CC licenses don’t replace copyright; they make it easier for you to say which rights you want to keep. And they may be the best way to give your work a life of its own.

By María Ibáñez

The same factors that have accelerated online video for social change—mobile phones, digital cameras, broadband Internet, and social media—have also spurred the creation of more democratic and open content licenses. Primary among them is Creative Commons (CC)–but what exactly is it, and what can it do for activists? Creative Commons doesn’t replace the ordinary copyright system; it’s an easy way for content creators to say how they want their works used. In this shift from ‘all rights reserved’ to ‘some rights reserved,’ there are six main CC licenses:

License Description
CC BYAttribution
Others can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.


Attribution-Share Alike

Others can remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Others can redistribute, commercially and non-commercially, as long as the work is intact and credited to you.



Others can remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


Others can 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 license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses. Others can only download your works and share them as long as they credit you–but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

(adapted from the Creative Commons website)

CC provides many benefits for activists—original and secondary creators alike. CC makes it easier for the original creator to share their work with a wider audience. A short clip from one of your videos may breathe new life into a campaign by someone else, creating meaningful change on the issue you’re seeking to change. Furthermore, anyone can add subtitles to CC work—something that would usually require careful permissions. This can unite activists working on the same cause, and the resulting film can more easily reach global audiences. And of course, new audiences may find your work through their own searches for CC material.

And clearly, CC helps video activists who need more materials to build their work. It enables them to access a full array of music, photos and videos under free and open licenses (much can be found though this search, on the CC website). It saves both primary and future creators from having to navigate dense legal documents or engage in copyright negotiations. It encourages the creation of videos made by many, promoting the work of both the original author and the second one.
The ‘Spanish Revolution,’ or ‘15m’ movement, is an excellent example of how CC enabled a broad, diverse group of activists to unite and amplify a cause. Influenced by the demonstrations in Egypt and other Arab countries, millions of people staged spontaneous protests across Spain on May 15th, 2011, objecting to high unemployment, the chronic financial crisis and an inefficient and corrupted political system.

Stéphane M. Grueso, Patricia Horrillo and Pablo Soto launched, a transmedia collaborative project with the aim of “documenting and transmitting the myriad activities of the 15M movement to the widest audience possible.” For this, they chose a Creative Commons BY – SA license. They have asked for the cooperation of the community, soliciting any material related to the movement—audio, video, text, photo—as long as it was under the same license. One result was the documentary 15M: Excelente. Revulsivo. Importante, which itself has a CC license. The video has been displayed at private places and public venues and has also been discussed in many seminars about digital activism.

There are still some concerns for video activist using open licenses for their video distribution—particularly if the goal is commercial or television distribution. Film festivals may also refuse videos that can be found online. But festivals must become more open and flexible, evolving to embrace open content and new distribution models that are more suitable for this digital era we live in.

Untitled1To address these questions the first Nordic Creative Commons Film Festivalis launched on May 30th. The concept is based upon the original festival, “Copy This Festival,” carried out in Barcelona 2010. The aim is to discuss how the new digital environment is affecting the cultural sector and media distribution. One of the festival themes will be “Human rights and advocacy,” due to the big presence of CC-films in this field. Anyone can take part as a festival hostsubmit your own CC-licensed film, or support the initiative.

Untitled3María Ibáñez is a cultural producer from Spain working in Stockholm, currently as the artistic director of the Nordic Creative commons Film festival. Master degree’s in cultural management from Carlos III University in Madrid, and former cultural officer for the Spanish Embassy in Sweden within the AECID Programme for Management and Cultural Cooperation for Development.



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