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Let's walk the walk for independent media

How can we really build a vibrant and quality independent media, rather than just hope for one?

Part 1: By creative commons licensing

All the films we have shot ourselves at #visionontv are distributed creative commons, as is the whole of this website. We use this license:

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

The license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This is vital for the building of free and independent media, but lots of film makers find this idea quite threatening.

So here's an FAQ to allay your fears!

I don't want to lose my ownership of the footage by making it copyleft.

Creative commons isn't copyleft - it's a copyright license. You're just allowing some people to use it under the same terms, crediting you when they do it.

The BBC told me that they didn't have to pay for my footage, because it was creative commons.

The corporate media often tries this line, but they are "commercial", and your filmwork is your copyright. One of my favourites, from a production company working for Channel 4 UK, was "we found it on youtube, so don't have to pay". Sorry, you do. If they use it without asking, send them a bill.

But I'm worried about people cutting my footage into whatever film, outside of my control.....

They have to credit their use, and in my experience I have basically agreed with all the films which have used my shots. Surely it's good to get your stuff out there as much as possible?

What about the artistic integrity of my original film?

Well, that still exists, right? There is actually a creative commons license specifying "no derivative works", but why lock up your footage in one version only? Mozart wrote the Magic Flute for a troupe that had lampooned his previous work. Good enough for him, definitely good enough for me. And because of the "sharealike" clause, every use of your material guarantees more media available for the creative community.

My contributors have only released their work to this one film.....

You should never promise this to your contributors, because it is meaningless in the digital world. Let's imagine a worst possible case for them, where their contribution was ripped to shreds as a "satire" by a member of the Tea Party and published to youtube. Under the Californian law which covers google's video-sharing behemoth this copyright violation is permitted as "fair use", a basic protection of freedom of speech. In reality this almost never happens.

But you said your entire project was creative commons. What stops someone from simply taking your whole site and rebranding it as theirs?

They would have to give credit, but yes, they could do that, which would be absolutely brilliant. It would be weird if they didn't add something (conspiracy theory films? Extreme sports?). In which case, if we liked what they added, which in the case of extreme sports is possible, we could put it in our site as well. Everyone gains, and we make the world a better place.

Creative commons is one of the key ways we can build an open and better media. Part 2 will deal with media rss.

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