Why I’m CC-BY

I am open by default with my work. My entire website/blog is CC-BY licensed. My Guide to Finding OER is CC-BY licensed. The slides I made about intellectual property is CC-BY licensed. The OER infographic I revised for this class is CC-BY licensed. Even the LS 101 course I helped develop is CC-BY licensed.

I did not add a CC license to any of my works for the purpose of this assignment because I already do that. However, an explanation of my thought process, intentions, and concerns may help others who are less open consider licensing their own work.

Why be open?

I want my work to be open because I believe that our body of knowledge improves when we can build on each others’ work. If something I’ve written or created helps someone understand better, teach better, or find the cure for cancer, why wouldn’t I want to do that? If someone finds my work useful, I want them to take it and use it in whatever way they want.

Why CC-BY?

Ok, so I want to share my work openly. Why did I choose to use the CC-BY license on everything? I have Cable Green to thank for convincing me that I need to use it over any other Creative Commons license (unless I’m feeling so open as to mark it Public Domain, of course). CC-BY allows my work to be fully open while still insisting that people credit me as the source or inspiration. I just can’t let go of my core belief that I am entitled to credit for my ideas.

Though the share-alike (SA) option is tempting to use, it limits people from using my work in situations where they can’t share their end product. What if someone is creating an important document that will ultimately be marked classified and they want to use my work freely within it? More importantly, the share-alike option requires the derivative work to be licensed the same as the original work. What if I need the derivative work I create to have a different license? Or worse, what if I do a mash-up of a two different works, one that is CC-SA and another that is CC-NC-SA?

I’ll be honest, I don’t love the idea of someone using my work for commercial purposes. Then I remind myself of three things: 1) It’s not likely that someone is going to make a bunch of money off of something I did. 2) I’ll still get credit, at least in theory, for the work. 3) Using NC would prevent someone writing a wonderful, necessary book from using my work within it (as an example of a good commercial use).

I don’t use the non-derivatives option because I’ve never created a work so perfect that I don’t want it to be altered.


What would it look like if someone used my work properly and improperly? Here are two possible scenarios that could happen as a result of my work being openly licensed.

1. Mary Jones is a student at Random State College and she’s working on a presentation to Student Government that shows the need for an OER textbook initiative at her school. She stumbles across my infographic (How Textbook Costs Impact Students Academically) online. She loves that it seamlessly incorporates results of two different surveys to create a compelling argument for the need for the initiative. She takes the text from the infographic and uses it as a base for a series of slides to use in the presentation. In addition to citing the original research studies used she includes a citation back to me as her inspiration for interweaving the results of both surveys and for use of some of my original wording.

2. James Smith is a librarian at Random State College wants to put all the links to instances of Guide on the Side into a LibGuide he created. He copies and pastes all the links, saves it, and moves on to something else. He doesn’t link back to the original or include a note about where he got the list. He violates the license by failing to provide attribution.



One Reply to “Why I’m CC-BY”

  1. I went through an evolution that mirrors my general approach to being open: I started with SA and NC attached (never had a desire for ND; I like your reasoning against using it), then dropped NC because it was unnecessarily limiting and confusing (and was never going to prevent “the bad guys” from using work), and finally dropped the SA too because there are just too many places where the kind of thing I share could be useful to people who aren’t in a position to force their organization or institution to adopt SA.

    Have you ever had your work used in a way you didn’t predict and/or a way you didn’t really like?

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