NOTE: This FAQ is adapted from materials on the Creative Commons global website.
1. What problem does the Creative Commons (CC) Licenses intend to solve?
Founded by Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig in 2001, Creative Commons is best known for a set of six copyright licenses.
The goal of these licenses is to provide a “middle ground” that did not previously exist in most copyright regimes. On one side is the traditional “all rights reserved.” At the other extreme is “public domain” - viewed by many as an anarchic free-for-all in which creators have no control over the use of their work. Creative Commons enables creators to opt for “some rights reserved.”
Creative Commons licenses are not intended to replace traditional copyright licenses. Many creators will always choose to retain all rights to their works. However many others prefer to release their works under a more permissive license so that their works can be re-used, republished, remixed, or shared freely and broadly by a wider public. The CC license provides an internationally-recognized vehicle through which to do so.
Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help creators keep their copyright while inviting certain uses of their work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.
Creators can choose a set of conditions they wish to apply to their works. The following four conditions can be chosen in six different combinations:
Attribution. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.
Noncommercial. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.
No Derivative Works. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
Share Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.
2. How do you compete with existing licensing schemes used in Hong Kong?
Creative Commons licenses are not intended to compete with any other existing licensing schemes used in Hong Kong or elsewhere. Rather, they are intended as an extra option, in addition to existing licensing schemes.
3. How do you compete with existing licensing schemes used in Hong Kong?
Used correctly, CC licenses will broaden the scope for legal usage of creative works in Hong Kong.
Correct use of the license by Hong Kong creators will broaden the pool of creative works that can be legally shared.
Meanwhile, knowledge about how to find and use Creative Commons-licensed works will provide legal alternatives for people who like to share and remix freely.
Educators in jurisdictions where CC licenses have already been localized report that students who learn about Creative Commons gain a greater awareness of copyright issues in general. Not only do they gain a better understanding of what is illegal under copyright law; they also gain awareness of alternative legal sources: CC-licensed music, photos, and other creative works which they are permitted to share legally, which can be found through the search engines on creativecommons.org and other online sources.
Thus, we hope that if CC licenses are widely used and understood in Hong Kong, this will contribute to a reduction in copyright violations by Hong Kong’s young people, amateurs, and creative artists.
4. Why are you localizing these licenses under Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance?
Creative Commons has a generic international version of the six licenses. Thousands of Hong Kong people are already using this international “un-ported” version. However in order that local Hong Kong rights-holders can go to court if necessary in the event of a dispute, the license must be “ported” into Hong Kong copyright law. This process is currently underway: our legal team is working on English and Chinese versions of the license which they are endeavouring to make fully compatible with Hong Kong’s Copyright Ordinance.
As of this writing, the CC licenses have already been ported to 44 different jurisdictions around the globe. Asian jurisdictions that have already “ported” the CC licenses include Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, The Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are currently under development. As Asia’s “World City,” Hong Kong can benefit from a movement that aims to broaden the scope for creative innovation by Asia’s diverse and richly creative people.
5. Who is responsible for localizing these licenses?
Creative Commons Hong Kong is currently a project under the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre, where Assistant Professor Rebecca MacKinnon serves as Project Lead. Our Legal Team is led by Dr. Yahong Li and Ms. Alice Lee, both Associate Professors of the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong.
Supporting and eagerly awaiting localization of the CC licenses is a growing community of Hong Kong people: business owners, artists, software programmers, writers, lawyers, academics, educators, community leaders, and students who believe that CC licenses will enable Hong Kong’s many talented people to create and disseminate their works more broadly and legally. Several dozen community members have volunteered to help promote CC licenses in their communities, assist with the creation of educational materials and organize a launch event in October. Ben Cheng is CC-HK’s Community Coordinator.
In the months leading up to the CC-HK October launch, we will be forming an Executive Committee made up of active community members as well as an Advisory Board.
6. Is this really necessary?
We now live in the copy-and-paste Internet age. Creative Commons is a copyright licensing option that promotes legal sharing of creative works, and whose use has been growing steadily worldwide since its launch in 2001. Its founders believed it necessary to create this option because of the impact that the Internet has had on public attitudes and approaches to intellectual property, and its use is made possible largely thanks to the Internet.
We believe that Hong Kong’s copyright holders will benefit from the localization of this license - no matter whether they choose to retain traditional “all rights reserved” copyright, or choose CC’s “some rights reserved” option.
7. Other than the licenses themselves, how does Creative Commons make it easier to release and find licensed creative works?
The Creative Commons website at creativecommons.org, makes it very easy for creators to select the license they need, and for users to find CC-licensed works.
To select a license, creators simply visit http://creativecommons.org/license/, where they select the correct jurisdiction from the drop-down menu, then select the various combinations of rights and options they would like in order to generate the correct license. If the created work in question is online, the creator can copy and paste auto-generated code into their website. This code enables the work to be found and identified as CC-licensed work by search engines. The code also links back to a web page with the original legal language and deed of the correct license for reference by lawyers and potential users. For works that are not online, a logo indicating the components of the license is generated, including a web address at which the legal language and license deed can be found. This logo can be embedded onto any visual work, CD case, powerpoint presentation, etc.
Users can easily find CC-licensed work via several search engines available at http://search.creativecommons.org/. It is CC-HK’s intention to work with Chinese-language web service companies to provide more search options for Chinese-language content specifically.
8. Who in Hong Kong do you envisage using these licenses?
Anybody is free to use the Creative Commons licenses. People in Hong Kong who have expressed greatest enthusiasm to use the licenses include:
• primary, secondary, and tertiary educators
• legal music-sharing services
• internet start-up companies
• cultural entrepreneurs
• student media and arts clubs
• independent and amateur filmmakers
• independent, semi-professional and amateur musicians
• non-governmental organizations
• public information programmes
• citizen media organizations
• community organizers
We believe that Creative Commons is of great value to Hong Kong’s education and public sectors, both of which have the goal of educating the public and disseminating knowledge and information as broadly and effectively as possible.
One example: The Massachusetts Institute of Tecnology (MIT) in the United States uses CC licenses to publish courseware for free global use as part of the MIT OpenCourseware project. MIT has found that publishing course materials for free public access under a CC license does not reduce public interest in obtaining an MIT degree; rather it actually strengthens the MIT brand and generates greater public interest in attending MIT.
There are also a number of for-profit businesses benefitting from strategic use of CC licenses. They include Flickr, a business based on the sharing of user-created content by its community of users; Jamendo and Magnatune are both online businesses which deal in CC-licensed music in different ways.
9. Is anyone in Hong Kong already using the generic CC licenses?
Yes, while we don’t have exact numbers, we know that thousands of Hong Kong people are using the generic un-ported CC licenses. They include:
• Hong Kong users of Flickr, an international online photo-sharing service
• An unknown number of bloggers
• Daayu, a local internet startup based on user content sharing
• DotAsia, a Hong Kong-based Internet domain registry
• OpenRadio Hong Kong
• New Media course materials and student work at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre
For Users and Creators
1. Can CC or CCHK give legal advice about its licenses or help with CC license enforcement?
No. Neither CC nor CCHK is permitted to provide legal advice or legal services to assist anyone with enforcing Creative Commons licenses. Neither CC nor CCHK is a law firm. Rather, we’re more like a legal self-help site that offers free form-based legal documents for you to use however you see fit.
2. Can CC give me permission to use a CC-licensed work that I found?
No. Creative Commons licenses are offered free of charge to the public. There is no registration required to use a CC license, nor do we attempt to maintain any type of registry. We generally have no direct knowledge of who is using the licenses or even for what (though we do have some indirect knowledge of usage via various search engines). We have no way of contacting the authors of CC-licensed works, nor do we offer any rights clearing services.
3. Can I license software using CC licenses?
We do not recommend it. Creative Commons licenses should not be used for software. We strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed at the Open Source Initiative. Unlike our licenses, which do not make mention of source or object code, these existing licenses were designed specifically for use with software.
Creative Commons has “wrapped” some free software/open source licenses with a human-readable “Commons Deed” and machine-readable metadata. You may use these “wrapped” software licenses to take advantage of the Creative Commons human-readable document as well as the machine-readable metadata while still licensing your work under an established software license. It is important to note that CC has not altered these software licenses in any way, but has simply bundled human- and machine-readable explanations of the licenses along with the original license text. Examples: GNU GPL, GNU LGPL, BSD.
4. How do I change/remove the CC search option built into the Firefox browser?
Mozilla has included Creative Commons in Firefox’s search function along with search options for Google, Amazon, and other popular sites. See Mozilla features.
If you want to remove a particular search option, click on the logo that appears in the search box (the CC logo, or the Google logo, for example). You will see a pull down menu that allows you to use your mouse to select a different search provider. Choosing “Manage search engines” allows you to add or remove search engines of your choice, such as Flickr and Wikipedia.
To switch between search providers through the keyboard, start by clicking inside the search box, then hold down the Ctrl key (or the Apple/Command key on a Mac) and press the up arrow a few times. You should see the Google logo. To change to other providers, you can press Ctrl (or Apple) + down. More information on the Firefox search is available on our wiki.
5. Is use X a violation of the Noncommercial clause of the licenses?
Depends. Determining what does and doesn’t constitute commercial use is not easy. We are aware of the complications related to drawing a line between commercial and noncommercial use and are working to clarify the issue to some extent.
If you are really in doubt about whether a particular use infringes on a noncommercial license, we recommend that you use works that are explicitly licensed for commercial use (for example, material under our BY, BY-SA, and BY-ND licenses), or approaching the licensor directly to see if you can reach a commercial use agreement.
6. Does my use constitute a derivative work or an adaptation?
It depends. A derivative work is a work that is based on another work but is not an exact, verbatim copy. What this precisely means is a difficult legal question. In general, a translation from one language to another or a film version of a book are examples of derivative works. Under Creative Commons’ core licenses, syncing music in timed-relation with a moving image is also considered to be a derivative work.
All Creative Commons licenses allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the license in any format or media. This means, for example, that under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported license you can copy the work from a digital file to a print file, as long as you do so in a manner that is consistent with the terms of that license.
For English version of FAQ, please click here.
1. 「共享創意」（Creative Commons，以下簡稱為CC）授權條款希望解決什麽問題？
「香港共享創意」是香港大學新聞及傳媒研究中心主持的項目。籌備期間專案主持人為中心助理教授麥康瑞女士（Rebecca MacKinnon）；法律小組主持人為香港大學法律系副教授李亞虹女士及李雪菁女士。在籌備過程中，小組得到香港各界熱心人士支持：商界、藝術界、軟體發展社群、作家、律師、學者、教育家、社區領袖以及學生。他們相信「共享創意」授權條款可以促進香港的創作人才以合法方式更廣泛發佈他們的作品。經過一年多的努力，「香港共享創意Creative Commons Hong Kong」在2008年10月25日成立。