So how wide spread is Creative Commons use? Start digging around and many people might be surprised to find out just how much popular culture they explore is Creative Commons licensed. Beyond an increasing number of online blogs, people can find the Creative Commons logo aside flickr picture galleries, numerous musical archives and even well known collectives like Wikipedia. The popularity s growing, so what are the perceived benefits?

Some have already been explored here in prior rants, but others certainly exist, and perhaps none is more persuasive than the simple notion of self publishing. Self publishing is a phrase many people use, but there’s a difference between producing and publishing, creating and protecting. It is extremely easy to self produce artistic works, and even distribute them, in the modern age, especially if you’re willing to allow free access. Protecting them is another matter. A person can state that the work has been copyrighted under any trademark they like, but if they are allowing free access to the material then it’s extremely difficult to defend against any exploitation, a difficultly only compounded if the trademark in question isn’t protected by a pack of quality lawyers.

Creative Commons handles the legalese for people, with a variety of specific publishing licenses which can distinguish who can use what and under what conditions, thus allowing the work to be shared while still limiting exploitation. This means that people can truly self publish, not merely in the act of printing, but in the act of legally protecting their creations. Why a person might want this is cited over at Spreading Science:

“A difficulty with scientific presentations is that the copyrights of the graphs and figures are not even owned by the person who did the work. Scientists have historically turned over all copyrights to the publisher in order to get published in the first place. If you want to get published, you had to relinquish all rights. “

Scientific work is a good example of information which is more useful shared, and built upon, then hoarded for profit. But to receive any compensation or credit for work, scientists too often have to relinquish control of it. Creative Commons offers a chance for these people to retain both recognition and control, which means they can more easily allow other scientists to study, cite and reproduce their work. This has obvious benefits for the entire field, as well as any society that prospers from its findings.

Perhaps more importantly, Creative Commons, by encouraging people to reference an artist’s work, can aid in building a professional portfolio in the early stages of a career. Over at The Blog Herald this concept is discussed in relationship to the written word :

“Having a CC license offers encouragement for that kind of reuse and lets anyone interested in reusing some of your text that you are fine with it. Though the lack of a CC license may not stop many people from quoting you who was going to do so previously, it does encourage others to quote more from your site, talk more about it and link more to your work than they might have otherwise. “

This can be equally profound in other art forms. A friend and photographer, Clinton Steeds, licenses his work on flickr.com. On a few occasions, publishers have requested, and received, permission to use photographs of his for illustrations in or even as the cover of books going to press. While he has earned no money for this as of yet, his professional portfolio, not to mention his professional contacts, have both grown positively.

For the up and coming artist, professional scientist, motivated humanitarian, or collaborative collective, Creative Commons is a simple but effective means to publish and share information, promoting yourself in your profession while increasing the resources of that profession and society in general without the same risks of exploitation or plagiarism. The ease of its implementation and the benefits to the producer, not to mention its comparative legal potency compared to home brewed attempts, ensure that CC’s usage can only expect to become more widely spread in the near future.