work?

If you want to use a Creative Commons licensed work in a manner that is not permitted under the terms of the Creative Commons licence, you need to contact the creator and/or licensor and ask for their permission. If you use a Creative Commons licensed work contrary to the terms of the Creative Commons licence, your right to use the work terminates and you could be sued for infringement of copyright.

So I don’t have to pay to use Creative Commons licensed works if I comply with the licence terms?

As a general rule yes—Creative Commons licences are made available under royalty-free licences. In the case of Creative Commons licensed works that are licensed for Noncommercial use only, the creator or licensor reserves the right to collect statutory royalties or royalties under compulsory licences for commercial uses such as those collected for public performances; so, you may still have to pay a collecting society for such uses of Creative Commons licensed works. However, these are indirect payments, not payments to the licensor.

How do I properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work?

If you are using a work licensed under Creative Commons:

  1. Keep intact any copyright notices for the work.
  2. Credit the author, licensor and/or other parties (such as a wiki or journal) in the manner they specify and refer to the license they have chosen.

If you are making a derivative use of a work licensed under CC, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work, ie. “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author]” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

What is a derivative work?

A derivative work is a work that is based on another work but is not an exact, verbatim copy. In general, translation from one language to another or a film version of a book are examples of derivative works. Under Creative Commons’ licences, synching music in timed-relation with a moving image is considered to be a derivative work.

It’s important to note, however, that the Creative Commons licences allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the licence in any format or media, even in the No Derivative Works licences. This means that, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works licence, for example, you can copy the work from a digital file to a print file consistent with the terms of that licence.

If I use a Creative Commons licensed work with other works, do I have to Creative Commons license everything else as well?

With the exception of those of our licences that contain the Share Alike element, the Creative Commons licences do not require everything else to be Creative Commons licensed as well. We specifically designed the Creative Commons licences so that they would not turn all other works they were combined with into being Creative Commons licensed. If you combine any work with a Creative Commons licensed work that is licensed with a Share Alike licence provision, then, because of the way that the Share Alike licence element operates, the resultant work will need to be licensed under the same licence as the original work.

If you include a Creative Commons licensed work in a “collective work” (ie. a collection of works in their exact original format, not adaptations), then you only need to continue to apply the Creative Commons licence to that work (even if the work was licensed under a Creative Commons Share Alike licence provision). You do not need to apply it to the entire collection.

Can I combine two different Creative Commons licensed works?

Generally yes; you can combine one Creative Commons licensed work with another Creative Commons licensed work or with another unlicensed work.

It is not that simple for Creative Commons licences that contain the Share Alike licence element (ie. Attribution-Share Alike, Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike). These licences require derivative works (ie. the result of two combined works) to be licensed under the same licence elements. So, you cannot, for example, combine an Attribution-Share Alike licence with an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike. If you are combining a work licensed under a Share Alike licence condition, you need to make sure that you are happy and able to license the resulting work under the same licence conditions as the original work.

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