Creative Commons Is Not A Copyright

by Tamera H. BennettDecember 3, 2008


President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has licensed the site under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, giving visitors more freedom to use content from the site. was previously copyrighted under an "All Rights Reserved" notice.

What gets me is how often folks misstate and interchange "creative commons" and copyright. The statement " was previously copyrighted under an "All Rights Reserved" notice" somehow makes it sound as if the very nature of the copyright in the content has changed. It has not.

The copyright protection afforded to the content at is the same today as it was last week. What has changed is the scope in which third parties can use the content on the website. The underlying "bundle of rights" that are vested in the copyright claimant pursuant to 17 U.S.C. Sec. 106 have not changed, but the copyright claimant has now offered third parties greater access to use the copyright protected works so long as appropriate attribution is provided.

Remember, Creative Commons Licenses do not give you copyright protection. The licenses available from Creative Commons are simply that ... licenses to help you define the rights and obligations by which other people can use your works.

Copyright protection arises at the moment of creation -- when you fix an original work in a tangible expression. Follow through with a copyright application to gain additional protections. You do not have to use a Creative Commons License to license your works to third parties. Creative Commons is simply one option available to you.

Image used courtesy of