On the Subject of Creative Commons

File:Tyler.stefanich - Creative Commons Swag Contest 2007 2 (by).jpg

I am licensed to drive, licensed to save lives (lifeguarding gigs pay my rent), and now, I am licensed to blog. (If only I could get that 007 license…just kidding).

I must say, the idea behind Creative Commons is fantastic in my opinion. I think websites like Creative Commons and Wikipedia and any other site that provides a useful, arguably necessary service to the general public and generally promotes Internet-style democracy. I like that Creative Commons never asked me what I’d be using the license for. Everyone, no matter what you’re writing about or whom you’re critiquing, gets to blog with a Creative Commons license, if they so desire. I like their ultimate goal, too: “The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”

Like almost everything else I think or write about when I consider the Internet, it comes back to the idea of net neutrality. Creative Commons isn’t playing Judge of the Internet; they don’t ask for samples of your prospective posts before deciding to grant you a license. They, like other websites, believe that their role in the Internet world is to act as facilitators; they believe in open access to all content, and they don’t see it as their job to filter the Internet. One of the greatest things about the Internet, after all, is the immense variety of information one can find here.

But back to Creative Commons individually. In the last assignment (which a flaw in my time management skills kept me from finishing), we were asked to follow a five or so blogs/accounts that pertained to a topic of our choosing. I had a hard time figuring out what my topic would be, because I tend to follow different interests on different kinds of social media, playing to the strengths of the medium I’m using. I’m a big fan of cooking for example, and cooking is a very visual task/art, so I follow the Food Network and Bobby Flay on Instagram, because the main thing about Instagram is the picture a user posts and its accompanying caption. I also follow National Geographic and Nat Geo Travel on Instagram, because they have breathtaking images from all over the world, and unlike many other accounts, I can trust that their photos are actually from the place they are naming. The journalist in me never stops fact-checking sources.

On this blog I’ve created, which I may keep updating even after this assignment is over, I followed a lot of news blogs and a lot of media criticism blogs. I follow these same accounts on Twitter. On Facebook, I follow my favorite TV shows, because I never actually watch live television anymore so I have a hard time remembering when new seasons of my shows start, and their Facebook pages can be counted on to deliver that information (again. And again. And again).

But in the process of doing this assignment, I realized another area Creative Commons might be revolutionizing: scholarly research. I’ve been in school long enough to know that getting access to peer-reviewed journals can be done mainly through (pretty pricey) subscriptions. I don’t even want to think about how much money Rutgers libraries spend maintaining subscriptions to all those journals and periodicals and databases that allow us students to pursue our research topics. But I came across this Public Library of Science (PLOS) post that discussed just how many scholarly articles are starting to be published under Creative Commons licenses. According to their research, there are at least 1.2 million scholarly & peer-reviewed articles licensed under Creative Commons licenses. PLOS sees Creative Commons licensing of scholarly research so important, in fact, that they and over 80 other organizations have signed a letter calling to make CC licenses the new standard for scholarly publication.

So there you have it. I believe in Creative Commons, and the Internet’s potential to keep on being the ultimate source of all information. I think one of the greatest things about the human experience is our ability to share our findings, and I don’t want archaic copyright laws to get in the way of that.

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