I’m writing this as an assignment for the Creative Commons Certificate, which I’m taking for professional development purposes. As an Open Educational Resources (OER) librarian, I’m looking ahead to future initiatives at my university, including starting an OER publishing program. Thus, I’m taking this certification to get to know more about the various licenses that can applied to open educational materials. I want to note before beginning that nothing in this post should be considered legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. If you’re unsure of whether your use is infringement, consult a professional. That said, this post will cover a number of topics, including:
- A description of collections
- Licensing considerations for collections
- A description of remixes / adapted works / derivative works
- Licensing considerations for remixes / adapted works / derivative works
- A collection that you create, which includes at least two existing CC-licensed works
- An attribution statement for the collection that adheres to licensing expectations for collections
So, first things: What is a collection?
A collection assembles a number of CC-licensed works together without altering the components. This differs from, say, a collage, someone might make out of images clipped from a magazine.
In the collage above, images have been clipped out and reassembled, or remixed, to create an entirely new image. Collage art may be argued to meet the standards of Fair Use in that the use is transformative. However, the nuts and bolts are a little bit confusing. According to U.S. Copyright Law, a collage is considered to be a “compilation:”
“(a)The subject matter of copyright as specified by section 102 includes compilations and derivative works, but protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully.
(b)The copyright in a compilation or derivative work extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material. The copyright in such work is independent of, and does not affect or enlarge the scope, duration, ownership, or subsistence of, any copyright protection in the preexisting material” (Pub. L. 94–553, title I, § 101).
This means that the person assembling the collage does not gain ownership of the copyright of the images used, only the creative work of assembling the collage. Thus, use of the compilation can become tricky. Is the collage going to bused for commercial purposes? Has it circumvented the market? Intellectual property lawyer Linda Kattwinkel has written a good explanation of the considerations here.
Collections are different in that they keep the original material whole and intact. One way to think of the distinctions between collections and remixes is to compare the Megazord, the giant robot from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers to the Mind Flayer, the monster from Season 3 of Stranger Things. The Megazord is an assemblage of the smaller Dinozords:
First, a quick note: This video is not a Creative Commons licensed work. Am I violating copyright by embedding it? I’m not! Embedding videos is not a violation of copyright, the courts have ruled (Harvard Law Review, 2013). Further, since I’m embedding from the official channel of the copyright holder to the video, I’m simply using a built in tool of the website to which the copyright holder uploaded the video.
So, in the above video, we see that the Dinozords kind of snap together to create the Megazord. However, all of the Dinozords are still intact. They can be easily separated again. I was going to use Captain Planet as an example, but I couldn’t decide whether Captain Planet is a remix or a collection. The Planeteers put their rings together and with their powers combined create Captain Planet, but I don’t think he fits the definition of either a collection *or* a remix. I don’t have a good answer, and I very much want to read the opinion of a legal professional. Anyway, compare the Megazord to the Mind Flayer:
“The 11 Spookiest Monster Moments,” Stranger Things YouTube Channel.
As you can see, the Mind Flayer is a goopy mass of liquified matter. Spoiler alert: That goopified matter is the remains of everything it kills. First, a bunch of rats. Then, a bunch of people. Eventually it’s huge and composed of hundreds of liquified people and animals. These people cannot be separated from the Mind Flayer. They are not whole. Thus, the Mind Flayer is a remix of people, not a collection.
In both cases, when creating collections and remixes, it’s best to seek out CC-licensed or public domain work for use. Continuing this analogy, the Megazord is not infringement. The owners of the Dinozords themselves are contributing to the collection that is Megazord. The Mind Flayer is a massive case of infringement, because, well, it eats people. It eats them and remixes them into a new work. So, don’t be like the mind-flayer. Only use works as you are permitted to by the copyright licenses applied to them. Using CC-licensed work is easier than getting permission to use non-cc-licensed work (unless it is Public Domain). However, even when using CC licenses, it’s still important to look at the CC license that was applied to the work, as that will affect how you can legally use the work. As long as the use falls within that permitted by the license, you should be fine. As an example, I’ve created a collection of CC-licensed images of Todds. I’ll address the various licenses of the images I used, and how they’ll affect what I can do with the work. In this collection, I have not altered the Todds in any way.
Ten Todds: A Photo Collection
You’re here because you want to see some Todds. Well, you came to the right place, because I’ve assembled a Creative Commons image collection of some Todds. Here, you’ll see a whole bunch of different Todds. The images aren’t altered in any way — they’re simply assembled (with one exception, see below).
- Todd on the Water
This a photo of someone named Todd on a surfboard. I’m assuming that, based on the order of the names mentioned in the caption, that Todd is the guy on the right. Doesn’t he look happy? He looks so happy. There’s nothing like a happy Todd. The image uses a CC BY license, which means, “This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use” (About CC Licenses, 2021). CC BY is the most permissive of the CC licenses, and I can use this image in any fashion I choose, as long as I credit the creator.
2. Todd showing off his bod, maybe.
I had to look this one up, because there were too many people in the photo and I didn’t know which one was Todd. Would you like to guess? If you guessed Todd is the guy on the right, then you don’t know your Todds very well. Todd is the guy on the left. He’s a professional beach volleyball player who will soon be inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of fame! Go Todd!
This image also uses a CC BY, so at this point I could theoretically assemble these images into a coffee table Book of Todds and sell it.
3. In Todd We Trust. Not all Todds are into the beach, though. That’s a common misconception. Some Todds are into safety. Like Todd Fox, for example:
Todd Fox is an investigator with the NTSB. It’s Todd’s job to investigate accidents and figure out what happened, then deliver a report. Thanks for doing, this, Todd! No, seriously, thank you. How many people have the expertise necessary to pick through plane wreckage and deduce what happened? I certainly don’t.
This license is interesting. It’s not technically a license at all. What the creator has done is use the Creative Commons Public Domain tool to renounce all copyright to the image. This allows reusers to “distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions” (About CC Licenses, 2021).
4. I wanna Todd-n-Roll all night (and party every day)
The gentleman blowing a kiss to the crowd in the center is famous multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren. In a career spanning 51 years and counting, Todd has released 37 albums either as solo projects or as a member of a band. Few people rock as hard as this Todd. At this point, my use of this image has prohibited me from any commercial use, should I continue with it. This license allows reusers to “copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator” (About CC Licenses, 2021). I can’t sell a work made with this work, no nor can I make a derivative work. Nor should I include this in my forthcoming collage exhibition “One World, One Todd,” which is still in search of a appropriate gallery space.
Copyright.gov has a pamphlet explaining the complications of copyright in derivative works, which includes types of derivative works, which you can read here. Standard copyright retains for the creator the exclusive rights to make derivative works, to reproduce the work, to distribute the work, to perform the work, to display the work and to profit from the work. Creative commons allows creators to surrender some of those exclusive rights, thereby enabling broader use by others. For a full description of what kinds of work copyright can protect, as well as what rights copyright ensures, see this circular from Copyright.gov.
5. Todd and Todd’s Very Good Boy, Pokie
I don’t know much about Todd Wickersty. I know he has a very good dog named Pokie. Look at those ears! That tongue! Thanks for sharing Pokie with us, Todd.
This image is licensed as creative commons-attribution-sharealike. Sharealike is a way of saying, “pay it forward.” This license means that if I remix or adapt this image then I must license the new version under the same terms as this image. This license does allow for commercial use, but given the previous entry, that’s already out the window. Now, I haven’t remixed or adapted this photo in any way so far. I’ll do so now, as an example:
Yes you are, Pokie, yes you are. Having adapted this work, I applied a CC BY-SA license to it, though I updated to the 4.0 version.
6. On Wings of Todds
Todd Wickersty isn’t the only animal-loving Todd around. Todd Katzner is an employee with the United States Geological Survey. His specializations are ecology, conservation and ornithology, among others. Here we see Todd doing some live educational programming with a real-live golden eagle. Did you know that golden eagles can have a wingspan of up to seven feet, eight inches? I didn’t. But I bet Todd does.
This image uses the same license at the photo of entry #4, Todd Rundgren.
7. Smile for the Camera, Todd
If Todd Katzner thought he was the only Todd working in conservation, he’s got another Todd coming. Todd M. Koel is a fish biologist working with the National Park Service. Come to think of it, I think golden eagles eat fish. It’s the circle of life. It’s the circle of Todds.
This image uses the same Public Domain tool as the image of #3, Todd Fox.
8. Celebrate Good Todds, Tonight!
I don’t know who Todd Hickey is, and that’s okay. We’re all okay. I don’t know who Todd Hickey is, but I know this: he’s okay. You’re okay. Cheers, buddy.
Similar to the image of Todd and Pokie, this image has a SA, sharealike license attached to it. It also has a NC, noncommercial component. Under the terms of this license, I am allowed to “distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms” (About CC Licenses, 2021). I’m not going to remix it, as I feel like it would kill Todd Hickey’s buzz.
9. Do you take this Todd?
Congratulations, Todd! I was going to do some Googling to find out more about the happy couple, but instead I’ll just let them have this moment. This image has a CC-BY-NC-ND license attached, which is the most restrictive version of a CC license. I can copy and distribute this image of Todd getting down on one knee in the name of true love, but I cannot adapt it, I can’t sell it, and I have to give attribution. Todd’s love is pure. Todd’s love cannot be changed or sold.
10. Diving in Todd-first
It’s SummerTodd and the livin’ is easy! Splash those cares away, buddy. You’ve earned it.
Here, we’ve come back around to CC BY, meaning I only have to give attribution to the creator, Popofatticus. An easygoing license for an easygoing fella like Todd, enjoying his day at the pool.
Since I did not adapt any of the SA-licensed images, I don’t need to apply that tag to this work. As a collection, the component images are still under copyright protection, as outlined by the respective CC license of each image. The only adaption was of the image of Todd and Pokie, which was allowed because that creator applied a CC-BY license, which does not prohibit derivatives. Thus, I can apply a CC BY license to this collection. That does not mean, of course, that the CC BY license applies to any of the works by other creators included here, only my creative work. That is, my arrangement of the work, the words I wrote, and the image I altered. Anything else must still be used according to the licenses applied to the original work.
About CC Licenses. (n.d.). Creative Commons. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://creativecommons.org/about/cclicenses/
Circ14.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf
Circular 1 Copyright Basics. (n.d.). 10.
Circular 1 Copyright Basics.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
Copyright Law — Contributory Infringement — Seventh Circuit Holds that “Social Bookmarking” of Infringing Content Alone Is Insufficient to Support Grant of Preliminary Injunction. — Flava Works, Inc. v. Gunter, 689 F.3d 754 (7th Cir. 2012). (2013). Harvard Law Review, 126(8), 2479–2486. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23415112
Legalities 5: Some Questions About Fair Use. (n.d.). Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.owe.com/resources/legalities/5-some-questions-about-fair-use/