Friday, August 01, 2008

The Creative Commons Connection (Part 1): Molly Kleinman, on Creative Commons and Copyright

Molly the Librarian gave a talk at the National Library this afternoon.

Not this Molly but this one (this joke is kinda stale by now... Sorry, Molly K!)

She spoke to 70-plus participants. Excellent turn out! And a very engaged and interested crowd.

Not surprising.

Mention "copyright" and librarians inevitably perk their ears.

It's so timely that Molly's personal visit to Singapore was right on the heels of this announcement. She's in Singapore for a week, after giving a Creative Commons talk and a workshop at a conference in Kuala Lumpur.

My main take-away from Molly's talk was this:
If libraries want to have their works (like subject guides and publications) shared with a wider audience, they should adopt CC licenses and embed it online. Doing so makes it easier for people to find your works, using servies like Google. That is, if your objective is for your works to be found and used.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

The Creative Commons Connection
I was connected to Molly (right) via Jude (left). He's one of the guys in the Media-Socialists group (his wife, in the middle, says it's more accurate to call ourselves "Social Media-ists", and I agree!)

And from today's Q&A during Molly's one-hour talk, what she had to say made strong connections with the 70-plus librarians from NLB and LAS members.

I enjoyed Molly's talk. There's a nice logical flow to her presentation, backed by her solid practitioner's know-how. She was able to explain copyright concepts in clear and concise terms. And she gave practical advice for libraries and librarians.

Here's a almost blow-by-blow account of Molly's talk:

Copyright/ Creative Commons: A problem and a complementary solution
Molly spoke about Copyright and US law, and problems with current the copyright system. In some cases it was difficult or impossible to contact copyright holders. The copyright status of some older works were uncertain (especially for works published between periods where copyright law has changed).

She explained how copyright law is complicated and skewed in favour of big corporations. Individuals are often at a disadvantage in terms of trying to use copyrighted works or understanding their own rights.

Ah, this is where Creative Commons (CC) comes in.

[Aside - here's a quote from's About page:]
"... Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species. Creative Commons is working to revive them. We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare "some rights reserved."

What's Creative Commons? Check this out. Or this, if you prefer a video.

"CC is not going to fix everything", says Molly.

CC is not a government organisation. It's not endorsed by governments.

CC simply makes the "legal language" understandable in terms or language that fits the local context (an immense help if say, English isn't your first language).

Molly went through the four basic elements in CC, what each meant, and how they can be combined: Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike, No-derivative

Basically, CC provides:
  1. A "human-readable" code, i.e. expresses the legal terms which us mere non-legalistic mortals can understand (here's one example)
  2. A "lawyer-readable" code, i.e. the terms expressed in full legal documentation (here's the code from the same example above)
  3. A "computer readable code", which is the HTML code. Basically you obtain a HTML code where you can incorporate in your blog or website. This allows search engines to locate your page identified as CC-licensed. Here's an example:

    Creative Commons License

    This work by Ivan Chew is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. For permissions beyond the scope of this license, please contact via

Before and After Creative Commons
Before CC, there was no easy way for creators to give away rights. Or for creators to share in limited ways, even if they wanted to.

There was only one way, which was "Contact Me. Ask Permission. I'll Give it. Only then can you Use It."

Molly explained that CC helped solve:
  • Ambiguous copyright status ('cos if you adopt a CC license, you're making your copyright status absolutely clear)
  • A lack of good resources that are free from copyright (Google's Advanced Search options allows you to specify for CC-licensed items, and so does Flickr's)
  • The difficulty in sharing library-produced content more broadly (see following section)

Where does CC and Libraries come together?
"Libraries produce a lot of great stuff", says Molly.

Like subject guides (here's the NLB public library's example).

If your library wants to make your resources used by people outside the library, put it online, apply a CC license, make it easy for people to understand the terms and conditions of use and even distribute your work.

(To me, that's free marketing and publicity, without the library losing their rights).

Molly suggested two ways libraries can use CC to engage our public
  1. Collect CC licensed work and teach our users how to find it
  2. Adopt CC licenses for subject guides produced by the library, and encourage creators outside the library to use the licenses
[So simple!]

CC resources
Here are the resources she recommends:

How should libraries use CC works
Very important practical advice, as explained by Molly:
  1. Make sure your use complies to terms of CC license
  2. Include a link back to the original work (URL or hyperlink)
  3. Attribute/ mention the original creator
  4. Include the CC license also

At one point, someone asked Molly what could be licensed (answer: anything that can be copyrighted, can be licensed).

How to choose a CC license
More practical advice from Molly:
  1. Do you hold the copyright?
  2. Are you comfortable with people profiting from your work? (it's the internet: you publish what you can afford to lose!)
  3. Are you comfortable with people changing your work?
  4. Do you want derivatives for your work to carry the CC license?

[You can give this online form a try. Basically, you answer the questions, and CC will generate the relevant codes for you, including the HTML codes for you to embed in your blog].

Another participant asked for the proper way to cite CC works. Basically you credit the author/ creator of the work like how you'd credit a work found online.

There's no hard and fast rule on this.

If you ask me, libraries can take the lead and set the guidelines!

Show the world how to cite Creative Commons works. :)

[Next: Part 2 - My grouse with Copyright]


  1. Anonymous3:38 am

    Dear Ivan,
    Thanks for the report. It is helpful.
    Kok Weng

  2. Thanks Ivan, that was a good talk. Molly gave a good overview of creative commons and I could see its huge potential.

    Forgive me if I'm asking a silly question here, coz I couldn't stay for the entire talk and had to leave halfway, therefore, I beg your pardon if Molly has already explained this.

    One question here: Can we use CC for our blogs? Say, instead of picking a licence for individual postings, can I copy the html codes for the CC logos and paste them on my blog and somehow blanket "protect" all the writings in my blog?

  3. @qq*librarian: yes you can paste the codes to the side bar. I've done that recently. Also changed the wordings (from the standard CC default) so that it refers to the blog.


Join the conversation. Leave a comment :)

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.