Taylor Vanderhelm is a JD candidate at the University of Alberta.
Less than a month after announcing its foray into online movie rentals, Google’s YouTube has made another significant announcement by offering users the ability to license their work using Creative Commons. Google is heralding the move as a way to foster creativity and sharing among its users and is already working with notable organizations such as Al Jazeera, C-SPAN, and Voice of America to create a substantial Creative Commons library for users to experiment with.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which operates under the premise of promoting universal access to information through the internet. The organization was founded in 2001 and has spent the past decade working with copyright experts from around the world in order to develop licences and tools to facilitate this vision. The customizable design of Creative Commons licences enables users to choose the amount of rights they wish to retain instead of operating under the default “all rights reserved” setting traditionally imposed through copyright law. This “some rights reserved” approach is seen by the organization as a way to bridge the gap between the reality of the internet and traditional copyright laws.
Another unique element of the Creative Commons licence is that each licence features three “layers” to increase its effectiveness. First, there is the traditional “Legal Code” layer, followed by a “Human Readable” and a “Machine Readable” layer. These additional “layers” allow lay people to understand the important components of a licence while also providing software and search engines with the ability to recognize the licence. By providing simplicity and ease of use, the licences are an effective way to give the average user more control over their content.
Under the new system, YouTube users will now be offered the option to license their work under the Creative Commons CC-BY licence when using the YouTube Video Editor. With this licence, other users will be able to remix and share the work, as well as make commercial use of the work, so long as attribution is given to the owner. While Creative Commons typically allows for licensors to choose from a variety of license options, YouTube currently only offers one choice.
The CC-BY licence is one of the most accommodating versions available and is viewed by some as a way for YouTube to ease the incessant scrutiny regarding copyright violations on its site. With 35 hours of video now uploaded to the site every minute and the majority being user generated, YouTube is somewhat of a cesspool for copyright violation. The sheer volume of users and content has made copyright enforcement difficult. While YouTube has taken steps to inform and enforce these rights, an effective solution remains elusive. The integration of Creative Commons licensing should help encourage users to respect copyright by raising awareness and providing viable alternatives to the internet cultural norm of misappropriating content.
Only time will tell if YouTube’s adoption of the Creative Commons framework will be embraced by enough users to alter perceptions regarding the ownership and sharing of content on the internet or if it will simply amount to another drop in the bucket of copyright law.