Creative CommonsThe frustrations associated with referencing and using other people's work can be alleviated by tapping into work made available under Creative Commons licenses.
These licenses enable creators to specify allowed uses of their work that range from placing it in the public domain to authorizing various types of free use under specified conditions. In other words, people who want to share their creative work, perhaps with limited restrictions, are able to do so.
As explained at the Creative Commons website, Creative Commons licenses were developed in order
... to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare "some rights reserved."Benefits accrue both to creators and to users. Creators can manage distribution of their work more flexibly than under traditional "all rights reserved" copyright. This can mean achieving valuable visibility as fans and users spread the word about work they like. Some creators, as suggested at the Creative Commons website, simply like "contributing to and participating in an intellectual commons."
... Our aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier. To this end, we have also developed metadata that can be used to associate creative works with their public domain or license status in a machine-readable way. We hope this will enable people to use our search application and other online applications to find, for example, photographs that are free to use provided that the original photographer is credited, or songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled with no restrictions whatsoever. We hope that the ease of use fostered by machine- readable licenses will further reduce barriers to creativity.
Users are able to reuse, modify (e.g., by remixing) and spread work with assurance that its creators have authorized the uses in question. With the availability of Creative Commons licenses, collective work is facilitated, and there are fewer scofflaws. In sum, creative activity increases instead of being constrained by one-size-fits-all copyright restrictions.
The Wikipedia page on Creative Commons provides links to examples of how Creative Commons licenses are being used. You can also find a helpful list of tools for locating CC-licensed content.
The Creative Commons licensing project celebrated its fourth birthday on December 16. On his blog, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, reports that the number of licenses is up to almost 150 million.