Creative Commons has just issued a report documenting usage patterns of its licenses. It’s great to learn that the number of works using CC licenses has soared since this vital (and voluntary) workaround to copyright law was introduced twelve years ago, in 2003.
According to a new report, the State of the Commons, recently released by Creative Commons, the licenses were used on an estimated 50 million works in 2006 and on 400 million works in 2010. By 2014, that number had climbed to 882 million CC-licensed works. Nine million websites now use CC licenses, including major sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Public Library of Science, Scribd and Jamendo. The report includes a great series of infographics that illustrate key findings.
For any latecomers, CC licenses are a free set of public licenses that let copyright holders of books, films, websites, music, photography and other creative works choose to make their works legally shareable. The licenses are necessary because copyright law makes no provisions for sharing beyond a vaguely defined set of “fair use” principles. Copyright law is mostly about automatically locking up all works in a strict envelope of private property rights. This makes it complicated and costly to let others legally share and re-use works.
The CC licenses were invented as a solution, just as Web 2.0 was getting going. It has functioned as a vital element of infrastructure for building commons of knowledge and creativity. It did this by providing a sound legal basis for sharing digital content, helping to leverage the power of network-driven sharing.